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Council picks Lake/Flato team to design new Central Library

Friday, December 12, 2008 by Austin Monitor

City Council named San Antonio-based Lake/Flato Architects and Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott on Thursday as the team to design the city’s new Central Library.


Three firms had been selected as finalists out of 22 applicants after a rigorous screening procedure that included a focus on gathering public input and experience with similar library projects in other cities. Lake/Flato, however, is closely associated with the much-beloved Lady Bird Wildflower Center in southwest Travis County. That reputation – green friendly and Hill Country-centric – won it the final vote of approval.


The vote was a surprise. Of the three finalists – which included high-profile local firm PageSoutherlandPage – Lake/Flato was third of the city matrix. Council Member Lee Leffingwell acknowledged the winning team’s third-place finish, but he noted only a handful of points separated the three teams.


“Lake/Flato had an excellent reputation with its projects,” Leffingwell said.


The evaluation matrix prepared by the city staff awarded Lake/Flato the fewest points of the three finalists. Staff’s recommendation was for the team of Barnes Gromatzy Kosarek. However, a majority of the Council preferred Lake/Flato, and the city was not obligated to pick the team with the highest score.


“Just like the decision for choosing the architecture design team for this building (City Hall), it’s a difficult choice,” said Mayor Will Wynn. “The really good news is…we were able to attract a remarkable pool of talent to propose their services. It is with all due respect and admiration for, frankly friends of mine on all teams, that I would like to move we choose the Lake/Plato team.”


The Mayor briefly turned the chairmanship of the Council meeting over to Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken in order to make the motion to approve Lake/Flato, which passed on a vote of 6-1. Council Member Laura Morrison was the lone vote in opposition.


“It has been a very difficult decision and somewhat of a long process,” Morrison said.


Morrison had paid particular attention to the public comments on each team’s presentation along with all of the other information submitted, and that she concluded that “in order to have a successful project, we need to have not only a terrific, iconic building that functions in a terrific way, but also there are a lot of other issues that go along with it.”


The looming issue – which no one discussed publicly – was that another $10 million in fund-raising lies ahead for the Austin Public Library Foundation. It was the straw poll consensus that the Lake/Flato design was the one that could draw support. Council Member Sheryl Cole stopped just short of saying so in her comment on the vote.


“All three of the teams presented terrific past work and ideas that are fitting for Austin,” Cole said. “Today, we picked the team that we felt the entire community could rally behind and will build the most exemplary asset for Austin.”


The staff’s evaluation matrix and recommendation, she said, properly addressed those additional issues, and convinced her to support the staff’s recommendation of Barnes Gromatzky Kosarek. “What really pulls it all together is their very strong record with the City of Austin and other projects for on-time and on-budget performance. Considering all those things, I really ended up with the strong sense that the staff recommendation was the appropriate choice,” she said.


City staffers expect it to take several months to negotiate and execute the final contract with Lake/Flato. The city has budgeted $7.2 million dollars for the design process.

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