People want to see other options for new Sydney library
Library planner Jim Morgenstern didn’t mince words about the present state of Sydney’s James McConnell Memorial Library on Tuesday night.
“This is not a great library by any stretch of the imagination,” Morgenstern said during a public meeting on the findings of the new Sydney library feasibility study at the McConnell. “This library can’t continue.”
For Morgenstern, that means the Sydney library is too small for a community of this size and it can’t supply the services that are expected from contemporary libraries.
Morgenstern, of dmA Planning Management Services, along with architect Spyro Trifos and accountant John Nash presented their findings on three options to about 100 people who showed up at the public meeting. But it soon became apparent that members of the audience felt other ideas should be explored further as well.
The three main options are for facilities that would encompass 40,000 square feet.
The capital cost would range from a low of about $ 18 million for option three if the former Target retail space was retrofitted, to $ 28 million for the two new build concepts, with the first option located on Cape Breton Regional Municipality- owned property across from the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion and the second at the site of the fire station on the Esplanade. Option one is a new, twostorey standalone building on the boardwalk, opposite the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavillion. Option two would be a mixed- use complex that would also feature the relocated Nova Scotia Community College campus. Option three would involve retrofitting the existing former Target building and would feature plenty of parking, near a centre of shopping and would be as much as $ 10 million cheaper than the other two options. But it would remain in the ownership of a landlord. The total cost for option one, not including HST, would be $ 25,940,000 at $ 600 per square foot; option two would be $ 27,808,000 at $ 695 per square foot; and option three would be $ 17,784,000 at $ 445 per square foot.
Cape Breton Books publisher and library committee member Ron Caplan made it clear at the meeting that he wanted more ideas and options considered.
“Every one thinks we’re stuck with only these three options and that’s not the case,” said Caplan. “I think we’re passing up the downtown. Let’s have an entrance on Charlotte Street and one on the Esplanade. I think we have a courageous opportunity to revitalize the downtown area and the harbourfront is not the downtown area.”
Several members of the audience also expressed concern about placing another building on the waterfront, creating more congestion on the Esplanade and essentially wiping out any views of the harbour. John Nash said that for the purposes of the study, representative sites were chosen but no hard decisions have been made.
“But the basic costs of buildings remain the same, no matter where you locate it.”
While option two includes the presence of the NSCC campus on site, the actual community library would be its own separate entity. However, pairing the two institutions together could result in other benefits, said Trifos.
“The closer association of major institutions with students and staff downtown would strengthen the urban core,” said Trifos.
CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke stressed that while the project is an expensive one, a new library is needed and the community needs to work together to bring it to fruition.
“We’re economically strained but we must move forward to meet this community’s needs,” said Clarke.
Library supporter Ron Caplan makes a point during a public meeting about possible future library options on Tuesday evening. Caplan, who is Cape Breton Books publisher and a library committee member, said he wanted more ideas and options considered.
This image shows option two for the new library — a shared mixed-use complex at the Mercer Service Station and Sydney Fire Station site on the Esplanade in Sydney.
This image shows option one for the new library — a new building on a CBRM lot across from the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion.
This image shows option three for the new library — a retrofit of the former Target store on Prince Street in Sydney.