DNA Info: Could New Library Make West Ridge A City Destination? Residents Hope So

WEST RIDGE — A new library and senior housing complex along Western Avenue is what many residents hope will reveal West Ridge as a hidden gem neighborhood worth traveling to, residents said at a community meeting on the project Monday night.

“We want the library to put us on the map,” said Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th). “We want West Ridge to be a destination.”

The 6800 N. Western Ave. branch is one of three new mixed-use libraries and housing facilities slated to open across the city, including others on Taylor Street and Elston Avenue, and is a collaboration between the Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago Public Library and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office.

The ground floor of the structure will include a 16,000-square-foot library, which will be topped with several floors containing 30 units of affordable housing for senior citizens.

Architects from design firm Perkins + Will, along with representatives from Chicago Public Library and the Department of Planning and Development, presented initial concepts for how the library portion of the building could look Monday.

“The mood is very good, it’s a great design,” said John Kane of the West Ridge Community Organization and LEARN West Rogers Park. “I personally love the idea that it’s going to be facing Western Avenue because one of our initiatives is to integrate the library in with Warren Park and the surrounding commercial development of Western Avenue, that whole stretch between Pratt Avenue and Lunt is a hidden gem.”

An early drawing of what the library’s front lobby, art wall and information desks could look like. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Between the new library, Warren Park and Lickity Split Frozen Custard on Lunt Avenue, neighbors said the library has the potential to create a strong pedestrian-friendly area.

“Not a whole lot has changed on Western Avenue,” said Denise Eichhorn, who lives in a house two blocks from the site of the future library. “It would be nice to make it a destination.”

However, two main concerns from neighbors were addressed Monday night: the library’s modern design potentially clashing with surrounding 1920s bungalows, and the amount of parking available.

The building is currently slated for about 31 parking spaces, including at least two for people with disabilities, though the final number and parking lot configuration is still up for consideration.

Andrea Telli of the Chicago Public Library said generally larger library branches offer 1 parking space per 1,000 square feet, which would equal 16 spaces at the new 16,000-square-foot West Ridge branch.

Doug Smith, managing principal with Perkins + Will, said last month city rules require only 0.3 parking spaces per one-bedroom unit of senior housing.

“I think there has to be more thought given to the parking,” said Kathleen Reyes, a writer for local 50th Ward Follies blog.

Others, like Eichhorn, said she didn’t think parking would ultimately be an issue, citing public transportation, walking and biking.

“If people really want to get to the library, they’ll find a way,” she said.

Though official renderings have not yet been presented, initial concept designs shown Monday night by Perkins + Will drew a mixed reaction, with some calling the structure an “ultra-modern eyesore” and wanting a more classic style, and others praising it as a potential “landmark.”

“It’s on Western Avenue — Western Avenue is not for bungalows,” Eichhorn said.

Early designs for the space show abundant natural light provided by wide windows throughout.

The library would be split into a lobby and community spaces, individual meeting and reading rooms, an early childhood area, space for school aged children, teen and media center, adult space and green areas on the rooftop as well as a Western Avenue-facing courtyard.

The color concept would revolve around shades of orange, green, brown and aqua blue.

Jeff Saad, a senior designer with Perkins + Will, going over the distinct areas within the library. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

David Tabak, Eichhorn’s husband, said it made sense that a library built today would look different from structures built nearly a hundred years earlier.

“The older libraries were built for a 20th century concept of a library, this is obviously built for the 21st century,” Tabak said. “I think [the criticism is] ultimately fear of the unknown.”

But, with the library set to open in December of 2018, Reyes said she’d really like to see official renderings and have “more concrete information.”

Silverstein said architects would present more solid plans soon.

Overall, many who spoke thanked designers for taking community feedback to heart and applying it to early concepts.

“I think the architects are really trying, they seem to be doing a very good job,” Reyes said. “There’s a lot of information to incorporate, everybody has a different idea.”

After a design competition that started late last year, Perkins and Will was selected from a group of three semi-finalists competing to design the library.

Headquartered in Chicago since 1935, the firm worked on the Rush University Medical Center, O’Hare International Airport, the Jones College Prep campus in the Loop and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum — along with a number of mixed-use libraries.

