Construction on VCU’s library begins in earnest this week

Did you know that the library Starbucks is one of the most lucrative Starbucks in the country? And that it’s being DOUBLED in size?

Update #1 — March 11, 2014; 7:12 AM

VCU’s $50.8 million expansion of the James Branch Cabell Library (see below) begins in earnest this week during the students’ spring break.

Construction crews will close off the library’s main entrance and build a temporary vestibule and entrance, which will remain until the expansion project ends in the fall 2015.The new entrance is located alongside the library’s the first floor windows near the Starbucks (running perpendicular to Floyd Avenue).

A recent VCU story about the 18-month project yielded some interesting tidbits:

  • VCU provides the least amount of square feet per student of any academic library in Virginia, but the Cabell Library has the largest amount of traffic in the state.
  • The Starbucks inside Cabell Library is among the top 10 in gross sales of all Starbucks in the US and does over $1.5 million in business each year. The renovation project will double the size of the current store.
  • A nearly two-story-tall “vitrine” video display will be installed on the building’s new wall that faces Shafer Court. The display will be a semi-transparent LED screen used to showcase students’ video art projects, show information about the library, and may even show VCU basketball games.
  • The nosiest part of the renovation work will come this summer, when workers pry precast on the library’s north and east sides to prepare the facade to connect to the new building.
  • VCU will order earplugs to hand out to library goers that want to mute construction noise.
  • The project’s architects are Shepley Bulfinch of Moseley Architects.

You can learn more about the new library here.

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Original — September 27, 2013

VCU has released details about its plan to replace the existing James Branch Cabell Library in Shafer Court with a new $50 million building scheduled to open in September 2015.

“VCU’s new library will have the most prominent spot on campus of any library building in Virginia, and more students will use it each day than any other library in the Commonwealth,” said the university’s librarian, John Ulmschneider, in a statement. “I cannot imagine a building anywhere in Virginia that will be more visible to students, faculty, and visitors, affect more students, or have a greater impact on student success.”

The proposed 156,000-square foot building will include:

  • 63,000-square feet of improvements to the existing library
  • 93,000-square feet of new construction

Over 90 percent of the new building will comprise space for students and faculty: reading rooms, reconfigurable labs, group work areas, tables and seating, carrels, and more.

The updated library will also include powerful computers for video editing, small-scale audio and video production, green screen studios, and 3D printers. The plans call for the existing library Starbucks to be augmented.

VCU estimates that the total cost of the new building will be $50 million, with a majority of that amount ($47 million) coming from the university’s general funds. VCU hopes to start construction in March 2014 and open the new library in September 2015.

The original Cabell Library opened in 1975 and was designed to serve 17,000 students; seat 2,000 students; and store no more than 1 million volumes. In 2012, the library served 32,000 students; sat 1,250 students; and stored roughly 2 million volumes.

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New VCU library-02

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. chris fultz on said:

    Who is the design team? The community would like to know and I’m sure the design team would appreciate some recognition.

  2. I know the local architect is Moseley. I can’t remember the national design partner.

  3. Joshua David on said:

    ^Would have been cool if his name was Mosby. Am I right??

  4. Ashley on said:

    When is this scheduled to begin construction? When it is anticipated to be finished?

  5. Meagan on said:

    It says construction is to start this coming March and finish September 2015.

  6. Thomas on said:

    I’m not gonna lie. This and the ICA are absolutely kick-ass looking.

  7. Hi everyone – The design architect is Sheply Bulfinsh out of Boston. Their website is here: The local team is lead by Mosley Architects:

    Yes, the construction will begin in earnest in March and be completed for fall semester, 2015.

    You can follow the progress here:

  8. I assume they are registering this project for LEED certification?

  9. Edward H Peeples on said:

    I can hardly wait. Save me a seat, I want to spend my old age there.

  10. Jacob K on said:

    Too bad it doesn’t involve tearing down Hibbs.

  11. Dennis on said:

    All new buildings at VCU are required to be LEED Silver certified.

  12. Cabell Library is not being replaced, it is being expanded with a major addition to make it the larger heart of the VCU Campus for the VCU family for the next half century and beyond.

  13. Yoo Hoo on said:

    The nosiest part of the renovation work will come??? Do you mean noisiest? The little old ladies in the library are going to send you back to school for that one!

  14. Matt on said:

    How come they didn’t have VCU engineering students do the construction?!

    /typical RVA idiots

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