Plan eyes real costs of library
Written By: Guelph Tribune - Doug Hallett | August 10th, 2012
Plan eyes real costs of library
By Doug Hallett
City hall is getting ready to take a hard look at how much it would cost the city to get a new main library and public parking built as part of a public-private partnership to redevelop the Baker Street Parking Lot.
“We need to take the rose-coloured glasses off” and get a “reasonable estimate” of how much public cost could be offset by private money going into the proposed redevelopment, said Ian Panabaker, the city’s corporate manager of downtown renewal. City staff are launching a two-phase project this month on Baker Street redevelopment, and they hope to go to city council with a detailed business case by the end of 2012 or early 2013. A start on construction of a new 90,000-sq.-ft. headquarters library around 2017 “is the sort of zone we are thinking,” Panabaker said in an interview Thursday. “Five years out is still the reasonable expectation.”
However, a better idea of time lines will be known once the detailed business case is done, he said. As part of the work to be done with help from an international consulting firm, the city will seek public input this fall on some crucial issues, such as long-term ownership of a new main library and the possible forms a public-private partnership might take. This includes “who owns it, how it is built and how it is maintained,” Panabaker said.
The two-phase project is starting with research into “reasonable” cost and revenue estimates for redevelopment of the Baker Street Parking Lot, he said.
The city will also do a “gaps analysis” to look at whether there are “things that the downtown is missing” that might occupy ground-level space in such a redevelopment. The proposed redevelopment “is one of the only large-scale things that will happen in the upper town,” so it’s important to look at any gaps there might be, he said.
Council “never said no” to building a new main library within 10 years, Panabaker said, but it didn’t want to include a new library as a “conventional city project” in the new 10-year capital forecast that was unveiled last fall. The door was left open for consideration of a new library on Upper Wyndham Street, backing onto the Baker Street lot, once a good business case is developed, he said.
The five-year estimate for a construction start is based on how long it would take, once a business case is okayed, to get through the complicated work of dealing with a Request for Proposals from the private sector, he said.
The city has hired LiveWorkLearnPlay Inc., an international real estate advisory and development firm, to help staff with both phases of the work this year. The firm, which has a Toronto office, has “a really unique expertise in programming mixed-use space,” said Panabaker.
The $100,000 cost of the two-phase work that starts this month is coming from a $200,000 fund approved by council last November, he said.
The current work isn’t about refining the design of a new library, which would be done later, Panabaker said. Rather, it’s about “making critical decisions for mobilizing and achieving the project.”
The city is looking at not just at a 90,000-sq.-ft. library, but also at public parking and the possibility of “several hundred housing units,” as well as commercial and other space on the Baker Street Parking Lot, he said.
After releasing a study done by a Hamilton architectural consultant and a New York City design consultant, chief librarian Kitty Pope said last November that a condo tower might be built on top of a portion of a new main library.
Council approved the Wyndham Street site, just north of the former post office building, for a new library in February 2009.
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