Online consultation May 6
Library public consultation raises discontent from residents
Making some people happier than others, the City of Gatineau is continuing the process to rebuild Place des Pionniers from scratch with an online work shop scheduled for May 6.
Expected to open by 2025, the new building – which will house the Lucy-Faris Library – is planned to boast three storeys, including a two-storey library and the Aylmer service centre
According to the city’s website, the online workshop will include a live presentation regarding the approach of the project, a question period for citizens and sub-group discussions about the building’s new design, the building’s integration into its surroundings and the library’s functions and character.
Noting that the building’s demolition is scheduled for October, the workshop will be followed by an architectural competition in the fall of 2020, where residents will be able to vote on their favourite design and the winner will be unveiled in the Spring of 2021.
Demolition expects to begin in the fall of 2021 and construction should be finished by the summer of 2024.
Citizens can participate to the workshop by registering via the city’s website -https://www.gatineau.ca/portail/default.aspx?p=guichet_municipal/participation_citoyenne/consultations_publiques/consultations_publiques_2020/projet_construction_nouvel_edifice_place_pionniers.
Registrations will only be accepted until May 4.
For Aylmer resident Ian Barrett, the project has long been a cause for concern for numerous reasons. Notably, the cost of the project, the duration of it and the approach taken by the city of rebuilding instead of renovating. “I have a major fear of poorly-planned construction projects,“ Barrett said in an interview with the Aylmer Bulletin. He also said that the new structure should feature at least four floors instead of three with the top floors featuring different services such as community centres, shared technology spaces and workspaces for civil servants.
A five-year process expected to cost around $44 million, Barrett argues that the reconstruction should cost around half of what’s been proposed and be finished in no more than two years. “The cost is exorbitant,” he said. “It’s way too much.”
Using the Pierrefonds and Notre-Dame-de-Grace Libraries in Montreal as similar-sized examples in the province – built in 2019 and 2016 respectively – Barrett suggested that the city will be paying almost double per square metre than those projects which are both slightly larger and cost around $25 million took around two years to build. Barrett added that the construction of residential complex l’Initial in 2017, which was 10 times larger than the proposed library project cost $70 million and was built in less than three years.
Last October – after the project was adopted by the city in June - Barrett appeared at Gatineau’s Municipal council meeting, alongside President of the Aylmer Heritage Association Micheline Lemieux and Gabriella Sanchez to voice concerns about the project and show a petition boasting around 550 signatures from people asking for a better deal. “Many of us are concerned it’s not a good deal,” Barrett said.
Speaking with the Aylmer Bulletin, Sanchez said that the city should reconsider the project because the building is located on a provincially-recognized heritage site and part of a larger heritage site called rue Principale.
Among other things, Barrett said he’s worried about the project’s effect on nearby business-owners, noting that it will take so long to complete. “Four-five years for a project that should take a fraction of that time,” he said. “They’re going to have [rue Principale] all torn up. Business-owners here are not rich.”
“Everything from Broad to the Marina will go under,” he added. “That’s very sad.” Built in 1987, the main reason for a complete overhaul of the building instead of a renovation was because it was in unsalvageable shape, according to the city’s website.
Having undergone 19 studies and structural inspections since 1999, it noted that only 74 per cent of it is usable because of load restrictions, that its floors are significantly slanted and that it already underwent stabilization work in 2001. It added that the library is too narrow-aisled and that its bookshelves are overstocked by around 20 per cent and that stabilization work in its second floor isn’t possible.
Pointing to a report mandated by the city and conducted by engineering consulting firm Genivar – now WSP Global - in 2008 stating that the all the building’s floors could be properly renovated for no more than $4 million in less than a year, Barrett sees no reason why Place des Pionniers can’t keep its five floors. The report also estimated that a complete reconstruction of the building would cost $15-20 million and take nine months.
Having presented all his data to each municipal councillor and met with several of them, Barrett said he’s been disappointed by the city’s lack of transparency in their use of tax-paying dollars. He added that the city shouldn’t be rushing the process, considering the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that he’s frustrated that his kids of four and six years old won’t have a local library for a significant chunk of their childhood, noting that the project’s duration will most likely stretch to five years.
In an interview with the Aylmer Bulletin, Deschênes councillor Mike Duggan said that the project was voted on democratically and that protesters need to realize that it’s game over. “One person does not decide for the whole group,” he said. “It was voted. It was a clear decision.”
“We are demolishing the building at 115 rue Principale and there will be a public display to show why it’s necessary to do that.” Noting that $44 million is the largest budget ever allocated for an Aylmer project, Duggan said that its cost, duration and features were the best deal the city could possibly land. Reassuring concerns about a lack of floors, Duggan said that the new building’s roof could potentially serve as a fourth floor that would be publicly accessible.
Noting that a working group of residents dedicated to making recommendations on the library’s layout and on the integration of art work will be assembled, Duggan said that he invites people against the project to join on the condition that they remove themselves of antagonistic agendas.
Having been involved with the file since its inception, Duggan said that the most important part of the online workshop is the all citizens get their say in what the new building should look like.