Victoria council looks to make over or move downtown central library

Victoria council plans to look at the feasibility of redeveloping or moving the central branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library, which has been in its current location on Broughton Street since 1990.

A feasibility study is scheduled for completion in 15 months and has a budget of $200,000.

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The central branch — set around a courtyard shared with provincial government offices — moved to the site after outgrowing its Yates Street location in what was seen as a temporary measure.

The site was established in 1980 on two strata lots, but was not designed for library use. The strata lot where the library sits is jointly owned by Victoria, Saanich, View Royal, Oak Bay and Esquimalt, while the other lot is owned by the province.

Potential redevelopment of the Broughton Street branch was approved in the city’s ­2019-2022 strategic plan.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said if the branch was to move, it could involve the use of city land or some sort of partnership.

“The fact that the library board sees value in redeveloping the central library, I think, is yet another vote of confidence in the downtown of the region and in downtown Victoria,” she said.

“People want to come to the library downtown. There’s a need for a larger library downtown and I think that speaks to a bright future for the city.”

Helps said people look at the library not only as a place to get books “but for social connection, for learning and for creating a sense of community and belonging.”

Greater Victoria Public Library chief executive Maureen Sawa said she is happy council realized the need for the study.

“We’re very pleased and really grateful, and commend the City of Victoria for moving this forward,” she said. “We certainly recognize that the current central branch has outgrown its space, and there’s so many things that we would like to do as the community’s living room, so to speak. We are quite limited now with the current facility.”

The central location is the largest of the Greater Victoria Public Library system’s 12 branches at 45,000 square feet.

A report to council by Thomas Soulliere, director of parks, ­recreation and facilities, said the Broughton Street branch has constraints to growth and is not sufficient to meet the region’s needs. It said the required expansion would be 17,000 to 23,000 square feet.

A 2004 proposal to relocate the central branch to the former Hudson’s Bay building on Douglas Street fell apart when no deal could be reached with RG Properties. A 2015 assessment determined that the library building had been well maintained but many elements would need replacing in 10 years.

Helps said library staff deserves thanks for operating as efficiently as possible within the limitations of the central branch.

“They’ve done the very best with the space as it exists.”

jbell@timescolonist.com

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