OPL can raise up to $15M for new central library: report

The Ottawa Public Library can potentially raise as much as $15 million toward a new central branch beside LeBreton Flats, but it won't be easy, according to a consultant's report.

Fundraising comes with challenges, consultant warns

This site at 557 Wellington St. has been set aside for Ottawa's new central library, a project expected to cost nearly $200 million. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

The Ottawa Public Library can potentially raise as much as $15 million toward a new central branch beside LeBreton Flats, but it won't be easy, according to a consultant's report.

Ketchum Canada Inc. (KCI), a firm that works with charities on their fundraising efforts, studied the project and concluded there are enough donors and enough support to raise at least $10 million for new library programming. 

The city has approved $104 million and the federal government has committed $73 million toward the project, which will also include space for Library and Archives Canada. The government funding should cover construction costs, but the fundraising would help with programming in the library system when the branch opens. 

Based on a survey of major donors in the region, KCI said $10 million to $15 million is feasible, but there are significant challenges, including competition from fundraising campaigns for other causes, such as the new Civic hospital.

"A solid and highly targeted strategy and plan will be required with the involvement of a dedicated team of staff and volunteers," KCI concluded.

Spend money to make money

The Ottawa Public Library (OPL) board will be asked at its meeting Tuesday to consider spending $1.72 million over the next five years on staff and a marketing strategy to steer the fundraising effort.

To reach the target, KCI envisions most of the money will come in the form of large donations. Topping the list would be an "aspirational" donation of $5 million, followed by 10 donations of between $250,000 and $2.5 million, then 105 donors contributing between $10,000 and $100,000.

It will take five years to raise the money, KCI said. The consultant also believes the largest donation won't necessarily come from a single, deep-pocketed source, but from a group of donors.

Diamond Schmitt Architects recently completed a major renovation of the National Arts Centre. (Diamond Schmitt Architects)

Ottawa's 'new downtown'

Many potential donors see the new library, at 557 Wellington St., as an "opportunity to define the new Ottawa," and a building that will one day anchor the city's "new downtown" on LeBreton Flats, KCI said. But since that survey was conducted, the LeBreton Flats project has become mired in a dispute between the RendezVous LeBreton Group partners.

According to the report, the new library must deliver a design that makes a serious impact.

"There are very strong feelings about the physical look and feel and its impact on civic pride," KCI said.

Diamond Schmitt Architects of Toronto and Ottawa's KWC Architects won the bid to design the new building last month, and are expected to start public consultations next year.

KCI also suggests the fundraising effort could continue after the library opens to raise money for specific projects or initiatives.

The new library is expected to open in 2024.