View Full Version : Library is front-runner to buy Public Market

01-18-2007, 10:06 AM
# 1998: The Libra Foundation, a charitable trust established by the late Elizabeth Noyce, opens the Portland Public Market as an attempt to help farmers and small businesses and extend economic development into the city's Bayside neighborhood.
# February 2006: The Libra Foundation announces that it wants to sell the Public Market and its other Portland properties.
# June 2006: Libra announces it has reached a deal with an unnamed investment group to buy the market and its other properties. The new owners are not interested in operating the market, Libra says.
# August 2006: Guggenheim Real Estate LLC is revealed as the buyer. The firm says it will evaluate how the 32,000-square-foot market building can be reused.
# November 2006: Portland Public Library officials say they're interested in acquiring the building for some of their programs.

The new owner of the Portland Public Market would like to sell the building to the Portland Public Library.
"It's really theirs if they want it," said Morris Fisher, president of Boulos Property Management, which represents the owner.
Fisher and a library official say they expect the matter to come to a head within the next month, as city councilors take a closer look at any proposed deal. The purchase would need voters' approval.
Fisher is a spokesman for Guggenheim Real Estate LLC, which bought the Public Market building and other Libra Foundation properties last summer. Guggenheim is asking $4 million for the building, but Fisher said that's negotiable.
The library's interest in the 32,000-square-foot building became public last fall. Its main branch is on Monument Square, at Congress and Elm streets. The market building is behind the main branch, at Cumberland and Elm streets.
The?80,000-square-foot?library opened in 1979. In 2004, Portland voters approved a $4 million bond to renovate it.
The renovation project, worth a total of $8.5 million, has been delayed for more than a year, and the city has delayed borrowing the $4 million, because the library has had trouble raising its $4.5 million share. The library has raised about $2.2 million, officials said.
When the market building became available, officials recognized that the glass-and-timber landmark, with its high ceilings and street-front windows, would be an inviting environment and could be an alternative to renovating the existing library.
The library is among several potential buyers. Other parties, which may want to convert the building to office or retail space, have been making inquiries, Fisher said. In recent weeks, though, the library has emerged as Guggenheim's preferred choice.
"It's still on the market," Fisher said. "But we have told the city, 'we will work with you.' With any luck, we'll see some positive movement in the next few weeks."
As a privately held real estate investment firm, Guggenheim has a financial obligation to investors. But the company also is sensitive to the community's desire to see the space remain in public use, Fisher said.
Fisher is on the library's board of directors, and has recused himself from the negotiations.
Talks have been led by a subcommittee of the library's board. Nathan Smith, a former city councilor and board vice president, said the group is trying to come up with terms that the City Council will embrace.
"I think we're making good progress with the seller," he said.
Smith said he thinks the $4 million asking price is too high, and suggested the two parties will be able to settle for less. But more than price is at issue.
The proposal needs the City Council's support, and a referendum would have to be scheduled, possibly by late spring. The city also would want to sell the existing library building at some point and use the revenue to offset the market purchase.
"There are a lot of moving parts," Smith said.
Fisher said Guggenheim is waiting to get a read on how councilors will react. "I suspect we'll know that in a month or so."
Fisher said Guggenheim is anxious to sell the building because it's virtually vacant and not generating any income. Romeos Pizza is the only remaining tenant.
Guggenheim has negotiated a buy-out agreement, Fisher said, and will terminate the pizza restaurant's lease when a sale occurs.
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard contributed to this report.
Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:

Reader comments

Jeff of Vonore, TN
Jan 18, 2007 10:41 AM
Fits right in with the direction of the city......another social service with no chance of future income. Great!

Wow, it's hard to believe that the City of Portland keeps shooting itself in the foot. Are a majority of Portland's 60,000+ residents really in support of all this crap?

Dan of Standish, ME
Jan 18, 2007 10:15 AM
Nobody gives a crap about the Portland Public Library! Portland can't afford to renovate/move it. Basically, its only patrons are Portland High Schoolers on lunch break, or skipping school.

MainelyJack of New Gloucester, ME
Jan 18, 2007 9:21 AM
Hmmmmmm. So a bond issue was approved to "renovate" the existing library. (4 million) And the library has had a bit of a problem raising matching funds to complete the monies necessary, but has raised 2.2 million.

Now, rather than renovate the library, the intellectually challanged Portland City Council is considering buying the Portland Public Market building. This is being encouraged by a Morris Fisher, President of Boulous Property Management which represents the owner of the building and who is also on the Board of Trustees of the Library. Fisher, we are told, has recused himself from negotiating the price (a no brainer) but seems to be active in promoting the idea (treading close to the ethical line, aren't we Morris?).

The developing scenario reminds me of a current commoercial for Verizon where Dad, on Christmas morning, still wearing his robe asks his children what they got for Christmas. Each recounts the receipt of a Verizon product. And then he asks, "What did Dad get?" "After shave" is the response. Whereupon he says, "No, Dad got hosed," and walks away.

Well, it strikes me that the City of Portland may be about to get hosed by this chummy arrangement between Fisher and the city as it considers taking a white elephant of a building of the real estate market. The PPM was a great building for it's oroiginal use, but I have a hard time seeing how this space gets transformed into an adjunct of the PPL without a great deal of renovation expense. Meanwhile, if that happens and the money from the bond issue, et al is usued, the original library building will not get renovated which was the intent of the bond issue and those that donated to the matching funds.

Hopefully, the PCC wil turn away from this proposal and get about the project that was originally contemplated. Portland citizens have been hosed enough lately.

