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BPL weighs bringing retail space to Johnson Building at Copley

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  June 27, 2012 01:56 PM

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The Boston Public Library is considering allowing a retail venture to open on the first floor of its Copley Square location as part of a larger improvement plan for the central library.

The library has no definite blueprint of the changes it could make in the upcoming years, but officials are eyeing ways to expand its children’s section, improve its Rabb Lecture Hall, and make its entrance on Boylston Street more active and welcoming.

“Those are three parts of the Johnson Building that we want to study and see how we might make some enhancements,” Gina Perille, a spokeswoman for the library, said Tuesday, outlining the three goals of the project.

There are no plans to change the library's historic building or its entrance on Dartmouth Street.

Retail space could come into play if the Children’s Room, which currently sits on the first floor near the corner of Boylston and Exeter streets, is moved to another area of the library to allow for its expansion.

That 4,000 square foot corner space could then become a spot for a new retail store.

“That would leave us space that could be a potential location of a retail opportunity,” Perille said. “We’re definitely open to the idea of retail.”

For now, it’s just an idea. The library hopes to first conduct a $1.5 million feasibility study to determine the best ways to make these changes to the library and is waiting for the City Council to approve the study’s funding as part of the fiscal 2013 budget. The library expects to have a decision by July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

If any retail space is housed in the library it would fall in line with the library’s overarching goals.

“We would want the retail opportunity to have a relationship to the library’s mission,” said Perille, suggesting a BPL gift shop or educational store. “We’re not sure what it would be, but we want it to have some tie in to what the library stands for.”

A retail space could also help the library’s other goal of enlivening its street presence. While Perille said its too soon to say if the library would add an additional entrance for a retail space, the library is considering trimming or removing the granite screens along the first floor to create a “welcoming relationship to Boylston Street.”

The Boston Business Journal first reported the possibility of retail space coming to the library. Mayor Thomas M. Menino told the Journal the city would like increase foot traffic and activity near the library and said that any possible retail store would not be a so-called "big box" store.
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