New library branch for Coquitlam City Centre

Patrons of Coquitlam Public Library's City Centre branch will have more books to check out and extra room to stretch out, study and learn when the facility moves early next year.

Yesterday, the city announced it had inked a $9-million deal Wednesday night to relocate the branch two blocks south to Henderson Centre, resulting in three times more space than the current facility at Coquitlam city hall.

"It's huge for Coquitlam to actually have a sizeable library in our city centre where the main population is increasing with highrises and Burke Mountain," library director Rhian Piprell said Thursday.

For years, library and city staff have heard complaints about the branch's cramped quarters in the city hall basement - not to mention the lack of parking. The branch sees about 6,000 visitors a week, with users taking out books, studying or participating in programs. The children's storytimes are especially popular, though, in the tight area, "it's a case where you sometimes can't even get the strollers in," Piprell said.

Last October, Piprell and her staff hosted an open house to get feedback about what kind of amenities and services Coquitlam residents want for their library. And with the new branch, "our goal is to make that library the third place you go after work and home," she said.

Mayor Richard Stewart said the current branch outgrew its 11,000 square feet about a decade ago and, last December, despite city department cutbacks and warnings from managers about tough economic times, council earmarked $15 million in the capital plan for a new City Centre library branch.

"Part of the advantage is that we're buying it during a recession," Stewart said of 1169 Pinetree Way. "Our challenge in the downtown core is that in about three months, we'll have a shovel in the ground for the Evergreen Line and land prices will, I suspect, go up significantly."

The new library is "an incredible opportunity that presented a win for the residents of Coquitlam."

Sheena MacLeod, Coquitlam's manager of financial services, said the city plans to borrow $9 million for the purchase - at a rate of 1.7% - and casino funds from the 2013-'14 cycle will be used to pay it off. (Last year, the city collected $8.2 million from the provincial government as part of the municipality's 10% cut from net proceeds from the Boulevard Casino.)

The city takes possession of the ground floor at 1169 Pinetree Way in late June.

A number of financial items still have to be ironed out, Stewart said, including the cost of renovations and an increased operations budget next year for the new library (Coquitlam Public Library has an annual budget of about $4 million to serve 73,000 active patrons, with about $400,000 for new titles at the two branches).

Stewart suggested the move to the 31,000-sq. ft. facility be phased in, with the extra space for complementary services. After the move, the current library space will be used for city hall or Coquitlam RCMP administration uses, he said.

The city recently renovated the aging Poirier branch library at a cost of $3 million - plus another $850,000 to fix a leaky roof last year.

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