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A selection committee has narrowed the field of possible architects for the Forsyth County Central Library renovation project to six firms, which were interviewed Monday and Tuesday. The county sent out a request for qualifications in October and received 19 responses. The list includes a mix of award-winning firms, some based in Winston-Salem and others with offices in several states. Each firm spent about 90 minutes giving a presentation about their qualifications and answering questions. The committee members will meet Tuesday to discuss the presentations and try to select a firm. Perhaps one comes out of that, or it goes down to a smaller number of firms to doa second interview. The committee hoped to have a selection by the end of January so that fee negotiations could begin. Once that is done, county staff members will take the proposal before the county commissioners.

The 10-person selection committee includes representatives from county departments, the library system, library boards, Centenary United Methodist Church and the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce. The committee members each reviewed copies of the 19 firms’ qualifications, discussed the pros and cons and picked their top six firms. The firm will be selected based on its qualifications, not on a proposed design.

According to the request for qualifications, the county wants the architect to “take a strong leadership role and challenge the preconceptions of County staff and our citizens in how best to invest the bond funds in the bricks and mortar, technology, and the furniture, fixtures and equipment in this new building.” The request asked firms to provide a breakdown of their design team, current work slate, recent library projects, technology expertise, experience with the construction manager at-risk project delivery method, and design approach.

Top six design firms for project



• Founded: 1920.

• Location: Offices in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Washington, D.C.

• Related projects: Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee, which merged with Clark Nexsen last year, was the executive architect for the new N.C. State University James B. Hunt Jr. Library in collaboration with lead designer Snohetta.

• Website: www.clarknexsen.com.


• Founded: 1990.

• Location: Durham.

• Related projects: Digital Commons in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C.; new libraries in Durham County.

• Website: www.freelon.com.


• Founded: 1976.

• Location: Cleveland.

• Related projects: Worked with more than 200 libraries, including Parma-Snow Library in Ohio and South County Library in Roanoke, Va.

• Website: www.hbmarchitects.com.


• Founded: 1982.

• Location: Raleigh, Indianapolis, Chicago and Champaign, Ill.

• Related projects: 11 libraries in North Carolina, including renovated Southwest Regional Library in Durham and new Leesville Community Library in Raleigh.

• Website: www.ratioarchitects.com.


• Founded: 1965/1906 (predecessor).

• Location: Winston-Salem.

• Related projects: Collaboration on Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts.

• Website: www.wrcp.com/www.cjmw.com.


• Founded: 2008.

• Location: Winston-Salem.

• Related projects: Sheppard Memorial Library in Greenville, N.C.; Winmock at Kinderton in Bermuda Run.

• Website: www.westandstem.com.

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  • 6 months later...

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The word “renovation” does not fully capture what officials envision for the Forsyth County Central Library, and a recent rezoning gives the county more options. Last month the Winston-Salem City Council voted to rezone the property from Institutional Public to Central Business. Watts said the rezoning opens up the possibility of extending the footprint of the front of the building. Paul Norby, city-county planning director, said Central Business is a unique district that applies to areas in the downtown part of Winston-Salem. “It’s meant to be a much denser, urban-style environment,” Norby said. There are no minimum setback requirements or height restrictions, but there is also no on-site parking requirement.
The zoning district is pedestrian oriented, lending itself to shared parking with other facilities and on-street parking. “It really gives them maximum flexibility,”
Norby said. This does not mean that there will be no parking on the property. The library currently has a small parking deck underneath the back side of the building, but plans for the site have not been finalized.

There is a county lot nearby and on-street parking, and the county has been talking to leaders at nearby Centenary United Methodist Church about shared parking options, ,” County Manager Dudley Watts said. “I don’t anticipate parking being a problem,” Deputy County Manager Damon Sanders-Pratt said.

The county does not have a final design yet. Sanders-Pratt told the county commissioners a few weeks ago that some drawings could be available in mid-October to give them a first view of what the designer has in mind. All options are on the table, including demolishing parts of the building, changing the exterior of other parts and creating a new foot-traffic flow inside. “It will be a new building for all practical purposes,” Watts said.

Watts said it would be hard to renovate the front portion of the building, the old section from the 1950s, so demolition and reconstruction of that part are possible. “They’re trying to figure out what can be feasibly restored or renovated,” Watts said. He said designers determined early on that the 1980s addition is usable, but even it will likely be stripped down to its shell and redone, with architectural changes to the exterior. The library closing date is still up in the air. Original plans called for it to close in October, but project leaders are working to see if it can be later.

