Regina Public Library to ask city for funding for new central library

Regina's new central library branch is one step closer to becoming a reality — albeit smaller from what was initially planned and possibly at a new downtown location.

On Tuesday, the Regina Public Library's (RPL) board of directors passed a unanimous motion asking city council to approve funding for its new central library building. The request will go to a city council executive committee meeting on June 19.

"We cross our fingers every day that we're going to be able to continue on in this building with some of the issues that we have," library board chair Marj Gavigan said.

A new central library is one of the catalyst committee projects meant to reshape Regina's downtown core, along with a new arena, a non-vehicular trail and an aquatic centre.

Regina Public Library Board chair Marj Gavigan says it would be great to have the new library rebuilt at its current site, but space constraints, which she says will require hefty investments for an expansion, make it difficult for them to continue at the 12th Avenue location.
Regina Public Library Board chair Marj Gavigan says it would be great to have the new library rebuilt at its current site, but space constraints, which she says will require hefty investments for an expansion, make it difficult for them to continue at the 12th Avenue location. (Submitted by Regina Public Library )

RPL will be asking city council for a mill rate increase of 5.5 per cent each year over five years, starting next year. That increase amounts to 92 cents per month for an average Regina homeowner.

It will also be asking for approval to take on debt between $92 million and $119 million, which it says may be borrowed in portions once the projected construction of a new building starts in 2026. If everything goes to plan, RPL says a new library could open its doors in 2030.

In September 2022, the RPL board voted to build a new library with a preference for the current location. Since then, there have been some changes to the board's stance, with community groups chipping in to call for the library to stay where it is, calling it an "iconic heritage building."

However, Gavigan said the option of refurbishing the current building looks unlikely now.

She said it would be great to have the new library rebuilt at its current site, but space constraints, which she says will require hefty investments for an expansion, make it difficult for them to continue at the 12th Avenue location.

Gavigan said she also doesn't think the infrastructure at that site, in its current state, is worth saving. She said the board will still be looking for a "core downtown location."

"We also recognize through the thought process, discussions we've had, and changes in the marketplace, that maybe there's other sites that are better suited to help the central library be an anchor for downtown and help revitalize the downtown," she said.

RPL Board of Directors, on Tuesday, passed a unanimous motion to ask the City Council to approve funding for its new central library building. The RPL Board will make that request in an Executive Committee meeting on June 19.
The Regina Public Library board of directors is asking city council to approve funding for a new central library building. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

The library board passed Tuesday's motion in line with recommendations from library administration's research into the central library renewal project.

The board directed administration to quantify costs for a smaller, 125,000-square-foot building, downsized from the initial plan for a 159,000-square-foot building.

Gavigan said that change in plans was made to account for the inflationary shift post-pandemic. She said the RPL is open to considering options such as shifting some services to another building outside downtown.

"We will try and make do with the 125,000 square feet," she said.

The administration's technical briefing to the board broke down the funding's anticipated sources as including $30 million from RPL reserves, $92 million in government debt and $3 million from RPL's fundraising campaign.

However, in its fundraising funding feasibility, the administration said local philanthropists aren't convinced the project will happen.

It said they can't expect to raise more than $500,000 currently.

Gavigan said it'll help boost those numbers if the city moves on this.

"We've been at this for years. So until we get a commitment from the city council that the funding will be there, they [philanthropists] are not just convinced that it's going to go ahead," she said.

RPL said if its gets appproval for the required funding, it will begin a procurement process that will take 16 months and $1.5 million to complete. Once that's done, RPL says, it would go back to city council to finalize debt numbers before starting construction.