MERIDEN — The sounds of power tools and heavy machinery on the first floor of the Meriden Public Library punctuated the conversation that was taking place around a conference table just a floor above.
A $13 million project to renovate and expand the library’s nearly 50-year-old building is now more than two weeks in. Library leaders convened their regular weekly meeting Thursday with representatives from TSKP Studio, the project’s architect, as well as Montagno Construction, the Waterbury-based firm hired to complete the project, to review its progress to date. The overall project is expected to take about a year to complete.
So the group, which included library director Clevell Roseboro II and building committee chairman Thomas Welsh, Diana Lanser, a project manager for TSKP, Kevin Yates, Montagno’s construction superintendent and Drew Pollatto, a project manager for Montagno, reviewed the project’s construction schedule — including a planned demolition of the former residence at 33 Catlin St., right next door.
That demolition was held up after questions were raised about whether the house should be considered a historic building. According to Welsh, those questions have since been resolved. The requisite permits to begin the demolition either have been issued or are close to being issued. Officials anticipated the demolition could be carried out within a week.
Under the current renovation and expansion plans, the library’s now 45,000-square-foot building will see its public space expand by more than 3,200 square feet. The space available for meetings will almost double, to 4,994 square feet.
The anticipated cost to the city, after grants and other fundraising, is around $9.97 million, according to previously shared figures.
Throughout the library, paneling that previously enclosed areas like the Griffin Reading Room and the Tomie dePaola Children’s Library has been removed.
The Griffin Room has been stripped down to a bare skeleton of concrete and metal. As Welsh and Yates led the Record-Journal for a tour of progress to date, members of a Montagno construction crew were at work, carrying panels, operating machines to remove flooring and emptying scrap metal and other debris into dumpsters set up around the area.
Flooring in most areas had been pulled up and other demolition was underway. What had been the library’s information desk was also stripped down.
With the exception of some signage that remains in place, the library’s interior bore little resemblance to the book-filled building it had been before. In many areas, including the building’s main stairwell, plastic sheets now hang and temporary lighting has been installed.
Concurrently, efforts to prepare a rented space — the former Old Navy store in the Meriden Mall — to temporarily house the library’s operations during the construction are also underway. Officials have set March 28 as the date for a “soft” reopening of library services at the temporary space.
Welsh expressed a cautious optimism that the project will proceed on time and on budget.
“I expect that this is going to be done by the end of February — unless we have a supply chain problem where we can’t get stuff,” Welsh said, referencing an ongoing nationwide issue.
So the project’s leaders are trying to avoid delays as much as possible.
“We’re talking here about trying to order things earlier than we might ordinarily in a construction cycle — so that we can get the stuff,” Welsh said. Digital media
Welsh walked past one area that will house an expanded version of the library’s Temple B'Nai Abraham World War II Holocaust and Genocide Collection. Not far from it will be the library’s new digital media center.
In addition to having a large flexible space for community events and to housing collections of multimedia and print content, Welsh envisions the Meriden Public Library as a place where new digital content will be created. That includes working with the Meriden Historical Society to digitally preserve the library’s expansive collection of historic materials.
“I’m excited about doing a lot more content creation,” Welsh said. “This is going to be the place.
“This is going to be a state-of-the-art center where we will be able to do that,” Welsh said of the digital preservation effort. “I’m super excited.”