Marlborough library project moving forward after busy winter

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John Lebica of CHA consulting gestures toward the historic portion of the Marlborough Public Library. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

MARLBOROUGH – Crews working on Marlborough’s Public Library renovation said last week that, with the exception of a slight one-week delay, they’re on schedule following a busy winter at the historic library site.

Roughly 15% of the project was complete, John Lebica of CHA Consulting told the Community Advocate on April 1.

“But it’s the hardest 15%,” he added.

‘They’ve done a really excellent job’

The library is getting its long-awaited overhaul thanks to a multi-pronged funding effort involving contributions from the city, the state and private donors.

Work began last year with the demolition of part of the library.

Crews preserved the historic front portion of the library, which has stood since its initial construction well over 100 years ago.

The construction site then utilized technology to keep the ground from freezing during the winter, allowing workers to begin digging the foundation for the renovation.

Marlborough’s geology did present a challenge, forcing crews to pound their way through solid ledge rock as part of that foundation digging.

That work was somewhat more intensive than expected. But the team said they managed to limit disruptions to roughly one week of extra time.

“They’ve done a really excellent job of getting us to this position,” Lebica said of general contractor M. O’Connor Contracting.

Crews manage snow, groundwater, unique demolition

Those working on this project have had other challenges beyond ledge rock.

While this winter was not as severe as some in recent memory, crews spent multiple days in their open foundation, digging out from snow storms.

There’s also groundwater flowing through the library site, prompting the need for a pump system.

The specific ways that the demolished library addition connected with the preserved historic portion of the library, meanwhile, made for a delicate task of deconstructing the building in the first place.

“That’s all in the job,” Lebica said, however.

Indeed, as much as those connections posed challenges, the presence of the old library immediately made this project special, Lebica said.

“The fact that we’re going to restore that building to all of its grandeur at the beginning and then have this other piece come and incorporate that – that’s a trick, and it’s going to be very cool at the end,” he said.

Already, crews have been inside the old portion of the library, removing carpeting and peeling back some of the building’s interior walls to reveal once hidden brick fireplaces, among other things.

“They’re beautiful,” said Ethan Butler, who works as the Assistant Project Manager for M. O’Connor Contracting.

Meanwhile, on the library’s front lawn, overlooked by scaffolding and the site’s still waving American flag, crews have preserved historic stone decor from around the library’s windows.

The stone pieces are individually labeled and cataloged to eventually be restored and placed back on the building.

“It’s one of the things that’s going to make this project pop at the end,” Lebica said.

Project moves forward

The people working on Marlborough’s new library addition say they’re grateful for a community that they say has been helpful through this project.

Looking to the future, they’re excited to see their work soon rise over the tops of nearby construction fencing as they begin erecting the steel skeleton of the building.

“That is very dramatic when it happens,” Lebica said. “Once you start throwing all those steel girders up, it starts going really fast.”

Crews expect to start that step around the beginning of next month.

The project, as a whole, is estimated to wrap sometime in the spring of 2023.

Fundraising continues

As crews continue to labor at the library site, aforementioned fundraising efforts continue in kind.

Just last month, the Marlborough Public Library Foundation celebrated its largest donation yet, receiving a $250,000 gift from Alison Grice, who donated in honor of her late parents.

The Library Foundation subsequently announced that a 200-seat community room that will be part of the new library will be named The Marion and David Grice Family Community Room in recognition of the gift.

“I hope others who grew up enjoying the free riches, magic and community of their library will also support and contribute however they can,” Grice said in a press release.“…That Marlborough’s leadership has the vision and commitment to re-invest in our Library and its well-spring of resources, is truly a special tribute to the people they serve.  I am deeply honored to be able to participate.”

Marlborough residents, Grice recalled that her parents were both frequent readers, using the library themselves.

Her mother, Marion, also worked part time in the library’s children’s room, eventually becoming the children’s librarian.

Grice and her sister, Carol, meanwhile, worked at the library as assistants through their high school years.

David was a wildlife biologist who frequently participated in the programs his wife created. He also served on the Conservation Commission and other city boards and was active in local Boy Scout and Little League programs.

Alison Grice, herself, became an active member of the Friends of the Marlborough Public Library after her retirement.

She said she has been inspired by the work of Library Director Magaret Cardello and her staff.

“I grew up with innovative programming, and that’s what I see Margaret and her staff bringing back to the library,” she said. “With this community room, the staff can do more programs to bring people together. That’s what my mother was always trying to do when she developed her programs.”

The Public Library Foundation is still accepting donations.

It notes that a variety of naming opportunities are also still available at a range of donation levels.

Those interested in supporting the Foundation or becoming a member should contact [email protected]gmail.com. 

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