CHINATOWN — The long-awaited unveiling of the neighborhood’s new library drew big gasps and loud applause when city leaders unboxed the scale model during a Friday press conference.
Designed by Wight and Company and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, the new two-story building in the 2100 block of South Wentworth will have state-of-the art technology, reading rooms for kids and teens and an expanded media collection.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the firms' design were a “testament to the deep history” of Chicago’s architecture.
"Libraries don’t just have to house cultural treasures. They can be cultural treasures themselves," Emanuel said. "You'll be seeing what in my view [is] the face of the new Chicago Public Library in our neighborhoods."
The new branch is being built to relieve overcrowding at the existing facility at 2353 S. Wentworth Ave., which the city rents from a private landlord. Library officials said the branch saw about 21,000 visitors per month in 2012.
Earlier this year, the City Council approved the release of $15 million in Tax Increment Financing funds from the 24th/Michigan TIF fund to buy three parcels of land in Chinatown for the new building.
Library commissioner Brian Bannon said in a statement the building would "serve as a gateway to Chinatown, linking the old with the new, and provide a building that serves the modern Chinese immigrant as well as the longtime Chicago resident."
When the project wraps up in 2015, it will be the crown jewel in a series of recent major upgrades to the neighborhood, including the recently completed boathouse along the South Branch of the Chicago River and the Ping Tom Park field house, where construction is nearing completion.
The Chinatown design's debut coincides with other recent library news across the city, including the groundbreaking for a new Albany Park branch, the debut of a new Edgewater branch, a renovation of the Humboldt Park facility and Saturday's ribbon cutting at the Back of the Yards branch, housed within the brand-new Back of the Yards High School.