It’s beginning — Flint Public Library schedules renovation kickoff party Feb. 29

By Jan Worth-Nelson

The Flint Public Library has scheduled a celebration of its last day before a major renovation, a kickoff party from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29.

After 60 years at its Kearsley Street location, the library will be undergoing a $27.6 million upgrade, facilitated by $16 million from major donors and by a bond approved by 68 percent of voters in November that will raise an additional $12.6 million.

The building’s deterioration, along with a desire to bring it up to 21st century standards, is what propelled the successful campaign for  a  “like-new library,” as Director Kay Schwartz described it in August.

Library Director Kay Schwartz (Photo by Jan Worth-Nelson)

Every piece of infrastructure and system in the library will be replaced and renovations will add 16,000 additional square feet.

Not just a facelift, the changes will double the children’s space, double the tech learning space, provide two-thirds more space for local history and genealogy, and provide all new infrastructure systems and facilities.

The bond, designed for 12-year maturity, is costing the owner of a $30,000 market-valued home about $27 a year.

The library will be closed in March and April for packing and moving, according to library officials.  It will be relocating to temporary quarters at Courtland Center, opening in May, with details to be provided soon.

Services that will continue in the temporary space include children’s literacy programming, technology access, genealogy services.   In addition to offering programs onsite, we will branch out to partner locations that have space available.

Construction will start as soon as the library staff can get everything out of the building, Schwartz said.  Photo updates will be posted as often as possible online at

Open design between first and second floors (From OPN Architects)

The project received major boosts from the C.S. Mott Foundation.  In 2017, the foundation awarded the library $500,000 to work with an architect and develop the renovation design.

Later the library announced an additional $1.2 million from the foundation to support the renovation effort. And in December, the Mott Foundation  contributed an additional $13.8 million, with the Ruth Mott Foundation  granting $1 million and The Community Foundation of Greater Flint will granting $50,000.

Consistently a significant gathering place and hub of literacy, the love of books, and access to all kinds of information at no cost to the user,  the Flint Public Library goes way back in the city’s history.  It was founded in 1851, and still serves about 500 patrons a day, Schwartz said.

“Many people don’t know this, but Flint Public Library is the only building on the Cultural Center Campus that is completely owned by the people of Flint,” Schwartz said during the August campaign.   The library is not institutionally linked to the rest of the Cultural Center institutions, she noted,  and does not receive funds through the arts millage approved by Genesee County voters in 2018.

OPN Architects of Cedar Rapids, Iowa were selected after a national search of “library specific” architects.

Toby Olsen, OPN project architect, was in Flint last fall for campaign open houses.

Community room design (From OPN Architects). The design also includes 15 meeting rooms and 4 classrooms.

Olsen said the FPL design aims for an open, “democratic–small ‘d’–feeling” in which “anybody who walks in the door will be treated the same, no matter your station in life. No matter who you are, you’re welcome.”

Plans show an open,  “hub-and-spoke” design.  When patrons come in the door, Olsen explained,  “You’ll have a clear line of sight to your destination.”

The second floor will be opened up, with an added atrium, so that people on the first floor would be able to “look up at your friend on the second floor and wave,”  Olsen said.

Existing windows would be retained and more added — with attention to improved lighting and glazing and, of course, vastly improved infrastructure throughout.

Olsen said OPN as a company is drawn to places where “we hope we can make a difference.”

EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at

Author: East Village Magazine

A Non-profit, Community News Magazine Since 1976

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