Saskatoon Public Library proposes new $154M downtown building

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Saskatoon Public Library is making its case for a new $154 million downtown building.

A business case report going to the city says Frances Morrison Central Library (FMCL) has become too small to serve as a central location.

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The report said the original building was designed for 50 employees and to hold less than 100,000 items in the collection. There are currently 87 employees at FMCL with over 256,000 items.

“Since FMCL’s construction over 50 years ago, population growth and demand for library services in Saskatoon has exceeded SPL’s growth and has strained SPL’s ability to provide quality library services,” the report said.

“The building can no longer meet the functional needs of the library, including the flexibility to keep up with user demands of space, programming and modern technology.”

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The report also said the current building is deficient on significant building code changes.

“FMCL is non-compliant with modern building codes, including fire, mechanical, electrical, and accessibility requirements, with known violations for nearly 20 years,” the report states.

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Among the decencies cited are insufficient fire exits, a leaking roof, and dated mechanical systems that would require a complete retrofit.

The library is proposing a new building of 149,000 square feet — almost double the size of the current building — at an estimated cost of $154-million.

The new facility would greatly add to the revitalization and rejuvenation of the downtown core, according to officials.

“Libraries, much like parks and roadways are a vital piece of social infrastructure in cities,” said library board chair Lisa Erickson.

Her thoughts were echoed by DTNYXE executive director Brent Penner.

“In those communities where they’ve made that reinvestment, they’re doing that in their downtowns, recognizing that it’s important that those facilities are located there,” Penner said.

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The report said the projected cost has been adjusted for inflation and funding would come from a variety of sources including reserve funds, land sales proceeds of the current building, donations and $87.5-million in borrowing which would be repaid through the library levy.

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Up to $132-million in economic activity could be generated during construction, the report said.

A site has not yet been finalized.

The library board will present the report to city council’s governance and priorities committee on Sept. 23.

-With files from Brenden Purdy

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