Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Why do the bad ideas seem to stick around?

Well, I knew I'd read something that would annoy me, and that I'd be back writing sooner rather than later.

The Fulton County Commission is voting on a bond issuance Wednesday concerning a $350 million library construction program. The issuance would be put on the November ballot as a referendum. Included in this $350 million price tag is $173 million for a new downtown library, not including the cost of land. I've mentioned before what I thought about Commissioner Pitts' idea for a new library at Centennial Park. This idea, in fact, was the inaugural post for the "Stupid Ideas" tag.

So, while we haven't had any substantive public discussion about the need for a new library, much less the idea of putting it at Centennial Park, lets go ahead and start channeling money to it:
Pitts suggested the a new downtown library as a last-minute addition to the program. The current building, a boxy, concrete structure with a foreboding, nearly windowless facade, was designed in the brutalist style by noted architect Marcel Breuer nearly 30 years ago.

"Until now, I had never really focused on how ugly that thing really is. If you walk around three sides, it's all concrete," Pitts said.

Pitts hopes it can be sold to offset the cost of the new 300,000-square-foot central library. A new central library would also allow library officials to subtract from this proposal the $34 million to renovate the downtown library already in the main program.
Who, exactly, is going to buy said ugly brutalist library? I personally have grown to like the library. Sure, I wish the original Carnegie Library were still there, and sure, its a copy of the Whitney Museum (by the same architect, no less). But I've grown accustomed to the place, and it is definitely architecturally significant.

The only buyer I could imagine wanting this building would be some sort of museum. But all the museum-type folks want a Centennial Park location, so you can probably forget that idea.

We tore down the Carnegie Library only 31 years ago to build the Central Library. Presumably it was important enough to destroy Atlanta's first public library. So it seems a bit of a travesty to abandon the new building so soon.

But Rob Pitts wants a legacy, and he doesn't like the architecture, so we need a new one taking up valuable real estate that probably has a different highest and best use for the city in the long term.

Also, I honestly think the library functions fine. I go down there on occasion when I need to check out old AJCs or for community events. They just renovated the plaza outside it, too. What a waste of money if we are just going to build a new one. And likely leave an empty building.

I haven't even tackled the idea of an unnecessary tax increase when the state is heading into a recession. I've tried to stay away from partisan politics on this blog, so I'll leave this to someone else to tackle. Needless to say, though, if this bond issuance includes money for a new downtown library, I'm voting against it.

(some links and images cribbed from a CL post)

4 comments:

  1. The "new" library does work just fine as a library. It doesn't work just fine as a pleasant place to be. But I too have become used to it. I wish I never had to.

    Overall it's more pleasant inside than the Ga State U library. Ga Tech library is almost nice in some places.

    Lunchtime at the old Carnegie was fun, crowded, musty, elegant, and a throwback. Outside it was complimented by the Carnegie and "Brooks Brothers'" buildings. A nice place inside and out.

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  2. You should go check out the new GSU library. They recently renovated it, and it is a million times better.

    I will agree that the library can be dark and dreary inside. I much prefer a classical library reading room, as well. I'm jealous that I never got to go inside the old Carnegie - the "new" library is older than I am.

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  3. I'm afraid I'm just nostalgic about downtown from when I first went to work in the Hurt Building in 1973. Downtown was crowded and you felt like you were some place important.

    I'm in the Fairlie-Poplar district twice a week around lunch time. It's lonely. I guess the crowds are still there but moving through a tube 70 feet underground.

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  4. It's amazing to me that we're even considering selling this building. It's one of the few remaining architecurally significant buildings left in Atlanta and if it gets sold off I fear it'll be raised for another Trump tower fiasco, complete with street-level starbucks. It's a shame and we should be fighting the proposal. I'm all for the rework of the library system, but let's keep this building and find another use for it.

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