Construction is expected to begin in June this year and the new Chemainus library will be open for business around the end of March 2019.
Details of the $2.25 million Chemainus branch were unveiled by Vancouver Island Regional Library officials Wednesday night during an open house and presentation at the Chemainus 55+ Activity Centre.
The 5,000 square foot library, about four times the current 1,200 square foot space of the Chemainus location, will be situated on part of the old firehall site in downtown Chemainus. The main entrance will be on the corner of Willow and Cypress Streets.
The Municipality of North Cowichan, in partnership with the Community Land Trust Foundation of B.C., will build a mixed-use affordable housing unit on the other portion of the old firehall property.
A building permit for the library has been submitted and is currently being reviewed. The target date for putting the project out to tender is the end of April so the successful bidder can proceed with construction by the end of June.
A public consultation to gather feedback from the community about what residents wanted from their new library was held a little more than a year ago on Jan. 9, 2017. Since then, VIRL staff worked very closely with the architects – HDR/CEI Architecture Associates Inc., represented at the meeting by vice president Rod Windjack and project manager Danielle Pepin – and the landscape architects, LADR Landscape Architects, to ensure the inclusion of a full range of modern amenities and pleasing designs.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with the library people on this project,” noted Pepin.
“This is what makes it worthwhile to unveil this elegant little building to the community,” said VIRL executive director Rosemary Bonnano.
“Since 2007, we’ve taken new direction under Rosemary and our trustees,” added board chair Barry Avis.
“We’re pleased we’re going to have, in our opinion, an outstanding library branch for you here in Chemainus.”
Concerns were raised about parking, crime and incorporating the town’s mural project and heritage into the building design.
There will be an allotment for some additional parking spaces adjacent to the library near the Normandy Apartments.
Many considerations were made to connect the design with the town’s history.
“The inspiration for the building architecture came from the logging and industrial heritage,” pointed out Pepin.
There will be opportunities to include facets of the mural project in the library’s interior later under the direction of library manager Stephen Warren.
The role of the library has changed enormously over the years, Avis conceded. And VIRL has been more cognizant of features and community appeal, as a result.
“We are a huge part of the social system now,” he said.
“That’s what we’re trying to do with all the branches, make them welcoming to the community.”
Other facts about the Chemainus branch include: increased staffing levels to allow the branch to remain open during lunch/dinner hours and to expand total hours of operation; the collection will be increased to accommodate a larger building; an expanded programming schedule will be developed to maximize activities; and the plan includes additional computers and technology, a vibrant children’s area, a lounge area with fireplace, study space and a dividable multi-purpose room that can be booked by community members.
A fulltime librarian will work at the new branch.