Look forward to a new beautiful place in Camden

By Sue Quist

The community got a chance to see the New Webber Park Library design and get info on the proposed adjacent grocery store – both will enhance the Camden Community. This will not be just a place to just read books – it will be a destination.

Hennepin County Library rep Lois Lenroot-Ernt and Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins hosted the final public meeting on the New Webber Library on September 9 at Webber Park. Architect Mohammed Lawal, LSE, showed the design and emphasized the seamless connectivity of the library’s interior to the surrounding exterior park.

Lake Superior granite, used on the Victory Memorial, was selected for the large exterior panels. Lawal said this very popular stone gets exported around the world, and weathers in a way that provides texture and beauty. Additionally, locked seamed zinc panels with a green patina finish and Douglas fir were selected to complete the visual exterior appeal.

Lawal said double-paned windows will break sound waves from trains and other exterior noises. Inside, a folding glass wall will be used on the large meeting room to provide visibility to the children’s area, and will also be highly soundproof. The wood ceiling panels were selected for their acoustic qualities and a durable polyester felt (that emulates moving water) will reduce noise. The exterior window dimensions meet the B-3 standards for bird safety and the building falls within the Audubon’s strict standards for bird safety.

Damon Farber Landscape Architect Jean Garbarini presented plans for the exterior design saying, “It’s a unique opportunity for designing an institutional project that is a part of the Grand Rounds.” The design “bridges the interior and the exterior” with the windows drawing the patron to the outdoors. The entire west side the library can be thought of as the front, with entrances on the northwest and southwest, and bike parking at both entrances. The entrances are connected by a “front porch” outdoor reading area. The 25 parking bays include a center island which doubles as a filtration basin and will be planted with trees. There will be shared access to the bays on the adjacent grocery store lot.

The front porch reading area will have 18” planters filled with coniferous shrubs and seasonally blooming perennials, allowing for easy maintenance and a pleasing outdoor environment. To the north/east the design has a flowing pathway that leads to a circular garden space with crescent shaped terraces. A variety of benches, chairs and loungers (made from recycled materials) will line the pathways, with “flexible turf space,” complementing the “curvilinear appeal” of the pathway and garden space. The middle of the garden will have ornamental trees, with red oaks and hydrangeas on the outside of the elliptical patio, adding a “sense of place” to the reading terrace. Patrons will have a full view of the garden from inside the library.

Along the east side there will be a water retention swale with native perennials and sprinkled with a variety of native trees. The landscape is designed with a sense of continuity in mind; connecting the four directions via meandering pathways. Garbarini said the landscape will be planted with aesthetically pleasing native perennials, including prairie dropseed, echinacea, joe pye weed, sumac and red oaks.

The project is now moving into the “quiet phase” until ground breaking next spring. Lenroot-Ernt said, “Further into the process a committee will be selected to decide on how to spend the ‘1 percent’” of the project budget that is designated for art. The committee could include Camden Community residents, Friends of Webber Park Library and the library board, with an RFP process to give local artists an opportunity to submit works of art.

Grocery store: Everyone’s wondering about the library’s adjacent property and possible grocery store. Pillsbury United Communities (PUC) Chief of Staff Adair Mosley was the final presenter at the community meeting. Mosley said that PUC has exclusive rights to develop the old Kowalski grocery site and is working closely with Hennepin County, CPED and others to assure continuity between the exterior design and landscaping of the grocery store and the new library. PUC is committing $5 million to rehab the existing structure into a 15,000 sq. ft. grocery store, and adding an additional 5,000 sq. ft. for a wellness center that will include a community kitchen, pharmacy and health services.

Mosley said LSE and Hennepin County have set a high bar for the engagement process and PUC intends to employ a similar process. “This will not be a cookie cutter store.” He wants the community’s suggestions for interior design and placement of goods.

PUC is doing an aggressive funding campaign, raising the money for the project upfront. General Mills, Cargill and UnitedHealth Group have all endorsed the project and could be potential funders. PUC is partnering with Oppidan Investment Co., a Minnetonka-based property developer. Supervalu will be their grocery partner, but PUC will be the sole owner.

When asked about the viability of a grocery in a location where two stores have failed, Mosley said that they are in a unique situation regarding the margin of profit needed to be viable. He said that Kowalski’s was making a profit with a weekly sales of $110,000, but that the profit margin was not acceptable for Kowalski’s. PUC will need $70,000 in weekly sales to be viable, a goal that Mosley said is quite attainable. PUC’s goal is to raise $6.3 million, to allow for a reserve cushion. They plan to start work on the project in the winter of 2016 and hope to open the store in late summer 2017.

For info on the new library go to hclib.org/about/news/webber-park-library-building-project/Sept-9-meeting-notes. For info on the PUC grocery store go to puc-mn.org/news/puc-revives-grocery-store