Library District Taskforce meeting 2 liveblog

called to order at 4:05

There’s a detailed list of recommendations; I’ll see if I can find them online or else post them later.

Judy – purpose of meeting is to discuss the response to some of WBDC’s presentation.

They had begun meeting last time to brainstorm ideas, were sidetracked by comments of folks who attended meeting.

4:10 – Judy – started out report by putting in library mission statement.

Susan Gately – it’s an imposing neighbor that would overshadow the entrance to the library.  We would really have to make some consideration for parking, etc.

Susan – Even though we have not done a broad study of parking use, 30-40 spaces at 30-60 minutes.

[Not sure that would work on Saturdays]

Susan says rink does not appeal to her at all – cinderblock building – as we look down Salem Street already it’s pretty homely.  For us to be part of the fabric of downtown, … need to do something different.  Even if there were trees or bushes, it would still be a shame.

Tim McGourthy – there has been no design of the hockey rink.  In the rendering, it shows a glass wall along Portland Street.  If concern is look of Portland Street, how do you make sure Portland Street is not closed off?

Susan – with the colleges contributing to it, how much would they care about aesthetics if it’s not on their campus?  Should be thought to whatever is also there.

[I should note that her comment about 40 spaces for parking is for library only; this still seems too small to me]

She would like a boutique hotel with a small theater.  (I think; I’m multitasking here)

4:17 – Dante – from a use perspective, what would complement the library, some sort of mixed-use development makes sense.

From a planning perspective, we want to be thinking more in terms of an urban village.  Dante thinks more people with more expertise – as a community we can come to agreement with what makes sense for the area.

McGourthy – no decisions have been made yet.  We want to think of what brings people here [to the library].

4:20 – Judy – would like to see more foot traffic.  WBDC had on their plan further civic recreational use – that should be for everyone, not just folks who play hockey.

McGourthy – when we talk about hockey, we’re talking about one element that could be complementary to other uses (academic, theater, library).  How do we create something that’s a destination next to the library?

How do we do something that would draw people to the area and also connect to the other parts of the district (the Common, the Hanover, etc.)?

4:22 – Wei says the library did a survey at the beginning of October for patrons (Tues-Fri).

very consistently – people who used parking less than 1 hour – 50%; 1-3 hours – 44%, 3-6 hrs – 4%.

one of the goals we want to make the library is to be a community center, so folks would stay longer.

Susan – if the parking garage is built over there (near Telegram building), longer-term visitors could park over there.

Susan – not a lot of sight line to the library; it’s not very visible no matter where you are standing.

Kevin – maybe a survey about what library patrons would leave the library to do downtown.

Wei – some of that was integrated into the annual patron survey, and a lot of folks want restaurants and cafes.

4:27 – discussion of the entrance and whether it should face the Common.

Wei is discussing software used elsewhere (UK, just introduced to US) that’s used to pay library fines and also excise, water bills, etc.  In the context of the library being a community center.

Dante – first area of entry for immigrants, programming can be available for those folks.

Jim – this conversation we’re having today is different than any conversation we’d be having with the WBDC.

McGourthy – this started with theatre district master plan.  The concept of the hockey rink has legs because of some interested parties; but it doesn’t mean that that’s the outcome.

Jim – with conversations with the WBDC, they want the rink there.  At Wyman-Gordon or Beaver Brook would be more successful locations.  Marlboro didn’t put in their rink right downtown.  Hockey rinks never invest money in the outside, only on the inside.  If you build a hockey rink without a sustainable lot, you’d hurt library community and rink would not be viable.

Jim’s concern is not that we’re losing the lot.

Jim – parking – with use of two downstairs rooms, would be hestitant about 40 spaces.  Appropriate study needs to be done for current and future needs.

McGourthy – as part of this, will do a more study of parking.

Jim – with Steve’s presentation, with added trains coming into Union Station, we can be a commuting city to Boston.  A mixed-use apartment building in the lot would make a lot of sense.  You get foot traffic, storefronts, easy to walk to Union Station.  Then we can put hockey rink somewhere and it can be successful in multiple locations.

