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Modernized MLK Library will have ground-level cafe and rooftop event space

D.C.’s library system is looking for an operator to offer workforce development

The brick facade of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library up close, with two men standing out front.
The facade of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (2011)

When ongoing renovation work is completed, the District’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will boast a new 4,300-square-foot cafe and outdoor patio on street level as well as a 14,900-square-foot rooftop terrace, including a catering kitchen and event space. This week, D.C. Public Library (DCPL) announced it is searching for a food-services operator who could develop and manage the library’s gustatory offerings and also provide employee job training.

The flagship library, which closed in March 2017 for upgrades, is scheduled to reopen in fall 2020. The operator would serve “high-quality beverages and light fare in the cafe to Library customers and staff at moderate prices,” according to a solicitation from DCPL. (Cash, credit, and debit payments would be accepted.) In addition, it would “provide robust apprenticeship opportunities and paid employment in the hospitality industry ... especially for immigrants, veterans, disconnected youth, people of color, and returning citizens,” the solicitation notes.

DCPL projects that the MLK Library will welcome more than 1 million visitors within a year of its reopening. Officials say they will hold a site visit at the library August 16 and proposals from vendors are due September 6. In a statement, DCPL executive director Richard Reyes-Gavilan said the job training program would prepare employees “for success beyond their time at the Library,” and so “embodies Dr. King’s passion for economic self-determination.”

The $211 million project will also include a new entryway with public art, a large auditorium and conference center, a grand staircase, a redesigned reading room and collections area, and workspaces for artists. The MLK Library is situated in Penn Quarter at 901 G Street NW.

A rendering of the planned library cafe patio, showing white tables and red chairs and a few people on the street.
Rendering of the planned cafe patio
D.C. Public Library
A rendering of the library interior and cafe, showing dozens of people of various races, including children. The cafe is in the background.
Rendering of the library interior and cafe
D.C. Public Library
A rendering of the library exterior and rooftop, showing landscaping on the roof and cars below on the street.
Rendering of the library exterior and rooftop
D.C. Public Library

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

West Basin Drive SW, Washington, DC 20242