In 1936, Emily Carr wrote in her journal that “there is nothing to compare with the push of life.”
The artist and author was referring to what she’d observed in the jungle: life finds a way to move forward. The old building that used to house the branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library named in Emily Carr’s honour is doing just that.
After many years of sitting relatively vacant, work is starting at the site of the old branch and bringing new life to the space.
In 2018, the District of Saanich began searching for solutions to their space-issue in Municipal Hall, said Kelsie McLeod, Saanich spokesperson. Staff from the city presented the option to relocate some staff to the site of the old Emily Carr library branch. The Emily Carr Library was housed on the site from 1972 to 2013. Following a vote by the Greater Victoria Library Board, the branch moved across the street to Uptown Mall — taking some 30,000 books with it.
The location has been used by different groups since 2013, but has sat mostly unused.
In the summer of 2018, the former mayor of Saanich, Richard Atwell, had proposed turning the building into a supportive housing site. He requested that Saanich council consider the concept as a potential solution to the tent city that had formed in Regina Park.
“[However,] in December 2018, council approved $2.1 million to move forward with renovating [the] space and also renovating some areas in Municipal Hall,” said McLeod.
The building is set to serve as office space for engineering and occupational health and safety staff from the city, she said, and they can be expected to make the move to the new location in 2020.
On Thursday, crews appeared on site to begin the process of preparing the site for renovation.
“Hazardous material abatement is currently underway to prepare the space at 3500 Blanshard for renovations,” McLeod explained. “Saanich is still in the process of hiring a contractor to complete the renovation and we expect this process to be finalized by this fall.”