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Hamline Midway Library in St. Paul will be demolished to make way for a new, larger library building, according to plans unveiled by Saint Paul Public Library system last week.

The announcement settles a years-long debate within the community surrounding whether or not the 92-year-old building should be renovated and expanded, or fully rebuilt. 

In opting for the latter option, the library system says the rebuild will maximize accessibility, sustainability and safety and integrate some architectural features from the original building. The single-level design features floor-to-ceiling windows and added community and meeting spaces. 

Hamline Midway Library

In last year's budget, city officials set aside $8.1 million for the Hamline Midway Library to help carry the branch into the future — however, the final plans were undecided at the time. 

Those who favored renovation formed Renovate 1558 and collected nearly 3,000 signatures via an online petition to save the historic building from "senseless" demolition. 

Others, including the Hamline Midway Library Association, said new construction would be the best path forward. 

St. Paul residents on both sides of the debate agreed the city had long neglected the building's maintenance and, as a result, failed to properly serve the Midway community.

Following the decision last week, St. Paul City Councilmember Mitra Jalali said the process has been lengthy and at times agonizing for the community. 

Yet, Jalali said she ultimately supports the reconstruction and feels a responsibility to "radically disrupt the legacy of disinvestment and neglect that has plagued our public facilities." 

"A full library rebuild doesn’t just honor the past - it changes the very conditions of disinvestment that created its inequities," she wrote in a statement. 

Residents with Renovate 1558 are still hoping SPPL will reverse course on its plans for demolition. 

"Doing so would allow for a new buyer to come in and occupy a beautiful building that has been loved by community members for 90 years and adds great character to the Hamline-Midway neighborhood," the organization stated, adding the city could build a new library elsewhere in the neighborhood. 

Major renovations planned at two other libraries 

In addition to the rebuild at Hamline Midway, the Riverview Library in the West Side neighborhood and the Hayden Heights Library in the Great East Side neighborhood are set to undergo major renovations. 

At Riverview, an addition to the Humboldt Avenue side of the building will create an accessible entrance and allow the current stairway to be transformed into a reading plaza. 

Courtesy of LSE Architects. 

Courtesy of LSE Architects. 

At Hayden Heights, the renovation will support new outdoor spaces and additional areas for youth activities. 

“We seek to transform these three libraries to become resource-rich, sustainable community spaces that all people can use with dignity and ease,” Catherine Penkert, SPPL director, said in a statement. "Investment in libraries is an investment in people and communities, and we are grateful to the many community members who gave input into these design directions.”

Courtesy of LSE Architects. 

Courtesy of LSE Architects. 

SPPL will host virtual 'office hours' this week to answer questions about the plans. 

  • Hayden Heights: June 1, 4-5 p.m.
  • Hamline Midway: June 2, 4-5 p.m. 
  • Riverview: June 2, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Details about the next phase of the work can be found online at sppl.org/transforming-libraries

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