Saanich OKs Emily Carr library lease with Uptown

The Emily Carr library branch should have a new home by the end of the year after Saanich council approved a 10-year lease with Uptown.

The Emily Carr library branch should have a new home by the end of the year after Saanich council approved a 10-year lease agreement with Uptown.

Saanich has agreed to pay Morguard Investments, Uptown’s owner, about $143,800 per year for five years, and then about $160,500 per year for another five years, for the 5,534 square foot space.

The agreement is worth a total of $1.5 million over 10 years.

Saanich has also approved spending up to $730,000 to outfit the space with shelving and furniture and other improvements. Under its agreement with the Greater Victoria Public Library, Saanich provides the library facility and the GVPL pays operating costs.

The new library building is on the upper level of Uptown, next to the entrance ramp from Blanshard Street. A Saanich staff report acknowledged “lingering concerns” about the accessibility of the building, but noted that Uptown management has committed to improving safety and signage for pedestrians seeking the library.

The Greater Victoria Public Library board approved the Emily Carr relocation across Blanshard Street in April, although it was a 8-7 vote, reflecting the reluctance and concern of many patrons to house the branch in Uptown.

“It’s anticipated we are going to gain new users, people who might be reluctant to use the Emily Carr branch in its current location, or to use a library branch at all,” said Lynne Jordon, deputy CEO of the GVPL.

GVPL has deemed the existing building as outdated, poorly designed and it isn’t wheelchair accessible. Saanich agrees with the GVPL that a new location is preferable to upgrading the building.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said co-locating libraries next to Pearkes recreation and at Commonwealth Place helps improve use, and he expects the same for Uptown.

“Certainly moving libraries where people are has shown great success,” Leonard said. “We have two libraries in recreation centres. We want to put the libraries where the people are going.”

Leonard said it’s not yet decided what will happen to the existing Emily Carr building once the library is out. It could be used for other municipal purposes, the mayor said, or it could be sold.

Jordon said the GVPL wants to have the new branch up and running by the end of 2013. Updates will be posted at gvpl.ca.

editor@saanichnews.com