Build the library higher, do Old Aylmer justice
If old Deschênes can be re-zoned to require multi-dwelling homes only for new constructions, Old-Aylmer should be required to build upwards for new buildings. The city announcement last week that the Place des Pionniers is going to be rebuilt with only three storeys reverberated through Aylmer with the a deafening ‘thud’. The price tag, some $44 million, is a shocker, but then again, city infrastructure is expensive. The price tag includes the architectural competition, demolition, moving city employees out, and the rebuild.
The site currently has five floors. The city plan has three floors. Area councillor, Audrey Bureau told the Bulletin she prefers a four-storey plan but the administrative analysis of the plans show difficulties in renting out a fourth floor. The analysis found it would take seventeen years for the costs to be recovered on adding that fourth floor which would be rentable space. But is this really true?
Over the years, many Aylmer community leaders, as well as civil servants, have called for federal service offices right here in Aylmer. The reasons are obvious and the timing of a proposed light-rail transit line between Old Aylmer and Old Hull would fit nicely with such a federal work-space. Yes, there was an announcement last week about a new government office facility in Gatineau, called Gatineau 2 that would also house a portion of Library and Archives Canada. But why is this site in Aylmer left out of the civil service equation?
While it is true that most readers to the Bulletin are opposed to the project on the simple grounds that it is over-priced and the disruption caused by a demolition in the core of Old Aylmer is too much of a burden on local businesses, the reality is that experts at the city have concluded this to be a wise decision, based on their extensive analysis.
But going through all this trouble for only three storeys is a real shocker. Going back to the drawing board is critical at this juncture. If the city can only afford three storeys, a partnership with the private sector and other levels of government should be explored.
The future of Old Aylmer is at stake here, and plopping a minimum-requirements building while the rest is building upwards shows how short-sighted the analysis of the Place des Pionniers has been.
Over the years, a variety of architectural plans have come through the Bulletin newsroom showing possible future buildings in old Aylmer that include two floors of library. They may have been dreams drawn out in technical terms, not really based in hard reality. But the very fact that private business operators, builders and developers are willing to collaborate with the city to build a tighter, more efficient Old Aylmer does reveal the possibility of a better way. Contrary to Fred Ryan’s editorial of last week on densification, when it comes to public space, more is more.