What’s on top of Denver’s Central library? We climbed to find out.

We also got an update on the huge renovation.
5 min. read
The top of the “pencil” from atop Denver Public Library’s central library. Dec. 23, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Denverite reader Lee Recca was gazing up at Denver's Central library a couple of weeks ago when a curiosity took root in her mind.

"What's on the downtown library's flat roof?" the Wheat Ridge resident mused to us later in an email. "A helicopter pad, rainwater harvesting, beehives?"

The kind staff at Central let us and Recca take a trip up there to find out.

Megan Hartline, operations manager for Denver Public Library's central library, shows the way to a rooftop not often visited by anyone. Dec. 23, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Spoiler alert: It's just a roof. The views are nice, though.

DPL Central's operations manager, Megan Hartline, described the top of the building as "a very practical, pragmatic roof." While there's not a helicopter pad or beehives, there are some HVAC units and drains, plus some yellow railings that indicate somebody is expected to go up there every now and then. The general public is generally not given access to this area.

Denverite reader Lee Recca wanted to know what was on the roof of Denver Public Library's central library, so we took her there. Dec. 23, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Even though there weren't the amenities Recca was hoping for, the views of Civic Center and downtown did make the trip up worthwhile.

"The city looks magnificent from this angle," she exclaimed, adding the roof itself looks "just like a science fiction movie set."

A view of Denver (and an HVAC unit) from atop Denver Public Library's central library. Dec. 23, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

To get to the top, we also passed through the "rarely visited eighth floor" which is mostly full of duct work and spooky enough to be home to some kind of book phantom.

A view of the Denver Art Museum from Denver Public Library's central library. Dec. 23, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

While we were there, we asked for an update on DPL's big renovation project.

DPL is working on big upgrades at Central, thanks to two cash infusions. The first came from a big general obligation bond approved by voters in 2017. The second was a $10 million budget item passed by City Council, which Hartline said expanded the scope of construction and elongated their project timeline. She said some of this work will stretch into 2023.

This year, however, librarians and visitors can look forward to a new children's library, which will reshape the area close to the Broadway doors into a colorful space for tinkering and story time. So far, the space looks like a construction zone with some brightly colored paint that adorns the walls and ceiling. The space should be done by March of 2022, so it's moving fast.

Here's a fun side note: Denver's first city librarian, John Cotton Dana, is credited with creating the first kids' section in any American library.

The new children's wing at Denver Public Library's central library will have bright colors and more space for storytime and more. Dec. 23, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Inside the old children's section at Denver Public Library's central library, which will soon be a new event space. Dec. 23, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The old children's space, which was once on the first floor and closer to the Denver Art Museum side of the building, is poised for a huge transformation. Jeff Riley, executive director of the Denver Public Library Friends Foundation, told us a bunch of load-bearing columns will soon be removed with the help of robots, and a large section of the ceiling will be removed. When it's done, the space will become a large meeting area where organizations can hold events and performances. People will even be able to get married in there.

Hartline said the new configuration will allow DPL to hold events like this after hours without having to open up the rest of the building, giving everybody a little more flexibility.

The library's bathrooms were also high on the renovation list and were completed earlier this year. The new lavatories have open, clean vibes and large communal sink stations complete with machines that dispense free tampons and pads.

"It is a building that's being designed to serve everybody, and it's one of the great things about it," Riley told us.

Construction is ongoing in Denver Public Library's central library. Dec. 23, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

There are a few more items on their wish list that haven't been funded yet, including a teen area on the second floor, above the new children's space, and a playground area that would take up some of the grass at 14th Avenue and Broadway. They're also thinking about removing some of the columns on the building's south exterior, which Hartman said would open things up, facilitate more "safety" and allow for better access to window service.

None of the renovations touched the building's roof.

Here's a walk-through of what the library will eventually look like:

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the second cash infusion for renovations came from the city budget.

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