Moncton Centre Liberal MLA Chris Collins is coming out strongly in favour of moving the Moncton Public Library to the old Moncton High School, saying the new location could lead to a dramatic increase in people using the library.
A group called MH Renaissance Inc. wants to turn the heritage building on the corner of Church Street and Mountain Road into a cultural centre with the library as an anchor tenant. The plan would require the library to move from its location in the Blue Cross Centre on Main Street.
Collins said it is a "terrific" idea which he believes would more than double the number of people who currently visit the library every year.
"Two hundred thousand people visit that library on Main Street on a regular basis but it would be 500,000 or 600,000 people if they were able to get free parking and make it very easily accessible," Collins said in an interview on Information Morning Moncton on Friday.
'City council has had this concept for over nine months and they've been sitting on it and it makes me scratch my head because it's a great plan.' - Moncton MLA Chris Collins
"Besides, they're going to have an additional 12,000 square feet which is going to give them so much more opportunity and that doesn't count the fact that they're going to be able to use the theatre and the atrium area as well."
Moncton Coun. Dawn Arnold, who is also a member of the Moncton Public Library's board of directors, said earlier this week that she has concerns about the idea of moving the public library.
"I think there are a lot of other possibilities, I don' think that we necessarily need to think only of the library as being the anchor tenant in a building like this," Arnold said.
She has suggested turning the old Moncton High into an "innovation hub" or an incubator for business with the Chamber of Commerce as a tenant.
Collins says those are all good ideas, but members of city council need to "step up to the plate" and make a decision about the proposal that's been presented to them by MH Renaissance Inc.
"It's good to come up with dreams and think of things that are out there that are unsubstantiated but … the province of New Brunswick is paying $20,000 a month right now on that building to keep it maintained … they can't continue to do that while we plan and plan and plan," he says.
Collins says the plan would save a cultural icon in the city and it won't cost taxpayers any more than they are paying for the current library location.
"City council has had this concept for over nine months and they've been sitting on it and it makes me scratch my head because it's a great plan," Collins said.
The MLA says without approval from the City of Moncton to move the library he can't go to the provincial government with a business plan.