November 29, 2015

Boston Public Library Studies Adding Retail to Main Branch

The Boston Public Library (BPL) is considering adding a retail store to its main branch. BPL spokesperson Mary Bender told LJ that the Boston city council had authorized the library to spend $600,000 for a feasibility study in fiscal year 2013, which began July 1.

“We are open to thinking about retail options. That’s the whole point of the feasibility study,” BPL President Amy E. Ryan told the Boston Herald.

The study will explore whether the first floor area currently occupied by the 4000-square-foot children’s room, the Rabb lecture hall (which seats 342), and the entrance way could be better utilized, said Bender. Ultimately, up to $1.5 million could be spent on the study if needed. Although the 1895 McKim building presented historic considerations in its renovation, the Copley Square frontage under consideration is in the 1972 Johnson Building, according to Bender.

If the study decides that relocating the children’s room is viable, an RFP will be sent out for architects. But how long the process of building out the store would take “would be another capital question for another budget year,” according to Bender, meaning it would be considered in January 2013 at the earliest, for the fiscal 2014 budget.

The Boston Business Journal quoted Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino as supporting the idea. “We’d like to bring some liveliness, foot traffic and activity to that section of Boylston Street.” Menino said, adding, “We haven’t decided what kind of retail. It will not be a big box, it will be retail that will match what’s in the Back Bay.”

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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