New Brunswick

Moving Moncton Public Library to old Moncton High debated

The idea of moving the Moncton Public Library from its current location at the Blue Cross Centre on Main Street in the downtown core, to a refurbished old Moncton High School is sparking a big debate.

Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada keen to move to old MHS, hopes project will go ahead

This artist rendering from the community group MH Renaissance Inc. shows what the old Moncton High School could look like as a cultural centre including the Moncton Public Library. (Suzanne LaPointe/CBC)

The idea of moving the Moncton Public Library from its current location at the Blue Cross Centre on Main Street in the downtown core to a refurbished former Moncton High School is sparking a big debate.

Dennis Cochrane, president of MH Renaissance Inc., says his group is trying to save the old Moncton High building and turn it into a cultural centre. The library is Cochrane's first choice as an anchor tenant.

"We're trying to find things that exist now that would be cultural in nature, that could relocate there," he said.

"We call it MH35 because '35 is of course the year it was built as a cultural centre, as a people place and as a hub in that area of town."

But Moncton Coun. Dawn Arnold, who is also a member of the Moncton Public Library's board of directors, isn't convinced there is any need to move the library.
City councillor Dawn Arnold questions the idea of moving the Moncton Public Library to the former Moncton High School building. (CBC)

"Our library was just recently renovated and because of the way it was built, we pay $1 a month until 2057 — so for the next 41 years all we are paying for rent is $1 a month," Arnold said in an interview on Information Morning Moncton on Thursday.

Cochrane says while the rent may only be $1 per month, there is still a cost to Moncton taxpayers who write a cheque of $567,811 for maintenance costs and parking to the owner of the Blue Cross Centre.

"Our position with the city was, 'We'll give you square foot for square foot, at Moncton High for that same amount of money,'" Cochrane said.

Arnold says the "beautiful" library brings about 200,000 people into the city's downtown every year and those people are crucial to building a vibrant and dynamic downtown.

Joe Tippet, another member of MH Renaissance Inc. said the idea of making the former high school a new home for the library is one of many that came up during discussions with the city that have been going on since April 2015.

"It's negotiations between all the parties — the users of the library, the province and the city," he said.

The city is researching the economic viability of the project. Tippet expects that report to be published in two months.

'A wonderful project'

The CEO of the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, Susan Chalmers-Gauvin, says the proposal for the old Moncton High School is "a wonderful project with the heart of our community in mind."
This artist rendering shows how MH35 Center would incorporate the old Moncton High School building into a new design. (Suzanne LaPointe/CBC)

Chalmers-Gauvin has been working with Renaissance MH for the past 18 months and wants to see it go ahead.

"We are hopeful that it will proceed and that Atlantic Ballet Theatre and our Centre for Arts and Education will have a new expanded home for our professional company as well as the many students we have the joy of working with every day."

A meeting is planned Friday between members of the Moncton Public Library board of directors and Renaissance MH.

Cochrane is looking forward to talking about the proposal to re-purpose the library, saying it "could be a beautiful project with a lot of vision."

He argues it wouldn't take away from efforts to revitalize the downtown and instead would create cultural corridor that would begin at the new Downing Plaza along the riverfront to old high school and the University of Moncton.

"Starting with Downing, going to the Capitol [Theatre], coming right up through to St. George Blvd., the Aberdeen Centre, Théâtre L'Escaouette, the Discovery Centre, Moncton High, on to the library and University of Moncton.

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