By Spencer Van Dyk
City Council officially voted 21–1 on Feb. 8 in favour of building Ottawa’s new Central Library at 557 Wellington St. after a controversial selection process and a near-unanimous recommendation last week by the Ottawa Public Library Board.
The OPL board had voted 8-1 to recommend the site to council.
Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, who also sits on the library board, was the only member to vote no at both the OPL and council meetings. The proposed site on the eastern edge of LeBreton Flats has been opposed by McKenney and many Centretown residents because it is deemed too far west of the downtown core and has accessibility limitations. The site is at the bottom of a steep hill, and there are concerns it is not within easy walking distance for the thousands of pedestrians who now frequent the library’s Main branch at Metcalfe and Laurier streets.
McKenney said the new site will mean the loss of a branch library in the downtown core, and that it means “leaving people behind” — regular library users who will no longer be able to easily get to the new Central Library on foot.
Mayor Jim Watson has been a long-time supporter of the 557 Wellington site, saying it’s got multiple advantages because of its proximity to an LRT station and since the land is already owned by the city.
The project is expected to cost about $168 million, with construction starting in 2020 and finishing in 2022. Library and Archives Canada, which would share the facility if the plan is approved by the federal government, would contribute about $69 million to construction costs.