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New downtown library in the works - Metro US

New downtown library in the works

When Ottawa’s new central library opens, the ribbon cutting ceremony might take place at the top of an escalator leading to the downtown transit tunnel.

Next week, the city’s finance committee will debate purchasing the property on the city block bound by Slater, Albert, Bay, and Lyon streets for around $26 million.

When it’s built, the library will become “an anchor cultural centre” for the west end of downtown and sit atop the proposed downtown west rapid transit station, said Coun. Peter Hume, chairman of the planning and environment committee.

A preliminary cost estimate for the new building has been set at around $180 million, but Coun. Jan Harder, chair of the Ottawa Public Library Board, said the design and layout of the building are far from being determined.

“It’s very fluid. That’s why we’re not showing a picture that says, this is what it looks like. We don’t know that,” said Harder. “What we do know is that it’s got a great location for transit and it’s walkable to every place in the downtown.”

City librarian Barbara Clubb said the city out grew the current 35-year-old central library building over a decade ago.

“It was built for a little tiny city of 250,000 people and now it’s undersized and overused,” she said. “It’s too small for the collections and the people and it’s too small for what needs to go on in that institution.”

Under the timeline set out by the OPL long-range financial plan, the earliest the new library could be completed is 2014, but Harder said it would be a challenge to have everything fall into place.

The preliminary timeline for the downtown Ottawa transit tunnel would have it opening sometime in 2015, so it’s conceivable both could open at the same time.

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