01-20-2007, 08:47 AM
Library proposal options abound
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By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer Portland Press Herald Saturday, January 20, 2007

If the former Portland Public Market were converted to a library, its mezzanine could be expanded into a full second floor, where bookshelves, reading areas and computer stations would be located.
That's just one option being considered as Portland Public Library trustees develop a proposal to buy the two-story market building on Cumberland Avenue to provide a new or expanded home for the library's main branch on Congress Street.
The trustees have hired Scott Simons Architects of Portland to help determine how the 37,000-square-foot market building, behind the library, may be used to augment or replace the 77,000-square-foot main branch.
Any such proposal would need approval and financing from Portland officials and taxpayers.
Completing the building's second floor would expand its area to 57,000 square feet, Scott Simons said on Friday.
A 20,000-square-foot addition could be built between the building and the library's four-level main branch, Simons said. That would increase the library's new space to 77,000 square feet, equal to the main branch.
The trustees also must decide whether to sell the entire main branch; sell a portion of it, possibly for use as office condominiums; or keep the entire building.
The latter two options could allow trustees to keep some of the library collection and offices in the existing building.
Trustees say the cost of each option has yet to be determined, and will figure prominently in their planning.
They say they hope to offer a proposal to Mayor Nicholas Mavodones Jr. and the rest of the City Council in two to three weeks.
"We need to figure out if it's practical," said Peter Merrill, a trustee and former president of the board. "This is a remarkable opportunity."
Library trustees are negotiating to buy the market building from Guggenheim Real Estate LLC, a national real estate investment company that bought the building from the Libra Foundation last year.
Guggenheim's asking price has ranged from $2.5 million to $4 million, said trustees and city officials.
If the City Council approves the purchase, voters could be asked to reconsider a $4 million bond issue that they approved in 2004 to help renovate the main branch, which opened in 1979.
A unanimous council and 65 percent of voters agreed to the bond issue.
Trustees said the $8.5 million renovation would improve the look of the largely windowless, boxy building; upgrade high-demand services such as the children's room, computers, books-on-tape and movie loans; update the electrical, heating and cooling system; and add public bathrooms, a small cafe and a retail store.
Library officials have had trouble raising their $4.5 million share for the renovation project. As a result, the start of the project has been put off for more than a year and the city has delayed issuing the $4 million bond.
Library officials have raised about $2.2 million toward the renovation project.
Opened in 1998, the market building is an open-concept, exposed-beam structure that's lined with windows, has several public entrances and is connected via a skywalk to a parking garage across Cumberland Avenue.
Its first floor has 32,000 square feet of mostly open space, where market stalls were operated. Its mezzanine measures 5,000 square feet and features a walkway, a seating area and offices that overlooked the market stalls below.
Mavodones said the market building's open, welcoming appearance is one reason so many people have told him they like the idea of the main branch moving next door.
"It is an inviting building with lots of light," he said.
The library building is owned by the city. The library operates as a nonprofit corporation financed largely by the city and overseen by a 25-member board of trustees appointed by the council.
Mavodones said the council would hold a public hearing on any purchase proposal or related bond referendum, which could happen early this year.
The Libra Foundation, a charitable trust established by the late Elizabeth Noyce, announced in June that it had a buyer for the market building and its other Portland properties.
A spokesman for the new owner said earlier this week that Guggenheim Real Estate would like to sell the building to the library.
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

02-03-2007, 07:34 AM
Cost of moving library detailed
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By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Portland Press Herald Writer Portland Press Herald Saturday, February 3, 2007

HERE'S WHAT it would cost to move the main library to the former Portland Public Market:



TOTAL EXPENSES: $13 million


FINAL COST: $9.6 million

Source: Portland Public Library Board of Trustees

It would cost taxpayers $1 million more to move the Portland Public Library's main branch into the former Portland Public Market than it would to renovate the existing location, library officials said Friday.
A $9.6 million proposal to buy and renovate the two-story market building on Cumberland Avenue will be presented to the City Council on Monday, said Nathan Smith, vice president of the library's board of trustees. The cost is $1.1 million more than the $8.5 million plan to renovate the four-level main branch on Congress Street, which backs up to the market building.
A unanimous council and 65 percent of Portland voters agreed in 2004 to borrow $4 million to help renovate the main branch, which opened in 1979 and cost $6.2 million to build and furnish.
Smith said library officials will ask the council to endorse their proposal to buy the market building and ask Portland voters to increase the bond issue to $5 million. The trustees will present their proposal during a 5 p.m. council workshop at City Hall.
Library officials and others say the 9-year-old market building is more attractive, better designed and more accessible than the existing main branch. Built by John Libby of Freeport, the market building is lined with windows and features an open, post-and-beam design.
Library officials also say that the $2.75 million price they've negotiated for the building is too good to pass up.
"It cost between $6 million and $9 million to build, and that was 10 years ago," Smith said. "Today, you could never build anything remotely like it for what we'd pay for it."
The city would sell the existing main branch for an estimated $3.4 million, Smith said. The city would be expected to have the building appraised, which would cost about $5,000, he said.
The library would continue to occupy the bottom level of the existing main branch to help make up the space difference between the 78,000-square-foot main branch and the 37,000-square-foot market building.
Smith said the library would lease the 27,000-square-foot basement level of the main branch from the new owner for a nominal fee of $1 per year for at least 10 years. The proposal calls for maintaining the Rines auditorium, creating office space and storing lesser-used books there.
Completing the second-floor mezzanine of the market building would expand its floor space to a total of 58,000 square feet. All told, after moving into the market building, the main branch would have 85,000 square feet, Smith said, 7,000 more than it has now.
In the future, a 20,000-square-foot addition could be built on the market building, or the library's core collection of little-used texts could be stored at another location, Smith said.
He said the challenge for architects, who would have to bid on the project, would be to strike a balance between maintaining the original architecture of the market building and defining various sections of the library, such as the children's area and computer areas.
"We're looking to preserve as much of the architecture as possible," Smith said.
Library officials say it would cost $8.7 million to add a second floor and make other renovations to the market building. It would cost an additional $1.55 million to renovate the basement of the existing main branch and furnish both buildings.
Moving to the new location would cost $13 million, including the market building's purchase price of $2.75 million. If the existing branch sells for the estimated $3.4 million, the final cost of the move would be $9.6 million.
Library trustees plan to buy the market building from Guggenheim Real Estate LLC, a national real estate investment company that bought the building from the Libra Foundation last year.
The foundation, a charitable trust established by the late Elizabeth Noyce, announced in June that it had a buyer for the market building and its other Portland properties.
Guggenheim's asking price for the market building has ranged from $2.5 million to $4 million, said trustees and city officials.
The council would hold a public hearing and vote on the market proposal. "This is a unique opportunity and I wouldn't be opposed to putting it before the voters and letting them decide," said Mayor Nicholas Mavodones Jr.
Steven Scharf, president of the Portland Taxpayers Organization, said, "I think the idea of moving to the public market is much better than staying in the current location. It utilizes the public market in a way that no other developer would use it." His group, he said, has yet to take a position on the library proposal.
If the council and voters approve the $9.6 million proposal to move to the market building, a referendum would be held in late May or early June, Smith said.
If the market proposal is rejected, the trustees plan to stick with the $8.5 million plan to renovate the main branch. They say it would improve the look of the largely windowless, boxy building; upgrade high-demand services such as the children's room, computers and movie loans; update the electrical, heating and cooling systems; and add public bathrooms, a small cafe and a retail store.
Library officials have had trouble raising their $4.5 million share of the renovation project. As a result, the start of the project has been put off for more than a year and the city has delayed issuing the $4 million bond. Library officials have raised about $2.3 million toward the renovation.
Smith said he believes that buying the market building would boost the capital campaign and help library officials raise the full $4.6 million -- that's an extra $100,000 -- they need to pull off the deal.
The market building is connected via a skywalk to a parking garage across Cumberland Avenue. The parking garage is owned by Guggenheim, whose representatives have agreed to designate 40 spaces for library patrons, Smith said.
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:
Moving to the market buildingBuy former Portland Public Market $2.75 millionCost of renovations and furnishings $10.25 million -------------------- $13 millionSell existing main branch $3.4 million -------------------Final cost $9.6 millionSource: Portland Public Library Board of Trustees -->

