The city plans to amalgamate two southeast Winnipeg libraries and also replace its smallest branch in 2013 as part of a $21-million plan to replace eight aging facilities over the next nine years.

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The city plans to spend $21 million to replace eight libraries over nine years. The St. Vital and Windsor Park  libraries will be amalgamated.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

The city plans to spend $21 million to replace eight libraries over nine years. The St. Vital and Windsor Park libraries will be amalgamated.

The city plans to amalgamate two southeast Winnipeg libraries and also replace its smallest branch in 2013 as part of a $21-million plan to replace eight aging facilities over the next nine years.

A library redevelopment strategy unveiled by Mayor Sam Katz on Wednesday will see the city build seven new structures "based on an initial generic library design" that calls for about 14,000 square feet of space, approximately 40 parking stalls and a single-floor plan that ensures universal access for all library users.

St. Vital Library

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

St. Vital Library

The eight libraries to be replaced are in dire need of repair, suffer from accessibility issues and either don't have enough parking or are in inconvenient locations, says a report to be considered by council's protection and community services committee on Thursday. Most of the aging libraries are also cramped and lack both modern programming spaces and library technology.

The first phase of the redevelopment plan calls for the St. Vital and Windsor Park libraries to close and be replaced by a single new $5.8-million facility at an as-yet-undisclosed location, with construction slated to begin in 2013.

Next year will also see the replacement of the Charleswood Library -- Winnipeg's smallest branch, at 4,900 square feet -- at a cost of $958,000. The city will then replace the Transcona, River Heights, Westwood, St. James-Assiniboia and West Kildonan libraries between 2014 and 2020.

All eight libraries slated for replacement need to be more accessible, Katz said.

"They aren't all the same issues. In (Charleswood), you've got a library that's almost 50 years old and 4,400 square feet, where the template we're looking at is just over 14,000 square feet," the mayor said. "In this one, it's not only renewing aging infrastructure, but actually building something that will appropriately serve the community."

The city is scouting locations for the new amalgamated St. Vital-Windsor Park branch, he added. Council may decide on a location in the fall, said Rick Walker, Winnipeg's library services manager.

The redevelopment plan does not call for any new libraries, not even in new areas such as Sage Creek or Waverley West.

The report to council also notes the redevelopment plan will not lead to increased library staffing or hours, although the new amalgamated southeast-Winnipeg branch will have longer hours than the branches it will replace.

Windsor Park Library

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Windsor Park Library

In an attempt to keep costs down, the city will consider leasing the buildings instead of building to own. A decision about ownership will be made on a branch-by-branch basis.

"We have to look at other options. To build and recreate (the Charleswood) Library would push $10 million probably, so you could only afford to do one or two for the same money we're doing many more," said community services chairwoman Coun. Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood).

But she's worried about council rejecting the report because of the leasing option.

"I've heard there's some councillors who aren't going to be supportive of this and that's quite shocking," she said. "They're not supportive of anything other than the city owning the building and all the bricks and mortar that go with it."

Early reviews of the plan by library users were positive.

Linda Watson, who often visits the St. Vital Library, said amalgamating it with Windsor Park and possibly leasing the building would be fine, in her books.

"To cut costs, it's a great idea," she said. "One big library is much more practical."

Joan and Walter Pawlikewich, who visit the Charleswood Library two or three times a week, said they're just pleased their branch is not closing.

But Churchill Drive resident Lesley Hilton said she's concerned about the leasing aspect.

"There are some things that should be kept in the public," she said.

jennifer.ford@freepress.mb.ca bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

$21 million to replace buildings

Highlights from the city's plan to replace eight aging library branches:

1. Charleswood Library (5014 Roblin Blvd.): To be replaced in 2013 for $958,000.

Built in 1961, this is Winnipeg's smallest branch at only 4,914 square feet. Currently closed Wednesdays and on weekends.

2 & 3. St. Vital Library (6 Fermor Ave.) and Windsor Park Library (955 Cottonwood Rd.): To be amalgamated into a new library in 2013 at a cost of $5.8 million. The St. Vital Library, built in 1963, has a parking lot accessible only by a laneway. The Windsor Park library, built in 1961, requires asbestos removal. St. Vital is currently closed on weekends; Windsor Park is currently closed Wednesdays and on weekends.

4. Transcona Library (111 Victoria Ave. W.): To be replaced in 2014 for $5.1 million. Built in 1961 in a location now considered inconvenient. Currently closed Wednesdays and on weekends.

5. River Heights Library (1530 Corydon Ave.): To be replaced in 2015 for $5.4 million. Built in 1961, now suffering from "structural deterioration issues." Currently closed Wednesdays and on weekends.

6. Westwood Library (66 Allard Ave.): To be replaced in 2017 for $1.2 million. Built in 1968, now considered cramped. Currently closed Wednesdays and on weekends.

7. St. James-Assiniboia Library (1910 Portage Ave.): To be replaced in 2018 for $6.2 million. Built in 1958, with an addition in 1970. Winnipeg's largest branch library at 25,351 square feet. Currently closed weekends.

8. West Kildonan Library (365 Jefferson Ave.): To be replaced in 2020 for $1.8 million. Built in 1967. Now considered crowded and too close to St. John's Library. Currently closed weekends.

-- source: City of Winnipeg

Hours at other city libraries

Sir William Stephenson (765 Keewatin St.): Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Henderson (1-1050 Henderson Highway): Closed weekends.

St. John's (500 Salter St.): Closed weekends and Wednesdays.

Munroe (489 London St.): Closed weekends and Wednesdays.

West End (999 Sargent Ave.): Closed weekends.

Millennium (251 Donald St.): Closed Sundays.

Cornish (20 West Gate): Closed weekends and Wednesdays.

Fort Garry (1360 Pembina Highway): Closed weekends. Tentatively scheduled to be closed for renovations in mid-July and reopened in the new year.

Louis Riel (1168 Dakota St.): Closed weekends and Wednesdays.

Osborne (625 Osborne St.): Closed weekends and Wednesdays.

Pembina Trail (2724 Pembina Highway): Closed weekends and Wednesdays.

St. Boniface (100-131 Provencher Blvd.): Closed Sundays.

Westwood (66 Allard Ave.): Closed weekends and Wednesdays.