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Whitney Young Library Branch Expansion Delayed by Environmental Clean Up

By Wendell Hutson | June 30, 2013 8:34am
 Construction to expand the Whitney M. Young Jr. Library branch could begin in 2014.
Whitney Young Library
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CHATHAM — After five years of sitting idle, a vacant lot adjacent to the Whitney M. Young Jr. Library branch is finally getting some much needed attention.

An environmental clean up recently began on the site, once occupied by a dry cleaner. It's in preparation for an expansion of the library, which could begin next year, said Mimi Simon, a spokeswoman for the Public Buildings Commission, which oversees the city-owned, vacant lot.

The expansion of the library, 7901 S. King Drive, has been hindered by the anticipated clean up, which had to be approved by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, after contaminants were found, she said.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency provided a $436,000 grant for the clean up, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided $600,000, according to Simon.

The clean up is expected to be complete by mid-October, Simon said.

And the expansion, which Ruth Lednicer, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Public Library, said could be completed by 2015, would increase the library to 16,000 square feet from 11,000, add more computers and create meeting rooms for youth. Patrons would still have to use street parking though because a parking lot is not part of the expansion plans.

"The expansion is a result of high, library use. Whitney Young is a very well-used branch," Lednicer added.

The Whitney Young branch opened in 1973, replacing two storefronts that opened in 1927. The library was known as the Chatham Branch but was renamed after the former executive director of the National Urban League.