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Checking Into a Midtown Library

Possible inclusion of a library at Midtown Springfield discussed at land-use meeting.

With each meeting, the Midtown Springfield plan comes one step closer to becoming a reality.

The most recent meeting, on Monday, Feb. 6, land-use attorney Greg Riegel spoke on behalf of KSI Services Inc., the developer responsible for designing and eventually building the town center that will feature a mixed use plan combining retail, residential and pedestrian-friendly attributes.

“The question has become how do we get beyond the PowerPoint presentations and get down to specifics,” Riegel said. “We’ll always be looking for suggestions for public use because we really think this project will be good for the community.”

One of the newer modifications to the project, and a main topic of discussion during Monday’s meeting, was the possible inclusion of a 20,000 square foot library in the middle of the development.

“There’s been a genuine interest on the county side to find the space,” Riegel said. “They’re looking to break the mold on many aspects. We’ve talked with them about creating a new prototype ... this project makes the library much more user friendly.”

IF INCORPORATED, it is possible the library would be based on a more commercial model, such as Borders or Barnes & Noble, Riegel said. In addition, the possibility exists of co-locating other amenities, like a coffeehouse or other community uses, within the library, which would “have the lights on all the time,” he said.

Representatives with KSI will meet with the Fairfax County Library Board on March 8 to discuss the proposal, Riegel said. It was also not certain whether the library in Midtown Springfield would be in addition to, or a replacement for, the Richard Byrd Library, which is located on Commerce Street and serves central Springfield.

Representing the Springfield Civic Association, Sue Jewell said she’d polled some community members about the library proposal. “Most people I talked to wanted to leave the library where it is,” she said. “The library has ample room for parking and expansion. What we don’t have is a place for a cultural center.”

Committee member Doug Boulter later agreed with Jewell.

“I like the idea of having a cultural center there,” he said. “If the community is happy with where the library currently is, we can use that space for a gallery or theater space.”

Speaking on behalf of Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield), John Pratt summed up his thoughts on moving the library with a somewhat personalized statement.

“Leave Richard alone,” he said. “We’ve got a beautiful building. Obviously, someone hasn’t looked into the history of the building and doesn’t know why it’s there.”

Riegel said they were simply responding to an interest that was brought to them.

“We had more questions than answers initially, but we’ve done a lot of research and we’ve become excited about this location,” he said.

Riegel also answered some questions about traffic complications that may result from the development, which would have a greater impact on intersections and streets surrounding the project that would “substantially” decrease rapidly outside the area.

“There would be a 31 percent impact on streets right next to midtown,” he said. “We really think we’ll benefit from having a variety of ways into and out of the development as well as using an existing street grid.”

Additionally, KSI has been using population estimates that are “50 percent higher” than what Fairfax County staff are predicting for Springfield, in order to plan for future but as yet undetermined development in the area, Riegel said.