Recognition and honors continue to trickle in for an Eden Prairie Library renovation that most Eden Prairie residents have not seen.
The latest accolade comes from the Minnesota business news organization Finance & Commerce, which in July named the $12.1 million renovation one of the “Top Projects of 2020.”
The library, closed for the 14-month-long construction project, was reopened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 25, 2020 but was in service less than four weeks before being closed by rapidly escalating COVID-19 restrictions.
The library has slowly reopened for most uses. However, group activities such as children’s story time are yet to come. Slowly residents are discovering the shiny and modern library that debuted 17 months ago.
“Obviously, [COVID-19] took the momentum away,” said Amy Kennedy Fosseen, the project manager for Hennepin County Library who oversaw the renovation.
“Everything is still brand new,” she added. “I’m looking forward to the day that patrons will fully reap the benefits. I look at it and say, ‘What a perfect opportunity to do a grand re-opening.’”
What residents will find, said Kennedy Fosseen, is a library that meets the latest standards and is a better place for community gathering. That includes a lot of attention to chairs, shelves, and wall and ceiling tiles that provide acoustically sensitive study and meeting spaces. Patrons had complained these spaces were often too noisy in the big, open structure that was once a Lund’s grocery store.
The acoustical work received special mention last year in the national trade publication Library Journal as it spotlighted the best new architecture for improved light and sound.
The Eden Prairie renovation also brings to the library more efficient LED lighting and ventilation, outdoor spaces in which to read, sit-and-stand desks, and an electric-vehicle charging station in the parking lot.
It’s a far cry from 40 years ago, when Eden Prairie’s temporary library was a retrofitted double-wide trailer home parked at the corner of County Road 4 and Valley View Road.
Many of the recent improvements were suggested by residents based on public comments provided prior to the project. Other improvements are owed to changing trends in library utilization, including growing computer use and a demand for quiet meeting rooms of various sizes.
But, not every idea was do-able, such as the suggestion that the library have hammocks that could be checked out and used for relaxation and reading on the outdoor patio located on the building west side.
The library hadn’t seen improvements since 2004, when the former grocery store was purchased by Hennepin County and fitted for library use.
“Fifteen years might not sound like a lot … but it had a lot of wear and tear, and people were using the library differently,” said Kennedy Fosseen.
(The Eden Prairie Library is one of 41 libraries operated by Hennepin County. For more information about the Eden Prairie Library, its building project, and its hours, visit the Hennepin County Library website.)