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Renovation of Old Library a Step Closer : Eagle Rock: The city will seek bids to compile a report on the historic value of the building, which closed in 1981.

September 27, 1990|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles officials are expected this week to take a major step toward renovating and reopening a landmark Eagle Rock building that was closed almost a decade ago because of structural safety hazards.

The city Bureau of Engineering was to seek bids from consultants to prepare a report describing the historic and architectural value of the old Eagle Rock Library at 2225 Colorado Blvd., said Neil Drucker, an environmental supervisor with the bureau.

After the report is considered by the state Office of Historic Preservation, probably next spring, the city could prepare specific reconstruction plans, Drucker said. He estimated that renovation could begin in early 1992 and be finished a year later.

The old library was built more than 70 years ago when Eagle Rock was an independent city. It was closed in 1981 after a new, larger library opened nearby. City officials said the older building needs earthquake reinforcement, asbestos removal and other renovation--all expected to cost $1 million.

This month, members of the library's restoration advisory committee, formed two years ago, learned the money woes that have delayed their project are apparently over.

Councilman Richard Alatorre, who represents Eagle Rock, informed the panel that a bond measure approved in June by Los Angeles voters, combined with earlier state historic preservation grants, should provide adequate funding.

Committee members said the announcement breathes life into their plan to turn the musty old library into a neighborhood gathering place intended mainly for art classes and exhibits.

"I was thrilled," said Istiharoh Glasgow, an Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce board member who serves on the committee. "I think it's a really important step for Eagle Rock. We have a multicultural area. We need a place where people can get together and share their culture and build an understanding of each other."

In June, voters approved Proposition G, a bond measure to fund seismic safety improvements in city-owned buildings and bridges. All city buildings, occupied or vacant, that need seismic reinforcement are earmarked to receive Proposition G funds, said Bill Mercer, chief administrative analyst with the city's administrative office.

Immediately after the election, Alatorre announced that the bonds would provide $1.2 million to renovate the historic old Northeast Police Station in Highland Park.

Last month, in a letter titled "Good News," the councilman told Eagle Rock leaders that the same measure would provide $434,000 to reinforce their old library. That was added to $480,500 in state historic preservation money received earlier. The councilman said the project was still about $70,000 short.

But in a follow-up Sept. 14 letter titled "Even Better News," Alatorre said his staff discovered that the bond measure also will provide $201,000 for removal of hazardous asbestos and reconstruction for handicapped access.

It also supplies money for design work, a contingency fund and to compensate for inflation. Together, more than $1.3 million has now been allocated to repair and reopen the library.

Funding now exceeds the original budget estimate, but the surplus may be needed to solve a serious parking shortage. The old library has no public lot, and visitors to the renovated building would have to park on busy Colorado Boulevard or on nearby residential streets. City officials feared that the latter would trigger complaints from homeowners.

"We always knew parking would be an issue, but we did not know how to address the financing until recently," said William Creitz, a senior analyst with the city's Department of General Services, which took possession of the library last October.

Creitz said the additional funds may be used to buy or lease land near the library for a parking lot. But restrictions attached to the bonds and the state grants could prohibit their use for a parking lot, he said.

He said the renovation itself will involve delicate, time-consuming work so that the library's architecture is not damaged. Reinforcement of the roof, for example, will probably require that individual tiles be removed and re-installed.

The building is believed to date to 1914, when Eagle Rock leaders obtained a $7,500 Carnegie Foundation grant to establish a city library. The building, designed in a Mission revival style, also served as a busy community center.

When Eagle Rock became part of Los Angeles in 1923, the library joined the city's system. It underwent major remodeling in the Spanish style four years later, but the two-story structure has remained virtually unchanged since.

In 1985, the City Council designated it a historic-cultural monument, and local leaders began considering a future use for it.

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