Tabak said the library where the meeting was held felt like it was built for “a commercial transaction” rather than a community space, which is what they want to avoid.

A space that transitions between the library’s entrance and information desks into the main book area. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

A space for school-aged children that includes computers, individual and group seating and low-level shelving. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

A reading/study space in the main “adult” part of the library. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Ald. Debra Silverstein speaking with residents Monday night. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Design for the new 50th Ward library to be revealed TONIGHT!

On behalf of LEARN West Rogers Park, I want to thank you for taking time to fill out our library survey. This coalition of community organizations, businesses and individuals has worked tirelessly over the past two years to advocate for a 21st Century library in the 50thWard and to ensure community involvement in the process.


Whether you signed our petition to create awareness for the need of a new library and/or shared your thoughts on how this new library can best serve our community via the survey, your input continues to be vital in shaping this new community cornerstone.


On Monday, May 1, 2017, Alderman Silverstein and representatives from Chicago Housing Authority and Chicago Public Library will reveal the design for the new Northtown Library Branch to be located at the northwest corner of Western and Pratt Avenues.


This public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Warren Park, 6601 N. Western Avenue.


Please join LEARN WRP to learn what they have in mind for our new library and to share your thoughts.


Together we can make sure our community has a voice!


Thank you for your involvement.

Mark your calendar for the community meeting discussing our neighborhood's new library / senior housing

Alderman Debra Silverstein has announced that a community meeting will be held on Monday, March 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Warren Park to discuss the new library-senior housing building to be constructed at Pratt and Western. Officials from the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Housing Authority will be present to listen to neighborhood residents regarding our input on the needs for our new library.

Please be sure to tell friends and neighbors to attend. It is important that we have a large showing in order to provide additional feedback sent to our local officials on this important development.

Please complete this brief survey to share your thoughts / suggestions on the new library being built in West Rogers Park

LEARN WRP– Library Survey
A new library is coming to Pratt and Western and this survey is aimed at assuring that it meets community needs.LEARN-WRP (Library Enhancement and Renovation Network – West Rogers Park) is circulating this survey throughout the West Ridge/West Rogers Park community. The goal is to gather as much information as possible about the elements that are of greatest importance to those who will be using the library.Please rank your opinion of the library’s needs using a 1 – 5 scale, with 1 representing the lowest level of importance and 5 representing the highest level of importance. You may add up to three additional items that you wish to see in the new library.

If you have any questions please contact Tony Martinez at learnwestrogerspark@gmail.com.


Take the survey at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd-hU70dpqefTcOOoEEVdWajgRqKorsZNvsM5ggbEvQBrM1vg/viewform

Our advocacy efforts for a new library in the Chicago Tribune!

When Albany Park met West Rogers Park

Summers’ summit brought together a second serendipitous pairing: Rodney Walker, executive director of the Albany Park Community Center, and Scott "Shalom" Klein, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park. Albany Park had successfully lobbied for a new library; West Rogers Park seeks to persuade the city to replace a 1960s-era library at 6435 N. California Ave.

“We are following the playbook of communities like Albany Park,” Klein tells us. “They said, if you want to talk to someone who can make this happen, we can help.”

Albany Park officials connected Klein with Chinatown officials and others who have learned the ways of clout to get a library built.

“What it boils down to is we are engaged in conversations and in learning that without Sister Neighborhoods, we would have never known,” Klein tells us. “If we want a library, we should be talking to people who have advocated successfully for a library.”

So far, a West Rogers Park petition drive has gathered more than 1,300 signatures in two months. A newly organized committee is bringing together a diverse group of business and civic organizations to push for the library.

Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon has noticed. “The ingredient of a strong community desire (for a new library) is always important when making a decision about neighborhood improvement. Not only do we love it, but we think it is important that a community is engaged and actively interested in seeking improved services.”

And what benefits flow back to Albany Park? Walker says he is confident those will come. “We are just beginning to learn what other organizations do — which services they provide in their communities and how we could leverage those resources moving forward,” Walker tells us. Also as a result of Sister Neighborhoods, these two are planning a networking event between the business owners of their communities.