In a move many didn’t see coming, the downtown Milner Library will close for at least two years and likely two and a half while a $62 million renovation is carried out. A popular thought, even among some city councillors was that the renovation would be carried out, while library operations continued in the fifty-plus year old building.
Downtown library services will move to a temporary location at Enterprise Square, three blocks to the west.
Library CEO Pilar Martinez confirmed the move in an interview. “Right now the estimate is two and a half to three years,” Martinez said. “So we’re starting construction in early 2017 and we’ll be vacating the building at that time and will be delivering services out of the Enterprise Square site shortly there after so with a very small if any closure window to the public so that we have that transition where we have that continuity of service.”
“It saves millions of dollars, just the safety piece of it, having to shift people from floor to floor while the construction workers work on one floor then having to move people around. The access was a real challenge, the LRT construction is happening at the same time so the design team debated and felt this was the best decision.”
The budget is made up of $52 million in city money, and $10 million from the philanthropic community. Pilar reports they’re about halfway towards their target.
“It would have been at least three years. We’ve done smaller renovation projects and I think it’s been incredibly disruptive but the extent of this renovation, there was too much concern in terms of safety and then that combined with the cost savings and the time compression that we’d achieve was the deciding factor.”
The closure and move had been kept quiet until the final business day of the month heading into the Canada Day long weekend while the final negotiations were cleared up in acquiring a lease for Enterprise Square.
“We’re very interested in that continuity of service, but had to secure another site and go through the exercise of the costings to see what it would look like if we remained in the building, and if it was even possible. This building has asbestos and given that we’ll be touching every single floor it was just way too complicated.”
“The social workers will be going there. Anything that’s related to delivering service to the public.” The one exception is, they won’t have the meeting space at Enterprise Square that’s normally available at Milner.
The Second Cup location closed earlier this week.
Administrative staff will move to another downtown location.
The Library Parkade will continue operation during the renovation. The work is being timed to coincide with the construction out the front door of the Metro Line LRT. Both are expected to wrap up by 2020.