Newport Beach Public Library Lecture Hall Passes Another Hurdle

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Rendering of the new Library Lecture Hall

The Newport Beach Public Library Lecture Hall Project has passed another major hurdle, according to information from the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation.  Architectural plans for the Lecture Hall have been submitted to the City of Newport Beach for a plan check, the review of code compliance for the proposed design.

The Lecture Hall will be nearly 10,000 square feet, with tiered seating for 299 guests. It will be located next to the Central Library in a freestanding building. Other improvements include an expanded courtyard for receptions and other events, and a reconfiguration of the Central Library parking lot.

The dream of a new Lecture Hall has been in development for many years but is getting closer to reality.

In July of 2019, after several presentations to the City Council demonstrating the need and demand for an improved facility to host authors, prominent speakers and City and Community gatherings, the City formed the Library Lecture Hall Design Committee. The Committee is chaired by Jill Johnson-Tucker, with Newport Beach Council Member Diane Dixon, Chair of the Foundation Board Karen H. Clark, Library Trustee Janet Ray, and EVP/The Related Companies Matthew Witte.

View from stage of the Lecture Hall in an architectural rendering

The Design Committee was tasked with evaluating potential architects for the project. After reviewing submittals from eight prominent firms, and conducting multiple interviews, the Committee recommended that the City Council choose local architect Robert Coffee, who also designed the Oasis Senior Center.

At a City Council meeting in November 2019, there was a long, contentious discussion during the meeting about the Lecture Hall, and hundreds of emails from both proponents and opponents of the Lecture Hall.

At the meeting, the City Council decided to move forward with the library lecture hall project. Council voted 5-2 on the item, with council members Kevin Muldoon and Marshall “Duffy” Duffield dissenting.

Total cost of the project was estimated at that time to be $8 million.

The majority of Council members agreed that there was a lot of community support for the project, which would drive the private funding aspect of the lecture hall. Several also noted that the project is worthwhile because of the benefits it will bring to the community.

A Newport Beach Public Library visitor walks through the bamboo courtyard, near the future site of the proposed lecture hall facility. File photo by Sara Hall

Over the course of more than a dozen public meetings, the Design Committee provided guidance to Mr. Coffee in the development of concept plans acceptable to the Committee and to the City Council. The plans for the Lecture Hall are expected to go to bid this fall.

The project will be funded through both public and private sources. Pursuant to an agreement between the City and the Foundation, the City will be contributing half and the Foundation will fundraise for the remainder. A capital campaign will be launched by the Foundation in the near future.

The Newport Beach Public Library Foundation funds valuable library resources, programs and services, and engages the community through the creation and sponsorship of diverse literary, cultural, and intellectual programs. Established in 1989 as a collaborative public-private partnership with the City of Newport Beach, California, the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation raised $2.2 million in private funds for the construction of the Central Library, demonstrating widespread community support for the library system.

Over the past decade, the Foundation has contributed more than $7 million to fund programs, technologies, and services for the 1.2 million people who use the four Newport Beach Library branches annually.

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