Schlessman Family Branch Library Bond Updates


Address: 100 Poplar StreetSchlessman Family Branch Library exterior
Year opened: 2002
Last renovation: 1992
Square footage: 14,884 sq. ft.
Area population: 61,545
2016 visits: 213,601
2016 circulation: 689,705
2016 program attendance: 10,274
Status: Agency Critical System Need

Renovation project includes: 

  • Increase square footage with an addition to improve the service point for technology and service models
  • Updating/relocating community room
  • Exploring new arrangements for flexible learning spaces
  • Redesigning the children’s area
  • Modifying material shelving arrangement
  • Redesigning staff rooms
  • Exploring new arrangements for computers/mobile device access
  • Exterior improvements to research and repair leaking titanium façade panels, replacing the roof, addressing landscaping, sidewalk and exterior lighting
  • Improvements to building systems including HVAC
  • Reducing solar gain on east and south curtain wall, life safety, surveillance and access controls, electrical, data, and communication systems
  • Provide new interior finishes, furniture, fixtures, and signage
  • Compliance with current ADA requirements

Architecture Firm: Studiotrope Design Collective
General Contractor: TBD

Project Goals

  • This 21-year old building is the second most-visited branch library in Denver
  • Increase square footage with an addition to provide community-centered spaces that are much needed in the growing Lowry neighborhood
  • Reconfigure floor plans to create community spaces for learning, making, creating, meeting and collaborating


The Schlessman Family Branch Library opened in March 2002 and replaced the Montclair Branch, which closed in January the same year. The modest-sized branch is one of DPL’s most popular and its technology, collections and facility are heavily used by community members of all ages. The 14,850-square-foot building cost $3.2 million and was designed by architect Michael Brendle and was designed to be a bridge between the adjacent historic neighborhoods and the aviation history of the former Lowry Air Force Base.

The Lowry Trios, a 12 painted panels installation by artist Stephen Batura, is inside the library. The paintings are based on historic photos of the area.

The branch is named for the Schlessman family, who donated one million dollars for the project, which was combined with bond issue money and funds from the Ross Trust.

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

Community Input

The Schlessman Family Branch Library community conversation was held in July 2016 and brought residents from Lowry together with library staff to discuss the future of the area. Lowry residents want a peaceful and safe community for children and desire to create a community where neighbors know one another. Attendees expressed concern about existing safety and security and a lack of available resources for families of different ethnic and economic backgrounds. Overall, residents opined for the ideal of Lowry as a planned, safe and walkable community.

The Plan (what needs to be done)

  • Increase square footage with an addition.
  • Research and repair the leaking titanium facade panels.
  • Replace roof.
  • Address site issues including landscaping, sidewalks and exterior lighting.
  • Recondition and pave parking lot.
  • Reduce solar gain on the east and south curtain wall.
  • Explore redesign of entrance.
  • Improve heating, ventilation, air conditioning and temperature controls.
  • 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 and/or relocate existing community room with lighting, power, data, technology and service counter.
  • Explore new arrangements for flexible learning spaces.
  • Update community room with lighting, power, data and service counter, temperature controls and update technology.
  • Refresh 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 better 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.
  • Provide wayfinding, digital signage and required signs.
  • Update or create IT data and telecommunications closet.

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 Schlessman Family Branch Library was constructed in 2000 and the interior shows wear and tear from almost 20 years of high use. The interior is designed for library usage patterns popular a couple of decades ago and does not meet the needs of one of the busiest branches in the 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 workspaces are not arranged efficiently, not ergonomically designed 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, 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. 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. Facility square footage is too small for service area population demand for services. Landscaping, parking lot and sidewalk issues have not been addressed with annual maintenance funds. The metal siding needs restoration and the roof needs to be replaced.

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 center where all ages can gather to create, invent 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. The square footage is increased with an addition.

Project Risks

Without a renovation and addition adequate services to meet community demand and impacts for early learning, adult and family programming and access to technology will be compromise.

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.

Back to Elevate Denver Bond Program overview page