03-15-2007, 01:29 PM
Council to take up library referendum
By Kate Bucklin (published: March 15, 2007)
PORTLAND ? The City Council is expected to make a decision March 19 on whether to ask voters to spend $5 million to move the main branch of the Portland Public Library to the former Portland Public Market building.

Voters in 2004 approved spending $4 million to renovate the current Monument Square library. The referendum in June would ask voters to OK an additional $1 million and switch use of the money from renovating the current library to purchasing and renovating the former public market.

The library embarked on a $4.5 million capital campaign to renovate the library and has raised about half that goal. Now library officials want to scrap the original plan and instead move into the public market building. That move is estimated to cost about $13 million. Guggenheim Real Estate owns the market and is willing to sell it to the city for $2.75 million. According to city records, the property at 25 Preble St. has an assessed value of $3.4 million.

The assessor?s office values the library property at $11.7 million, although library officials have said they hope to get $3.3 million from the sale. The nearby Maine Bank & Trust building is assessed at $5.2 million.

An outside appraisal of the library is complete, City Manager Joseph Gray said, but that appraised value will not be revealed to the public, he said, because if the city enters negotiations to sell the property, the revelation could hurt the city?s ability to negotiate fairly. The City Council regularly discusses real estate negotiations in private.

At a recent forum, library Executive Director Stephen Podgajny walked viewers through a slide show displaying architectural renderings of what the public market would look like if the move happens.

According to Podgajny, plans for the market include adding a second floor and making the door closest to Maine Bank & Trust the primary entrance. Library users would walk past a small cafe and group of computers to get into the library proper. A children?s section, fiction and a teen room are planned for the first floor. The second floor could accommodate The Portland Room, reference stacks and Rines Auditorium.

The current library is about 80,000 square feet and with a second story build-out the market would be about 58,000 square feet, Podgajny said. The basement at the current Monument Square library would be leased back to the city by a new owner, and the space would be used for administrative offices and additional book stacks.

City councilors have been supportive of the library move, although some have expressed desire for a ?signature library? in Portland.

City Councilor James Cohen said the council postponed various library items March 5 to allow more time to ?gather necessary information.? Cohen supports the library move and said he believes the rewards outweigh the risks.

But City Councilor Kevin Donoghue questioned whether support for the library move is coming from a desire to save the public market building.

?I may try to see if voters want to buy the market, but not for library use,? Donoghue said.

The City Council meets Monday at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net.

03-16-2007, 08:52 AM
Library once praised as 'inviting' fell behind times over the years

