Expansion plans for the Manhattan Public Library have been approved by the Manhattan Historic Resources Board.
While the library is not designated as a historic building, it does reside within 500 feet of several historic buildings and districts. That means any building or landscape changes have to be reviewed by state and local boards for their impact on the historical environs. The library has announced plans to build a two-story addition on the north side and a one-story addition on the south side to provide larger children’s library areas.
Kevin Credit, long range planner and city staff liaison to the Historic Resources Board, said board members discussed the expansion at their meeting this week, but those discussions did not impact their decision. Credit said some members were concerned about the possibility that the expansion might be viewed as encroaching on St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 601 Poyntz, which is east of the library. The concern focused on the possibility that the expansion might limit the light coming in to the church’s windows. He said the church has petitioned the city in the past to limit a different proposed expansion on the east side of the library.
Church representatives did not raise the question at Monday’s meeting.
Credit also noted that the church is not in a historic district, nor is it considered a historically protected building. Therefore the impact of any lighting concerns on it were outside the board’s scope of responsibility.
Credit said the board reviews building projects that are within 500 feet of a historic building or district to ensure the changes to the property do not disturb the “historic character” of the preserved site by “making sure the new additions are compatible with the historic properties.”
He said the building project still needs to be accepted by the state historic office and then by the city commission.
The historic properties that would be affected by the library expansion include the Houston-Pierre Streets Residential Historic District, Seven Dolors Church, Wharton House, Elliot House, and First Congregational Church.