Architects wanted: City sets preliminary timelines for Ottawa's new central library

Got a vision for the central library project, and the skills to see it through to completion? The City of Ottawa wants you to get that resumé ready.

Request for proposals for $168M 'super library' could be issued later this year

This city-owned property bounded by Albert Street, Commissioner Street and the Confederation light rail line is the recommended site for Ottawa's new flagship library. (Joanne Chianello/CBC)

Architects interested in building Ottawa's long-anticipated new central library, get those resumés ready.

notice of planned procurement posted Friday on online tender site MERX sets out the timelines for a "two-stage competitive process" to build the $168-million flagship branch on the eastern edge of LeBreton Flats.

According to the notice, the city is looking for a design team that's completed a project of "similar size, scope and complexity" to what's been proposed for the so-called "super library": a 216,000 square-foot facility that the Ottawa Public Library would share with Library and Archives Canada.

City council gave the go-ahead last month to build the library on the municipally owned land at 557 Wellington St. after three years of studies, reports and consultations.

More than half of the library's space would go to the city branch.

While the city is looking for a firm with serious credentials, the notice isn't requiring experience building either a library or an archive.

"Other relevant project experience could include buildings of national, provincial, institutional or civic importance such as cultural institutions, performing arts centres or museums," the notice says.

The city's preliminary schedule would see a request for qualifications issued in the second quarter of 2017, which would lead to a short list of acceptable firms.

A request for proposals would follow in the third quarter of 2017. The "ideal team" would also be able to manage and conduct public consultations, the notice says.

Critics have said the future library's site on the eastern edge of LeBreton Flats (left) will be less centrally located than the city's current main branch (right). (Joanne Chianello/CBC, Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Although the federal government hasn't approved the partnership yet, the plan has been for the library's groundbreaking to be held in mid-2018, construction to begin in 2020, and an opening date in 2022.

There have been arguments against the Wellington Street site, however, which is bounded by Albert and Commissioner streets and the Confederation Line, and is about 250 metres away from the future Pimisi LRT station.

One of the major criticisms has been that the site is not close enough to where downtown residents currently live.

As well, some have argued that its impending location below the Nanny Goat Hill escarpment could make it less accessible for people with mobility issues.

Don't give up hope, CEO urges

Ottawa Public Library CEO Danielle McDonald told CBC News Friday afternoon that the ability to consult with the public on the library's design would be a major factor in choosing the winning bid — and urged people unhappy with the Wellington Street site not to give up hope.

"We want everybody to come to the space," McDonald said. "This is the location that has been selected, [but] I think there's still a lot of room in terms of how the site's going to evolve."

The Beaverbrook library branch in Kanata offers a glimpse — albeit on a smaller scale — as to what design features would be ideal for the city's new central branch, said Ottawa Public Library CEO Danielle McDonald. (City of Ottawa)

McDonald said she hoped the award-winning Halifax Central Library, which opened 2014, could provide inspiration for design teams in their submissions. 

But she added that elements of a successful 21st century library already exist in Ottawa on a smaller scale at Kanata's Beaverbrook branch, which also underwent a major redesign between 2013 and 2014.

"That's won awards, not only for design but for sustainability," said McDonald. "It really is kind of our signature library, and where we want to go."