Medford seeks money to remodel Carnegie building

MEDFORD — Fully renovating Medford's former library into a public venue for weddings, meetings, parties, small concerts and leased office space will cost about $3.8 million, according to a recent report by the city's Carnegie Committee.

The report marked the end of the planning stage and the beginning of fundraising to overhaul the former Carnegie Library at the corner of Main Street and South Oakdale Avenue.

"I'm excited," said Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler. "It's been a one-and-a-half-year project."

The city already has spent about $210,000 to have Grants Pass-based Ausland Builders Inc. refurbish about one-eighth of the 16,000-square-foot structure to make way for the temporary office space in the old children's book section. The work focused on seismic upgrades, insulation, new windows and ceilings to allow for some city offices, including the Police Department, to move into the old library during renovation of City Hall. The City Hall renovation is expected to finish up later this year when city employees will vacate the Carnegie.

Before the city set up temporary camp in the circa-1912 building, the Carnegie had stood vacant since its closure in 2004 when the new library on Central Avenue opened.

Raising money for the Carnegie project could prove difficult in these sagging economic times. The committee plans to focus on obtaining grants to pay for the project from organizations such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There might even be some federal stimulus funds that could be tapped, Wheeler said.

The committee is seeking a small grant for exterior work such as re-pointing brick that could be done while city employees still occupy the building.

The goal was to complete the remodeling by 2010 when Medford will host celebrations with its sister city in Alba, Italy, but the dark economic times have shed doubt on whether the work could be paid for and completed by then.

The Southern Oregon chapter of the American Institute of Architects is providing pro bono design work for possible changes at the Carnegie.

"We will try to keep as much as we can of the old building, like the fireplaces, but they won't be used," Wheeler said.

The project calls for an addition to house the elevator, bathrooms and stairs.

The 1950s addition's bottom floor — about one-fourth of the library's square footage — would be used as office lease space.

The rents would help fund the building's upkeep, Wheeler said.

"The city already has a rental policy for the Santo Community Center for a nominal fee," Wheeler said. "That's what we would be looking at, a multi-use facility at the Carnegie."

The plan also entails closing off Ivy Street to traffic next to the Carnegie and expanding Alba Park, making the area bounded by Main, Eighth Street, Holly Street and Oakdale into a huge pedestrian block.

"It'll be a wonderful outdoor space," Wheeler said. "We envision a plaza on the southeast corner of the library space and pavers on Ivy to make it more attractive."

The Carnegie Committee, headed by Wheeler, was formed more than a year ago to push for renovation through fundraising, grants and other activities.

The Carnegie, one of thousands of libraries built around the world by industrial tycoon Andrew Carnegie, was constructed for $17,298 during a population boom in the city, according to the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

It replaced a subscription library established in 1903 at the G.H. Haskins' Drugstore on Main Street.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or

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