Place des Pionniers online consultation highlights
Gatineau held a two-hour online consultation on the reconstruction of Place des Pionniers, drawing 80 citizens to participate, on May 6. Several municipal representatives participated, including Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, L’Orée-du-Parc district councillor and President of the Commission des arts, de la culture, des lettres et du patrimoine, Isabelle Miron and Aylmer service centre Territorial Director Marc Phaneuf.
The session was conducted by the Centre d’écologie urbaine de Montréal, with one of their project managers, Mikael St-Pierre, moderating. Miron opened by thanking all participants for their involvement in the workshop, notably Aylmer’s three councillors Mike Duggan, Audrey Bureau and Gilles Chagnon. She explained that the project involves the demolition of an aging building and the erection of a new one in the same place, noting that municipal council voted on the decision last June.
Miron said the city declared 115 rue Principale – home of the Lucy-Faris library – as the optimal location for the new building after analyzing a number of scenarios. She added that the new library would greatly respond to high demand, would be more than a space with stocked bookshelves and that it would help revitalize rue Principale. Miron said the building would be three storeys tall, with a two-floor library and one floor dedicated to the Aylmer service centre. Noting that, with the public consultation on the matter scheduled last March, conducting it online was the best solution to respect the project’s timeline and avoid additional costs.
She said the session would allow citizens to express their opinions on the architecture of the future building, its place in the community, and the desired functions and ambiance for the new library. She added that all questions and comments would be taken into consideration. St-Pierre outlined the workshop’s objectives – presenting the situation and architectural issues involved, letting citizens ask questions, asking participants about desired features for the library and identifying features and principles to guide designers during the architectural contest.
The workshop was conducted over three parts – a presentation and a question period, ending with group discussions on Zoom. To begin, participants were asked to explain what contributed to their appreciation of Place des Pionniers and the Lucy-Faris library. Participants mostly said it means a lot to the community for its heritage status and as a special gathering place.
Phaneuf continued with some of the building’s background specifics, including its location, its importance in the urban centre and its proximity to public spaces. He added that the building was part of the Old Aylmer heritage site. Phaneuf said the building stood at five storeys, was 6,600 square metres – 1,115 square metres of library – and included 60 underground parking spaces. He added that the library’s bookshelves were 20 per cent overstocked, the aisles were too narrow and that it wasn’t ergonomic.
Despite being stable, and that it has undergone 19 studies since 1999, the building is only 74 per cent usable because of weight restrictions. Phaneuf said the library building may be expanded to three storeys in order to allow two floors for municipal services.
Explaining the vision behind the project, Phaneuf compared it to the construction of the Calgary Public Library, a modern building next to two heritage sites - the St. Louis Hotel erected in 1914 and the Hillier Block built in 1910. Phaneuf said the new library’s purpose would be increasing its offer of services, offering modern infrastructure and adequately responding to specific needs. He added that the Lucy-Faris library was the second most used in the city, boasting around 115,000 documents, 248,000 users and almost 460,000 loans annually.
Ranking first in the city, more than 40 per cent of Aylmer residents are registered with the library.
Phaneuf said the new building will be modern, open and complete, while allowing citizens to contribute to the revitalization of rue Principale. He added that the workshop would be followed by an architectural contest in the fall that would focus on obtaining the best concept based on citizens’ comments.
The winner of the contest will be announced in the spring of 2021; construction should begin that summer; and, the library is expected to open in the winter of 2025. The documents presented during the workshop and a video of the session are available on 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. The session continued with a question period that featured dozens of enquiries, notably involving the project’s costs, reasons to reconstruct instead of renovate and its environmental repercussions.
Phaneuf said the city looked into a $21 million project to expand the library to two floors and to renovate the current building. But since its floors would have to be lowered from nine feet to eight feet high and because it wouldn’t solve capacity issues for other floors, renovating it wouldn’t be wise spending. “We don’t really have a choice but to demolish and rebuild,” he said. He also said the city likely wouldn’t provide some of the building’s spaces for commercial use, adding that it would offer a mix of underground and above ground parking spaces.
Phaneuf explained that all efforts would be made to ensure that the project is conducted using ecological, responsible materials, adding that it would include electrical terminals for hybrid cars. After the question period, participants split into several virtual groups to exchanges ideas about what they’d like the new building to feature, via Zoom.
Each group was led by a member of the Centre d’écologie urbaine de Montréal, who asked participants numerous questions concerning features they’d like to see in the upcoming architectural contest, notably the building’s integration into the neighbourhood and the services it would offer.