Glendale moves forward with $8M overhaul of historic Brand Library

A proposed $8-million overhaul of Brand Library was approved by the City Council this week, with council members directing officials to draft construction documents in preparation for a public bidding process.

It was the latest in a years-long effort to execute extensive renovations of the original Brand mansion, built in 1904, and a secondary building added in 1969 that houses studio space, art galleries and a recital hall.

Plans call for the replacement of the heating and air conditioning unit, upgrades to the electrical and telecommunication systems, handicap accessibility improvements, signage, upgrades to the fire sprinkler system, seismic retrofits and historic preservation, city engineer Roubik Golanian told the City Council on Tuesday.

The project has already been reviewed by library users, the Historic Preservation Commission and the Arts & Culture Commission, he added.

“All the commissioners enthusiastically supported the concept,” Golanian said.

The plan will undergo further review by the Historic Preservation Commission before returning to the City Council for authorization of a public bidding process.

The face lift is expected to begin in early 2012 and wrap up by mid-2013. Library services will be temporarily relocated to a still undetermined location, Golanian said.

Councilman Rafi Manoukian pressed city officials to nail down an accurate cost and work plan for the project during the design phase so down the road there’s not “a change order for this, there was a change order for that.”

“Let’s make sure that everything is included in what we are looking at and we don’t exceed the funds that are available for this project and we don’t have any litigation afterwards,” he said.

Debra Gerod, a partner at Gruen Associates, the Los Angeles firm responsible for the project, said the library buildings must be modernized so that they can continue to be safe and accessible.

“It is very iconic, very beloved and preservation is necessary to ensure its longevity,” Gerod said.

The Brand mansion and surrounding 31-acre park was bequeathed to the city by Glendale pioneer Leslie C. Brand, transferring hands following his widow’s death in 1945. It is a popular destination for residents and non-residents alike, and in 1977 it was added to the city’s Historic Register. In 2002, it was deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The original building is instantly recognizable from the exterior as the Brand Library, said project restoration architect Fran Offenhauser. But inside, some of the feel of the Leslie C. Brand era has been lost.

Interior work will focus on recapturing that history, she said.

“All the rooms in the building will retain their character-defining features and will be dealt with in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior standards,” Offenhauser said.

The room that will undergo the greatest change in the mansion is the solarium, Offenhauser said. When guests enter the building now, it is not immediately obvious that the house was built around a central patio.

“It is probably 10 years ahead of other patio homes in Southern California,” Offenhauser said. “We will be bringing back that sense of centrality of the solarium that is at the heart of the library. The librarians will have their desk there so the people who are the heart of the library will be at the heart of the historic building.”

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