Reviews of the Portland Public Library's main branch have plummeted over the years.
Marching bands and characters on stilts paraded down Congress Street when the $6.2 million building opened on Monument Square in 1979.
The massive, unadorned structure, designed by SBRA Architects of Boston, was four times larger than the more traditional Baxter Building it replaced farther up Congress Street. Despite initial concerns about the location, the modern granite building was hailed as big, new and beautiful.
A few years later, Greater Portland Landmarks described main branch as "bold" and "geometric," with a facade that was "lively and attractive inviting and playful."
By 1999, however, a facility improvement plan by the trustees said the ramped front entrance was disorienting and wasted space. It also criticized the interior layout as confusing, crowded, noisy, dimly lit and unsafe.
A renovation proposal said the building was "considered unmemorable, uninviting and unappealing by the vast majority of the public."
Despite having this fodder, however, Stephen Podgajny, Portland's library director, avoids criticizing the current library space.
After all, if the City Council and voters reject a proposal to move the main library into the former Portland Public Market building, library trustees will move ahead with an $8.5 million plan to renovate the existing location.
Still, Podgajny can't help pushing the market building proposal. When people question the move, he responds with an invitation.
"I ask them to come and look and see the difference in your own feeling," Podgajny said this week, standing in the largely vacant -- and smaller -- market building on Cumberland Avenue, directly behind the main library.
Built by John Libby of Freeport, the market building is lined with windows and features an open, post-and-beam design. Library officials are promoting a $9.6 million plan to expand the mezzanine into a full second floor and set aside large, clearly designated areas for children and teens, public computer access, relaxed reading and a cafe.
Portland isn't heading into uncharted territory with this proposal.
"This kind of thing is being done across the country," said Nikki Maounis, president of the Maine Library Association and director of the Rockland Public Library.
"Libraries are realizing that it's not just the quantity of space that's important, it's the quality of space."
The $8.5 million renovation plan for the existing main library would improve the look of the largely windowless, boxy building; upgrade high-demand services such as the children's room, computers and movie loans; update the electrical, heating and cooling systems; and add public bathrooms, a small cafe and a retail store, according to trustees.
Several years ago, trustees considered a more complete renovation that would have cost $15 million, but scaled it back.
Podgajny said he sees renovating the main library as a compromise that would accommodate rather than embrace the various uses and users common to modern libraries. Moving to the market building would allow the library to maximize those uses, which range from surfing the Internet to having a cup of coffee with friends.
"The mission's the same," Podgajny said. "The potential for the market building is enormous."
Central to the market proposal is Podgajny's plan to keep about 300,000 lesser-used nonfiction items on the first level of main branch, while featuring about 200,000 more popular items on shelves in the market building.
In the future, Podgajny said, he wants to develop a central warehouse outside the downtown area for the library's core nonfiction collection and central administration, including the director's office. Users could request a book at one of the six branches and get it within a day or so.
Podgajny promises the public would be able to browse the back stacks wherever they are located.
Podgajny said it's too costly and constricting to continue thinking of the main library as the central repository for all the books needed to be the library resource for Cumberland, York and parts of Oxford counties. Residents of these areas are eligible for free Portland library cards, as are people who work or go to school in Portland.
"It doesn't make sense to store books on prime real estate," he said.
Podgajny said he believes a centralized system would ultimately lower costs, increase efficiency and improve user experiences in all six Portland library branches.
If the market proposals fails to win community support, Podgajny is prepared to take a deep breath and take another look at renovating the main branch.
"It takes courage and creativity to take your vision in another direction," Podgajny said. "We won't apologize for making a run at this."
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

Reader comments

Xportlander of Scarborough, ME
Mar 16, 2007 8:22 AM
yadi yadi yada....more bs

03-16-2007, 09:48 AM
Move library to meet expanding needs of patrons, director says

Steven Podgajny has high expectations for the Portland Public Library's main branch.
If it moves into the former Portland Public Market -- a proposal the City Council will consider Monday -- annual lending of books, DVDs and other materials at the main branch will increase from 355,000 to 500,000 within five years, the director of Maine's largest public library believes.
Podgajny saw similar results when he was director of Brunswick's Curtis Memorial Library, where he oversaw a $6 million renovation and expansion completed in 1999. By June 2006, the library's circulation had nearly doubled to 343,763.
"There's no underestimating the impact of a new space on the use of a library," Podgajny says confidently.
Like the Brunswick project and others across the United States, the Portland proposal calls for creating a space that reflects the new and not-so-new ways that people use public libraries. Influences can be traced to the 1860s reading rooms of the long-gone Portland Atheneum and the busy cafe of the Borders bookstore in the Maine Mall area.
Just as when they started in the mid-1800s, free public libraries remain an information resource for all people, rich or poor, native born or immigrant.
"I'm here every day," said Ali Ahmmed, a Portland High School senior who uses the library's computers.
In the past 15 years, spurred by advances in technology and changes in communication, libraries have become "commons" where people can meet friends, read a book in a comfortable chair, borrow a CD or DVD, do research on the Internet, attend a self-help lecture or sip a cup of coffee.
As a result, use of Portland's libraries continues to grow, with attendance up 3 percent last year. The main branch recorded 380,339 visits and the system as a whole, including five branches, had 625,741 visitors. Across the country, library use remains steady, with 62 percent of Americans surveyed carrying library cards, according to the American Library Association.
"Libraries are about people as much as they're about materials," said Leslie Burger, president of the national association and director of the Princeton Public Library in Princeton, N.J. "Libraries used to discourage people from staying too long. People got what they were looking for and left. Now, libraries encourage people to come and stay."
Podgajny wants Portland's main branch to be that kind of place, despite some people's concerns about moving into the smaller market building next door. He sees potential in the soaring two-story space lined with windows and topped by a rustic post-and-beam ceiling.
With its mezzanine expanded to a full second floor, the market building would include new designated areas for teens, public computer use and relaxed reading, as well as several meeting rooms, a cafe with an outdoor patio and an expanded Rines Auditorium.
"It's about respecting the complexity and variety of uses and users," Podgajny said. "The user experience would change completely."
Podgajny and library trustees are promoting a $9.6 million proposal to buy and renovate the 9-year-old market building on Cumberland Avenue rather than move forward with an $8.5 million renovation of the main branch. The market building is located to the rear of the 28-year-old main branch, which is on Congress Street at Monument Square.
The market proposal would add $1 million to a $4 million library renovation bond that a unanimous council and 65 percent of Portland voters approved in 2004. The council is scheduled to vote Monday whether to send the proposal to voters in June.
The proposal also would add $100,000 to the $4.5 million that library officials have been trying to raise as their share of the main-branch renovation. In the past three years, they have raised about half of he needed amount.
The market proposal calls for selling the four-level main branch for an estimated $3.4 million, with the expectation that a developer would want to convert it to an office building.
The library would lease and continue to occupy the 27,000-square-foot basement of the main branch for several years, providing a home for library administration and lesser-used nonfiction materials. That would help make up the space difference between the 78,000-square-foot main branch and the 37,000-square-foot market building.
Ask regular users if libraries remain relevant and the main branch deserves such attention, and they don't hesitate.
"Of course," said Peter Lorenzen, 37, an Old Orchard Beach resident who has a sales job in Portland and visits the main branch at least twice a month. "If I could quit my job and read all day, I probably would. You can pick up a book and go anywhere in time or place, and it doesn't cost a thing."
Others believe libraries have grown increasingly irrelevant.
"With the Internet today, what can't you get online that you can get at the library?" asked Timothy Johnson, 53, another Portland resident. "It's like that big set of Britannica you have on the shelf at home and never open because the information's old and you can find it faster online."
Some people question the logic of moving the main branch, especially because the building is relatively new and because the market building is smaller. Some, including City Councilor Cheryl Leeman and Robert Hains, a City Hall watchdog, have questioned whether the move is worth the added expense and whether it will cost more to operate the library in the market building.
Some say the library should stay on Congress Street, with other important buildings such as City Hall and the Portland Museum of Art. Deficiencies in the main branch can be fixed, they say, and moving into a smaller building makes no sense, especially when the current structure replaced the much smaller Baxter Building farther up Congress Street.
"(The main branch) is less than 30 years old. It does not need to be abandoned," said Sheila Alexander, a former reference librarian at the main branch who retired this month after 36 years. "I keep thinking it's so foolish that it won't happen."
Supporters of the market proposal say it's not so foolish. They point to other libraries in Maine and elsewhere that have done similar projects.
Rockland recently completed a $3 million renovation and expansion of its leaking 1894 library. The size of its collection remained the same, but its use increased five-fold, said Director Nikki Maounis.
In Brunswick, a 1970s addition to the original 1904 building was torn down and a new addition was built, said Director Elisabeth Doucett. It included teen, technology and program areas, more natural lighting and designated reading rooms with comfortable seating.
And Princeton, N.J., recently razed its 1965 library and built an $18 million replacement rather than undertake a more expensive renovation and expansion, said Burger, president of the national library group.
"What Portland is planning to do is pretty much in line with what's happening across the country," Burger said. "As communities grow and change, so do libraries."
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

