Orange County

A new library and ArtsCenter will change downtown Carrboro. Get a first look here.

This concept drawing shows the 203 Project on South Greensboro Street.
This concept drawing shows the 203 Project on South Greensboro Street.

Architects quickly won over skeptics Tuesday night when they released the first sketches of the 203 Project on South Greensboro Street at a public hearing.

The 203 Project will house the Orange County Southern Branch Library, the relocated ArtsCenter and Carrboro’s parks and recreation offices along with radio station WCOM.

Three concepts, early drawings designed to get feedback, were presented by Chris Garris and Derek Jones of Perkins+Will Global, the design firm chosen for the project. The “Commons” scheme, despite placing the library on the second floor, was the preferred concept.

These are three concept drawings for the 203 Project on South Greensboro Street. Perkins+Will Global

Some people said they didn’t like having the library on the second floor.

Melva Okun said having a first-floor library should have been given greater consideration but otherwise liked the design.

Garris and Jones said they tried putting the library on the first floor but that kept the building from meeting all the demands being placed on it.

Splitting the library onto two floors was not an option because Carrboro and Orange County have agreed the library should be on one floor.

The Southern Branch Library will replace the Carrboro Branch Library at McDougle Middle School and the Cybrary in the Carrboro Century Center. It will be a branch of the Orange County Library system, separate from the Chapel Hill Public Library, which is operated by the town of Chapel Hill.

Orange County Library Director Lucinda Munger said the plan will give vibrancy to the building because of the high number of visitors she expects in the downtown Carrboro location. The county’s main library in downtown Hillsborough had about 250,000 visitors last year, she said.

“I didn’t know what to expect until I saw the drawings myself at a work session,” Munger said. “It’s not very traditional, but in this building it will work better. The library will dominate the second floor, but your eyes will be drawn to the other elements.”

The entrance to the library will be up a grand staircase from the building lobby. Elevators also will provide additional access.

A few people asked if solar power had been considered for the building.

“If Carrboro can’t put solar on a brand new building, then there might not be any hope for any of us,” said Sally Robertson of NC WARN, a nonprofit that promotes the transition to clean power.

Designers said the building will be constructed using LEED certification specifications.

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The $21 million building is going to be three stories tall and about 45,000 square feet. The cost will be shared proportionally by the three occupants. Garris said the design deadline is May 2019. Construction is about a year away.

It will face South Greensboro Street and have a plaza entranceway.

The first floor will contain large, multi-purpose programming rooms as well as the entrance to the theater. The second floor will contain the library, maker spaces and offices for the ArtsCenter. The third floor will have parks and recreation offices, another multi-purpose room and a police training room. These areas will open to a rooftop space above the library.

The site will have room for about 120 parking spaces, some of which will be underground.

It now is a town parking lot with about 85 spaces across from Open Eye Cafe. Many nearby businesses rely on the lot for customer parking. Those spaces will not be available for more than a year while the new building is constructed.