Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt wants Winnipeg to move its second-busiest library into a new home on city-owned land instead of signing a $9-million lease to keep it in a North Kildonan strip mall until 2029.

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Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt wants Winnipeg to move its second-busiest library into a new home on city-owned land instead of signing a $9-million lease to keep it in a North Kildonan strip mall until 2029.

This morning, city council's executive policy committee will consider a plan to extend the Henderson Library's lease inside Rossmere Shopping Centre, a Henderson Highway mall where its resided since 1961.

"We own the property. We own everythign. All we have to do is demolish the existing building," says Coun. Russ Wyatt.

JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

"We own the property. We own everythign. All we have to do is demolish the existing building," says Coun. Russ Wyatt.

In 2008, shopping mall owner Shindico approached the city with an offer to increase the library's footprint from 12,000 to 18,000 square feet at lower overall rate and conduct about $450,000 of tenant improvements. In return, the real estate company requested the city sign a 20-year lease worth a total of $8,953,800.

City real-estate managers are recommending the lease extension because it will permit the expansion of the library, which is second only to downtown's Millennium Library in terms of the number of books that get checked out every year.

When the plan was approved by council's property committee on Nov. 3, Couns. Wyatt and Lillian Thomas (Elmwood-East Kildonan) suggested the city could avoid spending $9 million in rent by building a brand-new library.

Now, Wyatt says he's found the perfect home: 755 Henderson Highway, a vacant city property that used to house the Good Neighbours Senior Centre but is now up for sale. "We own the property. We own everything. All we have to do is demolish the existing building," Wyatt said on Tuesday, standing outside the vacant city property.

The city listed the property for $670,000 earlier this fall and has since received several offers, Wyatt said. Instead of selling it, the city could demolish the structure and build an 18,000-square-foot library with 10,000 square feet of parking for less than $4 million, the councillor claims.

"Why is the mayor so eager to sign an unprecedented 20-year lease with Shindico without exploring other options?" Wyatt said. "This is a huge waste of taxpayers' dollars."

But North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, who represents the Henderson Library, said the vacant city property on Henderson Highway is neither large enough for a library or sufficiently convenient for library users who clearly want the library to remain in its strip mall.

"People like the location and they like all the parking," said Browaty, who believes the lease extension is a good deal for the city. "It's not at all abnormal for various levels of governments to become tenants."

If EPC approves the lease extension, it will proceed to council as a whole on Nov. 25.

In an unrelated proposal, two northeast Winnipeg residents approached Couns. Wyatt, Thomas and Browaty on Tuesday with a formal proposal to convert the vacant building at 755 Henderson Highway into a new "Museum for the Kildonans."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca