The new culinary-inspired Green Hills Library Center is now open to the public and will soon be offering culinary literacy programs.
The branch is located at 8581 N. Green Hills Rd. in Kansas City, just a mile and a half east of the former Boardwalk Branch. This library features a soon-to-open coffee shop, demonstration kitchen, drive-up window, even two full-size kitchens for use by any start-up food-based businesses, and a community programming room with seating for 240 people.
While a date has not been set for the formal grand opening, library officials are praising the completion of this 35,000-square feet innovative center.
“On behalf of the entire Green Hills Library Center staff, I’m thrilled to be able to welcome customers into this beautiful new building that’s been a long time in the making,” said Becky Richardson, Green Hills branch manager. “With this new facility, we are able to meet the needs of our community that had outgrown our former Boardwalk Branch. We are able to offer some incredible amenities that we know our customers will appreciate – including several reservable meeting rooms, a dedicated children’s area, and a coffee shop that will open in the coming months. We now have plenty of space and resources to accommodate every customer’s needs.”
The library branch replacement was made possible when voters passed Proposition L, an eight cent operating tax levy in November of 2016. In addition to the new center, nearly every branch in the entire Mid-Continent Public Library System has been renovated, remodeled, or replaced. The 56-year-old library system is focused on adding more intentional spaces and improving the accessibility of technology.
“We’re extremely proud of the new Green Hills Library Center, which provides an exceptional library experience for Platte County residents,” said Christen Stein, MCPL associate director for public services. “Our goal with this new building, and all of the library’s facilities, is to ensure we have upgraded technology, resources, and services that residents expect and deserve from their public library.”
The new library amounted to a $10.9 million investment and its proudest boast is a Culinary Center with culinary-baed programming aimed at helping people learn about food preparation, nutrition, and food culture.
Whether it’s the goal of visitors to learn basic culinary skills or master a downright scrumptious meal and sublime dessert, the center will play a healthful and vital role in educating locals about assembling and serving super-satisfying meals. While the clever idea to promote literacy through food was derived elsewhere, the public library culinary center will be the first of its kind in this region to teach reading, math, and science in a commercial kitchen with classroom seating.
An on-hand culinary center team, familiar with using cooking as a vehicle for learning, has begun prepping for a wide range of programs, from practical kitchen skills and techniques to food STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) and food culture.
Xander Winkel, MCPL Culinary Center director, has a decade of experience managing the Ennovation Center in Independence and has a fondness for helping food-based small businesses flourish. Taylor Smith, MS, RD, LD, culinary center kitchen manager, formerly worked as a WIC registered dietitian at the Clay County Public Health Center and takes comfort in sharing her knowledge of nutrition.
“The Green Hills Library Center is a beautiful new facility that offers incredible amenities to customers, and we can’t wait to add our offerings to the mix next year when the MCPL Culinary Center opens for service,” said Winkel. “In the meantime, we are accepting inquiries from food-based businesses about our future incubator kitchen space services, and we’re getting a jump start on planning some delicious culinary programs for all ages.”
On the basis of the success of other culinary literacy centers, library officials have said that the Green Hills Library Center will serve as a magnet for food and literacy.
The new state-of-the-art facility features two health department-certified kitchens that will soon be available for rent to local food-based businesses enrolled in MCPL’s Culinary Incubator Program. While supply chain issues have delayed the arrival of much of the equipment, library officials say the kitchens will contain a six-burner range top, conventional oven, convection ovens, and even coolers and freezers. The goal is to support entrepreneurs in growing their small food-based businesses by serving as a culinary hub with useful spaces and a wide range of programs, like Servsafe Food Manager Certification.
The demonstration kitchen will also soon feature a prominent island counter for culinary presentations and streamlined tables with wooden kitchen stools. Although two of four walls are glass and reduce the need for artificial lighting, pendant-style light fixtures provide additional illumination and create an aesthetically pleasing space.
Of course, the library features an expansive collection of books, videos, CDs, and more. Richardson measured the collection of physical items, just before the Boardwalk’s closure, and discovered the items stretched approximately 5,280 ft. long. It’s believed the Green Hills branch has an equivalent collection spread out across the new building.
When visitors arrive at the branch, they experience a warm welcoming entry with artistic elements sprinkled throughout, including planters filled with dracaena trifasciata and coffee mug pendant lighting. One of the most eye-catching features is a sculpture of a colossal, whimsical fork that energetically encourages exploration of its surrounding outdoor and indoor spaces.
The branch’s architects also designed a large outdoor patio, dedicated public use spaces, and a kid-friendly area equipped with AWE learning’s computers.
The first impression visitors have in the children’s section is one that says go discover its cheerful activity area or lounge and read in the concave fruit-shaped seats in the wall. A combination of brightly colored pieces and natural wood furnishings gives the children’s section a carefree vibe. An exterior glass wall, coupled with a jolt of functional interior wall seating, really enhances its modern edge.
In addition to the children and teen areas, an expansive Storytime room that seats a crowd of up to 100 people serves as a dedicated space for school-age children and their families to congregate. In between, the bookshelves and collaborative areas are computers with free public access to the Internet.
Like all other new MCPL buildings and remodeled libraries, the furnishings are modern and comfortable, encouraging visitors to stay awhile. Hints of green throughout the library complement the culinary-inspired style of the library.
Whether patrons are attached to the mainstays or seeking new amenities, visitors will have a chance to forge a new connection to their community facility.