On Monday, the commissioners unanimously selected Frank L. Blum Construction Company to provide construction-management-at-risk services through the preconstruction phase for $50,000. During the preconstruction phase, the company will be responsible for investigating the existing building, value engineering, budgeting, reviewing designs for constructability and affordability, and bidding. The construction manager is already working with the designer, Sanders-Pratt said. “Now that they are on board, soon we’ll have more conversations with the construction manager about when they would like to start their preconstruction activities,” Sanders-Pratt said. On Aug. 25, the commissioners could vote to issue the bonds for the project, which voters OK’ed in 2010.

Watts said this is not about updating the building to last a few decades. The estimated $28 million project cost – about $20 million for construction – should buy a building with a new 50-year lifespan. “This will be a brand new library with a brand new life,” Watts said.


Per WSJ:

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The Winston-Salem Journal is reporting that Forsyth County officials announced on Thursday that the library will close to the public at 9 p.m. on Oct. 15. It will likely be closed for 2½ years as the county completes a massive renovation that leaders have said will make the Central Library “like a new building." Closing the library next month will allow preconstruction work to begin, Sanders-Pratt said. There will be destructive testing, which involves going into the walls and ceilings to look at the building’s mechanics. Hazardous materials removal teams will remove any asbestos. Crews will work on the building foundation. Move organizers will tag materials and equipment that they think can be used in the renovated library.County Manager Dudley Watts said the Oct. 15 closing date presses the schedule a little bit, and pushing it back any further would delay the project more. He said things are moving pretty rapidly now. The tentative completion time for the renovation project is spring of 2017.

The commissioners have already selected architects, a construction manager at-risk for the preconstruction phase, and the move logistics coordinator. Some design schematics could be presented to the commissioners in early October. Some Central Library resources will be temporarily moved to other locations, but it may take a few weeks after the Central Library closes before some items are available elsewhere. The county government center will house a small version of the North Carolina Room and the Computer Training Bridge.

Sunday hours will be added at the Malloy/Jordan East Winston Heritage Center, Southside Library and Reynolda Manor Library beginning Nov. 2. Also, residents have until Sept. 25 to fill out an online survey that the Forsyth County Public Library and Ratio Architects launched to solicit input about the role a renovated library will play in the community. The survey can be found at newforsythcountylibrary.mindmixer.com.

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The  Winston-Salem Journal recently updated the progress on the construction of the new Central Library. Library officials indicate that they are on schedule to re-open in the Summer of 2017. It is looking great and I can't wait to visit.  

From the entrance, the children’s section — with book stacks, computers and its own assembly room — will be to the left on the first floor. Computer labs and additional workrooms are near the back and a café is to the right.

The teen section is on the second floor and will have interactive technology like a green screen for filming videos and a gaming area. One of the centerpieces of the building, the North Carolina Room, also will be on the second floor. The popular local history and research room will now take up half of the second floor with art gallery space outside. The North Carolina Room will have special climate controls to protect sensitive documents.

The third floor will house the library’s general collection and its prime reading spaces. The Forsyth Reading Room will have fireplaces while a covered terrace will allow people to sit outside and enjoy views of Pilot Mountain and other areas to the north. The third floor patio was named for the Winston-Salem Rotary Club after the club pledged $100,000 toward the library’s renovations.


The front of the Library facing West Fifth Street.


The view from 41/2 Street with the parking garage entrances will be located.


The central atrium of the library. The temporary wooden rails will be replaced with glass handrails.


The monumental staircase will have terrazzo steps, glass handrails and landings when completed.


The Third Floor Reference and Non-Fiction area.


The Second Floor Collection area overlooking 41/2 Street toward the South.


Second Floor Open Collection overlooking 41/2 Street to the south towards BB&T Ballpark.


The Second Floor Teen Zone will be completed with a Green Screen for video making.


Third Floor outdoor terrace overlooking Fifth Street, Pilot Mtn. and the Sauratown Mountain Range to the north


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  • 7 months later...

The finishing touches to the new Central Library are currently being completed. A grand opening date should be forth coming.

Exterior Photo courtesy of J. Silkstone Photography

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Interior photos courtesy of General Contractor Frank L. Blum Construction Co.

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