Kitchener-Waterloo

Guelph council approves $67M library

Guelph city council voted 9-4 in favour of new downtown library during its meeting Monday night. The new library is estimated to cost $67 million.

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This concept drawing shows what the redevelopment of the Baker District in downtown Guelph could look like. Councillors voted in favour of moving forward with a new main library branch that would go in the new development. It will cost $67 million. (City of Guelph)

Guelph city council has voted 9-4 in favour of spending $67 million on a new main library in the downtown core.

The new building would be part of the Baker Street District redevelopment project and would replace the main library currently located at Norfolk and Paisley Streets. 

Staff will be directed to incorporate the costs into the capital budget and forecast, which is scheduled to be voted on later this year.

Guelph Public Library CEO Steve Kraft said he was anticipating a tense evening of debate, but was pleased in the end councillors voted in favour of building a new main library downtown.

"This project is a great economic development for downtown. It's not just about library service but it's about a community hub, its about growing the community, the heart of the community. And there's going to be a lot of economic return from this investment," Kraft said.

The city has outgrown the main library at the corner of Norfolk and Paisley Street  which was built in the 1960s, he said.

"We just can't accommodate all the material for a growing city," he said. "Especially if the population increase and density increases downtown. We need to provide enough material, enough space for the future."

Mayor wanted more time

Mayor Cam Guthrie said in a weekend blog post that council shouldn't decide on the library until federal and provincial infrastructure funding for the project is confirmed.

"The provincial government still hasn't nailed down the replacement of the removed development charges and informed municipalities of how this new funding would work for projects like the downtown library," Guthrie wrote.

"We're discussing this without the entire context of our completed 2020 capital budget and the 10 year capital forecast for all projects across our city."

Helen Loftin, general manager of business development and enterprise for the city, admitted Tuesday she did not expect the vote would go through for the library and for the full $67 million. 

Loftin said the process for the grant application for infrastructure money will be a big piece of the project that will see them competing for funding against other municipalities institutions such as universities and non-profits.

"It's quite a competitive process," Loftin said, adding staff are hopeful they'll be successful. "We believe that this project is such a good city building initiative that ticks all the boxes for this particular grant. It is quite a collaborative effort with private sector as well as partners such as the library."

Loftin said next steps in the project include applying for infrastructure grant money, focusing on the detailed design work and prepping the site to have shovels in the ground by 2021.

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