Project Management

Bound & Determined: An innovative library design helped bridge neighborhoods

Catherine Elton, and PM Network

As part of an extensive public revitalization plan, government sponsors in Calgary, Alberta, Canada launched the five-year, CA$245 million Calgary New Central Library project. The four-story, 240,000-square-foot (22,297-square-meter) library was designed to provide a striking cultural and architectural landmark—spanning an entire block—that connects an affluent downtown to the developing and long-marginalized East Village neighborhood.

Clad in glass and metal and built to integrate an existing light rail line, the library houses 40 community meeting areas, a café and performance hall, recording studios, children and teen areas and, of course, books—some 450,000 of them. By all measurable accounts, the ROI has been immediate.

The project was completed in September—three months ahead of schedule and CA$10 million under budget. During the first month of operation, after opening in November, the library recorded more than 200,000 visits, 100,000 items checked out and 7,600 new library cards issued. By 2020, Calgary Public Library is projecting 2 million annual visitors, in a town of 1.2 million people.

Yet project partners Calgary Public Library, Calgary Municipal Land Corp. and the city of Calgary stress that the ultimate benefits barometer will be the library’s ability to provide a space where residents from all neighborhoods can …

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