Felton Public Library – A Design from the Heart

Architect Teall Messer invests his heart in a project long on the drawing board

By Julie Horner

Willows, oaks, and a few cottonwoods jostle and whisper along the banks of Bull Creek as it flows – controlled now by a culvert to mitigate flooding – under city streets to the San Lorenzo River in downtown Felton. On its way, the creek slices through a narrow slip of native land next to the Felton Post Office – soon to be home for the new Felton Public Library and Outdoor Discovery Park.

Soquel-based architect, Teall Messer, is the artist behind the building design, which reflects community vision while holding to exacting legal and environmental parameters. His work is highly sought after in Santa Cruz County – he has six to eight active design projects going at a time – but he says his heart is invested in the library. Long a member of Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Library, he has been called upon over the years to design other library projects, including converting an old restaurant in Live Oak into an interim library, and upgrading the historic Garfield Library in Santa Cruz. The Felton Library project is a longtime dream. “This has been on my drafting board for 10 years.”

“Pat and Mike Verutti wanted to donate the Felton parcel adjacent to the post office 16 years ago, but the library system didn’t want to take ownership of the land until they had the money to build,” Messer said. Measure S, which passed last June, gave them the funding. “Bruce McPherson made sure the funding was on top of the list.” And Felton Library Friends have been advocating all along. “They helped support the project and pushed to get the initial plans drawn. If it wasn’t for them it wouldn’t have happened.”

In 16 years, the trees have gotten bigger, which forced the building plan into riparian habitat. Messer also had to plan around the 100-year floodplain that just misses the building site. A town plan drawn up in the 1980s helped guide the exterior design. “I had to try to come up with a building that will fit into Felton. It had to have a rural feeling, almost a barn-like,” he said. “At 9600 square feet, it’s not giant but I think it will be big enough…we took all the space we could.”

Working closely with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Army Corps of Engineers, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the project required obtaining permits from each agency. “We’re still in the process of submitting them.” The projected deadline to get site and landscape plans into the county is February-May, 2018. “It will take a year to build it,” so he anticipates opening in spring, 2019.

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District Felton Treatment Facility is adjacent to the library property. “SLVWD has very generously allowed access from Kirby Street, which will enable us to do the proposed Nature Explorer children’s outdoor area.” Felton Library Friends are working on obtaining a grant to help develop this outdoor space. Part of the easement agreement includes restoring native plants to the area. “When you take away riparian habitat, you must replace it at a two-to-one ratio,” Messer said.

Along with the interior spaces still in the planning stages and open to community input, there will be a glass covered walkway in the front and a courtyard in back which might include beverage service, a coffee cart, for instance. A trail will go through the property, directly accessible from Gushee Street. “Santa Cruz Parks will be involved with maintaining some of these public outdoor areas.” Asked whether the building will use solar, he says possibly, if there is funding. With the structure’s long southern face, he estimates up to 33 kilowatts of power could be generated from solar panels. Even without solar, “It will be very energy efficient with clerestory windows that will allow a good amount of ambient light, so they probably won’t be using electricity for lights all that much.”

An effort long dreamed about, Teall Messer’s community driven design beautifully transcends the potential drawbacks of a difficult site to create a thriving hub for all ages to enjoy.

Architect Teall Messer: http://teallmesserarchitect.com/

Felton Library Friends: www.feltonlibraryfriends.org

Copyright 2017 Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin May 2017 issue. www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net

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