Library Building Committee Works To Bring Designer Costs Within Budget

Jones Library Building Committee meeting

Architects rendering of the proposed renovated Jones Library. Finegold Alexander Architects. Photo: Jones Library

Highlights of the Meeting of the Jones Library Building Committee (JLBC), March 29, 2022

Austin Sarat (Library Trustee), Alex Lefebvre (Library Trustee), Sharon Sharry (Library Director), Paul Bockelman (Town Manager), Sean Mangano (Town Finance Director), George Hicks-Richards (Library Facilities Supervisor), Christine Gray-Mullen (resident member), Ken Guyette (Colliers OPM), Craig DiCarlo (Colliers OPM).  Absent: Anika Lopes (Town Council), Xander Lopez (resident member).

Meeting Packet

After a protracted period of negotiation and verifying compliance with procurement regulations, the Jones Library Building Committee reviewed a proposal from Boston-based Finegold Alexander Architects (FAA) to provide design services for the Renovation/Expansion project.

OPM Ken Guyette walked through the proposal which was not included in the publicly accessible meeting packet.

FAA prefaced the document with a Project Understanding:

“The project proposes a complete renovation of the original existing library, the demolition of the 1990’s rear addition, and a new proposed addition at the rear of the building.  The completed project will be approximately 63,000 SF. The majority of the library collections will be spanning two stories with a large meeting room and Special Collections located at the Garden Level.”

FAA’s engagement will span five phases.

The Schematic Design phase is expected to last 8 weeks and will produce schematic design drawings and outline specifications.

Design Development will last 16 weeks and will deliver design development drawings and specifications.  These will serve as input to code analysts from Hastings Consulting, Inc. and cost estimators at Fennessey Consulting Services who will help create a Code Report and Cost Estimate.

Preparation of Construction Documents will consume the next 20 weeks and will produce construction drawings and specifications, a final Code Report and Cost Estimate.

Bidding and Negotiations follow for a period of 8 weeks.

Finally, Construction Administration is expected to take 83 weeks, or 18 months. During this phase FAA will ensure that each phase of the construction project is executed on time and to completion.

These five phases of the library project are scheduled to last a total of 135 weeks.  Before construction begins, Jones Library operations will be moved to a temporary location – tentatively the Munson Library building in South Amherst.

The proposal is based on the assumption that building construction will cost $27,000,000 or $429/SF.

FAA’s proposed fee started at $2,950,000 which exceeded both the original budgeted amount of $2,831,100 for designer services and what Sean Mangano described as an industry standard that designer costs should not exceed 10% of construction costs.

The OPMs from Colliers negotiated FAA’s fee down to $2,725,000 which comes to $106,000 under budget.  They accomplished this by eliminating some optional “small ticket items.”

The FAA proposal included an addendum listing Recommended Additional Services.  These included

  • Life Cycle Assessment to evaluate the environmental impact of potential design changes ($10,000).
  • Further studies of energy conservation measures ($15,000).
  • Architectural permitting services. This would include preparing the appropriate presentation materials and meeting with neighborhood groups, historic and zoning boards to secure any required approvals to move the project forward.  Each meeting or presentation will cost approximately $2000.
  • Civil and landscaping permitting services.  ($40,000 – $50,000).
  • Photo-realistic renderings of spaces for marketing purposes ($2000 per image).

Building Committee members expressed wanting sustainability-related services and renderings for the capital campaign included up front.  However, Mangano cautioned, “It is nice that we are under budget on this element of the project [design] but we should keep in mind there’s a larger piece of this, too [construction], so when we think about adding things, we should probably wait to get a better sense of where we’re going to land with the full project.”

The JLBC moved to accept the proposal and recommend to the Town Manager that he enter into negotiations for a contract with FAA.  The motion passed unanimously.

