City council is contemplating the construction of a new public library building that would include 32 housing units.
The proposed project would be largely grant-funded and is part of the city’s attempt to create shovel-ready capital projects to stimulate the economy during the pandemic.
The six-storey building would be located on city property next door to city hall at the corner of Ward Street and Front Street (see map).
The need for a new building has been part of the library’s strategic plan for several years, backed up by a public survey conducted in 2016, according to chief librarian Tracey Therrien.
“People want new things in the library,” she told the Star. “They want more space to meet, they want access to more technology, more partnerships with community groups. But at the same time, they don’t want to give up any of our those traditional services that we offer, like books, and all the great programming we do with kids.”
At its Monday meeting, having already seen preliminary designs created by a group of consultants headed by Nelson-based Stanley Office of Architecture, council agreed to pay $117,000 to bring the plans to a level of detail that would allow the city to apply to the Community, Culture, and Recreation Program, a joint federal-provincial infrastructure fund.
The library would occupy 17,000 square feet (about double its current size) on the first two floors with the remaining 31,700 square feet dedicated to residences.
The project has a five-year timeline and the estimated budget is $15-to-$20 million.
As for the amount of the hoped-for grant, the portion of the construction cost that would be born by the city, and whether the city would be the landlord for the housing units, city manager Kevin Cormack told the Star that those details were still being worked out.
“This is part of the city’s economic stimulus plan, having shovel-ready projects where we can bring in grants (new money into the community),” said Cormack. “The goal would be to deliver these projects without the need to increase taxation.”
The project is one of three that council is considering as part of this construction stimulus strategy, the other two being changes to the Civic Theatre and to the Hall Street pier, both of which will be the subject of future articles in the Star.
At Monday’s meeting, Mayor John Dooley said, “These projects are not finalized by any means. They are going to continue to come back to council until they are finalized.”