Background on the MLK Library Modernization

Background on the MLK Library Modernization

Planning enlisted national and local experts

Planning for the modernization of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library began in 2011, when the DC Public Library engaged the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to assess the condition and suitability of the historic building as a modern library, and to advise on options for renovation. 

ULI gathered a team of nationally-recognized experts in architecture, urban planning, development and libraries. After interviews with more than 70 individuals, including various stakeholders, tours of the building and nearby area, and conversations with library and District agency staff, the ULI issued its findings in a report that outlined the following options:
  • Renovate the building for sole use by the library.
  • Renovate and add two or more floors to the building, sharing occupancy with other tenants, and using the revenue from the additional space to help fund the renovation of the library.
ULI presented its findings at a community meeting attended by more than 200 people in November 2011.
In September 2012, the library engaged The Freelon Group, the Martin Luther King Jr. Library architect-of-record at the time, and other consultants, to test the options identified in the ULI report and present their findings to the library board and the community. Their work and the conceptual images support the following conclusions:
  • It is possible to make the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library a knock-your-socks-off library for the 21st century at the current site, if extensive and expensive improvements are made.
  • The existing structural support system of the building makes it possible to add two floors to the building to accommodate other uses, without additional support.
At their November 2012 meeting, the library board passed a resolution stating that the central library will remain in its current location, 901 G St. NW, and reaffirmed that it will continue to be called the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. 

Library Board Chose to Pursue Five-Story Stand-Alone Library

On Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, the DC Public Library Board of Trustees adopted a resolution supporting the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library modernization design approach as a stand-alone library with a fifth-floor addition.   
The board recommended the fifth-floor addition approach instead of the three-story, mixed-use addition after considering the requirements for a modern library, factoring in community feedback and reviewing the cost-benefit analysis of adding three new floors.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Modernization Cost-Benefit Analysis is made up of three documents:

The board concluded that modernizing the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library with a fifth-floor addition would accommodate the library’s building program with the option of including mixed-use, like a café and restaurant as well as space for non-profit and government partners.