Reader comments

Mike of portland, ME
Mar 16, 2007 10:03 AM
The Dumb Asses in Portland will vote for this and then wonder why their taxes and rents are so high!

Michael kri of portland, ME
Mar 16, 2007 9:56 AM
I cant wait to get out of Portland! High taxes, high crime, horrible schools and homeless bums evereywhere.

Matt Bowie of Holliston, MA
Mar 16, 2007 9:56 AM

The historic usage of libraries has declined over the last 20-30 years. This is due in part to the increased availability of publishing, and the internet. The major reason why libraries have increased users is because they've added new services. This is all nice and good, but it's a dubious number. Many of these services duplicate what book stores, coffee shops and other businesses already offer, except it's funded by the the public. A library is a place where people can research, and take out books. This is a critical service for the community. Movies and music, as long as they are not readily available by stores in the area are acceptable as well. But all too often, these new libraries want to become museums as well as large open spaces of beauty, etc. Problem is, it's not their function, and it's not fair to ask the taxpayers, who, as a declining percentage actually use the facilities to pay for these extravagant accomodations.

Robert, anyone in touch with reality, will figure out the ROI on this is terrible. In this case, moving to a smaller facility at great cost, instead of some sensible renovations, is completely out of touch.

Michael kri of portland, ME
Mar 16, 2007 9:52 AM
Put the money in the branch libraries! That is where the Taxpayers from Portland go. The tiny Burbank Branch has 1/2 the circulation as the main branch!

If they move the librbary to the Public Market, it will just be an extension of the Prebble St. Resource Center, anyway

03-16-2007, 01:55 PM
Library once praised as 'inviting' fell behind times over the years

Ok, I've been to this building, I've been in this building but I can't for the life of remember this building.
Does anyone have pics to jog my memory? I seem to remember a large wrought iron fence.

03-16-2007, 02:14 PM
Yeah there is a large iron fence that closes after hours to keep, I am assuming, vandals and the homeless out......as they are only permitted during regular business hours :roll:.

It is in the center of town, not that significant looking.

let me know if this link works or not


03-17-2007, 09:13 AM
Ahh, now I remember. Thanks Patrick. I actually kinda like it. I hope if the library moves out completly the save the building, rather than tear it down and put up some faux-brick box.

And I like the idea of moving the library to the Public Market. Of course, I like the idea of it remaining a public market more, but... :?

03-17-2007, 11:54 AM
Ahh, now I remember. Thanks Patrick. I actually kinda like it. I hope if the library moves out completly the save the building, rather than tear it down and put up some faux-brick box.

And I like the idea of moving the library to the Public Market. Of course, I like the idea of it remaining a public market more, but... :?

YEah I kind of like it too, Statler. If you follow that same link above you can view the original plans for rennovation (the ones they will follow if the move to the market building does not transpire). They look very nice. Of course, I have not seen the plans for the market building yet, but I like the old rennovation idea better. The market building is nice, but they were originally supposed to build a 16-story addition to the maine bank and trust high rise on that site. That would have made the heart of town a little more dense and more urban than the current public market building.

the public market, well part of it at least, has moved to monument square now, but it is a dump. if one of the two proposals to develop the maine state pier get approved, we will have a waterfront public market, right at the end of the pier, next to a museum and restaurant, and hotel, and office building, and, and and.....I cant wait.

03-17-2007, 11:56 AM
ps.s word on the street is that the library building will remain intact and be turned into high end condos. I dont know how, because it has almost no windows. we'll see I guess.

03-19-2007, 09:42 AM
Is library move worth an extra $1 million?

