Carnegie’s Library Park nearing finish line
Connecting the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, located at the top of a steep hillside, to Carnegie’s business district below has long been a dream for many. The Library Park project includes the addition of a serpentine walkway, new trees and shrubs and 117-feet of mosaic benches.
“You will see this grand, welcoming (walkway) that says, ‘Come on up,’” said Maggie Forbes, executive director. “It invites you.”
The total project will cost more than $2 million to complete.
In June, the library received three grants that have given the somewhat stalled final phase of Library Park the boost it needed to head for the finish line, with plans for the grand opening next summer.
“It feels doable,” said Forbes.
Grants were received from the Allegheny Foundation for $150,000; The Heinz Endowments for $50,000; and the Hillman Foundation for $50,000.
In the summer, the tree-filled space — without a walkway — creates a barrier, both visually and physically between the borough’s businesses and the library and music hall, Forbes said.
“I truly, truly, truly believe that it will be transformative, not only for the library and music hall, but for Carnegie,” Forbes said.
The first phase of the project, complete in September 2017, included the removal of “compromised and compromising trees,” the addition of new sidewalks and a driveway, improved parking, a “piazza,” and a flag pole in front of the library, Forbes said.
“Phase one revealed the beauty of the building,” she said.
Phase two was set to begin in late spring 2018 and be complete later that year. However, a mudslide delayed progress.
A geotechnical survey revealed that there was a “potentially hazardous outcrop of rock” on the site. Fixing that problem cost $185,000. It was funded by an organization that donated to the project.
The borough provided jersey barriers and fencing.
The work to stabilize the hillside was completed in December.
“Momentum is very important for everything,” Forbes said.
During the delay, a project that brought the community together with the help of artist Laura Jean McLaughlin was completed. More than 200 people showed up for 14 workshops to put together mosaic benches. They ranged in age from 3 to 80.
Even on Mother’s Day, they showed up in groups to help.
The mosaic benches were installed in September. It wasn’t lost on Forbes that the 117 feet of art was created and installed during the library and music hall’s 117th year of service.
People are enjoying the mosaic benches, hanging out and taking pictures in front of them, Forbes said.
This year, the only scheduled work is the planting of trees and shrubs that will weave in and out of the barrier fence, Forbes said.
The hope is to break ground on the serpentine walk and grand entrance in mid-to-late March.
Over the course of the project, grants have helped to pave the way for Library Park. They’ve come from the Allegheny Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Colcom Foundation and the county’s Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund grants, along with individual donations, including one for $10,000 for the flag pole from Bob Gordon, whose name is on a plaque at the pole, Forbes said.
Still, an additional $150,000 is needed to complete the park.
Forbes said that with momentum once again picking up, that amount seems attainable.