It’s neither a library nor school, yet in some ways The Hive may be the best of both.
It’s also one of a kind, a place where artists can create, educators can learn and business and private groups can gather before breakfast or after dinner.
That it’s located on East Sprague Avenue only adds to the appeal, said Caris O’Malley, deputy director of the Spokane Public Library.
As construction crews worked on a recent sunny afternoon, O’Malley marveled at the concept.
A mile to the west, a modern library is nearing completion in Liberty Park. It’s sleek and modern and twice the size of the current East Side facility.
“But libraries are very confined,” O’Malley said. “This opens up a lot of opportunities, and it complements the libraries in our system.
Stepping inside, O’Malley was joined by Mark Dailey, president of Integrus Architecture; Mark Anderson, associate superintendent at Spokane Public Schools; and Greg Forsyth, the district’s director of capital projects.
The partnership between the library and the school district goes back to 2018, when a series of land swaps and other agreements led to the landmark capital bond approved by voters in 2018.
The Hive, located on a 2-acre parcel on the 2800 block of East Sprague, just north of the Libby Center, is one of the best examples of that deal. While the library district will build the Hive, the school district will construct a shared-space library at the new Shaw Middle School in Hillyard.
Each will cost about $5 million and be full of activity this fall. That sense of busyness also inspired the name, O’Malley said.
The main benefit for the school district is the freeing of space at Libby, where the popular Spanish Immersion program is overtaking capacity as more grades are added.
“It’s a well-received program,” said Forsyth, who noted that 4th-graders will be added this fall.
To accommodate that growth, the district’s Spokane Virtual Learning program will relocate to The Hive, while a large meeting room will host administrative meetings and training sessions.
However, The Hive might carve out its identity through the larger community. Four large rooms, all fronting Sprague Avenue, are capable of hosting anything from a sculpting class to an art gallery.
They also will be available free of charge; so will the meeting rooms, which can host civic and professional groups, private employee training or even a knitting club.
“Those are representative of the kind of innovative and interesting programming we try to build in all of the libraries,” O’Malley said.
“All of our spaces are always booked up, and the meeting rooms in the libraries are not as robust, ” O’Malley said. “This gives the community a little more flexibility to have those kinds of meetings – they want community spaces and gathering spaces.”
Some of the spaces also offer flexible scheduling, with separate entrances.
Dailey, the architect, pointed out the “retail quality” of the building as cars whizzed by on Sprague.
Because the entrances are in back and on the side, the building sits perhaps 6 feet from the street.
In the back, the parking lot is capable of hosting farmer’s markets, festivals and other events that aren’t currently available in the East Sprague neighborhood.
“That’s the idea,” Dailey said. “To take advantage of the buzz on the commercial strip, the building doesn’t shy away from that.”
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