Medford's Carnegie Library awaits renovations, renters

The city of Medford awards bid to S& B Construction to repair windows, overhaul heating and air conditioning systems

Medford's Carnegie Library is scheduled for nearly $1 million in renovations in the coming months as the city works to make the historic building attractive to potential renters.

The city awarded an $800,000 construction bid to S&B James Construction, based in White City, to replace the library's windows and overhaul its heating and air condition system, Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler said.

The repairs are the latest in a long-term project to bring Medford's former library back to its former glory, Wheeler said.

"I'm excited," Wheeler said. "The building is a part of our history here in Medford."

The construction money came from various Oregon Department of Energy grants and federal stimulus dollars, Wheeler said.

The new windows will make the building more energy-efficient and will allow it to earn federal and state energy credits in the future, Wheeler said.

"The credits will help offset the cost of maintaining the building," Wheeler said. "We are hoping to pass these savings onto possible renters."

Wheeler said he hopes the lower level will attract office-type businesses such as insurance companies and legal professionals.

The upper floor will remain a public space for meetings, weddings and parties, Wheeler said.

"We are pleased the new windows will stick with the historic nature of the building," Wheeler said. "We were nervous for a while that we would not be able to find the proper windows."

The city already has spent about $210,000 to have Grants Pass-based Ausland Builders Inc. refurbish about an eighth of the 16,000-square-foot structure to make way for temporary office space in the old children's book section. The work involved seismic upgrades, insulation, new windows and ceilings to allow for some city offices, to move into the old library during last year's renovation of City Hall.

The Medford Police Department occupied the building most of last year during the City Hall repairs.

Before the city set up temporary camp in the circa-1912 building, the Carnegie had stood vacant since its doors closed in 2004 when the new library on Central Avenue opened.

Wheeler does not have a definite date for when the building will be open to renters. The Carnegie Library project also includes plans to one day combine the library grounds with Alba Park to provide a large green space in downtown Medford, Wheeler said. Expanding the space would require the closure of Ivy Street between Main and Eighth streets.

The recession made it hard to raise money for repairs to the building, but the city has received pro bono design work from the Southern Oregon chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The Carnegie building, one of thousands of libraries built around the world by industrial tycoon Andrew Carnegie, was constructed for $17,298 during a population boom in the city, according to the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

The Carnegie Committee, headed by Wheeler, was formed to push for renovation through fundraising, grants and other activities. He said donations are still being accepted to refurbish the library.

Tax-exempt donations for the remodeling of the Carnegie building can be sent to the Medford Parks and Recreation Foundation, P.O. Box 124, Medford, OR 07501. For more information, call 541-774-2400.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.


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