Portlanders are being presented with an attractive vision of what moving its public library's main branch to the site of the former Public Market would accomplish. However, they also should understand what will be given up if the move is approved.
Buying and renovating the market for library use will cost taxpayers at least $1 million more than the present $8.5 million plan for modernizing the current library building, which is less than three decades old. In addition, the move will split away much of the library's nonfiction collection.
Even if the City Council approves this plan at tonight's meeting, Portlanders will get to vote on spending the additional money. Thus, they should weigh the city's options carefully.
Borrowing ideas from coffee shops and bookstores, the new library would greet patrons with an outdoor patio and an indoor coffee shop, flanked by 90 computer stations for public use.
The rest of the first floor would hold fiction stacks, a children's area with a story room, and a teen area.
The building's current partial second floor would be expanded for a 300-seat auditorium and meeting rooms available for public use, the Portland Collection room and stacks for reference works and some nonfiction titles.
However, the city would maintain the 27,000-square-foot basement of the former library for the rest of its nonfiction collection. That would help make up the difference between the current library's 78,000 square feet of space and the market's 37,000 square feet.
The city hopes to make $3.4 million from selling the rest of the building, and will put that toward the estimated $13 million cost of the market.
Because voters had approved only $4 million for changes to the current building, with the library's own officials committed to raise the other $4.5 million privately, that still leaves a $1.1 million gap in funding -- if the city gets its full price for the old building.
Library officials, who have so far raised only about half of their portion, have increased their commitment by $100,000, but that means voters must still approve the other $1 million. If the council approves the move tonight, the vote could occur on June 12.
Taxpayers ought to be sure that acquiring another building is the best way to meet the city's needs. The final decision is theirs, as it should be.
An editorial on Page A10 March 16 misidentified the affiliation of Rep. W. Bruce MacDonald. He is a Democrat.

Reader comments

Greg Greg of Portland, ME
Mar 19, 2007 8:55 AM
Something doesn't add up. If the cost of the new library is 13 million, and the voters approved 4 million, that's a difference of 9 million. Everything else contributing to this equation is an "if." If the fundraising happens which is unlikely. If the former library is sold which is unlikely at that price. If a library at that location would be any more successful than a public market at that location, which is unlikely. I presume when this goes to vote the question will make it appear like the citizens are getting a new library for nothing. Since the majority of Portland residents are either of the entitlement variety who won't be paying the extra taxes, or the bleeding heart liberal bookworms who think it's OK spending 13 mil for a homeless day care, it will probably pass. Welcome to the library, Portland. How's your throat feeling today!

03-23-2007, 09:05 AM
Voters to decide on library
By Kate Bucklin (published: March 22, 2007)
PORTLAND ? Voters will usher in summer by deciding whether to pony up an additional $1 million to move the Portland Public Library into the former Portland Public Market.

Proponents say the $13 million move will give the city a signature library and offer a more welcoming space than the existing Monument Square building.

The City Council gave the proposal its backing Monday night, and set June 12 as the date voters will be asked whether they support adding $1 million to the $4 million the city approved in 2004 to renovate the current library. If approved, the $5 million would go toward purchasing and renovating the former public market.

Library officials estimate the total cost of buying the market and transforming the space into a library ? including adding a floor ? at $13 million. The library has committed to raising about $4.75 million toward the project and hopes to get about $3.4 million from the sale of the current library.

An appraisal on that building has been performed but not disclosed, City Manager Joseph Gray said, because that figure will be used in negotiations. According to property values listed on the city Web site, the 5 Monument Square building is assessed at $11.7 million. The former market building is assessed at $3.4 million and library officials have said Guggenheim Real Estate is willing to sell the building to the city for $2.75 million.

Nathan Smith, an attorney for the library and former councilor and mayor, told councilors Monday the library is aware of the risks associated with this project, but believes it is best for the future of the main library branch.

?The library knows the numbers have to work,? Smith said. ?This is something that could define downtown Portland for the coming decades.?

Bayside activist Stephen Hirshon said great cities are known for great cultural institutions, and the former market building transformed into a library could be just that. He also suggested the move could improve the neighborhood.

?It could help to smooth the rough fabric of that area,? he said.

City Councilor James Cohen said the current library is not a welcoming space and can be intimidating.

?It?s not a space I feel comfortable taking my family,? Cohen said. ?My kids don?t want to go there and have made that clear to me.?

The library worked with Scott Simon Architects to come up with some sketches of the transformed market. Those drawings show a first floor with a large children?s area, a teen room, computer stations and an open flow through the building. A cafe is included at the main entrance, which would be the Preble Street entrance closest to Maine Bank & Trust.

Upstairs from the cafe is the new Rines Auditorium. Library Executive Director Stephen Podgajny said the design allows for the cafe and Rines section of the library to be closed off and used after hours for lectures and performances.

Also upstairs is an expanded Portland Room, a great reading room, reference stacks and other library tools Podgajny predicted would create a more quiet floor, in comparison with the first floor.

The library wants to use the basement at the current library for administrative offices and stacks that are not regularly used. But Smith said depending on the outcome of the sale of that building, the library could move administration and some resources to another site.

City Councilor Cheryl Leeman cast the only vote against the proposal. Leeman said she was not convinced it was a good business deal for the city.

?I think we?ve gotten caught up in the emotional appeal of the Portland Public Market space,? she said.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net.
__________________________________________________ ___________

I think it is funny how the people in this article were talking abotu how the current library can be intimidating.....grow up, it is an inner city library, with inner city people, which includes bums, teenagers from portland high, and, --*gasp*--people of color. they are all harmless.

and besides, moving the library to southwest bayside is a step in the WRONG direction in terms of making the library less sketchy. The same "intimidating" people will be at the new location, only now they wont have to walk so far from home to get there.

05-24-2007, 08:59 PM

Portland Public Library, Maine?s largest library system, is at a vital turning point in our distinguished 140 years of service. We have the unique opportunity to relocate to the building adjacent to our current facility, the inspirational and well-loved former Portland Public Market.

