Calgary's old central library likely won't sit empty long

Calgary's new central library is set to open on Nov. 1, but the city doesn't plan to leave the old building empty for long.

The city is exploring 'some interesting ideas' for tenants

Calgary is exploring different ideas for short-term tenants for the main floor of the former central library, so the old building won't be left sitting empty. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Calgary's new central library is set to open on Nov. 1, but the city doesn't plan to leave the old building empty for long.

The city's main branch is moving from its current location north of City Hall on the C-Train line, to just blocks away, east of City Hall.

Coun. Druh Farrell said the old building will revert to the city and they don't plan to leave such prime real estate vacant.

"There are some interesting ideas being explored, I believe there might even be a tenant," Farrell said.

"We can ensure the main floors at the very least are occupied and contributing to the vitality of the city… We recognize how special it is. It's right by transit, right by city hall. It's kind of in the thick of things."

Farrell said the city is looking at different groups and organizations, noting that the floors — which were built to support heavy stacks of books — can support quite a bit of weight, meaning that the building would be a great home for a tech startup, for example.

But in the long-term, the building's condition means that it will likely have to be torn down.

"The building itself has some problems, it's an old building that needs some work, but the main floor is certainly occupiable."

City council will have a decision to make at that point, whether to keep the land for a new public project or to sell it.

"It also is an opportunity to develop that site when the market rebounds and we have an office, maybe residential opportunity there — but it also could contribute to the community revitalization levy because it's within the levy zone and so hopefully something that will bring in some revenue," said Farrell.

But that decision might need to wait another couple of years, when the Calgary police arrest processing unit next door moves to its new facility in Spy Hill.

What do you think the city should do with the former central library building? Let us know in the comments below.


With files from Scott Dippel

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