Libraries in Chicago, San Francisco, and Cornelius, OR, have taken advantage of economies of scale to plan new locations in the same building as affordable senior housing developments. By working together, they maximized resources to improve the lives of all neighborhood residents.

Partnering with other agencies can yield many benefits, especially in urban centers with limited land at premium prices, says Brian Bannon, commissioner of the Chicago Public Library (CPL), which is working with the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). “Any [chance] to talk to schools, housing [authorities], and parks, any private entities working there, we would be smart to do it,” says Bannon, a 2009 LJ Mover & Shaker.

Of course, this isn’t a new trend: library systems from Boston to San Francisco—where Bannon served as chief of branches from 2006 to 2012—share buildings with schools, parks departments, retail businesses, municipal offices, and residences. Still, sharing with seniors specifically is a relatively new twist and can offer additional synergies, giving elders easy access to community as well as collections.


San Francisco Public Library’s $4 million Mission Bay Branch and Mission Creek Senior Housing codeveloped the building they share and opened to patrons in 2006. The 7,500 square foot Mission Bay Branch was an LJ New Landmark Library honorable mention in 2011.

Branch manager Lori Chan says that when planning programs that target seniors, she reaches out to Mission Creek. Resulting offerings include an ESL conversation club, low-impact Zumba classes, basic Internet security and privacy workshops, and will and estate planning workshops. Patrons also can checkout walkers and take advantage of a desktop magnifier and Assistive Technology Computer. This fall, Mission Bay and the City College’s Older Adults Program will host a brain fitness program for seniors.

“I have heard multiple patrons saying how lucky they are to live above the library,” Chan says. “They can come down and borrow books and other materials, learn about everything, and attend programs. Everything is free of charge. They are so grateful.” Of course, the library doesn’t just serve seniors: it attracts a diverse blend of customers, including residents and people who work nearby. “We have a lot of young families who live in the neighborhood [who] come in and join our story times. Of course, like most branches, we have our share of homeless patrons,” Chan says.


In Chicago, two of four proposed new CPL branches will be codeveloped with housing for seniors. While city leaders expect the new libraries and senior housing to have an effect on each other, the libraries won’t focus on services to seniors. “We’re here for the entire neighborhood. We’re not just thinking about the residents above us, we’re thinking about the residents around us and beside us in the community,” Bannon says.

Each will offer an early childhood center, digital media learning lab for teens, public computers, meeting and study rooms, spaces for quiet contemplation and reading, and the breadth of CPL services. “We like to think about it as delivering full-service 21st-century libraries focused on amenities,” Bannon says.

Perkins+Will was selected to design the Northtown library on the city’s Far North Side. The branch is expected to open in 2018, replacing one closed in 2015 after a fire. John Ronan Architects will design the Independence Branch in Irving Park in the city’s northwest, replacing an undersized branch. The architectural firms are working with CPL and CHA to balance the needs of the two agencies and ensure the new libraries are larger and more efficient than the buildings they replace. The cost and size of the codeveloped library–senior housing structures has not yet been determined.


Developing libraries with senior housing is not only for big cities. Cornelius, OR, a small, cash-strapped farming town west of Portland, will break ground this August on the $18.5 million Cornelius Place, a three-story project with 45 affordable senior apartments and a replacement for the 3,000 square foot Cornelius Public Library.

Once open, the $5.2 million library component will feature 14,000 square feet and a teen space, a children’s area, study rooms, meeting rooms, and an outside courtyard. The library and a new YMCA will share the ground floor in the city’s downtown, near shopping, civic, educational, cultural, and health-care resources.

The project came about through a public-private partnership among the library; Bienestar, a Hillsboro, OR–based affordable housing development group; and BRIDGE Housing, a San Francisco–based investment group that specializes in financing low-income housing.

The journey has taken more than a decade, two failed bond measures, and cooperation from the private and public sectors at all levels, says Director Karen L. Hill. Cornelius struggles with poverty, high unemployment, and low education attainment levels. “It has been very difficult, and we have persevered during some times when we thought it wasn’t going to happen,” Hill says.

The project’s funding is a patchwork of federal and state grants, state funds, private donations, low-income housing tax credits, and private investment. The Cornelius library is part of the Washington County Cooperative Library Services, which will fund hiring additional staff after the new building opens.

Both Hill and Bienestar interim executive director Karen Shawcross say that once the library opens and seniorstake residence above, each entity will benefit from the other. One way they hope to encourage cross pollination is through building residents having access to a coffee kiosk prior to the library opening. In addition to adding AARP’s free senior tax help and intergenerational video gaming, Hill hopes to develop a cadre of trained senior volunteers who will offer to deliver books to child-care centers and [provide] a story time. “We’re hoping to have intergenerational, cross-cultural experiences,” Shawcross says. “We hope to overcome some of the classic incidents that you hear of isolation and build a strong community so that neighbors will supporteach other.”

Bienestar and the library seized on the potential of the library’s courtyard to be more than just a space for relaxation. They sought grants to design and build a $300,000 facility suitable for outdoor performances, STEM programs, and a farmers market. Asks Shawcross, “Who wouldn’t want to live above a library?”


Original Article

Title:  Life + Library | Innovation

Author: Marta Murvosh


Date: June 13, 2017

Link: Original Article