Council approves additional spending on new downtown library
The design for the new super library at LeBreton Flats, which will host the Ottawa Public Library main branch and Library and Archives Canada's headquarters. (Courtesy: Diamond Schmitt Architects)
OTTAWA -- Ottawa City Council has approved additional spending to help build the new joint Ottawa Public Library and Library and Archives Canada facility at LeBreton Flats.
Last week, the finance and economic development committee (FEDCo) voted 10-0 for the additional spending, which city staff say is necessary due to construction inflation.
The joint project with Library and Archives Canada, named Adisoke, is now expected to cost $306 million, up from an estimated $175 million price tag in 2018.
The council vote was not without debate. Coun. Riley Brockington expressed opposition to a 200-space underground parking garage, arguing that the future library's proximity to LRT should encourage residents to use public transit.
"I do think there should be surface parking, but not an underground parking garage. No Ottawa Public Library Branch has underground parking in this city," he said.
Coun. Catherine McKenney also expressed concerns about the underground parking garage and suggested the city was rushing the project forward.
Stephen Willis, the city's general manager of planning, infrastructure and economic development noted that the parking spaces are full cost-recovery, meaning parking users would be paying to park, eventually covering the cost of building the garage.
City staff recommended council approve spending $9.6 million for the City-owned underground parking facility through tax supported debt, with the debt servicing funded from net parking revenues.
Councillors Brockington, McKenney, as well as Coun. Shawn Menard dissented on funding the parking garage but did end up voting in favour of the overall plan.
Coun. Rick Chiarelli reminded councillors that the project is a joint project with Library and Archives Canada, something Mayor Jim Watson also pointed out.
"We cannot forget that this is a partnership. If you vote against this and it loses, there goes the partnership. The first time the federal government has partnered with a municipal library to join the facilities together," Watson said.
The federal treasury board has already approved funding for its half of the project.
The only councillor to vote against the additional spending was Carol Anne Meehan, who objected to the increased cost and the additional interest charges on the debt required to fund it as well as what she considered a lack of debate on the extra spending.
"The additional costs of this library got very little airing. It was basically rubber-stamped at FEDCo and then it went to the library board, where again it was rubber-stamped," Meehan said.
"We need the library, but we have to have a fulsome discussion about what this actually means. I know the treasurer says this is affordable and our debt ceiling is nowhere near being reached but, when this is all said and done, this will impact projects in our city. I has to."
The final vote was 22 to 1.
The library is scheduled to reopen in mid-2026.