By Greg Heil
A deeply unfortunate mistake is being committed here.
The existing Windsor Public Library central branch, built only about fifty years ago and the same vintage as Toronto’s ‘new’ city hall, is essentially of modern, high quality, institutional-grade construction; structurally, mechanically, and electrically.
It’s envelope expresses a highly fenestrated iconic Modernist façade of enduring materials, purpose-built as a library. Its prominent position on Ouellette Avenue complements the premier streetscape and has convenient parking where generations of Windsorites have expected to find their main library services.
The space with this envelope is essentially ‘generic,’ in that it can be subject to any manner of reconfiguration over time to suit evolving contemporary library services and/or co-occupancy with allied institutions, as some have discussed.
The quantity of this existing space, at slightly above 100,000 square feet, is only marginally larger than the current projected need, as has been published. Any excess space resulting from functional consolidations could be positioned for sub-lease or decommissioned while awaiting some inevitable future expansion need.
The most important point here is that the current building could have a greatly extended service life and be adapted to whatever functional upgrades the WPL Board deems necessary at a mere fraction of the cost burden to Windsor taxpayers.
The notion that this robust institutional building had an “independent appraisal” and was sold at around a mere $35 per sq ft is, quite frankly, absurd.
Residents must understand that the actual cost of the current proposal to build new, merely recreating ‘generic’ space similar to the existing, including cost of land, could well be ten times more than the paltry amount recovered from this ‘arranged’ sale.
Further, it is a grave error to turn the existing building over to the Downtown Mission, where it will become a magnet for homeless, and other dependent, people right at the very gateway to Windsor’s downtown.
Beyond the obvious image and functional problems presented, the building is simply not suited to multiple residential occupancy of this nature and would take vast sums for renovations beyond the seven figure purchase price, which we should question the Mission’s ability to fund.
To the city councillors, I remind you that your duty is to question on behalf of your constituents, and not blindly follow political ‘authority.’ It is your duty to challenge and validate related WPL Board decisions in this regard, which may have been mostly driven by the mysterious aspirations of its chair, the mayor himself.
As you sit in the new monstrosity built behind the old city hall, likely to be as equally despised, as it has been for its ‘un-exceptionalness,’ in a few short years, I only ask, “Does it make sense to only build for the sake of building?”