The Prince George Library Board Monday proposed a plan to city council to more than double the size of the Bob Harkins branch downtown by 2016.
The expansion would be made by extending the exterior walls to enclose the external deck around the library an increase from 35,000 sq. feet to 80,000 sq. feet.
The estimated cost of the two-stage proposal would be $28.9 million, in today’s dollars, Library Board chairman Philip Mantler said.
“We’re at a point where we do need to move ahead on the building,” Mantler said. “We’re looking initially to do a study. Right now we don’t know if the current structure will support what we want to do. We don’t know if it would be the same or less [money] to put up a new building.”
Mantler requested $25,000 for a technical study of the library to determine if the 26-year-old building could support the increase. Council requested city administration review the proposal and bring back recommendations. Stage one of the plan would cost approximately $6.4 million and would look at developing new internal elevators, washrooms, exit stairs, entrance, circulation desk and offices for technical services, administration, finance and marketing.
Stage one would also involve addressing concerns such as poor lighting and signs, Mantler said. The board would like to see phase one complete by 2010-11.
Last August, the firm mcfarlaneGreen was hired to conduct a review of the library’s physical condition, access the library’s functional and spatial needs, and develop a long-term growth plan. The plan is based on the consultant’s report.
The Bob Harkins branch was compared to libraries in other, similar-sized cities, he said.
“The Bob Harkins branch had the lowest square-footage per capita,” Mantler said. “We are now seeing an average of 1,400 people through our doors every day.”
The consultant estimated 52,000 square feet would be appropriate for today’s needs and 80,000 sq. ft. by 2016.
Chief librarian Allan Wilson said the library is an unusually heavy structure with, “big bones,” for future development.
Councillor Glen Scott said he is concerned that rising construction costs could nearly double the actual cost of the project.
“By 2016 that could rise to $48-$49 million,” Scott said.
Councillor Brian Skakun said the library is a worthy cause, but the city has several major capital projects including the Cameron Street Bridge, ice oval and performing arts centre already on its plate.
“It has to fit in with the priorities of the community,” he said.