Jun 4, 2023 - Development

Construction update: Demolition of the old main library building Uptown begins soon

New uptown library rendering

Courtesy of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Construction crews will tear down the longstanding main library building this summer, much later than originally planned. Rising in its place will be a new, 115,000-square-foot library.

Why it matters: For years, the Uptown library has been a community gathering place where people not only check out books, but take career seminars, access free Wifi and printers, and benefit from courses on writing and other skills.

  • By the time the new facility opens, which is scheduled to happen in 2026, the branch will have been closed for almost five years.

Of note: The cost of the new main library/Spirit Square overhaul has surged. It was originally $154.5 million, but an additional $42 million has been requested in the FY24-28 capital improvement plan due to construction cost escalation, bringing the total project budget to $196.5 million, according to Mark Hahn, director of the Mecklenburg County Asset and Facility Management Department.

[Go deeper: ‘The part of progress that has a downside’: What two years of library construction will mean for Charlotte]

Flashback: The old building on Sixth Street was built in 1956 and replaced Charlotte’s first main library, which opened in the summer of 1903 with funds donated by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. In 1989, the building got a $11 million makeover that more than doubled its size.

Timeline: After years of planning and public discussion, that building closed in fall 2021.

  • Demolition of the property will begin in late July 2023.
  • Vertical construction will start around January 2024, Hahn says.
  • The new library is expected to open in late spring/early summer of 2026.

Yes, but: The project could face further slowdowns. The schedule is dependent on factors such as supply chain for materials and equipment lead times, per Hahn.

The delay: Construction was delayed primarily because of the complexity of the design process — cost escalation over the past two years caused material and labor estimates to evolve, which affected design, Hahn said.

Also, designers and developers are trying to coordinate the main library/Spirit Square project with the design of an adjacent but related development — Seventh & Tryon, which includes plans for a hotel, office tower, interconnecting plazas and other amenities.

  • A $600 million public-private partnership, Seventh & Tryon includes 1.5 blocks on North Tryon bordered by Sixth, Seventh, and College. Leaders believe it will spark more investment and development on North Tryon, a stretch that hasn’t seen as much new construction as other areas of Uptown, like South Tryon.
  • The developer behind Seventh & Tryon, Metropolitan Partnership, did not respond to a request for comment.

Of note: It’s not unheard of for construction projects these days to face delays.

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