Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library Bond Information


Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library exterior

Address: 2401 Welton Street
Year opened: 2003
Last renovation: None
Square footage: 34,957 sq. ft.
Area population: 11,110
2016 visits: 126,460
2016 circulation: 108,572
2016 program attendance: 4,142
Status: Agency Critical System Need

Project Goals

  • Preserve and protect this Five Points community center, which serves to provide both traditional library services as well as protect and maintain the history of African-American contributions in Denver and the West.
  • Transform conference and community rooms into flexible, multi-function spaces for learning, making and collaborating
  • Improve access to archives and historic documents for researchers while maintaining secure collections


The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library opened in April 2003 and serves as both a library, research library and museum dedicated to Denver’s African-American community. The branch was named after two prominent activists—Omar Blair and Elvin Caldwell—for their time and talents to bring about significant change in Denver and the West.

The library features historical archives from Denver notables Wellington E. Webb, Wilma Webb, Elvin Caldwell, Hiawatha Davis, King Trimble, Arie Taylor, Edna Mosley, Ada Evans, Harold Jacobs, Omar Blair and John Mosely. A second-floor research space highlights the advancement and history of African-Americans in Denver and the West and serves as a gathering spot for the Five Points neighborhood. The third level of the building houses the Western Legacies Museum and Charles R. Cousins Gallery and is not included in the scope of this project at this time.

Two monumental African American Spirit of the West bronze relief panels, by artist Thomas Jay Warren, are featured on the exterior facade and an acrylic mural, The Spirit of Togetherness, by artist Yvonne Muinde, is displayed over the reception desk.

The traditional African-American community is experiencing gentrification and an influx of high- rise apartment buildings.The diverse urban service area is a mixture of mostly young singles moving into the area and long time mostly older residents. The branch’s collection and programs reflect the interests and needs of the diverse neighborhood while remaining a vibrant center for African American culture and history.

Community Input

In June 2016, community members joined library staff to discuss aspirations and concerns related to the Five Points community. Those community members want a welcoming, inclusive community where each individual is valued and are equally concerned about safety and security. Specifically, community members are worried about people experiencing homelessness and the effect that has on the neighborhood. Residents believe that finding affordable housing solutions, homeless assistance and school improvements are paramount to helping the area thrive. Gentrification was discussed at length and long-term residents want to assist people who want to stay in the area but may be squeezed out with economic turns. Lastly, community members believe that sharing each others’ personal stories is a way to help navigate change as development ramps up in the area.

The Plan (what needs to be done)

  • Address site issues including landscaping, sidewalks and parking lots.
  • Improve heating, ventilation, air conditioning and temperature controls.
  • replace rooftop HVAC unit
  • Redesign book return to alternate interior space.
  • Update and refresh restroom partitions, lighting, vanity counters and flooring.
  • Meet current fire alarm codes.
  • Improve surveillance and access control.
  • Update the main electrical distribution and branch circuit panels.
  • Improve data, power and communication systems.
  • Update ambient lighting.
  • Redesign the service point for current technology and service models.
  • Update the conference and community rooms with lighting, power, data, temperature controls, technology and new service counter.
  • Refresh the entire Children’s area.
  • Explore new arrangements for flexible learning spaces.
  • Refresh the entire children’s area.
  • Explore existing material shelving arrangement to obtain optimum customer use and convenience.
  • Redesign staff workroom, breakroom and office for better efficiency and lighting.
  • Explore new arrangements for public access computers and for mobile device use.
  • Provide new interior finishes including paint, carpet, tile and ceilings.
  • Provide new interior furniture and fixtures.
  • Comply with current accessibility requirements including replacement of door operator.
  • Provide new wayfinding, digital signage and code required signs.
  • Upgrade or create IT data and telecommunications closet.
  • Retain the integrity of the unique architecture, woodwork, casework and doors to be finished minimally with light sanding, staining and sealing.

A key component of a successful modern library requires creative design approaches for individuals and groups to learn, make and create. Changes in customer usage, technological advances and functionality also necessitate a renovation. The design approach will maintain the architectural integrity of the existing branch.

Current State

The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library was constructed in 2003 and the interior shows wear and tear from 14 years of high use. The first floor includes a full service branch library. The second and third floors contain archival collections, a research library, exhibit space and the Western Legacies Museum. The first floor interior is designed for library usage patterns popular over a decade ago and does not meet the needs of the current and growing service area population. Most of the floor space is dedicated to fixed shelving housing large circulating collections, furniture for reading and study and large service desks designed for staff tasks related to receiving and checking out materials.

Community and conference room configuration and equipment are conducive primarily for presentations and small group meeting purposes. Staff work spaces are not arranged efficiently, not ergonomically designed and do not take into consideration space for new staff resulting from increased hours in the last several years. Restrooms are not fully accessible, do not address gender neutral accommodations and need refreshing. Some of the building systems and components are outdated including electrical, lighting, and telecommunications, mechanical, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Security and card access systems need to be upgraded. Security and environmental conditions for the second and third floors are not fully meeting all preservation standard data, power and furniture are lacking for access to high speed broadband available for customers to connect to the internet using their mobile devices and public access computers. Compliance with current accessibility, building code, and sustainability requirements are an issue. Landscaping, parking lot and sidewalk issues have not been addressed with annual maintenance funds.

Future State

The role of a modern branch library has shifted to be an active community space. Floor plans are reconfigured increasing space for learning, making, creating, meeting and collaborating. Self-service options for checking out and ordering materials are conveniently located near staff service desks. The children’s area has a literacy packed play space where parents and staff work together to prepare young children to learn and read.

A space functioning as a makerspace and digital and/or traditional media space where all ages can gather to create and learn is available. Easy, quick access to the internet is available throughout the library. Community and conference rooms are transformed into flexible multi-function spaces with the power, data, technology and sound systems to support out-of-school learning, adult classes, meetings, collaboration, cultural programming and community events. Staff workspaces are larger and efficiently organized. Public and staff restrooms are refreshed and meet access requirements. The facility is a safer place for customers and staff.

Preservation needs for archival collections and areas are met. Building systems and components are new and improved. All accessibility, building code and sustainability requirements are in compliance. Exterior facade is restored and site issues are improved.

Project Risks

Without a renovation adequate services to meet community demands for cultural programs, community meeting space and access to technology will be compromised. Archival collections are at risk if environmentally stable conditions are not maintained and upgraded to meet museum and archive standards.

Risk Management

Partnering with Denver Environmental Health, Public Works and design professionals, specific testing of building components will occur at early stages. Environmental control monitoring and precautions for temperature, relative humidity, pollutants and light during all phases of construction.


Design: $334,515
Land Acquisition: $0
Construction: $2,565,504
Contingency: $93,965
Total: $2,993,984

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