Bylaw amendment needed for central library location

THUNDER BAY – A major hurdle needs to be cleared for the Thunder Bay Public Library location at Intercity Shopping Centre (ISC).

Shannon Labelle, a planner II with the city, said a by-law change is needed so that the TBPL can assume a space that typically is known for big box retailers, large fat format stores or stores that have a regional draw.

“The underlying designation at ISC doesn't support a library at this location nor does the associated zoning by law,” explained Labelle.

“We continue to receive public feedback on this move and the review continues with our internal and external agencies. Once all of that background work is done, we will then make the recommendation to council.”

City council voted in June 2023 to endorse the Intercity branch concept, and take a closer look at two different options that the TBPL had put on the table to achieve it, both of which include branch closures.

Library administration had asked council to endorse one of three options, all of which would add a central branch. The first option would also maintain all four existing branches but downsize at Waverley and Brodie, the second would cut the Brodie branch, while the third would cut both Brodie and County Fair.

Council voted to have city staff examine both options two and three, reporting back by June of this year.

Library CEO Richard Togman can see the homestretch of this lengthy process.

“We have submitted our documentation and paperwork to the planning department, who are reviewing it. We are tentatively scheduled to go back before council on June 17 for the by-law recommendation and then a week later, we are set to be back in the chambers for financing the venture," he said.

Togman confirmed on Friday that there will be more public sessions on the central plan next month at the Waverley and Mary J.L. Black branches as well as the mall itself.

Those sessions will include more details, including potential blueprints as to what the repurposed space will look like.

Togman stressed that having a central location makes sense for Thunder Bay.

“The shopping centre has free parking from all major roadways. It's a major transit hub and Memorial Avenue is actually a designated pedestrian corridor. So, this location hits all the accessibility requirements, in addition to being accessible from a disability perspective,” Togman noted.

“We need more space. Right now, we are far below less than half the amount of the provincial standard for library square footage per resident. Getting this new central library will help us meet those targets.”

Kevin Jeffrey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TBnewswatch.com