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Construction to add two floors to the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library is expected to begin sometime next month. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is funding the project, which will create a fifth and sixth floor to house the library’s heating and air conditioning units, government documents, music library and additional storage and seating. 

Additionally, two buildings on Zimple Street – the Tate House and one used by the Tulane Law School – will be demolished to make room for the equipment and materials needed to build the two floors. The project will be completed by spring 2014. 

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, utilities, documents and music were located in the library’s basement. Dean of Libraries Lance Query said when Hurricane Katrina hit, the building took in eight feet of water. 

“Here in New Orleans, to put materials and people, and heating and air conditioning units in a basement doesn’t make a lot of sense, and FEMA agrees,” Query said. “So what we’re going to do is to replace the capacity we had in the basement and put that upstairs out of harms way.”

Query said the two additional floors will have less seating than the third floor, but this summer’s renovation of the third floor has already improved the library’s student study capacity.

“Because we lost the basement and we are continuing to buy books and students are using the library in record numbers now, we had to increase student study capacity,” Query said. “To accommodate the books that were coming in, we had to use what was a previously a study area on the second floor. So we improved the reading room on the third floor.”

The demolition plans for the two properties on Zimple have angered some members of the New Orleans community. Query said the community will benefit more from the library than from those buildings. 

“In the long term, and I’m talking about the next 15 to 20 years, we need to have room for our students [and] room for our collections,” Query said. “That is involved in a project called the Library Renewal Plan. That plan calls for building out behind the library, so we’ll use those properties that are currently being demolished to increase the capacity of Howard-Tilton Memorial Library for our students.”

Study Abroad Adviser Joshua Burns said the Office of Study Abroad and the Office of International Students, currently located in the Tate House, will be relocated to the second floor of Stanley Thomas Hall, which used to house Academic Advising. 

Tulane also requested that the City Planning Commission change the land use designations of some of the university’s properties from “residential” to “institutional.” Creppell said this change involves the city’s Future Land Use Maps, which reflect anticipated use of the properties but do not dictate construction plans. Still, some community members have raised concerns about the request.

University-owned buildings currently zoned as residential include the Tulane Law School, network services, The Office of the University Architect, accounting and Tulane Emergency Medical Services. Both Creppell and Query said Tulane is speaking with community members to ease their concerns over the university’s future plans. 

“I think what’s happened here is that only part of the story was understood,” Query said.

“We are working to share information with the Commission and with neighbors to explain that the Master Plan map amendments are not part of a plan to expand the campus footprint,” Creppell said. “Two people voiced concerns at the City Planning Commission public hearing about the university’s requested map amendments. One is an immediate neighbor, and we plan to meet with him to understand more the nature of his concerns.”

The deadline to submit public comments to the City Planning Commission on the Master Plan is Feb. 1. The commissioners are expected to vote on the plan on Feb. 14.