By Ken Williams | Editor
New $20-million library on target for 2019 opening
Right now, it’s just a huge hole in the ground. But by January 2019, if construction goes as planned, it will become a spanking new library for Mission Hills and Hillcrest.
City and state officials, library leaders and the construction team met July 31 near the new library site at the southwest corner of Washington and Front streets to talk about the $20-million project’s progress.
“This project has been a long time coming and I am thrilled that the residents of Mission Hills, Hillcrest and all of Uptown can now see dirt turned and more progress made on their new library,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria, who helped champion the building of the new library when he was a San Diego City Council member representing the District 3 community.
As the dignitaries took turns at the microphone, noise from C.W. Driver Companies’ construction equipment working at the library site nearly drowned out the speakers.
“Nothing makes me more happy than to hear the sound of heavy equipment,” quipped Councilmember Chris Ward, who now represents District 3. The small crowd gathered for the occasion laughed along with him.
“Libraries are the hub of our neighborhoods, and this is an exciting new community space that will bring people together and put new resources at their fingertips,” Ward said. “I’m so thankful for the years of hard work that has made this vision a reality, and look forward to the new opportunities this provides everyone in our community to explore and succeed.”
The 14,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art library will be more than triple the size of the existing facility located at 925 W. Washington St., which was built in 1961 and is known as the Mission Hills Library.
The new facility will be named the Mission Hills-Hillcrest/Harley & Bessie Knox Branch Library in honor of late San Diego philanthropists Harley and Bessie Knox. Harley Knox was San Diego’s mayor from 1943 to 1951, including during World War II when the city was an important hub of military activity.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who played the role of emcee at the news conference, talked about the importance of libraries in communities.
“Libraries are so much more than books,” the mayor said. “They’re spaces where families gather, students learn and communities grow. This new library will serve neighborhoods that have seen significant growth at a time when education and affordable access to the internet are more important than ever before.”
Gloria said times have changed, and the new library will reflect that.
“Over the last 50 years, Mission Hills and Hillcrest have grown and evolved significantly,” he said. “The Mission Hills-Hillcrest/Harley & Bessie Knox Branch Library is in step with that growth and evolution, and will give these communities a much-needed library facility that can function as a gathering place for the community, a convenient place for students to study, and continue to be used for generations to come.”
Faulconer noted that this will be the second library to be built in San Diego since he became mayor after a special election in February 2014 to replace Bob Filner. He was reelected in June 2016.
The new facility will feature children and teen areas, study rooms and computer rooms, a community meeting space, and educational opportunities for young and old.
A 30,000-square-feet underground parking garage will provide 85 spaces — 76 more spots than at the current library.
The library will also be environmentally friendly, featuring a Craftsman-like design by Manuel Oncina Architects and Ferguson Pape Baldwin Architects that esthetically fits into the historical neighborhood. Officials said the library is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification. Drought-tolerant landscaping will beautiful the exterior, including on a patio and garden inside the library complex.
The library is a public-private partnership between local philanthropists and the city. Construction costs were funded through a $10 million grant from the Hervey Family Fund and the Harley and Bessie Knox Memorial Fund at The San Diego Foundation. The city is contributing $10 million to the project.
Additionally, the San Diego Library Foundation announced an upcoming Campaign for Excellence to raise an additional $3 million for the new library. Megan Blair, with the foundation, said that campaign will kick off next spring.
For more information about the campaign, go online to supportmylibrary.org/missionhillshillcrest.
To join the Friends group, a 501(c)(3) corporation, call 619-692-4910 during library hours to leave a message. Donations are tax deductible.
“It’s an exciting time for the San Diego Public Library because with each new branch location opened, we experience higher attendance at our programs and see an increase in circulation numbers,” said Misty Jones, director of the San Diego Public Library. “Because the Uptown community is vibrant and engaged, I believe that when the Mission Hills-Hillcrest/Harley & Bessie Knox Branch Library opens, it will be another great example of how the city’s libraries serve as a place for opportunity, discovery and inspiration.”
Sara is the editor of San Diego Uptown News.