Dowagiac, Michigan

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A restored façade brings new life to a Carnegie Library with removal of 1972 addition

This 1903 Carnegie Library currently has a lower level addition that connects to the upper level with an enclosed stair that blocks views to the historic front façade at street level. The 1973 addition aligns with the lower level and is accessed via an outdoor ramp to resolve prior accessibility issues.

Our proposed design would remove the 1973 “hamster tube” and lower level addition in order to restore the original Carnegie front entrance and re-build the exterior stair. A new addition with an on-grade entry would be placed on the back on the building and mimic the proportions of the original building. The Carnegie portion is composed of stone and two colors of brick. The addition is inspired by the historic building and would simplify this palette by using stone and the dominant brick color.

The functional entry on the Carnegie side goes into the upper level adult area and the layout is designed to have small service points addressing both the on-grade and upper level entries. The floor plan of the additional is designed for potential after-hours access to an area that includes the meeting room, a vending machine café space, restrooms, and support spaces. The first floor of the addition allows for deliveries and drive-up book returns adjacent to the staff workroom.

The ground floor also includes a dedicated teen area, maker space, self-checkout, face-out book display units. The upper level of the addition houses the children’s area, a children’s program room, small dedicated children’s area service point, family restroom, and study rooms. Both floors of the Carnegie portion of the building contain adult areas for collections, seating, and public computer stations.

The Library owns the entire block and can expand backwards without losing parking and being able to preserve green space on the site for outdoor programming. The library is adjacent to a small downtown where the City has built a public park and large public parking lot across the street from the library. This lot is available to library patrons and can be used for overflow parking for large events.

HBM assisted the Library with their successful bond issue campaign by conducting community engagement sessions and developing renderings and conceptual site and floor plans.


HBM │ Design Architect, Architect of Record, Interior Designer