Donna – conerned about hockey rink, concerned about access.  Have there been discussions with YWCA?  They don’t have enough parking spaces.

McGourthy – he was not part of discussion with WBDC had.

Donna – YWCA is part of the community

McGourthy – way of coordinating activities with YWCA, perhaps moving play area outside of intersection.  [Franklin/McGrath]

Wei – library is in process of consolidating space.  LSS’s goal is to bring every immigrant who uses their services to have a library card.

4:44 – further discussion of hockey in that location.

Paul Dell’Aquila – unaware of any urbanist skating facility; suburban single-use facility.  A lot of people are interested in planning uses in Worcester.  This could be lynchpin for tying together everything the city is invested in.

McGourthy – Hanover Theatre will be holding a discussion in late November about this.

This is an initial conversation, this is an ongoing plan and there have been changes since the discussion with the library.  The public conversation piece has to happen at some point.

4:50 – Paul – if we don’t have a plan, we’ll never hit the target.

Dante – public safety issue.  Mixed-use is best approach, something that contributes to the vibrancy of the area.

McGourthy – hockey is almost a 24 hour facility.  Struggled a lot with retail on Portland Street.  How do you connect across so that there’s pedestrian flow from the library?

Susan – not having the parking will make people walk further.

Jim – or not come.

Tim – the solution to me is something that is a destination on that lot.

It could be a combination of things, but it has to draw people down and engage people.

Jim – what about housing?

Tim – Housing draws people from the neighborhood…not many more.

Jim – what about additional demand from commuter rail?

(lost Wifi, so the rest of this is a deadblog)

5:06 – McGourthy – discussion of various buildings in downtown that do not interact with the downtown.

Kevin – getting back to question – how does a hockey rink fit into a theater district?  Agrees with what Jim has been saying – idea of library being a community center – city has invested a lot into the library – we’re bringing people downtown and how do we get those people interacting with downtown.

Disagrees with Susan that people would walk two blocks and suddenly realize there’s retail.

Donna – we are supplying a demand for the city with our existing patrons – cross-section; we have it all here.  Hopes they have a public process.

Kevin – worries that parking garage two blocks away causes people not to come to the library.

Jim – if CitySquare is up and running, shows progress.  What would municipal investment be with hockey?

McGourthy – haven’t discussed it, but it would likely be funded by the colleges alone.

Discussion of whether there would be payment for the land, or public stake.

McGourthy – concept for the area, does not want to get too concerned with details of how this would function.

5:13 – biggest concern with planning process – does use complement library or integrate into the surrounding area.

Jim – people are pushing the hockey project and does not think it’s the appropriate place for the rink.

I ask why do we need a destination in that spot.

McGourthy – clarifies – people who don’t live in the immediate area interacting with that area.  (Sorry, tough to listen to someone talking to me and type at the same time)

Wei – survey of library staff mentions children’s museum.   Something similar to Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market.  In front of NYPL, very busy during the day and night.

McGourthy – what can you do at an edge that integrates with downtown?

Question about Union Station

1300 train riders; 1000 bus riders; with WRTA, another 1000 or so people

Donna – should we wait til we see growth at Union Station?

McGourthy – concept of mixed use/complementary use should exist; specific uses can change over time.

Discussion of Union Station/Washington Square that I can’t completely follow.

5:25 – McGourthy – hears concerns about hockey rink based on impact to parking, street, aesthetics, and do not feel it would be complementary to library.  He also hears desire for mixed-use that would not necessarily be a destination.  Not sure how retail would work in this area yet (Salem/Myrtle).  Boils down to whether the hockey rink has any viability to move forward to the next phase.

Donna – are you looking to put in hockey rink or redevelop the parking lot?

McGourthy – redevelop the parking lot.

Jim – one of the things we proposed was to have a charrette here at the library

McGourthy – we need to think about where we’re going with the planning process.

Judy – WBDC wants to meet with the task force again.

and…that’s all.