Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Library Location Location Location

While heading back from City Hall via the Library the other day, I noticed how few potential sites there are for a new Library. Recall that the new site is supposed to be on land now used for a parking lot, in the area bounded by Wellington-Bronson-Gloucester-Canal. That isn't a very large area. And I suspect the library people will want a fairly sprawling building rather than trying to fit one onto a tight site, given their desire for public visibility, easy access, and desire for a multi-purpose building with meeting rooms, etc.

So as I walked I speculated on the various lots in the downtown core.

The most obvious first choice location would be the Concert Hall site behind Friday's Roast Beef House on Elgin. It has three street frontages, is only half a block from the existing library (wouldn't want to get lost), there is already a developer who expressed interest in a public-private partnership, and it wouldn't surprise me if the concert hall made another appearance, perhaps disguised as a multipurpose auditorium/hall. This would certainly satisfy a lot of interested parties. Plus it's close to the political sources of funding (city hall).

The next most likely choice would be the old Ottawa Tech High School site. The school board cannot sit on it forever, essentially vacant. The recently approved Escarpment Plan identified the site for a lot of high rise development, provided a chunk of the site is given over for parkland. It would be such nice cover for the board to sell of the site for both a library (public good!) and high rises (back pocket money). It would kick start the redevelopment of the west side of the core. It could also incorporate the old Ottawa Tech auditorium. It would tie directly into the first downtown underground transit tunnel station. It would be harder to criticize by lefties since the buyer, seller, and developer are all "the public".

Another potential site is the entire city block currently owned by the CS CoOp. The east part of the lot, by Constitution Square office building, is ideal for office development whereas the west part of the site is better for residential development. This makes the development attractive for a common podium building holding the library. It could be directly connected to the DOTT.

Other vacant lots include the lot behind Barbarella's Club, facing the Crowne Plaza; and the three tower lot facing Holt Renfrew. I think the former site is too small and rather far north for the library. The Holt site is large enough but its owners probably see a lot more money in 100% commercial development unless the city is willing to pay top dollar. There are proposed developments around Christ Church Cathedral, a prestige site but Libraries do not need sites with a view.

So the three sites I rate most likely, in order, are the Concert Hall site, the Ottawa Tech site, the CoOp site. Where else might it go? Let me know your speculations please.


  1. Oh, Another potential site is the former Union Station / Govt Conference Centre. The DOTT planning documents actually identify this as a major civic building, eg Library. It would be above a transit station, and bridge the office downtown to the Rideau St downtown. While is has a grand concourse, I doubt the Library would find it attractive to redevelop into a libary. It also lacks parking.

    -Eric darwin

  2. Is the CS CoOp lot the one that that's at Queen and Kent? If so, that'd get my vote... I find it's probably one of the biggest wastes of space in the core, and badly needs redevelopment into something. A couple of mixed-use towers with a library podium would be a good fit, I think.

  3. Queen and Kent faces the Holt Renfrew store ... it is to be 3 office towers once the builder finds a tennant. I think this site is too valuable to the landlord as commercial space and thus its not a prime site in my mind. The CS CoOp site is further west, facing the Crown Plaza hotel, bounded by Lyon, Albert, Slater, and Bay streets. The CS CoOp current building is in the centre of the block. They own the whole block.

  4. Good list. Any idea when they are doing to announce their choice? I was hoping that they'd make an announcement in May. The library board keeps having in camera meetings "to discuss a pending acquisition."

  5. FYI:
    Ottawa One Step Closer to New Central Library
    June 10, 2009

    Ottawa - The Ottawa Public Library (OPL) Board today unveiled the proposed site for Ottawa’s new central library, a city block bordered by Albert, Lyon, Bay and Slater streets. Chosen for its central location, the site would place the new building on top of the first downtown tunnel stop and will link to existing transit and pedestrian traffic. As a major public institution, the new library will be a catalyst for economic development.

    For details visit http://www.biblioottawalibrary.ca/explore/about/libraries/new_central_library_e.html