Grand plans for library building
By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer - Daily News
HISTORIC: Architect buying Van Nuys landmark vowing to preserve a bit of the past.
When the historic library in Van Nuys was put on the auction block recently, most community members were pessimistic about the future of the 81-year-old building. Many feared that the building - which housed the first library in the area and later the fire department before it was boarded up and abandoned - would turn into another office building in an area already jammed with commercial space.
But Tony Nasr, who paid $1.52 million for the building, says his plans for the 1926 building don't include either demolition or remodeling. "The key is to keep the building as is or refresh it a little," Nasr said. The architect is expecting to close escrow on the property by mid-December. And he said he can't wait to delve into the old building and start uncovering what he considers to be its hidden treasures.
"The first thing I am going to do is rip the carpet out," he said. "I am sure there has to be hardwood floors under there. "I am also looking for the original light fixtures. Those fluorescent lights will also be gone soon. Outside of renovating the bathrooms, Nasr said he has no intention of messing with what he considers to be aged perfection. The almost 15-foot-high ceilings will be kept intact, as well as the intricate Mexican stamping and ornate corner details that line the roof. The wooden beams will be polished and a special treatment will be given to the forest carving above the indoor fireplace that Nasr plans to use as a focal point for his open-air floor plan.
Nasr, who attributes his affinity for history to his Lebanese upbringing, said he is even open to the idea of housing the burgeoning Museum of the San Fernando Valley in the 2,000 square feet he plans to restore as rental space.
Gerald Fecht, president of the museum, said the board of directors had been eyeing the library property ever since it vacated its former Valley College location with intentions of finding its own location. The library would be a perfect locale for the museum because of its location in the heart of the Van Nuys Civic Center and its proximity to public transportation, Fecht said. "The library, for literally thousands of people, represents so much. It was a place where kids did their research and some very important writers used it, too," he added. "We would like to see that library be a cultural beacon, but if it's not available, we will continue our struggle somewhere."
Whatever the final results, Nasr said it is a priority for him to find the perfect tenants. "They have to share my vision of the building," he said. "It will probably take me a little bit of time, but I hope I have enough money to do this exactly like it should be done."