When one door closes, another door opens. Such is the case for many retail stores when a brand expands or remodels—one location closes only to open a fresh, new location from scratch. But what happens to the original store? Unfortunately for many communities, the structures are often deserted; another vacant shell, foreshadowing the decline of the smaller businesses surrounding it. What’s a city to do when this happens?
Enter McAllen, Texas, a town with an empty Walmart waiting for reuse. The municipality was outgrowing their existing public library and made the decision to purchase the vacant big box location for the library’s new home. This building, mind you, is 124,500 sq ft, or approximately 2 1/2 football fields to put it in perspective—the largest single-story library in the US. Working with Minneapolis firm MS&R Architecture, the city required that the new design be functional, flexible, and affordable to construct. The interior is now a bright, welcoming space boasting impressive details such as “conference rooms, a coffee shop, a copy center, an acoustically-shielded space for chatty teenagers, and a 64-terminal computer lab: not bad for a small city with a population less than 150,000 people,” notes Good. To ensure the spacious new layout is navigable, bold environmental graphics anchor the wayfinding system. This brilliant reuse of space won the 2012 top award for library interior design by the American Library Association and the International Interior Design Association. You can take a photographic tour of the space here. For more of the story, check out the article on Good or on PSFK.