Before adjourning, committee chair Austin Sarat acknowledged that the Library project has polarized the community. A portion of the town’s residents oppose the Renovation/Expansion, questioning its cost, size, aesthetics, timing and necessity, and objecting to alteration of a historical landmark, destruction of the Kinsey Garden, the Trustees’ association with the political action committee Amherst Forward, the role borrowing for the library project plays in forcing a town wide tax override to pay for building a new elementary school, and what some have described as inadequate factoring of public opinion during the state grant application stage.

Attempting to mend fences, Sarat closed the meeting saying, “This community is lucky to have so many people that love our library. There were differences in the vision about what that love should translate into, and we had a good and vigorous conversation over a long period of time. We’re incredibly grateful to everyone, including people who didn’t share the particular vision that prevailed. What we want now is to bring the community together to work to make this the best library it can be, and the tremendous energy and love that was shown by everybody on both sides of this we now hope to channel, so that we are working together to do what everybody wants to do which is to have the best Jones Library that we can have.”

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2 thoughts on “Library Building Committee Works To Bring Designer Costs Within Budget

  1. Thank you, Jeff, for this detailed reporting on the proposal by Finegold Alexander Architects (FAA) for design services. This proposal ought to have been in the publicly accessible meeting packet. The INDY’s reporting on this crucial matter is thus indispensable.

    That the Library Trustees voted to accept this proposal, with no changes, shows that both they and FAA are disregarding a legally mandated category of design services that the proposal omits. It is for the submission to the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) of detailed information on (1) the proposed demolition and reconfiguration of the interior of the historic, 1928 Library building, and (2) the proposed changes to its Amity Street facade and setting. Presumably, FAA would also participate in the MHC’s public regulatory process thereafter to “eliminate, minimize, and mitigate” the multiple “adverse effects” that this proposed project will obviously have on the 1928 Jones Library. That Library is on the Massachusetts State Register of Historic Places.!/details?mhcid=AMH.249 This makes the statutory Historic Preservation Law, and Title 950 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR), “Protection of Properties Included in the State Register of Historic Places,” applicable here.

    The results of the MHC’s process will doubtless require redesign, yet again, of the proposed project’s schematic designs. FAA’s proposal however lacks budget for any of these services. How much might these cost? And, how will the Trustees and Town pay for them

    In addition, what is the schedule? The MHC’s mandatory process will require extending the construction timetable reported above. It will take some time for FAA to create and assemble the detailed documentation that the MHC requires in order to determine “adverse effects” on the 1928 Library. Then, if this documentation is adequate, the MHC has 30 days within which to issue a determination of those “adverse effects.” See 950 CMR 71.02, “Scope, Purpose and Participants,” and 950 CMR 71.07, “Review of Projects.” This proposed project’s most recent schematic designs show that it would have multiple “adverse effects,” both internal and external, on the 1928 Library. See 950 CMR 71.05, “Criteria of Adverse Effect,” and—Updated-Presentation-by-Finegold-Alexander-Architects-October-8-2020-PDF.

    Then there follows the MHC historic preservation review process mentioned above, and doubtless changes accordingly to the schematic designs. It is well to remember that the Trustees and the Town agreed to comply with these MHC requirements as a condition of receiving their construction grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC). Last November, the MBLC disbursed the first slice of that grant, some $2.7 million.

    However, the Trustees’ and Town’s failure to comply would breach their grant contract with the MBLC. See Title 605, CMR, 6.05 (d). Breach of that contract would mean no more grant disbursements. Period. It would also require the Town to return that full $2.7 million, plus interest. See Title 605, CMR, 6.05 (e). One would think this whopping financial incentive enough to persuade the Trustees and Town to comply with the Massachusetts Historic Preservation Law. One would also think that Colliers International, the Trustees’ and Town’s state-required Owner’s Project Manager here, would at last advise complying with the MBLC grant contract’s terms. We shall see.

    Please note: The MHC’s historic preservation review process provides for public input about means to “eliminate, minimize, and mitigate” a project’s “adverse effects” on a State Register Property. See Title 950, CMR, 71.08, “Public Participation.” Stay tuned.

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