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Downers Grove Library officials tap architects for library renovation

DOWNERS GROVE — A smaller, Chicago-based architectural firm — one that deals almost entirely in library projects — will guide the Downers Grove Public Library through a planned $1.8 million renovation this year.

On Wednesday, the library board named Product Architecture and Design for the job, choosing the firm over two other applicants.

Planning the project will now begin in earnest next month, and the renovation is slated to begin this fall and wrap up in spring 2014.

In choosing Product Architecture and Design, library officials went with the smallest of the three finalists. Elgin-based Dewberry and Engberg Anderson in Milwaukee have a resume featuring more regional and even national projects.

Product Architecture and Design is the result of a collaboration between its co-partners, Dan Pohrte and Tiffany Nash, after their work several years ago on the Champaign Public Library renovation.

"From that, we decided we work well together," Pohrte said in a phone interview last month. "I also think we enjoy working in library, social spaces, those types of projects — building things for communities."

Downers Grove library director Rick Ashton said board members found smaller was actually more appealing.

"When you see the two principals give a presentation, you know what you're going to get, and what was very important to the library board," he said.

Pohrte estimated that as much as 90 percent of their business is library projects. The firm has ongoing renovations similar to the scope in Downers Grove — including in Niles and Arlington Heights, where relatively new library buildings must make accommodations for the digital age.

"The examples of their recent projects that they presented seemed like things we could imagine doing here, and I think that had a very, very influential effect," Ashton said.

But, both Pohrte and Ashton have noted, each library project is unique.

Downers Grove library officials have highlighted a few areas they want to address with the renovation — check-out services, for one, and the back-room circulation area — but nothing is set in stone.

One of the architects' first tasks will be seeking feedback from library staff and patrons on how they use the building and what they would like to see in the redesign.

Over the next month, library officials will hammer out a contract with Product Architecture and Design before they officially take on the project. The deal is slated for approval at the library board's March 27 meeting, and the project gets underway in April.

The renovation has a $1.8 million budget coming out of existing savings. The library is not planning on borrowing any money to pay for the project.

Update: An earlier version of this story misspelled Tiffany Nash's name.

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