While the relocation to the Market building represents a change in the Library?s physical location by ? block, we remain firmly committed to the goals that motivated our original Capital Campaign. The vision for the improved downtown Library is an environment that is safer, more inviting, conducive to a variety of uses, and accessible to the public by providing a efficient, inspiring, and engaged public space. The project is mandated by outmoded internal systems, changes in constituent needs, and goals for expanding services to young readers. Key improvements include:


Concentrating heavily used services together. Welcoming entrances lead to audio-visual services, fiction books, the Sam L. Cohen Children?s Library, the new Teen Center, and a caf?.

Creating a dedicated Teen Library, complete with computers and home-like environment to meet the needs of the Library?s growing teen patron base.

Providing a Great Reading Room and reference library where users will find the reference, periodical, and nonfiction collections, as well as a quiet work area.

A more prominent and larger space for the Portland Room, the deep appreciated resource that honors the history, traditions, and creative spirit of our City and region.

Offering an increased number of public use computers dispersed throughout the Library for a variety of purposes.

Attached, covered parking.

In order to accomplish this visionary project and become a leader in the 21st century, Portland Public Library aims to complete its $9,600,000 Capital Campaign by December 2007 and construction by December 2009. The funding is a public-private partnership; $4 million of the required funds were attained through a bond referendum that was overwhelmingly approved by the City of Portland voters in 2004; $1 million is being sought through a bond referendum vote on June 12, 2007. The Library is raising the remaining $4.6 million, approximately half of which has already been acquired through the generous support of corporate, foundation, individual, and government donors. This is the largest private fundraising effort on behalf of a publicly owned building in Portland?s history.

For more information about making a donation to the campaign, contact the Campaign Office at 207-871-1700 ext. 723 or Library Administration at 207-871-1700 ext. 755 or email Genetta McLean, Capital Campaign Associate.

For information about the bond referendum on June 12th, please contact Heather B. Tiffany, Director of Development and Programming. E-mail her or call 871-1700 ext. 759.

For copies of newspaper articles related to the campaign or for other questions, contact the Reference staff at 871-1725.

in the meantime...

International fair planned at former Public Market
(published: May 24, 2007)
PORTLAND ? The Bayside Neighborhood Association will host a fair and market with an international flair June 2.

The afternoon event will take place at the former Portland Public Market on Preble Street. The association is hoping to promote the neighborhood?s ethnically diverse flavor with events throughout the day that include Cambodian dance, journey stories told by residents from Indonesia and Sudan and workshops for new Americans.

Food vendors will include La Bodega Latina, Borealis Breads, Sun Oriental Market and Sudanese community members. Artists committed to selling their products at the fair include Neilsen Smith Metalworks, Mainely Lab Studios, Passport to Africa, Fern Dyer and Victoria Szathowski.

A flea market is also planned, and a small number of tables are available to rent for $20. Contact Emily Koehn at 749-1008 for more information.

Music, dance and stories will take place throughout the festival, which is scheduled to run from 1 to 8 p.m.

Admission is free and parking is available in the attached garage. For more information about the fair and market, contact Dory Waxman at 415-0769.

Here is the music and dance schedule:

? 1 p.m. Tepmonorom Dance Ensemble (Cambodian classical dance)

? 1:50 p.m. Shane Garcia (Flamenco guitar)

? 2:40 p.m. Nancy Hoffman


? 3:30 p.m. CAFAM (Chinese dance)

? 4:20 p.m. Singza (Rwandan traditional dance)

? 5:10 p.m. Le Musique d?Acadiens (French folk music)

? 6:40 p.m. Ayperi/Nya?s Trance Dance (Belly dancing)

And here are the workshops:

? 1:20 p.m. The right to have an interpreter

? 2:30 p.m. Financial safeguards and banking relations

? 3:30 p.m. Community conversations

? 4:30 p.m. Update on immigration reform

? 5:30 p.m. College is possible

? 6:30 p.m. Getting ready for homeownership

Journey stories will be told at 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 2:25 p.m., 2:50 p.m. and 4:50 p.m.


Group emerges to oppose library move
By Kate Bucklin (published: May 24, 2007)
PORTLAND ? With fewer than three weeks until voters decide whether to fund moving the Portland Public Library, proponents are facing organized opposition that hopes to sway public opinion against the move.

The City Council decided in March to ask voters to add $1 million to the $4 million they approved in 2004 for renovating the main library. If approved in a June 12 referendum, the $5 million will be redirected toward purchasing the former Portland Public Market and transforming it into a new library. The entire project is expected to cost about $13 million.

Library Director Steve Podgajny on Monday said the library will host several public meetings between now and the special election to explain the reasoning behind moving from 5 Monument Square to the former public market on Preble Street. Conceptual drawings of the new space, already posted on the library Web site at portlandlibrary.com, will also be available for viewing.

While debate over the merits of moving the downtown library was lively at the time of the council vote, it has since died down. But now a group of residents hopes to persuade voters to think about the economic consequences of vacating the Monument Square space.

?The public market did nothing for redevelopment in Bayside,? said Jed Rathband, a consultant and one of the opposition leaders. ?The library won?t either.?

Rathband helped found Portlanders for Educational and Economic Priorities (PEEP). The group, described by Rathband as including like-minded community members, believes spending money to move the library should not be a priority for city leaders.

?We see a priority as being the ongoing effort to rebuild Monument Square,? he said. ?Why move away from there??

Rathband said PEEP plans to reach out to the public through press releases and possibly public meetings.

Podgajny said the move makes more and more sense to him and to library trustees every day. In addition to the $5 million from the city, the library is pledging to raise $4.6 million in private donations and expects to get about $3.4 million from sale of the current library.

Public Market owner Guggenheim Real Estate has agreed to sell the building for $2.75 million, Podgajny said. The remaining funds would go toward turning the market into a functional library.

Initial plans include adding a full second story at the market and sectioning the library to appeal to different user groups.

A large children?s area, a teen room and computer stations are planned for the first floor. A cafe at the main entrance on Preble Street (closest to Maine Bank & Trust) would serve as a meeting place, Podgajny said. The design would allow the cafe and Rines Auditorium above to be closed off from the main section of the library and used after hours.

If the library bond is approved, Podgajny said the city would first move toward establishing a date to close the purchase of the market. A selection process for an architect would follow and a year from now, he said, the library will present construction drawings.

In the meantime, the library must come up with its $4.6 million share, half of which is already raised, according to its Web site.

Rathband was skeptical about whether the library would be able to raise the remaining $2.3 million, and asked what would happen if it doesn?t, after the city already owns the market.

?The city is jumping at an opportunity to buy the Public Market and not because it is necessarily the best place for a library,? he said. ?They are engaged in compulsive shopping.?

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net.

FYI: Upcoming library information meetings are May 29 at 7 p.m. at the Munjoy Hill library branch at East End Community School; June 4 at noon at the main library, 5 Monument Square; June 6 at 7 p.m. at the Burbank branch, 377 Stevens Ave., and June 11 at noon at the main library. More information about Portlanders for Educational and Economic Priorities (PEEP) is available via e-mail from jed@stonesthrowconsulting.com.

05-25-2007, 09:55 AM
Don't move the library, fix it
Displacing this vital urban center to a smaller and less-useful structure is a wasteful decision.

Almost 28 years ago, Portland was celebrating its new library building, which was hailed for its spaciousness, natural light, elegantly modern architecture and its location on Monument Square, in the heart of the city.

The location was especially important. At a time when people and businesses were flocking to suburban shopping malls, the new library, facing Portland's biggest public square, represented new hope for downtown.

The striking and playful edifice of the new library building in the center of the city reflected our city's desire to make knowledge an accessible and attractive resource for everyone.

Now, library trustees are campaigning to move the library around the corner to the former Public Market building. Everyone seems to have forgotten last year's heralded renovation plans, which would have modernized the existing building, provided additional space and added to the vitality of Portland's most prominent public square.

Instead of renovation, library leadership now intends to spend an additional $1 million in public money in order to move into a smaller space in a much less visible location.

Before we vote on a bond to spend additional tax revenue on the move, Portland needs to give more thought to where its public library properly belongs.

When the new library opened in 1979, downtown Portland was hemorrhaging residents and businesses to outlying suburbs.

The once-vibrant Congress Street was drained of street life, and consultants had actually advised the city to turn the street into a shopping arcade.

Thankfully, we invested in something that suburban shopping centers could not emulate: a grand new monument to free and public education in the heart of our city.

The library gave people a reason to come downtown, made Monument Square into a lively public space and anchored the slow but steady revitalization of Congress Street and the emerging Arts District.

Two decades later, the Libra Foundation aimed for similar goals when it built a parking garage and public market building behind the library.

Ironically, though, the new public market borrowed many design strategies from the shopping mall: ample supplies of free parking in a garage next door, a hermetic skywalk that avoided street life and a layout that bore a striking resemblance to a mall's food court.

The market itself might have looked nice, but the location and design of the new building and the massive garage next door were obviously major contributing factors to its failure as a public space.

For proof, look to the market businesses that now occupy the Public Market House on Monument Square. The same enterprises that were left homeless when the old market shut down now thrive in their new location, right across the square from the Portland Public Library's current home.

Meanwhile, other developers consider the old market building as a promising site for retail space, or as a podium to a new office building rising from the old loading docks.

Commercial uses on the old market site would take fuller advantage of the parking garage across the street while also contributing to the city's tax revenues.

It would be a shame if we spent millions to cram our library into the smaller space, under a looming white elephant of a parking garage, away from and out of sight of our city's central public space.

The Portland Public Library deserves a prominent place in the middle of our city and in the center of our civic pride: a place where our Main Street meets our own classical Forum, a place that suits a monument to public education.

? Special to the Press Herald

Reader comments

deb keen of portland, ME
May 25, 2007 8:56 AM
i aqree a much smaller library for MORE money just doesn't make any sense.Adding that necessay a second floor to the public market, will ruin the aesthetics that would make it a good home for the library. I will be voting No on the bond. However I think we still should buy the building and keep the existing building so the library CAN expand.It is adding the second floor to the market building that adds all the additional cost. I say we simply buy the building , keep it as is. Don't add that expensive 2nd floor. Use it for a reading room, childrens and cd video collection, computers etc. AND Keep the existing building for more traditional research. All that can be done with the original pricetag, with no need for any additional bonding.
The curent plan was a rush job in reaction to the sale of the PM buuilding. It wasn't a
well thought out plan. Even the library didn't know about the "plan".
It will be half the size of the current library and even with the storage 20,000 sf less!!!How does that meet existing let alone expanddng needs??
While the city council is asking the school department to CUT $700,000 to our schools we can ill afford an addtional $ 1 million in debt.Portland Taxpayers, already generously approved $4 million in debt for the library. And they have yet to be able to come up with their matching share. $4 million is enough.
That school cut eliminated 2 school librarians. It would be insenstive to create a taj mahal library ,at a time when we are asking the school, to cut school librarians, bus drivers, special ed and more.
We shoudn't be investing in any thing else UNTIL we can afford to invest in our schools.

Arthur Fink of Peaks Island, ME
May 25, 2007 8:16 AM

Thanks, Jed Rathband, for this sensible summary of very good reasons for enhancing the library in its current space.

Can the library trustees unwrap their older plans for this renovation, perhaps open up a competition for better ways to enhance this important public space.

As for the market building ... it could become another commercial venue, but I hope, instead, that it will be transformed into a community center for the arts. That use would be a great neighbor to the library, would help bridge the "arts district" into Bayside, and would serve many community needs. It could also be a use that encourages other economic development, much as the transformation of a department store into MECA's main building has done.