Aug 15, 2023 - News

Main library in Uptown is being torn down to make way for a new 5-story facility

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Courtesy of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library / Renderings by Snøhetta and Clark Nexsen

The old Charlotte Mecklenburg Main Library is being reduced to rubble. Crews are clearing the prominent Uptown corner at 6th and North Tryon streets to make way for a new, more than $137 million building.

  • Construction is supposed to start on the 115,000-square-foot main library in early 2024. It’s projected to open in the spring of 2026. By then, it will have been about five years since the branch closed.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at Main Library Demolition
Main Library demolition. Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

Why it matters: The modernized Uptown library will serve as a regional educational destination, where county residents can find free resources, use computers, attend programs and collaborate.

  • Over the next two years, library card holders will still be able to access technology and a small collection of materials at First United Presbyterian Church, across the street from the demolition site. The library anticipates opening the interim space in early September.

Of note: There is also a temporary library location inside Founders Hall.

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

Zoom out: The future five-story library is along the North Tryon corridor, close to The Market at 7th Street. It was supposed to anchor a major mixed-use development called Seventh and Tryon. But plans for the project were scrapped after the developer pulled out, CBJ reported Tuesday. The county may sell the portions of the site it controls.

Flashback: The main library is being rebuilt on the site where the first county’s free library, Carnegie Library, opened in 1903. It was rebuilt in 1956, then doubled in size as part of a $11 million facelift in 1989.

By the numbers: The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation still wants to raise $18 million for the new library to reach a total of $65 million in private support. The county contributed $72.33 million.

Courtesy of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Snøhetta and Clark Nexsen

Details: The five floors are all designed for specific purposes. Library staff will have space and storage on the lower level.

  • The first floor is community-focused with a grand lobby, open-air courtyard, collection showcase featuring New York Times bestsellers and new releases, and a theater. There will also be a café — likely a vendor with a local feel, according to library CEO MT Turner. Library patrons could grab a cup of coffee, a small bite or a glass of wine in the evening, he says.
  • The second level is opportunity- and innovation-themed. It includes a career center, a lab to conceptualize and develop ideas, a technology hub and a digital visualization lab, plus a new resident welcome center and an outdoor terrace.
  • The third floor is a research space, where patrons will find collections, study carrels, classrooms, a reference hub and a community “living room” for conversation.
  • The Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, on level four, will house archives and historical materials.
  • The top floor will have a reading room, event space, catering kitchen and another outdoor terrace.

What they’re saying: “I know the power of the library, because it’s the only publicly funded space that educates 8-year-olds, 18-year-olds, 80-year-olds and everyone in between,” said Congresswoman Alma Adams at the demolition event Tuesday.

  • “In an increasingly digital world, the library means a physical space for collaboration, learning and cultural enrichment,” said Mecklenburg County commissioner Mark Jerrell.

The big picture: Mecklenburg County’s library system continues to expand. County commissioners recently approved funding to relocate and expand the Sugar Creek and West Boulevard branches, build a new branch on Nations Ford Road and renovate ImaginOn.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
Courtesy of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Snøhetta and Clark Nexsen
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at Main Library Demolition
Outside the Charlotte Mecklenburg Main Library demolition site on East 7th Street. Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

Courtesy of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Snøhetta and Clark Nexsen

Editor’s note: We’ve updated this story with fresh details about the Seventh and Tryon development.

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