Regina Public Library says building new central location could cost $125M

Regina's catalyst committee wrapped up its week of public consultations by turning to the conundrum of its central library.

Officials said building a new facility will allow them to get the best use out of the space

Information boards on five major projects for the City of Regina are shared at the public consultations held by the catalyst committee.
The City of Regina's catalyst committee wrapped up its public meetings on Thursday. (Alexander Quon/CBC )

Regina has begun examining the future of the city's central library and whether it would be better to fix it and bring it up to code, or tear it down and start over.

Discussion on the topic was the focus of the fourth and final day of public meetings held by the city's catalyst committee.

Officials with Regina Public Library (RPL) led a presentation that highlighted why the organization's board voted to endorse tearing the current central library down and building a new facility in its place.

Thursday's meeting was dominated by members of the public calling for the city to preserve the current facility as it is, while carrying out much needed repairs.

The catalyst committee now has the unenviable task of balancing those competing voices as it makes a recommendation to city council.

Catalyst committee

The committee has been tasked by Regina city council with overseeing five major projects that could shape the city's downtown core.

They include a new aquatic facility, a replacement for the Brandt Centre, a possible baseball stadium, an outdoor soccer field and the modernization of the central library. The committee draws its name from the belief that the projects would be catalysts for growth, development and private funding in Regina.

It's being co-chaired by Coun. Bob Hawkins and Tim Reid, CEO of Regina Exhibition Association Limited.

The current central library location needs $50 million in repairs, according to the Regina Public Library. (Alexander Quon/CBC)

On Thursday, the public heard that the 60-year-old central library is out of date. While it was state of the art when built in 1962, it is out of date, the presentation said.

The library was built to to serve a population of 110,000. Regina's population in the 2021 census was more than double that at 249,000 people.

The facility is also in desperate need of repair. Among the issues that need to be addressed are an inadequate heating system and aging electrical infrastructure.

LISTEN| Regina Public Library board votes to tear down and build new building downtown

We hear from Joanne Havelock with the Friends of the Regina Public Library, who wanted this vote delayed. We also hear from chair Sean Quinlan who voted in favour of demolishing the old building and constructing new.

A presentation made to council earlier this year highlighted that the building's roof is only "set on top" of the walls and "is not reinforced." The concrete in the building is also deteriorating, the ceiling has asbestos and there are other unspecified safety issues. Some windows are not insulated and many are installed backwards.

Over the past decade the library has spent $3.2 million on necessary building maintenance and the number of issues continue to grow, officials with the public library said on Thursday.

There are also larger structural problems that make the facility difficult to retrofit and deal with a multitude of accessibility issues.

Just to bring the building up to code would cost approximately $50 million, they said. That price tag that would not include any improvements or changes to the space.

As a result, RPL has said a better option is to tear down the existing structure and build an entirely new facility, with a cost of approximately $125 million.

New space needed: RPL

Officials said the current library was built when libraries were just about books. Now, it's not capable of offering the services expected of a modern library.

"The library is about half the size it needs to be, said Jeff Barber," CEO of the Regina Public Library.

"Every time we are working with a new service we have to figure out where are we going to puzzle it into the picture."

Barber pointed to the Halifax Central Library, Calgary Central Library and the recently revealed upcoming Saskatoon Central Library as examples of what a new facility could achieve.

Those facilities serve a variety of purposes and are warm, inviting and accessible, he said.

"Halifax is just about 10 years old. And the growth in the neighborhood around that library is tremendous," Barber said.

The Halifax Central Library was used as an example of what a modern library can do to serve the public. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Members of the public at Thursday's public session expressed concern about tearing down a historic building in the city's downtown core.

Others called for the city to complete the necessary upgrades and use the money that would be saved on addressing social issues.

"A great deal of money could be saved by the by by reconstruction rather than constructing a new one all over again, and that money could be put toward ending homelessness in the city," said Florence Stratton, a Regina resident.

Thursday marked the end of the catalyst committee's public consultations, although it is continuing to direct anyone interested in providing feedback to do so on the city's website.

The committee is set to meet next week as it gears up to prepare a report full of recommendations on each of the projects. That report is due by the end of the year.


Alexander Quon is a reporter with CBC Saskatchewan based in Regina. After working in Atlantic Canada for four years he's happy to be back in his home province. He has previously worked with the CBC News investigative unit in Nova Scotia and Global News in Halifax. Alexander specializes in data-reporting, COVID-19 and municipal political coverage. He can be reached at: