Building New Library Makes No Sense

The City of Windsor is proposing to sell the Central Branch of the Windsor Public Library, seen on 26 January 2017, and construct a new facility.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

The City of Windsor is proposing to sell the Central Branch of the Windsor Public Library, seen on 26 January 2017, and construct a new facility.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

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?”

1 Comment on "Building New Library Makes No Sense"

  1. Scott Kuli | 18 June 2018 at 13:24 |

    The mission currently gets by on the donations given to them along with any subsidies. How are they going to fund the renovation of the library into a homeless shelter? You need to install individual apartments to make it that, or very large common rooms (also known as “warehousing”). If you make it large common rooms, what’s the difference between it, despite however good the building looks from the outside, and any of the worse homeless shelters in the US? If you turn it into apartments it’ll cost a fortune. They have to have individual plumbing, electricity, etc.

    There are plenty of older apartment buildings in the city well away from the downtown area. This isn’t going to “end panhandling in the downtown” as some spokespeople have disingenuously put forth, and they know it won’t. It’s an easy walk from the library to the downtown core.

    Did one of our local oligarchs decide they want the library and come up with this strategy of having city council give it to the downtown mission, who everyone knows can’t afford to properly renovate it, in order that they come to the “rescue”, or is it a bigger thing where city council is driving the whole city to bankruptcy and hoping to get big kickbacks from the fire sale selloff?

    In any case, it’s not suitable as a homeless shelter without pouring vast sums into it. It is very suitable as a library though.

    It’s takes a 3rd rate city council to let other people’s money burn a hole in their pockets when the economy isn’t doing so well. We certainly have that here in Windsor.

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