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Two Birds, One Stone

Community hears plan for library and VRE parking.

It will take a few years, but Burke will have a library again, as well as a new parking garage for the Virginia Railway Express.

A decade after the recession of the early 1990s closed down the old Burke Library, a $52.5 million bond referendum approved by the Northern Virginia electorate in 2004 allowed funding for two new library branches as well as renovations to many existing ones, giving Burke a new place to read.

With the library and VRE project taking place at the same time, a task force charged with finding ways to handle VRE parking while the new garage was under construction has suggested placing temporary VRE parking in the new library lot, said Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock).

"We’re still fine-tuning the coordination between the two projects," said Carey Needham of the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. "[The library lot] is the key thing to allow us to move forward with VRE parking construction."

Bidding for the project will open late this year, and construction on the library parking lot will be completed in August 2006. The county designed the construction plan so that by the time VRE garage work begins, people will have a place to park their cars, with an EZ Bus shuttle taking them from that lot to the Burke Centre VRE station. Work on the library building itself will start in fall 2006, and should be finished by February 2008, Needham said.

The progress of the project has been slowed down somewhat by budget challenges, said Needham. The design was on hold for a little while pending the rest of the funding for the project, he said.

"It has been fairly well documented … that construction costs in the region have been escalating very rapidly over the last 20 months or so," said Needham. The rising construction costs during the wait for funding have caused cutbacks in the size and scale of the design, as well as the elimination of plans for a library basement and book-delivery program. But the library is on schedule, he said.

At a citizen information meeting Wednesday, Sept. 21, some Burke residents said they worried that they would end up with a parking lot and no library as costs rose, but Needham and Bulova assured them that the project would be out to bid "as soon as possible."

"We think the budget issues are very manageable," said Needham.

EVEN WITH the scaled-back design, the Burke Centre Library will be about 17,000 square feet in size, with book stacks, a children's area, an electronic media center and rooms for meetings and conferences, as well as an open-seating area for reading. The library will feature a drive-through book window, said Fairfax County Public Libraries spokesperson Lois Kirkpatrick, a first of its kind in county libraries where patrons can return books, pick up items on hold and pay library fines.

The Burke Centre Library will serve patrons from the Clifton, Fairfax Station, Fairfax and Burke areas, said Pat Riedinger, president of the Friends of the Burke Centre Library.

"There are plenty of people who drive up and down the [Fairfax County Parkway] who will find it convenient to go to the Burke Centre Library instead of their home library, because it's on the way home," said Riedinger.

Currently, the two closest area libraries are the Pohick Regional Library and the Kings Park Library, according to Kirkpatrick.

The Burke Centre Library will relieve pressure on these two libraries, said Riedinger. After Reston, Pohick Regional is the second-busiest library branch, loaning over 949,000 books and other items in the 2004-05 fiscal year, said Kirkpatrick. Kings Park Library loaned over 514,000 books and materials that year, she said. Pohick regional and Kings Park received 454,000 and 265,000 visits respectively, said Kirkpatrick.

"I'm pretty sure that right away, [Burke Centre Library] will have a pretty huge bunch of people using it, because Pohick, even though it's a regional library, is severely overused, and the parking is not all that good either," said Riedinger.

The Burke Centre Library will have about 118 parking spaces, including five handicapped ones, according to Kirkpatrick. This number is the minimum required so that the library can meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, said Katayoon Shaya of the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services.

The library's architecture will be compatible with its natural environment. According to Needham, the library will have windows placed to take in optimum daylight and reduce energy use. The construction process has minimized disturbance of the site, and trees will provide a natural buffer between the library and the nearby parkway.

"The whole design is for the building to be in harmony with nature," said Shaya. "[There will be] lots of openness to bring the outside in, lots of glass."

Design elements include window views into a forested area planners took pains to preserve and build around, said Shaya. The floor plan is open so that staff members have visual access to the entire library, she said, and some design materials include wood, and, if budget permits, natural stone. Shaya said planners are also considering using the wood of a large, 74-foot oak tree on the site right now for desk panels or display walls.

"[The library building] is designed to capture natural features of the land, even to the way the sun moves across the sky," said Bulova.

The planners have looked carefully at the site’s drainage too, said Needham, in an area where drainage systems can be very sensitive. Resident Charles Sardo said he has a sump pump that runs "all the time" in the winter when the snow melts. But water will run off into a large, grassy drainage ditch on the northeast side of the property, where a drop in the land already exists, going directly into the storm sewer without touching nearby properties, Needham said.

In all, Sardo is happy with the project. "It’s a tremendous addition," he said. "They have gone to great pains not to make it intrusive … meeting the needs of the community but not infringing on property."