Architecture and Design

Here’s What $2.5 Million Will Fix at Burton Barr Central Library

Looking southeast towards Burton Barr Central Library from across the light rail tracks.
Looking southeast towards Burton Barr Central Library from across the light rail tracks. Lynn Trimble
The city of Phoenix plans to spend $2.5 million on partial repairs for Burton Barr Central Library. The library sustained significant damage during a monsoon storm on July 15.

Designed by Phoenix architect Will Bruder, the five-story library opened in 1995. It’s the flagship for the Phoenix Public Library system, which includes 16 additional branches.

Burton Barr Central Library has been closed since July 15, when monsoon winds estimated at 50 miles per hour damaged the roof and activated a fifth-floor sprinkler system.

Corrosive pipes in the sprinkler system led to flooding on all five floors, according to an August 17 report prepared by Illinois-based engineering consulting firm Wiss, Janney, and Elstner Associates, Inc.

Previous maintenance reports indicated there were problems with the fifth-floor fire sprinkler system that could result in library flooding. The city is currently investigating why those were never fixed, says City Manager Ed Zuercher.

The council approved $2.5 million for repairs on August 30. Those funds will cover repairs on the first through fourth floors, for items such as drywall, flooring, ceilings, and painting.

It’s just the first step in fixing library damage.

Full repairs will likely run between $6 and $8 million, which includes replacing the roof and fifth-floor sprinkler system. The library plans to reopen in June 2018. Library officials have not indicated whether it might be possible to open with four floors in working order, before fifth-floor repairs are completed.

The $2.5 million project was awarded to Brycon Construction, which is already contracted to provide work for the city. Job orders over $2 million require City Council approval.

The city chose a current contractor rather than opening the process to competitive bids, citing the need to work expeditiously to get the library reopened for the public. It’s expected the work will take eight months to complete.

The City has not announced specific plans for repairs on the fifth floor, or replacing more than 7,200 books that were a total loss. Nor has it announced how much of the tab insurance will cover, or how it plans to pay for fixes that aren't covered.

It estimates that replacing the roof will cost $1.1 to $1.7 million, and take four to five months. Replacing the fifth-floor sprinkler system will likely cost $600,000 to $700,000 and take five to six months.

Library patrons are being directed to other Phoenix Public Library branches, where Burton Barr has shifted most of its staff and programs. The four branches located closest to Burton Barr will add Sunday hours starting September 10. Those branches are Harmon, Yucca, Ocotillo, and Century.

The library is exploring other ways to serve customers impacted by the temporary Burton Barr closure, including library pop-ups at various community venues.

Regular updates are being posted on the Phoenix Public Library website.
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble