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Chatham’s Whitney Young Library celebrates $12 million rehab and expansion

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The state-of-the-art public building will serve as an important amenity for the South Side community

Photo courtesy bKL Architecture

Chicago’s Whitney M. Young, Jr. Branch Library reopened its doors to residents on Thursday following a year-long gut rehab and 2,500-square-foot expansion at the corner of 79th Street and King Drive in the South Side neighborhood of Chatham.

Costing roughly $12 million, the project preserved the walls and square coffered ceilings of the existing modernist building and added new amenities such as computers, multipurpose rooms, a recording studio, early learning play space, and a fabrication lab with 3D printers.

The overhaul also revamped the building’s central courtyard and brought full ADA accessibility and energy efficient mechanical systems and lighting to the neighborhood library.

Whitney Young’s fresh look comes from bKL Architecture and architect of record Johnson & Lee. bKL’s Danielle Tillman, a South Side native, served as lead project architect and joined Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to cut the ribbon on the revamped Whitney Young branch.

According to a statement from the city, Chicago invested over $200 million in library buildings and services since 2011. Notable projects include the recent rehab of Bronzeville’s Chicago Bee Branch as well as a trio of new developments that “co-locate” Chicago Public Library branches with affordable-rate apartments.

Photo courtesy of bKL Architecture