Due to staff recommendations coming to Council on July 22, Council will consider capping the cost of the new main library at $34 million, reducing its size from 65,000 square feet to 88,000 square feet in a move that has received backlash.
Coun. Cathy Downer said in a statement that a business case carried out by KPMG found that 88,000 square feet was the “basic” requirement for the library — to be built in the Baker District Redevelopment — to accommodate the city’s growth.
“$34 million is less than the renovated police station. I am beyond disappointed,” Downer wrote in a Facebook post.
The report cites these reasons for the changes: potential funding issues created by Bill 108, complications with a proposed 500-space underground parking garage, space for staff is too big and concerns regarding the library competing with other rental space run by the city.
An “Updated Functional Plan” commissioned by Council in 2017 proposed an 80,000 square foot, $40 million main library to meet the needs of the population of Guelph by 2036.
Several councillors said on Monday that they had received messages from worried constituents. The city has been holding in-depth public consultations on the new main branch, with final open houses scheduled for this fall.
Local political activist Susan Watson said the “11th hour jettisoning of all the public engagement conduction to date is reminiscent of the recent decision to relocate the community park in Clair-Maltby to the Marcolongo property” — an earlier move that caused backlash from residents.
“It seems that in the current administration, the whims and preferences of staff trump community input.”
Many took to social media to share their dissapointment
This is beyond disappointing. The newly designed 88,000 sq ft was considered a basic service library by KPMG in their Business Case presented to Council last year. 65,000 will address expected growth. We would be back at the drawing board in a few years. https://t.co/a97yH4PMZC— Cathy Downer (@CathyDowner) July 15, 2019
Downsizing will not help meet our future needs. It is necessary to address the current and future needs and build a facility which will sustain for the foreseeable future rather than re-visiting this in a few years. This is disappointing news. @GuelphLibrary #LibrariesMatter https://t.co/cx3L0ZSeSP— Indu A (@induarora) July 15, 2019
Library chief executive Steven Kraft told The Guelph Post that he was “extremely disappointed”, adding that “the board was not consulted on this particular piece of information.”
This report by city staff suggests the City has decided to underfund the new central library. The library was established at 88,000 square feet to provide service to a city this size out to 2036 and beyond. They are seriously curtailing that service by reducing the cost and square footage. I’m extremely disappointed. The board was not consulted on this particular piece of information. We received the staff report last week and the library board will be releasing an official response later this week.
The report recommends building a library that is able to give “priority to spaces that do not compete with other city-owned facilities and services”
The report goes on to say that the current design includes rentals spaces that are discounted – a feature that would compete directly with other city-owned facilities.
The report also mentions the recent discovery of bedrock at the Baker Street construction site. The development had been slated for a 500-space underground parking garage, however the discovery of bedrock on the site is expected to lead to a significant cost increase. There have also been concerns raised about how well a parking garage aligns with the city’s state net zero goal.
This story is developing and will be updated.