Mayor Floats $1.5M More for JP Branch Library Renovation

Michael LeBlanc of Utile speaks to a crowd of 60 at Curtis Hall on Wednesday, April 9, 2014.

Chris Helms

Michael LeBlanc of Utile speaks to a crowd of 60 at Curtis Hall on Wednesday, April 9, 2014.

Residents who want to see the JP Branch Library get its long-delayed renovation heard some good news Wednesday.

City Councilor Matt O’Malley told a group gathered to discuss the makeover that the mayor’s proposed budget — released just that morning — had earmarked $10 million for the project. That’s $1.5 million more than the previous amount slated for the work.

That doesn’t mean the money is in the bag — it’s only the beginning of budget season. City councilors will have to approve the amount and Mayor Marty Walsh would have to stick to that figure in a city with many competing priorities.

You won’t find many JP residents arguing against the project. The library, which consistently ranks among the most-used in the Boston Public Library system, has not had a complete renovation since 1963. The community room downstairs isn’t handicapped-accessible. Several attendees of Wednesday’s meeting said the library has become cluttered over the years. Previous designs have included better space for teens, a “tech lounge” and making the whole building conform to the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Library boosters have been here before, on the cusp of having a major renovation actually happen. By the city’s own account, the project was put on hold in 2008 during a design review as part of a Boston-wide construction freeze.

The mayor’s budget proposal had good news not only for one of JP’s two libraries, but also for the city’s libraries in general. He floated keeping the central library open all weekend and branches, like the JP Branch Library and Connolly Library, open on Saturdays year-round, according to BostInno.

More community meetings about the design are scheduled through the rest of 2014. The next one will be 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 21 at the JP Branch Library community room.