Work on Carnegie Library begins next week

Renovations at Medford's old Carnegie Library building at Main Street and South Oakdale Avenue are scheduled to begin next week.

The first phase of renovations by Grants Pass-based Ausland Builders Inc. for $210,000 will make space for some Medford city offices to move into the old library building while City Hall undergoes a $3.3 million makeover between November and July 2009.

The improvements mark the beginning of what members of a city committee hope will be the old library's renaissance.

The Carnegie Committee, headed by Mayor Gary Wheeler, was formed about a year ago to breathe new life into the Carnegie building, chiefly through fundraising and grants.

"The concept is to make this into the city's living room, where people could gather and do indoor and outdoor activities, a town center surrounded by government buildings," Wheeler said. "It's really a delightful area."

The library would likely hold public meeting rooms, a venue for weddings, a bride's changing room and catering space as well as leased space to help pay for maintaining the 14,000-square-foot structure, Wheeler said.

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

The committee is collecting donations and applying for grants through the city's nonprofit Parks & Recreation Foundation to help fund future improvements. The city is funding the current renovations to make temporary office space.

The City Council last month was faced with the choice of either leasing office space or renovating parts of the Carnegie to house staff during City Hall's revamp.

"The thinking was why not, rather than leasing space elsewhere, go ahead and make the investment into the building and add value to our committee's ability to receive grants?" Wheeler said.

The first renovation phase for $210,000 includes heating and air-conditioning upgrades, new electrical wiring and construction of temporary walls for offices on more than 2,000 square feet on the library's first floor, which totals about 4,000 square feet. The work is expected to wrap up by November, said Brian Sjothun, Medford's parks and recreation director.

A second phase that involves creating office space on the second floor, new electrical wiring and limited heating and air-conditioning upgrades will go out to bid in the next 10 days, Sjothun said.

During the City Hall renovation, the Carnegie will house the Police Department, Municipal Court, technical services and engineering.

The city manager's office, city recorder, Finance Department, city attorney and Human Resources Department will set up shop in October in a leased space at the Microvellum Building, 451 West Sixth Street. Rent is $5,500 per month.

Parks and Recreation will move Sept. 12 from City Hall to the Santo Community Center at North Columbus Avenue, where renovations also are taking place.

Medford's Carnegie library, one of thousands built around the world with funds from industrial tycoon Andrew Carnegie, was constructed in 1912 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 541-776-4459 or

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