Groundbreaking Kicks Off Main Library Renovation Construction

See Groundbreak Page>>

YOUNGSTOWN (August 7, 2020/For Immediate Release) — A virtual groundbreaking ceremony was held on the front lawn of the Main Library, 305 Wick Ave., today at 11:30 a.m. to celebrate the start of the renovation project with work on the site expected to begin next week. Due to the COVID-19 environment, the groundbreaking was a virtual event, live-streamed on the Library’s Facebook page. Safety procedures were observed, with participants wearing masks and social distancing.

Library Executive Director Aimee Fifarek has expressed that, “With a building project like this, the challenge is always about how to honor the past while making a statement about the future.” When planning the renovation, the Design Team placed importance on the rich history of the Main Library, as well as the knowledge that library spaces must be designed with flexibility to meet the ever-changing needs and wants of the communities they serve.

The Main Library, an Andrew Carnegie library, is located at 305 Wick Ave., Youngstown, OH. The 110-year-old building opened in 1910 and since then the building has undergone two major renovations. A renovation in 1954 changed the face of the building by removing the front stairs and period lampposts from the face of the building on Wick Avenue. The second renovation, which included a large addition to the building and relocated the entrance to the side, off the parking lot, was dedicated in 1996.

Dr. David Ritchie welcomed those in attendance and watching the livestreamed event at LibraryMahoningCounty on FaceBook. Dr. Ritchie noted that although the COVID-19 environment restricted the kind of groundbreaking event the Library would have liked to do, he noted this was a significant event and a time to celebrate.

 “The Library and its Board have spent many years planning and saving for this renovation. Over those years, the Library has set aside money to complete the project without incurring debt.  The improvements we are making here will serve our community for decades to come. We know that libraries have the ability to enrich lives and we are proud to be making this investment in the community we serve,” Dr. Ritchie said.

The project has been a part of the Library’s strategic planning for several decades and all the while, funds were being set aside. The Library operates debt-free. No borrowing means no interest payments, which saves both the Library and the taxpayer a significant amount of money. This project is estimated at $25 million.

Ms. Fifarek said, “When we started this project over a year ago, none of us could have predicted that we would be holding the groundbreaking ceremony to mark the renovation of Youngstown and Mahoning County’s first library amid a global pandemic, with no in-person audience, with the participants masked and distanced for our protection.

“But we have been through this arc of history before.  The Reuben McMillan Free Library opened its doors to the public in 1910.  Just a decade later our community, like the rest of the world, was recovering from a different pandemic.  In time, everyone would shed their masks and enter the celebration of survival that has since become known as the Roaring Twenties.

“Through it all, the Public Library has been here ‘For the People,’ offering support, education, and inspiration.   I am proud to be part of this enduring legacy and to be here today to open the next chapter of this historic building. [The inscription – For the People – was on the original face of the library and will be restored as part of this project.]

“But I am just the newest member of the long line of people who have made this project possible.  There have been many trustees, library directors, fiscal officers, and administrative teams who have worked diligently to set aside funds so we can do this project well and debt free.  And, of course, our staff, who work hard every day to make sure the library is keeping its promise to connect, inspire, and enrich our community.”

Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown attended the event in support of the renovation project and noted its importance.

Work on the site begins next week. The renovation of the existing building will begin in late fall of 2020 and the building addition will begin in spring of 2021.  The project is expected to be complete in early 2022.

Next week, passersby may see crews beginning Phase 1 work on the site, such as construction of the new northeast parking lot and new drives; electrical, water, sewer and gas utilities; underground storm water detention basin; demolition of the existing maintenance garage; new site lighting, sidewalks, and landscaping.

Contractors involved in this first stage of the project are: the Construction Management team of the Albert M. Higley Co. (Cleveland) and Dawn Inc. (Warren).

Subcontractors involved in the Phase 1 sitework are:

Miller-Yount Paving (Cortland)– earthwork, site utilities and asphalt paving

Maderitz Concrete (Girard) – site concrete retaining wall, sidewalks and curbs

Landscape by Design (Hubbard) – landscaping

Great Northern Fence (Aurora) – fencing

Tri-Area Electric (Youngstown) – site electrical

The Project Design Team is comprised of:

  • BostwickDesign Partnership of Cleveland, architects with Rick Ortmeyer, David Hogue and Emily Carr
  • RBFCoLab and Paul Hagman, collaborating architect restoration design
  • CT Consultants, civil engineer
  • NancyLonnett-Roman and Heather Fuller, landscape architects, Pashek + MTR
  • AMHigleyCompany of Cleveland and Dawn Incorporated of Warren, Construction Manager at Risk
  • And from the Library, along with Fifarek are: Deputy Director Deborah McCullough, Main Library Director Diane Vicarel, Programming and Youth Services Director Erin Phemester, Technology Director Tom Casey, Building and Grounds Superintendent David Foster, Fiscal Officer Mark Mrofchak.
  • The Board of Trustees Building and Sites Committee members are:Chair Alex Benyo, Terry Dimascio, Tom Frost, Judy Schmutz, Carole Weimer, and  David Ritchie.

# # #

Project Architect’s Overview

Rick Ortmeyer of Bostwick Design Partnership, project architects, said, Each part of the project – the restoration of the original Reuben McMillan Free Library, the modern expansion, the new urban garden setting along Wick Avenue – is truly special. The combination of these elements together is a rare and remarkable gift to the community, allowing a renewed historic library to meet 21st Century library service demands, celebrating a vibrant history and providing a bright future.

Old Main was designed using high quality materials, and shaped to provide light-filled, functional spaces that comfortably supported library services. These design elements are timeless, and by employing these fundamental concepts across the entire renovation and expansion, the experience will remain consistent throughout while allowing each element to maintain a unique identity. 

The library building will be well-positioned to support evolving community needs over time. The project is investing in 21st century technology infrastructure, and flexibility is enabled by spaces designed for mobility – from the expansion’s fully reconfigurable raised floor to Old Main’s movable furniture and display shelving.”

Ortmeyer concluded, “We remain grateful to the Library’s Board of Trustees for their faith in our team, and for this remarkable opportunity to reimagine the Reuben McMillan Free Library. We are also inspired by the collaborative spirit and guidance of the library’s extraordinary project team led by Aimee Fifarek. These are truly dedicated thought leaders who individually and collectively shaped the future of the Main Library.”