Super library architects ‘begin the conversation’ on design

Architects designing the super library on LeBreton Flats are launching the public consultation program this month with an eye to examining site’s relationship with the natural environment, downtown core and parliamentary precinct.

Donald Schmitt, the project’s lead architect, told Ottawa Public Library board trustees Tuesday that “we’re really going to begin the conversation and get into it in detail.”

Diamond Schmitt Architects and KWC Architects are designing the $192.9-million super library, which is scheduled to open in 2024 at 555 Albert St.

The building will have spaces for the Ottawa Public Library and Library and Archives Canada. The city is paying $104.2 million for the building, plus $18.1 million for an underground parking garage. Library and Archives is contributing $70.6 million for the building.

The architects have launched a public consultation called the Inspire555 Series. People can start signing up on Friday, via a project website, for design workshops that will begin later this month.

Schmitt said the consultation program will break down five ways: local outreach, Indigenous consultation, exploring the “national dimension” of the facility, a speaker series bringing experts into the conversation, and online engagement.

People participating in the consultation could see very rough concepts of what a library might look like.

Schmitt said architects could present some sketches so people understand the potential scale of the building, but they don’t want to lead people too much since they want feedback to guide the ultimate design.

“It’s walking a fine line,” Schmitt said.

The OPL on Tuesday also tabled a draft 2019 budget, proposing to spend $53.2 million to run the municipal library network, a small increase from the previous year.

When revenues like provincial grants and fines are factored in, the library’s proposed 2019 net budget is $50.4 million, which falls in line with city council’s rule that tax-supported programs can’t increase more than three per cent. If council approves the budget, the library would get about $2.2 million more from the city in 2019.

The capital budget would be about $2 million, covering branch improvements and new library materials. The library is upgrading the Rosemount branch, improving technology across the network and planning new branches in the urban east area and in Riverside South.

The 2019 budget proposals for all city-funded services are rolling out this week.

The Ottawa Public Health board received the health unit’s draft $62.1-million budget on Monday night. About 85 per cent of the budget accounts for programs cost-shared between the city and the province, while 12 per cent is funded solely by the province, and another two per cent is funded solely by city money. The rest is paid through fees for services. The health unit is counting on receiving $630,000 more from the provincial government this year.

The Ottawa Police Services Board, transit commission and the rest of city operations will release their draft budgets Wednesday.

Council will vote on all city-funded budgets March 6.