On Sept. 27 the Regina Public Library board voted 6-2 to pursue the path of “revitalizing” our downtown by demolishing one of its most iconic, heritage buildings, the central branch.
If we don’t keep the best of the past, why should we expect anyone to care about or preserve what we do now?
Previously, the board sought to alarm the public by stating it would cost $50 million to renovate the old building which was in “life-threatening” condition.
Just four days before the deadline for public submissions to this meeting, the board released to the public 12 reports (some 600 pages) which it based its decision on. Buried in these reports are some estimates for the cost of a new build: $124 million (from 2020), and $195 million (total costs from 2017).
What is most striking to me in the 2015 building assessment is that there are no basic structural issues with the current building that need to be addressed listed, even in the long-term scenario.
The building is a clear-span space which could be maintained with its original heritage envelope and reconfigured inside to whatever the current functional requirements are. Also there is a sizeable empty plot that the library owns to the west — an imaginative architect could use it to greatly expand the square footage of the total building.
The most prudent course of action would be a less costly hybrid approach — keep the best of the past, and add an exciting new addition on the west.
Lorne Beug, Regina
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