During a meeting of the Rockport Select Board on Jan. 22, architect Steve Smith presented the first renderings of a proposed Rockport Public Library to be built on Limerock Street.

The images depict a two-story building with a metal standing seam roof and an exterior which would be crafted from brick or wood, depending on price estimates. Smith, who operates Camden-based architectural firm Stephen G. Smith and Associates, was tasked with designing the library last month. Smith was one of six architects who submitted architectural concepts for the previous iteration of the project, which appeared before Rockport voters on the November 2016 ballot.

The proposed building reflects a 25 percent reduction in overall budget for the project — from $4 million in 2016 to an overall budget of $3 million. The structure also echoes more traditional design elements of New England than the previous proposal by Reed & Co. Architects, which called for a much larger, modern structure on the site, replete with five bathrooms, a beverage bar and multiple computer terminals.

The renderings by Smith would place the library's main entrance along Limerock Street, which patrons would move through to encounter library staff at the circulation desk as well as a staircase and elevator which would take them to the building's lower level. The main, top floor of the library would hold the adult fiction and nonfiction collection as well as separate rooms for young adult and children's books. A director's office, a tutoring/study space and a technology room would also be located on this floor.

An element of the previous Rockport Public Library on the site was remembered by Smith as well: the popular Marine Room, which he envisions in a corner of the building's ell. The Marine Room would consist of a seating area framed by a curved wall of windows which would overlook a landscaped terrace on the site's already multi-level terrain.

The lower level of the library would include a programming/reading room, archives, a staff room, storage space, a covered patio as well as a large room which is currently labeled "unfinished." Smith said that the purpose and design of this space will rely on what the remainder of the budget of the project is once the finished spaces are completed, referring to it as the financial "safety valve."

"The plans we have developed to date are conceptual in nature, as are the elevations," said Smith, who has recently begun reviewing materials and specifications with Peter Pelletier of Ledgewood Construction Company. The Select Board has considered engaging Ledgewood to provide managerial construction services on the project. Ledgewood has completed a number of library projects in the past including the Portland Public Library and the Baxter Memorial Library.

Smith said that the process over the next six weeks will involve meeting with members of the Library Committee and Library Director Ben Blackmon to get input on the design and how it meets programming and budget requirements. Will Gartley of Gartley & Dorsky Engineering will also be submitting structural designs.

"We're going to be looking at two different cost issues for this project. One will be the "Cadillac" in terms of whether it's a structural design or a mechanical system, or whether it's the less expensive systems in the building. That is going to be a question of what we want to move forward with in terms of the quality of this building, and that's going to be a big decision for all of us to make," said Smith.

The Select Board voted in December in favor of siting the new building on Limerock Street, after a discussion of placing the structure on the vacant lot on West Street where the Rockport Elementary School once stood. Town Manager Rick Bates said Monday night that the Limerock location would offer patrons to the library wide views of the village from the proposed terraced lawns.

"I think that those terraced areas would be very popular. For me, walking up those front steps to the library, from there you can look down and see everything from a really nice space," said Bates, who suggested that placing tables and chairs outside would make it a focal point in town.

"Going into this project thinking that we were cutting out a quarter of the budget, it was worrisome," said Blackmon. "But everyone came with this not with 'how do we cut a quarter' but 'how do we get 100 percent with less money.' That process has made the whole working environment feel really good."

Selectman Owen Casas asked Blackmon about shelf space in the new design, and if the library's current collection would adequately fit, and whether or not there would be room to expand the collection in the future.

"To get to shelf heights, we haven't crunched all of the numbers yet…everything fits….We're still above [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance with space around the aisles," said Blackmon, who added that expansion of the collection could be housed on the lower level in the unfinished space.

Diagrams provided by Gartley of the proposed project places parking spaces for the library on Limerock Street, across from the building's main entrance. The parking spaces would be extending, perpendicular to the road, into Memorial Park. Gartley said that some work would need to be done to change the grade of the property, which is on an incline.

The Rockport Selectmen agreed at the November meeting that the total budget for the library building would not exceed $3 million, and that this money would be drawn in equal parts from taxpayer bond obligations and donations by private entities. The library has been operating from its temporary location on Route 1 since December of 2015. The town has paid approximately $35,000 per year for use of the space.

A preliminary meeting on the concept plan, seeking public comment and feedback, has been scheduled for Feb. 22.