New Library – Current vs Future Neighborhood

The City still has not announced where the new main branch library will be located. Councillor Chiarelli has said on Ken Gray’s blog The Bulldog that he fears it won’t be at Bayview. Apparently it will be on a site that is currently a full city block of parking.

If it is located near the downtown core on a block of parking lot, I truly hope it isn’t just another low rise such as this city favours so often, but is the base of a residential building. This would move us toward our goals of a sustainable, smart-growth city.

A location on a current parking lot means it won’t be at the old Union Station. The DOTT study maps somehow have identified the old station site as a “major civic structure, ie, library”.

The Bayview location had the same site advantages as claimed for the stadium and every other idea that comes along: located at the junction of the north/south and east/west and interprovincial transit lines. In this case, it would also be equidistant to both universities. And it would be in the centre of a high density population zone.

The main problem with Bayview is that the urban city hasn’t yet been built around it. Therefore the existing centretown residents have the ear of the council when they want the main branch to be their local branch. No one is there to champion the city building exercise that Bayview/LeBreton / Bayview-Carling redevelopment zone so badly needs.

The feds built the war museum on the Flats with great success. It turned a bleak, isolated area to one that is known once again to most residents of the city and visitors. It is a city-building anchor structure, much like a shopping mall needs a major as a anchor tennant. Once the mall has its anchors, they can rent the rest of the space. With the museum built, and LeBreton park started (it is grass with a border of trees, presumably over the years other amenities will appear) it gives residential pioneers something to reassure them that there will be a neighborhood (someday).

The city owns Bayview yards and has developed plans for a residential community there. Its plans call for a major civic structure located at Bayview Station on the west side of the OTrain tracks. Our previous councillor supported locating the library there, as does Chiarelli. I don’t see Holmes doing the same given her antipathy to the NCC’s development plans. Without a major non-residential component, we run the risk of brownfield redevelopments being just another residential suburb, in this case, a high rise suburb lacking street level vitality. At worse, we will end up with high rise blight like city’s built in the 1970s in Toronto and big cities elsewhere.

If a library isn’t built as an achor and catalist for urban redevelopment on the west side of the downtown, I hope the city can come up with something in the future … other than a stadium. Or maybe we will have to depend on the Feds again, if the Museum of Sci. and Tech. gets a Bayview site. And if the library is built in the existing downtown core, I hope it will be an urban structure rather than a low rise.

2 thoughts on “New Library – Current vs Future Neighborhood

  1. Interesting points all around. They should consider putting a grocery store in Lebreton Flats so that it, too, doesn’t become a food desert.

    As for the library, the City has learned its less not to build a library (especially the main branch) at the base of a building with another use. Its current arrangement, where it is at the base of an office tower, has made the current site useless for redevelopment. You can’t demosish the current library and build a bigger one, while leaving intact the functional and useful office building above it.

    I suspect the City will have a tough time figuring out what to do with the main branch once the new one is built, as there aren’t many uses that can take the place of a brutalist public library.

  2. I think the point is though, that the main branch needs to stay downtown. This city has become more urban, but still needs to tackle the downtown core outside of the Market to be truly successful, so taking away a major magnet like the central branch would be bad.

    I agree that the Bayview redevelopment needs something to focus it, but it need not necessarily be something huge and flashy. simply, zone and design Bayview Road so that it is a commercial strip along the same lines as Wellington West or Bank street, and let the neighbourhood’s identity make that area an attraction. I suspect that with a little local ingenuity and appropriate connections to the LRT there, that would be fine.

Comments are closed.