There are a series of plot points that go into a building’s transformation from rocket facility into public library.
There’s the “wall-breaking” in spring of 2021 that kicked off a roughly $64 million construction project, back when—as Library Director Shelley Holley puts it—stakeholders had ideas about how the building’s future would be.
There’s the moment the building’s new mezzanine floor was poured, giving an elevated view across the 158,068-square-foot building.
There’s the moment the stairs connecting the two levels were formed, giving the look of tumbling water.
And then there’s the moment when members of the community experienced the space in person for the first time, a moment that, for Holley, was surprisingly emotional after almost two years of construction.
“We invited those who had books checked out to come on Tuesday and return their items—kind of complete the move they did for us,” Holley said, “and just seeing people stream into the building and look so pleased and kind of stop and say, ‘Awesome,’ and the gasps we heard, it was so rewarding to think, ‘Oh good. We got it.’”
It was all leading to the ultimate plot point—on March 4, the doors to Frisco’s Public Library would officially open to the public, making way for a new era for Frisco and its library patrons.
The building, located at 8000 Dallas Parkway, was built in 1998 for Beal Aerospace, a business that was dissolved in 2000. The Frisco Community Development Corporation purchased the building in 2001, and after a stint of leasing the building to an equipment manufacturing business, the CDC donated the building for adaptive reuse as the city’s future public library. The project was funded through $62 million in approved bonds and with $1.5 million from the Frisco CDC funding for roof repair.
The building design is inspired by the Texas Blackland Prairie, a key feature of Frisco’s history. That includes such features as changing carpet colors that refer to the prairie’s changing seasons; a pond-themed children’s area, a storytime room with a sky ceiling and a niche wall emulating the prairie landscape.
“It's because of this prairie that we're even here,” said Justin Bashaw, design director with Gensler, the designer and renovation architect on the library project. “It's the rich soil and everything that brought on the cattle and the trains ultimately and ultimately led to a booming DFW area. So we wanted to honor that and celebrate that.”
Bashaw said the building’s north-south orientation combined with parking on the west side resulted in two entrances in a lobby where many people would engage and cross paths.
“We wanted to make sure that there's a lot of engagement in that space,” he said.
Today, the entrance includes seating areas, a central stair and a public art installation of stems on the ceiling “blooming” quotes from literature. The installation emulates prairie plants blowing in the wind.
Libraries, if they’re done right, can create a sense of awe and encourage people to revisit the space, Bashaw said.
“I think a lot of the traditional libraries that have been done in the U.S., going back to the Carnegie Library, they are very awe inspiring and they give anyone a sense of dignity when they walk into these spaces,” Bashaw said. “Over the years, library budgets have dwindled and there's less patrons that are willing to invest in these pieces of social infrastructure. So having the city of Frisco to make this kind of investment and create this really awe-inspiring experience when you walk in, I think, is a big thing. It's very important for the city of Frisco. And I'm definitely very happy that they decided to go this direction.”
Holley said the timing of the project was fortunate.
“Besides the fact that a repurposed building is less expensive to work with than raw land, we were also fortunate enough that the bonds were sold toward the end of COVID, where interest rates were incredibly low,” she said.
In addition, construction materials were also bought at a point when prices were lower, she said.
“It’s significantly less expensive than it would have been even a few months later,” Holley said. “So we were fortunate in the timing.”
The library includes a multitude of community engagement spaces, including outdoor plazas, community rooms, makerspace and more.
“When you think about libraries, you realize a successful library functions almost like the community’s living room. It’s a place for people to gather. It’s one of the few places left without a paywall,” Holley said, later adding, “We wanted it to be an environment that welcomes everybody, that is a place for sharing and learning, and we expect to see it morph into what the community wants it to be. Because every library should be designed with the community they serve in mind, right? And so this reflects our understanding of Frisco.”
It's almost ready...Get a sneak peak preview of the new Frisco Public Library before doors open Saturday
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Audrey Henvey is the reporter for the Frisco Enterprise, McKinney Courier-Gazette and Celina Record. Email her with story suggestions at email@example.com.
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