This is what the library construction site looked like a week ago as work began in earnest to place the auger pilings. (Photo provided)

Plainwell’s new library builds down to build up

Ryan Lewis, Editor

If you want a library twice the size of the current one, you have to dig deep.

That’s what construction crews have been busy doing for the last week or so as they drill and fill concrete augured pilings that will be the deep foundation of Plainwell’s new Charles A. Ransom District Library.

Library director Joe Gross said this work was at the head of an extension construction process expected to wrap up next November.

“Building has begun in earnest, which is exciting,” Gross said. “But it’s the beginning of more or less a year of construction. These auger cast pilings are important for us because we’re building on top of the historically poor soils of the former dump.”

Crew will pour approximately 120 of them over the next several weeks. Pouring them as opposed to pounding them into the ground is also easier on the projects neighbors, he said.

“Those things will keep us on solid ground,” he said. “With the foundation slab poured on top of them, then we’ll start to see things start going vertical—which will be great to see. Right now, they’re building down.”


Good bids

The 20,000-square-foot “highly adaptable contemporary library,” Gross said, is the result of a bond passed by a wide margin in August 2018.

The concept grew from a community survey and a study in 2012. The new space will include more meeting space, more defined quiet spaces, more room for technology and more room for library materials for borrowing.

The bond raised $6.2 million toward the project, adding to the $750,000 the library had already stockpiled for the effort. The performance space in the new building will be named for Charles and Betsey Hill, who made a donation to the effort, giving a home to library’s longstanding free Sunday concert series and other cultural programs.

With double its current size, areas will also be dedicated to a children’s space, small meeting/study rooms, an expanded local history room, more space for the Friends of the Library group and a dedicated teen space. It will also be designed to allow younger patrons to head outside for programs and not have to cross parking areas.

Tower Pinkster is providing architecture service; the CSM Group is the construction manager.

Gross said the design remains largely the way it was when presented to the community.

“Happily, we had a successful bid day,” he said. “CSM Group led us through that process and bid prices didn’t go up; they were good and competitive. The bonds sold well too.

“So the project is on budget, and we haven’t had to make any of the tough decisions if bid day had been tough. We’re lucky to get the facility we wanted.”

The project broke ground in July, with other site work occurring right before.

Nearly two weeks of work also wrapped up at the end of October that closed he adjacent Sherman Street to connect to the utility lines running beneath the road.

Gross said, barring whatever serious weather Michigan’s weather throws at them, crews expect to begin erecting the steel structure of the building in the beginning of January. That should take approximately a month, and from there it’s on to framing, brick work and the interior.


Next year

There are many steps between now and completion, however. Even after it’s done, the library will likely have to close its current location for some amount of time to move materials over.

“We anticipate there will be a two- to three-week moving period,” Gross said. “We’ll definitely be inviting the community to help in that; many people have asked if they will be able to help move books.

“We’ll essentially be without our lending system during the move. That will be painful, because we’re providing an essential service. We never want to interrupt it—but this is the best reason we could have.”

Until then, he reminded the public the library is continuing its normal programming and there is usually plenty of parking between the temporary spaces available on the library lot, the street and the nearby church.

“Our parking has not been great for a while,” Gross said. “We’re looking forward to having ample parking for our programs.

Contact Ryan Lewis at or (269) 673-5534.


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