City committee considers heritage designation for West Kildonan Library
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After rallying to keep the West Kildonan Library open, some of its biggest fans are now pushing for the building to receive a heritage designation.
“This is a very important library for our residents and this historical designation means that the building is protected… for future generations,” Daniel Guenther, co-chairman of the Friends of West Kildonan Library Coalition, told the Free Press.
“This is just the final step toward making sure that it’s enshrined and it’s protected.”
Winnipeg city council rejected a proposal this spring that would have seen the city relocate the library branch to a leased 15,000-square-foot space inside the Garden City Shopping Centre and close the 365 Jefferson Ave. site.
It would be a no-brainer to also add the building to the City of Winnipeg’s list of historical resources, which would protect it against demolition, Guenther said.
“West Kildonan Library is a prominent example of modernist architecture that is worthy of preservation. The building is connected to both the social and local history and the City of Winnipeg has a responsibility to recognize this value,” he said.
On Monday, council’s property and development committee approved the first step toward that designation. The vote officially asks the city’s planning, property and development director to consider a heritage designation for the site.
If the protection is then recommended, further city hall votes would be required to give it final approval.
A key heritage advocate said she would also like to see the building preserved, despite the fact not everyone sees value in modernist design.
“These buildings are important. They are part of the historical inventory and fabric. This needs to go forward for future protection,” said Cindy Tugwell, executive director of Heritage Winnipeg.
Tugwell said such purpose-built structures are easier to retrofit than others, making their protection especially valuable as the city attempts to reduce waste and battle climate change.
Coun. Cindy Gilroy said she supports the call to study the issue but will wait to see the outcome of that work before deciding if the building should be designated.
“I’ll leave that to the experts,” said the head of council’s property and development committee.
During the meeting, city staff noted the addition to the historical resources list would not guarantee the building continues to operate as a library forever, since the designation protects the building and not its function.
In central Winnipeg, the Cornish Library reopened on May 24 after it was forced to close in January when ice buildup knocked out its heating. Supply chain delays were blamed for lengthening the repair time.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.