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Park planned for Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie

| Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, 11:51 a.m.
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A rendering shows a repurposed green space — dubbed Library Park — in front of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie. Executive director Maggie Forbes is spearheading a plan that could cost $1.5 million.

Maggie Forbes envisions people gathering outside the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie on an enhanced hillside connecting to the bustling business district below.

An ambitious project would create an “inviting green oasis” dubbed Library Park near the century-old institution.

“I picture people sitting on the steps all the time; the big steps, the grand entrance,” said Forbes, executive director of Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall.

“When people come to restaurants, they'll see those steps and they'll have to look up. They may wander up.”

South Side-based LaQuatra Bonci Associates completed a conceptual design for the project. That work was funded by a $35,000 grant from the Allegheny Foundation.

The projected cost of Library Park is $1.5 million.

Key elements would include a serpentine walk and steps, electronic signage, improved parking, a piazza in front of the Music Hall, curved stone seats and a flagpole in front of the entrance to the library, which opened in 1901 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The ideas are the product of a charrette public input session attended by more than 40 Carnegie officials, business owners and children in August.

Participants reviewed about 150 photographs of parks from around the world and discussed themes they'd like to see in the area with Joe Hackett, principal at LaQuatra Bonci.

“We weren't looking to capture something to translate verbatim to Library Park. Rather, we wanted to capture qualities that were important to the library and music hall and its patrons,” Hackett said.

Forbes said among the themes that emerged were open lawn areas, shade trees, places to sit and sculptures.

She's happy the project would tie in with the World War I monument, built in 1931, directly across Beechwood Avenue, and wants to get civic organizations involved in a refurbishing effort.

“Now, of course, what we have to do is go out and get the money,” she said. “This is the tool — when people see it and get excited about it. There will be individual donors but we have to go to foundations and maybe even some state funding.”

There isn't a timeline for the project but Forbes said she would like to have it completed by next spring or summer.

“It's going to be beautiful and green and welcoming,” Forbes said. “It's not just going to great for the library and music hall. When it's done, there's not going to be a town in Western Pennsylvania that has a central business district more striking than ours.”

David Mayernik Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7975 or dmayernik@tribweb.com.

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