Boston Public Library Launches McKim Building Master Planning Project With First Community Meeting

Project Gives Bostonians the Opportunity to Shape the Next Chapter of Historic Landmark

Boston – October 23, 2020 – The Boston Public Library today announced the public launch of the McKim Master Planning project. This will be a programming study and potential design project to explore improvements to the Central Library's McKim Building in Copley Square. The project will kick off with a community meeting to help the master planning team understand the needs and aspirations of the broader community. 

“This planning project gives Bostonians the chance to help mold the future of the McKim Building, both as a cultural center for the city, and as a source of programming and resources for our residents,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “Investing in our libraries is a top priority for the city, and I look forward to seeing the future of the Central Library take shape.” 

The community meeting will be held via Zoom on October 28th from 6:30-8:30pm. A presentation about the goals and opportunities within the McKim Building will be followed by small group break-out sessions, where attendees can participate in conversations with peers to brainstorm possibilities for the space. A follow-up survey will be available for those not able to attend. Interested attendees can register here. There will also be three additional community meetings as part of the planning project that have not yet been scheduled.  

The BPL, in partnership with the City of Boston’s Public Facilities Department and Operations Cabinet, along with architecture firms Shepley Bulfinch and designLAB, is undertaking the Master Planning Project to improve access and performance within the building, and provide opportunities for education, interpretation, and engagement. This will include evaluating the existing building systems, art and architecture conditions, special collections, back-of-house operations, public interfaces, exterior façade, and issues of accessibility in order to uncover opportunities for improvement. Mayor Walsh has invested $800,000 for this project, as part of the City of Boston’s most recent capital plan (FY21-25) which includes more than $130.5 million for libraries. 

“The McKim Building turned 125 this year, and remains one of Boston’s most treasured landmarks, as well as one of the country’s top tourist destinations. This planning project provides a once in a generation opportunity to reimagine this beloved space,” said David Leonard, President of the Boston Public Library. “Currently, large sections of the McKim building function as a museum, or even as storage space. Through this project, we can reinvigorate and reimagine McKim, making it a functional, versatile space that best serves the needs of the Boston community.” 

One area of focus will be the third floor of the McKim Building, which is currently inaccessible to the public due to its current condition. The goal for this area is to provide an educational and cultural destination through engagement with the Library’s special and research collections in new and compelling ways. The second area of focus will be the building’s exterior. The master plan will reimagine the Dartmouth Street plaza and entrance, not only improving accessibility, but also exploring how to use the plaza as a publicly engaging civic hub and urban destination within the heart of Boston. 

“There is tremendous untapped potential in the McKim building that can be unlocked through its reorganization and renewal. Shepley Bulfinch is honored to lead this milestone project for the city,” said Janette Blackburn FAIA, Shepley Bulfinch.  “While celebrating McKim’s distinctive historical spaces and collections, we also seek to improve its connections to the Johnson Building and the city fabric, position it for sustainable resource use, and instill a new vitality that makes it accessible and welcoming to all.” 

The master planning process began in late August 2020 and will span approximately 12 months. The deliverables are to include cost estimates to support potential City of Boston capital and private funding requests and campaigns.  

Those who are interested in attending the first Community Meeting can register here.