February 17, 2018

Ottawa Gets Unsolicited Offer for a New Library

By LJ Staff

The City of Ottawa, ON, has received an unsolicited $150 million CDN ($126.7 million USD) proposal for a new public library. A developer who owns land near a proposed light rail transit hub is offering to build a 271,000 square foot library on six floors, with a private condominium development above. It offers a lease-to-own arrangement over a 25- or 35-year financing period, with an annual payment of approximately $10 million CDN ($8.55 million USD), depending on the term of the lease. "Everything is negotiable," said Ottawa Public Library director Barbara Clubb. There are plans for future expansion and opportunities to add on other functions, such as municipal archives.

"While, it is exciting that the private sector felt it has financial viability… we are a long way from a final deal. We all realize that public consultation and support is key for such a large project however it is developed. And of course it has to be approved by the library board and council," Clubb said. While financing wouldn’t be implemented before 2010, the board referred the proposal to the building committee. The committee will make its recommendations to the board by November or December. The mayor, library board, and staff have wanted a new central library for some years, explained Clubb. However, the municipality and the library went through an amalgamation in 2001 where 12 municipalities and 11 municipal library boards merged to become one city of 854,000 with one library board. Capital funds are very tight and none have been identified for a new central library, even though some preliminary studies had been done. The current main library was built in 1974 for a city of about 250,000. Built in the "neo-brutalist" style, said Clubb, at 90,000 square feet, it "does not meet the needs of our new city."