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Library Releases Final Report on MLK Building Study

Photo courtesy of DC Library

From a press release:

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) released its final report today after conducting a week-long review of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building last November. Based on the results of the ULI report, the DC Public Library will begin an in-depth analysis next month to determine the feasibility and cost of implementing the scenarios.

“The analysis is the next step in a long process that will help us figure out how to make the District’s central library a spectacular place for residents,” said Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian of the District of Columbia.

The ULI report outlined three scenarios for consideration without necessarily recommending one over the other. All scenarios will require significant investment by District government for major improvements to the building, according to the report.

Keep the existing building as a library and lease excess space in the building to another commercial, nonprofit or municipal entity.
Maintain the existing building for complete use by the library.
Sell the building and identify another downtown location for the central library.

The Library will work with nationally recognized architectural firm and architect-of-record for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, The Freelon Group, to examine how the MLK Library can be reconfigured for co-tenancy, complete an analysis of how two more floors can be added to the building, and identify, prioritize and provide cost estimates for needed major improvements. The work will follow the historic design guidelines developed by EHT Traceries.

Additionally, the Library will work with the D.C. Office of Planning to explore whether there are viable alternate locations downtown that can accommodate a 225,000 square foot central library. And finally, nationally recognized library experts will be consulted to test the assumption that 225,000 square feet is sufficient space to house a state-of-the-art, cutting edge central library. The analysis is expected to be complete by the fall. The results of the analysis will be used to continue the conversation on the future of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library with residents, city leaders and other stakeholders.

Continues after the jump.

“The MLK Library is positioned to proudly continue its valued cultural and intellectual role in the very heart of Washington D.C.,” said Wayne Ratkovich, president of The Ratkovich Company and chair of the ULI advisory panel for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building assessment project. “Technological advances pose some challenges and opportunities for the library, and we sincerely hope the panel’s work will assist the city’s leadership in capitalizing on the opportunities.”

In partnership with the DowntownDC Business Improvement District, the DC Public Library commissioned the Urban Land Institute to do an assessment of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building. ULI organized an advisory services panel of national experts in the fields of architecture, urban planning, commercial and residential development, finance and library sciences to conduct a week-long review. As part of their evaluation, the eight-member panel, comprised intentionally of experts from outside the District to maintain objectivity, interviewed about 70 community, business and elected leaders, toured the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building, and reviewed demographic and trend data. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building assessment cost $120,000.

“The recommendations in the report represent another important and crucial step in determining the best course of action for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library,” said DowntownDC BID Executive Director Richard Bradley. “We are honored to be working with all the partners involved and are dedicated to continuing the momentum to determine the best course of action for the Library and thecity.”

The ULI final report is available on the Library’s website at and reference copies will be available at all D.C. public libraries in the coming weeks.


Report: A copy of the report can be viewed here
Images: Historical and contemporary images can be downloaded here.

About the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Building

World-famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was commissioned to design the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building and ground was broken at 9th and G streets, NW in July 1968. Constructed of matte black steel and bronzed-tinted glass, the building cost about $18 million and provides 400,000 square feet of floor space on four floors above ground and three underground levels. The building opened to the public in 1972 and is designated a historic landmark. It serves as the city’s central library.

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