Bookworms Await $10M Annex at Enoch Pratt Library

Wed January 15, 2003 - Northeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

A new annex is taking shape at the central branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in downtown Baltimore, MD.

The project is particularly significant because it is the first major expansion at the facility since it opened during the Depression in 1933. The annex is the first phase of a multi-year project that includes phased renovation and historic restoration of the main library building, expected to begin in June 2005.

The contract for the annex was awarded to Costello Construction of Maryland Inc., of Columbia, for $10.6 million. Funding is primarily public, with some private donations to outfit the interior of the building. Work began on Feb. 4, 2002, and is scheduled for completion June 1, 2003.

According to David C. Costello, president of Costello Construction, roughly 2,000 cu. yds. (1,529 cu m) of dirt was hauled for the project.

“We excavated roughly 25 feet for two mechanical air shafts,” Costello said, “then performed the backfill using on-site material.”

Costello reported that the project will involve approximately 1,500 cu. yds. (1,146 cu m) of concrete and 500 tons (450 t) of steel. The building itself is just under 60,000 sq. ft.

Costello noted that the exterior of the annex is limestone and brick, and the interior has a significant amount of special woodwork and cabinetry. The four-story annex will connect the Enoch Pratt Free Library with its next-door neighbor, the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Costello Construction also built that library in 1993.

“There were really three challenges [to this project],” Costello said. “The first was getting it off the ground. The excavation for the mechanical areaways was very difficult. We had some excavation support along Franklin Street and had very limited access while working almost 30 feet below grade between the two buildings. Fortunately, we made it through that phase of the project without a glitch.

“The second challenge is staging the steel erection and masonry installation,” Costello continued. “There is no room, and deliveries and access will have to be very closely coordinated. The last is performing the quality control necessary to make sure that the finish work, and all work for that matter, meets not only the contract requirements, but Costello’s own quality requirements and the inherent quality requirements of this very high-profile project.”

While getting the building off the ground, Costello noted that the company has averaged approximately 20 employees on site. That will increase to approximately 100 “while into the meat of the project,” he said.

According to Costello, the company used one of its Caterpillar 330BLs to demolish two existing buildings and other miscellaneous items. The same machine was used to excavate for the areaways.

“We used our Cat 950F to load trucks and to move material around,” he said. “We used the 330 to pour some of the concrete along with a 42-meter pump to pour the bases of the areaways.”

A John Deere skid steer loader was used to fine grade for the slab on grade construction and the fine grading around the site. A 70-ton (63 t) Grove hydraulic crane will be used for the steel erection.

The Enoch Pratt Free Library was founded in 1882. In 1971, the General Assembly designated it the Maryland State Library Resource Center because of its diverse collection. This arrangement allows the Pratt to serve the entire state of Maryland by providing access to technology, reference materials, and a wide collection of books and materials.

The annex will house both services for the library’s mission as Maryland’s State Library Resource Center and special collections such as African American and Maryland collections. Another tenant in the building will be SAILOR, the state’s primary Internet provider and electronic information hub. Plans are to include a public computer room with 35 stations to enhance Internet access.