City council approves extra $65M for future central library

·2 min read
City council voted Wednesday in favour of increasing its share of the cost of the future central library project at LeBreton Flats, a joint project with Library and Archives Canada. (City of Ottawa - image credit)
City council voted Wednesday in favour of increasing its share of the cost of the future central library project at LeBreton Flats, a joint project with Library and Archives Canada. (City of Ottawa - image credit)

Ottawa's city council has voted to spend an extra $65 million on the future central library to be built at LeBreton Flats, after increased construction costs caused the cost of the project to rise substantially.

The price tag for the project known as Ādisōke, an Anishinaabemowin phrase that means storytelling, recently shot up $131 million — an increase of almost 75 per cent — to $306 million.

The new central branch is a joint project with Library and Archives Canada, with the cost split roughly 60-40 between the city and the LAC.

The Treasury Board had already approved the increased costs for the federal part of the project, while Ottawa's finance and economic development committee agreed to allocate the city's portion earlier this month.

A report released earlier this month revealed how tight pandemic supply chains and construction inflation had caused the budget for Ādisōke to soar.

It pinned the blame on the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting material shortages, supply chain pressures, and an overall "superheated market."

Meehan lone vote against

Council ultimately voted 22 to 1 Wednesday in favour of the overall plan for increased funding, a mix of city borrowing and money drawn from library funds.

City of Ottawa
City of Ottawa

Coun. Carol Anne Meehan, a library board member, was the lone vote against. She cited concerns about the tight timelines and the effect the increased spending could have on other municipal projects.

"The bottom line is, when this is all said and done, this will impact projects in our city. It has to," said Meehan.

"We get turned down so often on other things that we need in our communities. I think it's not fair that this just goes through the way it has."

Several other councillors dissented against specific items, including funding for an underground parking garage to be built on the LRT-adjacent site, but ultimately voted in favour.

Before the vote, Mayor Jim Watson urged his council colleagues not to get hung up on the project's minutiae but instead consider "the incredible potential of this building."

The facility, to be built by Toronto architecture firm Diamond Schmitt — the same firm that redesigned the National Arts Centre — would be carbon neutral, designed with future pandemics in mind, and ultimately transform the city's downtown, Watson said.

"When you look back on LeBreton Flats, it's been 60 years of dithering and failure," he said. "This will be the first significant project that will kick-start the entire rejuvenation and revitalization of LeBreton Flats."

The new central library is slated to open in 2026.

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