Saanich plans to spend $2.1 million on plans to improve the former Emily Carr library for staff use, with some of the money flowing towards improvements at Municipal Hall. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Saanich plans to turn former Emily Carr library into office space

Report recommends more than $2 million for renovations at former library and other buildings

Saanich plans to spend $2.1 million to help turn an empty library into office space.

A report recommends council approve the funding to upgrade the old Emily Carr library in the 3500 block of Blanshard Street. Saanich municipal hall and its annex would also undergo some minor renovations. Estimated completion date of the renovations would be the fourth quarter of 2019 and total annual operating costs for the renovated building would be $90,000.

The facility’s future has been uncertain ostensibly since December 2013, when it closed its doors, and its collection of some 30,000 books moved across Blanshard Street to the new Emily Carr library part of the Uptown complex. Subsequent users of the building (with an annual operating bill of $24,000) have included Santas Anonymous and Saanich staff as of June 2018.

RELATED: Former Saanich library branch continues to sit vacant

The recommendation marks a major turning point in the history of the building, because it confirms and consolidates the presence of municipal staff in the building, thereby eliminating — at least for now — other options for its use.

Former mayor Richard Atwell earlier this summer surprised the public when he asked council to consider turning the building as a potential housing site for residents of tent city that had existed for several months at Regina Park.

While Atwell’s proposal failed to win a majority, the subject remained a source of controversy during the municipal election campaign, when Atwell and then-councillor, now Mayor Fred Haynes clashed over its use.

RELATED: Saanich mayor pitches former Emily Carr library as housing site

RELATED: Provincial rejection of Saanich land for supportive housing riles candidates, housing advocates

Atwell accused Haynes of flip-flopping, while Haynes accused Atwell of failing to alert council and staff to the issue.

Atwell had also pitched the site as a location for modular supportive housing, a proposal Haynes questioned.

The building, located in Saanich’s retail and commercial centre and the location for future housing, services and economic activity, would be unsuitable, said Haynes before the municipal election.

“Tying this location up for temporary modular housing would be irresponsible,” he said at the time.

Saanich’s decision to use the building for its own purposes marks a return to previous plans, as Saanich had initially planned to use the two-storey structure as additional office space for Saanich Police. But cost estimated deemed these plans financially unsustainable, and competed against other options.

Speaking to Saanich News in September 2017, before the emergence of the homeless camp in Regina, Atwell said the best outcome would be for the building to be part of larger mixed-residential development. The area, including the nearby Munro Centre which includes the Saanich News is zoned C-5 Civic Core and allows maximum height of 37 metres.

Atwell, however, made these comments before a review found the building suitable for renovations.

If council approves the recommendation, Saanich’s engineering services will move to the facility, after a review had determined that this move would be “best aligned and least disruptive option.” According to the report, it would consolidate all engineering functions in one location, free up space for the expansion and seismic upgrades at Municipal Hall, and ease the current parking crunch at nunicipal hall.

Funding for the improvements would come from Saanich’s Capital Works Reserve Fund, with some of the $2.1 million flowing towards minor renovations at municipal hall.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Saanich Police looking for information relating to suspicious death

The body of a man was found on Crease Avenue just after 9 a.m. on Saturday

250th Free Little Library installed in Victoria

Greater Victoria now has the highest density of mapped little libraries in the country

Urbanists hope to see Victoria’s unused rooftops, parkades, parking lots become usable green space

Downtown Residents Association says city dwellers should have access to parks

For the love of fibre: fibre arts celebrated through demonstrations and market showcasing locally made items

Fibre arts celebrated through demonstrations and market showcasing locally made items

Cemetery tour explores Metchosin’s early history

A tour with grave consequences for those wishing to explore Metchosin’s history takes place Aug. 25

70 years of lifting: Canadian man, 85, could cinch weightlifting championship

The senior gym junkie is on track to win the World Masters Weightlifting championship

U16 B.C. fastpitch team named national champs

Girls went undefeated at national tournament in Calgary

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

RCMP, search crews hunt for 4-year-old boy missing near Mackenzie

George went missing early Saturday afternoon

Canadian entrepreneurs turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profits

Some breweries turn to entrepreneurs looking to turn spent grain into treats for people and their pets

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

Most Read