Architects make their pitches to design an improved Powell Library

Posted 5/4/21

As library boosters and Park County officials prepare to pick an architect to design a renovated and expanded Powell Library, the early feeling is that they can’t go wrong.

“I think …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Architects make their pitches to design an improved Powell Library


As library boosters and Park County officials prepare to pick an architect to design a renovated and expanded Powell Library, the early feeling is that they can’t go wrong.

“I think whichever one gets selected, it’s good,” Park County Library System Director Karen Horner said of the three firms vying for the job.

Geoff Baumann, the chair of a task force pushing for the Powell Library improvements, said his group is similarly pleased with the fact that “they’re all very enthusiastic.”

Each of the three contenders — Plan One/Architects of Cody, Arete Design of Sheridan and GSG Architecture of Sheridan — bring library experience to the table as well.

Plan One/Architects plans to partner with Arch Nexus, a firm based in Salt Lake City.

“We are a tried and proven team, including work on a library project very similar to the Powell Library project,” they wrote in their proposal, referencing improvements they led to the Johnson County Library.

On that $3.12 million project in Buffalo, Plan One and Arch Nexus conducted feasibility studies, then helped lead the construction of 10,000 square feet of new space and the renovation of the existing 10,000 square feet. As work progressed, the Buffalo library was able to stay open to patrons — which is similar to the hope in Powell.

The Park County government’s request for proposals, which was crafted by library boosters, laid out tentative plans for a two-phase process. The first phase would involve adding a second story to the eastern side of the building for roughly $1.26 million. A second, significantly more expensive phase would expand the structure to the north, into the existing parking lot. That work could potentially be delayed, depending on funding.

However, in its proposal, GSG Architecture advised county officials to “do the maximum amount possible as soon as possible to achieve the best value and the highest return on investment.” They also said tacking on a second story while the library remains open “will be a real concern,” particularly with portions of the roof being removed during construction.

“Noise and water are not particularly welcome in any building function, and perhaps in libraries least of all,” GSG wrote.

Meanwhile, Arete’s proposal raised the idea of “recapturing” some of the library’s estimated 4,000 square feet of space that is currently unusable (roughly 9,000 square feet is now usable). The firm also discussed possible problems with asbestos in the roofing and the potential need for an automated fire suppression system to meet building codes.

“Solidifying this design would provide much more clarity as to the extent of demolition and construction and allow us to fine tune the projected costs,” Arete wrote.

The cost is a concern. Park County commissioners agreed to hire an architect only after being assured library boosters would come up with the funds for the work. While concurring that there’s a need to upgrade the facility, commissioners have stressed multiple times that, amid a tight budget, they have not committed to moving forward with any renovations.

How the construction might be funded remains an open question. At a meeting last week, Park County Library Board Chair Pat Stuart floated the idea of asking taxpayers to approve a 1% specific purpose sales tax to pay for the project; she also suggested trying to persuade commissioners to use some of the $5.66 million the county expects to receive from the American Rescue Plan.

“Who knows,” Stuart told the Friends of the Powell Library. “We’ll be looking at every possibility.”

Baumann added that, “I think we’re willing to take any funds we can,” with Stuart quipping that, “If you know someone who wants to have a library named after them …”

All three architectural firms pledged to create designs that are realistic and fit within the county’s budget, while indicating how they might be able to help the Powell project become a reality.

Plan One’s partner on the proposal, Arch Nexus, said it’s worked with many libraries on capital campaigns, bond measures and fundraising, including leading fundraising events. They mentioned a library in the agricultural community of Hyrum, Utah, in which the community held auctions, bake sales and sought donations for five years to make the $5 million project a reality.

Plan One has also worked with the Park County government in the past, designing the $12.43 million Park County Law Enforcement Center in 2006 and the $2.7 million Heart Mountain Hall at the county fairgrounds in 2015.

Meanwhile, Arete’s proposed principal-in-charge for the project, Karen Kelly, brings Park County Library experience, as she led the design of the current Cody library in 2008. Kelly was also involved in the renovation of Northwest College’s Hinckley Library in 2010. Arete specifically mentioned a series of recommendations and designs they crafted for a potential renovation of the 34,400-square-foot library in Sheridan.

“These recommendations were organized such that the library could organize fundraising campaigns with the county, patrons and the general public,” Arete wrote.

As for GSG Architecture, the firm said it produced images and displays that generated public support and helped lead to a new $4.94 million library in Lander in 2008.

“Our goal is to make this a reality for the community, not just pretty pictures,” GSG wrote.

GSG’s past work includes a five-year, $38 million overhaul of the University of Wyoming’s Information and Library Learning Center, which added 95,000 square feet and renovated 188,000 more.

GSG put together a possible concept of how the renovated Powell Library could look — prominently featuring a two-story tower — but it’s only an idea. The actual design will be hammered out with the chosen architect over a series of meetings that will involve library stakeholders, the general public and county commissioners.

Horner, the library system director, said she hopes the county’s committee will be able to sit down with each of the three firms in the next week or two.

“The interview will allow us to really judge them really well,” Horner said.

Although the project remains a long way from reality, Stuart expressed optimism at last week’s meeting.

“We’re in for some excitement and a lot of discoveries,” she said, “and in the end, I think we’re going to have something really great for the town.”