Hyattsville’s iconic flying saucer may be saved, even while architects look at plans for replacing the library it has stood in front of for 50 years.
“We heard loud and clear that the saucer is important to the community as both an architectural feature and as a community icon that people have grown up with,” said Melanie Hennigan, president of Grimm + Parker, the Calverton-based architectural firm hired by the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System to design a new Hyattsville branch library.
Hennigan spoke July 19 at the College Park Community Center during the first of three public forums held to garner community input for the project.
PGCMLS Director Kathleen Teaze said there are a number of problems with the current building, besides its age, including accessibility issues, poor lighting, low ceilings and too much divided space.
Grimm + Parker will also conduct a feasibility study looking at the possibility of renovating the existing building, Hennigan said.
“Since we have come onboard, the library and the county have asked us to go back and perform a feasibility study to look at renovation vs. new,” Hennigan said. “When we come back in August, we’ll be able to share some of that.”
All three design options presented by Grimm + Parker preserve the 20-foot concrete, Plexiglas and steel saucer, either standing at the edge of an Adelphi Road entrance or looming over an onsite park.
T. Carter Ross of Hyattsville, a member of the community group “Save Our Saucer,” or S.O.S., said the group would like to see the current building, saucer included, preserved and renovated due to its historic significance as the county system’s first library, which opened in 1964, and is a classic example of midcentury architecture.
“We would like to see some creative thought on how to preserve the building while improving it,” Ross said.
Preservation Maryland, a historic preservation advocacy organization, listed the Hyattsville library as one of its 2014 Most Endangered historic sites.
“I’ve worked there for 11 years, and the biggest bugaboo I have, besides the fact that I don’t think the library works, physically, is the parking,” said Bob Slack, University Park resident and library employee. “With only one entrance and exit, you ought to try getting out of there at 6 o’clock in the evening.”
The second forum will be held Aug. 13 at the Bunker Hill Fire Station, 37169 Rhode Island Ave. in Brentwood, and the third will be held Sept. 16 at the Hyattsville library, at 6530 Adelphi Road. Both meetings begin at 7 p.m.
Hennigan said that under the current timetable, the final design is expected to be put out to bid late 2015, with construction beginning in 2016.
Hyattsville resident Joseph Powers said he would prefer to see a new building than remodel the old one.
“I’m kind of hoping to see the thing torn down. Every winter when the snow melts, and there’s all this water on the roof, I’m amazed that the smell of mold isn’t worse than it is,” Powers said. ”It’s done. Stick a fork in it, it’s done.”