Bookworms torn on library relocation to Uptown

Buzz is building surrounding the possible relocation of the Emily Carr library branch across the street into Uptown.

Buzz is building surrounding the possible relocation of the Emily Carr library branch across the street into Uptown.

A busy open house held last Saturday at the library drew crowds of people, plus a steady stream of feedback online, said Lynne Jordon, deputy CEO of the Greater Victoria Public Library.

“People love their library. And this one is a long-standing branch that has been located there for 40-plus years. We know there’s going to be a lot of interest in any relocation,” Jordon said.

The tentative plan is to move the library into a 5,000-square-foot space on the upper level of Uptown, overlooking Blanshard Street.

“It’s very exciting for us. It would be a great addition to the emerging hub that is Uptown,” said Geoff Nagle, director of development for Morguard Investments, which owns and operates Uptown. “Having public amenities like a library right in with the other amenities – the plaza, coffee shops, all the things people can do in one trip – is a great synergistic use.”

Jordon said library patron feedback so far has been mixed.

“We have lots of people who are enthusiastic about relocating. And we had a similar number, the day of the open house, who indicated they don’t shop at Uptown and would not been as keen to have the branch located there,” she said. “Some people felt access would not be improved – particularly families walking or biking to the location.”

Nagle said Uptown’s central location, at the junction of the Lochside and Galloping Goose trails, makes it a perfect space for a library.

As it currently stands, the Emily Carr branch, at the corner or Saanich Road and Blanshard Street, is “old and outdated,” “poorly configured” and “inaccessible for wheelchair users,” Jordon said.

In terms of cost, Uptown would lease a new space at market rates. Jordon said Saanich would need to decide if leasing would be  more cost effective than upgrading “inefficiencies” in the current building

Users can provide feedback on the library relocation until March 18 by visiting gvpl.ca, or by emailing ljordon@gvpl.ca. The next step will be to have the Greater Victoria library board weigh feedback before making a decision.

In terms of retail and commercial vacancies at Uptown, Nagle said “every space in the centre is under some form of negotiation.”

The 38,000 square foot space left vacant by Best Buy’s departure last month is currently being sought after by three companies, he noted.

kslavin@saanichnews.com