Change can be exciting. And communities can get really interested in change if it actually helps them out. In two Portland-area communities, Hennebery Eddy Architects helped with a change that turned vacant buildings into active community library spaces, just two examples of how remodeling a space gives both a building and an area new life, but also preserves what little history a community may have.

Plus, who doesn’t get excited about a new community library?

The Kenton Library in North Portland was converted from a warehouse to a library. The other, in the east Portland suburb of Troutdale, a vacant storefront turned library. In both cases, the 6,000-square-foot space serves to open up the building with the use of glass interior walls and sliding doors. The Kenton library also has an opened façade with a glass storefront.

By turning the 1950 warehouse located on the main arterial through the Kenton neighborhood into something usable, the community gains a strong anchor presence. The removal of the 11-foot ceiling to expose the original wood trusses and barrel roof allowed character to play into the redesign. In the process, HVAC ducts were routed within the wood trusses and thin, linear light fixtures were aligned with the bottom of the trusses. Existing 2x8 ceiling joists were salvaged, cut into 1x8s and reused as wall cladding, louvers and base trim. The combination of wood trusses, wood ceiling, recycled wood and natural light built on the warehouse character already in place and helped to build a new, modern identity for the Kenton community.

In Troutdale, to create the feeling of space, the ceiling was raised to 12 feet high and all furniture and stacks were limited in height to 42 inches. Sliding glass doors create flexible meeting space. With technological upgrades interspersed, the modern look transforms mundane.

While there is nothing earth shattering about the work, the idea behind reusing spaces has been growing and should continued to take hold, especially in the Pacific Northwest. The opportunity to create community—or develop and expand a new business venture—by updating character and keeping the old style is something truly fitting.

At the Kenton library, an old art deco mast was restored. This serves as a prime example of melding together heritage and character with modern and functional. While remodeling can sometimes take on a life of its own, both in cost and scope of the project, the idea behind reusing space is both sustainable and intriguing. Hopefully, this is a trend that continues, as both government agencies (i.e. library systems) and business catch on to the wave of remodeling space to keep character and provide life.