Council presented with results of library pre-planning study

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Three possible locations have been proposed for a new 50,000 square foot (sq. ft.) Airdrie Public Library building, outlined in the results of the Airdrie Public Library’s (APL) Facility Pre-planning Study presented to Airdrie City council at its Aug. 20 regular meeting.

“Essentially, the goal of this study is to present findings to guide and inform future planning and design,”  said architect Susanna Pon from IBI Group Architects (Canada) Ltd.

The consulting team considered the results of the APL’s 2014 facility needs assessment report in determining a set of site-selection criteria, according to Pon. Three locations were identified which best fit these criteria: the old Main Street fire hall site, the Nose Creek Valley Museum site and Airdrie Main Street Square (AMSQ), where the library is currently located.

Two of the three proposed sites will allow the library to be co-located with another organization, Pon said; only the AMSQ site would limit the library to a standalone space.

The proposed Main Street fire hall location includes a three-story building at the front of the site with two levels of underground parking and above ground parking located to the north. The building would be of sufficient size that a second organization could be housed within its walls, Pon said. Construction would take approximately 59 months and would require flood mitigation measures be put in place, due to the site’s proximity to Nose Creek. The library could continue to operate at its current location while construction was underway on the new building.

A new library and museum two-story building could be built on the site of the existing Nose Creek Valley Museum, according to Pon. This location would require no underground parking and would benefit from being located next to green space. Flood mitigation measures would be required – because of it’s location near Nose Creek – and noise and smell from the nearby CP Rail and civic works operations could be a factor. Museum operations would need to be moved elsewhere during the approximately 76-month construction, which is not ideal, according to Pon.

The AMSQ site benefits from being located on Main Street – a very visible and desirable location, Pon said. The proposed two-story building would also require two levels of underground parking. A building along the east side of the site would be demolished to provide above ground parking, displacing a number of current tenants. Construction would take approximately 78 months, according to Pon, and the library would have to be relocated or shut down during construction.

While council was only being provided with preliminary information at this time, Coun. Tina Petrow said she had reservations about how the three potential sites had been chosen and evaluated.

“For me, it’s making sure we’ve looked at every possibility before making a decision,” she said. “My reservations are about the process to get to that data [presented by Pon], because while the report didn’t give us a clear, ‘This is where the library should go,’ it did give us a front-runner, based on data and a grading system they used to determine that.”

Petrow said she felt the grading system was based on assumptions around the future of the three potential sites. Leaving out data collected during consultation about a conceptual downtown project, which included a 40,000 square foot library called The Square, was potentially a misuse of taxpayers’ money, she said.

Plans for The Square were halted Nov. 7, 2016, after public outcry about the way the project was announced and how the AMSQ board functioned. Questions arose about the cost of the project, possible conflict of interest and the lack of public consultation on the proposed project. The board has since been re-formed to include four members of the public, not only councillors as it was before the controversy.

“There was considerable taxpayer resources put into consultations for [The Square], as well as the site evaluation, and none of that previous Square project was included in this [evaluation],” Petrow said. “I’d rather take more time and make sure we do this right.”

Coun. Al Jones voiced support for the old fire hall location and said he felt residents deserved more than a standalone library for the amount of money that will potentially be spent.

Council voted unanimously to direct staff to facilitate a meeting with the APL board and council as soon as possible to go over the report in detail.

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