Ross-University Hills Branch Library Bond Updates


Ross-University Hills Branch Library exterior

Renovation project includes: 

  • Outdoor improvements to landscaping, sidewalks, exterior lighting, repaving parking lot
  • Interior improvements to the entrance, upgrading the elevator, restrooms, community room, flexible learning spaces, children’s area, shelving arrangement redesign, and improved staff spaces
  • Updating building systems including: life safety systems, improved HVAC, replacing existing boiler, installing surveillance and access control, electrical, lighting, IT, and communication systems
  • Providing new interior finishes, furniture, fixtures, and signage

Address: 4310 East Amherst Avenue
Year opened: 1962
Last renovation: 1994
Square footage: 21,143 sq. ft.
Area population: 44,788
2016 visits: 191,607
2016 circulation: 641,750
2016 program attendance: 6,043
Status: Agency Critical System Need

Project Goals

  • Redesign the children’s area to create a literacy-rich play space where parents and young children come together to learn and read
  • Adaptations needed to make the facility accessibility-compliant for all residents
  • Bring building components up to current standards to increase energy efficiency, improve climate control and provide better security


The Ross-University Hills Branch Library was dedicated in June 1962. Designed by Alfred Watts Grant and Associates, the building features red brick with green stone aggregate ornamentation and an open ground floor plan and was the last of four libraries financed by the Frederick R. Ross Trust. The branch last underwent a renovation in 1994 and included major interior and exterior renovations designed by Michael Brendle Architects.

Geometric, a wood sculpture by artist Wang Po Shu, can be found outside the library.

The branch serves a diverse service area including families with children across a range of ages, singles and married couples without children, college students and seniors. Families represent a large segment of their customers. The branch’s collection and programs reflect the neighborhood’s diversity and address their needs and interests.

Community Input

Attendees at the Ross-University Branch Library community conversation shared wishes for a livable and welcoming community amidst equal concerns about development and gentrification. They discussed the need for a community gathering space where residents can come together, meet neighbors and develop stronger voices on community development issues. They would like to see additional hours so that the library can truly be a community hub whenever people need it.

The Plan (what needs to be done)

  • Address site issues including landscaping, sidewalk and exterior lighting.
  • Repave the parking lot.
  • Redesign the public and staff entrances for better access, safety and climate control.
  • Upgrade elevator.
  • Improve heating, ventilation, air conditioning (noise) and temperature controls.
  • Replace the existing boiler.
  • Update and refresh restroom partitions, lighting, vanity counters and flooring.  
  • Meet current fire alarm codes.
  • Install surveillance and access control.
  • Update the main electrical distribution and branch circuit panel.
  • Improve data, power and communication systems.
  • Update ambient lighting.
  • Redesign the service point for current technology and service models.
  • Update the community room with lighting, power, data and service counter, temperature controls and update technology.
  • Explore new arrangements for flexible learning spaces.   
  • Redesign the entire Children’s area, separate from staff entrance.
  • Explore existing material shelving arrangement to obtain optimum customer use and convenience.
  • Redesign staff workroom, breakroom and office for better efficiency and better lighting.
  • Explore new arrangements for public access computers and access for mobile device use.
  • Provide new interior finishes including paint, carpet, tile and ceilings.
  • Provide new interior furniture and fixtures.
  • Provide new wayfinding, digital signage and code-required signs.
  • Explore or create IT data and telecommunications closet.
  • Comply with current accessibility requirements.

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 and addition. The design approach will maintain the architectural integrity of the existing branch.

Current State

The last major renovation of the facility occurred in the early 1990s and the interior shows wear and tear from over 20 years of high use. The interior is designed for library usage patterns popular nearly three decades ago and does not meet the needs of one of the busiest branches in the Denver Public Library system. Most of the floor space is dedicated to fixed tall 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 room space and equipment are conducive primarily for presentations and 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.

Public and staff restrooms are not accessibility compliant, don’t 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. 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. 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 demand and impacts for early learning, intergenerational family programming and access to technology will be compromise. Due to the age of the building we should be prepared to encounter lead-based paint and asbestos containing materials. There may be an opportunity to improve storm water runoff at the site.

Library staff and local historians are particularly interested in preserving the historic significance of the building, helping stave off wear and tear while highlighting the unique features and craftsmanship that give the building its unique charm.

Risk Management

Partnering with Denver Environmental Health, Public Works and design professionals, specific testing of building components will occur at early stages.


Design: $223,212
Land Acquisition: $0
Construction: $1,885,120
Contingency: $62,700
Total: $2,171,032

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