Providence Public Library Announces Building Restoration Plan and Space Rental Partnership

Venture to provide the non-profit with important new revenue and open the Library’s spaces to use by the broader community

At a formal announcement gathering this Friday evening, Providence Public Library (PPL) trustees will unveil plans for significant restorations of the historic 112-year-old library building on Washington Street and announce a new partnership with the area’s leading fine catering and hospitality management company – Russell Morin Hospitality Solutions.  Library officials will outline the venture’s key goals, benefits of the initiative, and associated fundraising campaigns.

“We have a responsibility to preserve our historically significant building, as well as to ensure our vital public library services and unique resources for generations of Rhode Islanders,” said Library Board Chair William Simmons.  “Through these plans, we literally will be “opening our doors” and sharing this incredible community asset and its distinctive spaces, as well as our services and resources, in new ways with the broader Rhode Island community.”

“All Rhode Islanders will benefit from our ability to realize a new, steady income stream with which to continue to fund the Library’s important early literacy, economic advancement, and lifelong learning services,” Simmons added.

While its mission is to provide free public library services, the Providence Public Library is an independent, non-profit organization governed by a board of trustees and supported primarily through private funding sources, including its own Providence Public Library Foundation. The Library is focused on three key service areas: early childhood literacy, lifelong learning and individual economic advancement opportunities.

The Library was founded in 1875.  The classical Renaissance-style building opened in 1900 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Restoration plans call for both long-deferred and necessary infrastructure improvements, including replacement of an out-dated HVAC and installing a sprinkler system, as well as renovations to enhance the Library’s historic spaces for usage for varied events.  Complete restoration plans are nearing finalization, but are anticipated to total approximately $4 million.

Through its partnership with Russell Morin Hospitality Solutions as the Library’s exclusive caterer, PPL will be making a number of unique spaces in its landmark building available to the public for a variety of events – including corporate meetings and conferences, weddings and other personal occasions, as well as community gatherings, just as libraries and other non-profit organizations throughout the country have done with great success.

“We anticipate that this venture will also provide a significant economic benefit, particularly to the City of Providence, but also the state,” said Robert Taylor, Chairman of the Providence Public Library Foundation. “As the only historic and beautifully appointed event venue in downtown Providence able to seat more than 300 guests, the Library will not only be supporting the capital city’s hospitality industry, but also efforts to attract tourism and conventioneers to Providence.”  The Library’s spaces will also meet a variety of indoor meeting needs for mid-sized audiences of 100 to 500 people.

“Through these restorations, we will also be achieving another of our service goals,” said Library Director Dale Thompson. “Notably, plans for two of the Library’s primary program spaces will enable greater visibility, access to, and sharing of the Library’s unique collections and resources.”

Thompson outlined plans to create a reference and research room devoted entirely to the PPL’s historically significant and unique Rhode Island Collection, where portions of the collection -- now largely inaccessible to patrons -- will be showcased.

The concept of beautifully appointed historic spaces, a venue which also showcases unique local collections, and a well-known caterer has proven to be a winning combination in Boston, New York and other cities. “A further example is our planned Ship Room, which will showcase the Library’s Brownell Collection of Atlantic Coast Ship Models and other seafaring artifacts from our Special Collections and will provide a backdrop for a special event memorable for taking place in our Ocean State.”

The Library has already begun its fundraising for the restorations, outlining two separate campaigns. All of the restorations will be funded from private funding sources, including targeted fundraising campaigns. While the “Opening Doors” campaign is focused on the multiple spaces identified for renovations and enhancements, a second campaign has been formed to fund the creation of the Rhode Island Room.

“We are most encouraged to have already received a grant of $673,000 from The Champlin Foundations toward the major HVAC infrastructure work,” said Thompson.  “In addition, we have received a great amount of support from area businesses, state and local officials, as well as historic and preservation organizations. Our plan calls for all of the restorations to be funded through private sources.”

Thompson noted that much of the planning and preliminary design work has been provided pro bono by various firms, most notably Robert Miklos of designLAB Architects, Dimeo Construction Company, Architect Ed Wojcik, Kathie Wheaton of Design Collaborative, and business consultant Ross Mitchel of Implementations, Inc.

“Great care has been taken in the plans to create an environment in harmony with the building’s grandeur and beauty and to ensure that the Library’s unique collections are highlighted throughout the refurbishments, both as a way to create a truly unique venue, as well as to afford the opportunity to inform visitors and event attendees of the Library’s stewardship of valuable and important resources,” said architect Bob Miklos.

Significant refurbishment planning is nearly complete. Construction is anticipated to begin in June and will be completed by December 2012.

“The Library’s spaces are unmatched in the Providence area,” said Russell Morin. “The intrinsic beauty of these historic interiors and the range of sizes are ideally suited for occasions of varying space needs and types.  They offer unique opportunities for customization of all types of events. Based on our experience in other similar ventures, we anticipate a tremendous interest in this exquisite venue. Additionally, we have already begun receiving serious inquiries about the Library’s spaces,” said Morin.

There is more than 10,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space and over 5,000 square feet of contiguous space that can be configured in a variety of ways for use of all or part, including the first floor Grand Hall, with its Ship and Rhode Island Rooms.

Artist's Rendering - Renovated Grand Hall & Indoor Courtyard

Artist's Rendering - Renovated Ship Room

Artist's Rendering - Renovated Rhode Island Room

Artist's Rendering - 3rd Floor Meeting Room