A final decision on the Greater Sudbury library/art gallery project is still on the horizon, but Greater Sudbury Public Library CEO Brian Harding said the city’s latest plan is promising.
Initial planning between the city and library board has been “very productive,” the library CEO/chief librarian told Sudbury.com.
“We’re seeing there’s a good fit between the existing facility and our functional requirements,” he said, describing Tom Davies Square as an “iconic building” reminiscent of other libraries with open atriums, such as the Toronto Reference Library.
The city’s new central library project has taken many forms in recent years, most notably a $98.5-million Junction East Cultural Hub project, which was to take shape next to the Sudbury Theatre Centre building downtown.
This library/art gallery project was put on pause earlier this year, when city council voted to shave $33.5 million from the project by looking at alternative locations.
A repurposing of city hall (Tom Davies Square) is currently being investigated as the alternative location, with city staff expected to table a detailed update report by the end of the year.
A media release issued by the Greater Sudbury Public Library on Nov. 2 sought to establish that the library board has been working with the city on the project, and has seen promising results thus far, Harding said.
“We’re committed to this process that council has directed, and we’re doing a lot of the work to do that evaluation,” Harding told Sudbury.com.
“We’re excited about the potential that we can transform that public space into a space people will want to linger and spend time and do their homework and apply for a job, and feel welcome in that really iconic space that forms the heart of the city. ... It’s looking like this may be a viable option for the central library.”
In their media release, board chair Michael Bellmore said the new location “maintains the vision we developed for Junction East, while adapting existing city-owned infrastructure rather than building new.”
In addition to the project’s latest incarnation being the repurposing of an existing building rather than a new build, Harding said another key difference between this and the Junction East Cultural Hub is that it will accommodate more municipal services.
It’s anticipated the city’s One-Stop Services centre will be retained in the renovated space.
“We know that combination of municipal service and library service works well, it’s convenient for people, and we look forward to replicating that in this new building,” he said.
One potential downside to the Tom Davies Square versus the Junction East Cultural Hub is that the new build was going to be “future-proof,” with hollow floors easily accommodating whatever wiring future technological advancements require.
That said, Harding clarified that he’s confident Tom Davies Square will be able to accommodate what they presently need.
Sudbury.com reached out to the Art Gallery of Sudbury for their view on how the Tom Davies Square proposal compares to the Junction East Cultural Hub, but curator/director Demetra Christakos said they’re not ready to comment.
On Aug. 2, they learned the spaces provided for the gallery at Tom Davies Square were in the 199 Larch St. building, and not 200 Brady St., where the library will be located.
“Since then, we have been working with city staff on the fit and feasibility of that proposal for the Art Gallery of Sudbury,” she said by emailed correspondence. “We still have some work to do before we can provide further feedback.”
The City of Greater Sudbury owns both 199 Larch St. and 200 Brady St., which are connected.
The 199 Larch St. building is the taller of the two, and is currently more than half empty, and is proposed to house whatever municipal services vacate 200 Brady St. (at its immediate south) to make room for the library project.
More project details are anticipated to come to light when city administration presents the latest information at a city council meeting slated to take place by the end of the year.
During administration’s latest presentation to city council in September, it was noted that their next presentation would include both conceptual designs and a projected budget for both the cultural hub at Tom Davies Square and the municipal services relocation effort.
Harding said the library board would also be presenting at this city council meeting.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.