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New York Public Library’s main branch gets a new $317M master plan

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It comes four years after a group of scholars sued to halt a previous reno plan

Renderings courtesy of Beyer Blinder Belle

The renovation of the New York Public Library’s main branch, long in the works, may finally be moving forward. The NYPL’s board of trustees voted yesterday to approve a new $317 million master plan, developed by Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo and New York-based Beyer Blinder Belle.

The new plan will increase the library's public space by roughly 20 percent. Former staff and storage spaces will be transformed into public spaces for research, exhibitions and educational programs, while underutilized historic spaces will be outfitted for research and programming. A new Center for Research and Learning, designed to help high school and university students utilize the library, is also part of the plan.

There will be new bathrooms, as well as a new rotating exhibition of NYPL treasures in the library’s Gottesman Hall. The only change to the building's iconic exterior will be an entrance plaza added along 40th Street, complete with a new elevator bank to ease congestion throughout the building.

One of the historic spaces that will be retrofitted for research, dubbed the Astor Room

The $317 million investment is mostly from private donations. According to the Wall Street Journal, all but $9 million of the funds needed have been raised privately, and construction is expected to take place over the next three or four years.

A crucial factor of this renovation proposal is that the library's central stacks—seven floors of shelving built with the library in 1911—will stay in place. In 2014, the NYPL ditched an ambitious, Norman Foster-helmed renovation that proposed removing the stacks following public outcry.

According to the NYPL, this latest master plan does not include a definitive plan for the stacks. But it has commissioned Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle to do a study examining possibilities for the 175,000-square-foot space. According to officials, the stacks currently lack proper climate controls for preserving archives.

Critics of the library's failed proposal expressed more support toward this one to the WSJ, though concerns remain about a concrete plan for the stacks. The stacks are currently housing circulating books while the nearby Mid-Manhattan Library is closed for renovation.

Even though the library’s board voted yes on this plan, the public will still be able to weigh in: a presentation of the plan will be held on November 20 at 5 p.m. in the main branch’s Celeste Auditorium.

New York Public Library

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