Watson supports public-private partnership for new central library

At a campaign rally this evening, Jim Watson announced his support for a public-private partnership for a new central library. In front of a crowd of almost 500 supporters, the largest campaign rally to date, Watson laid out four guiding principles for the project.

library_small.jpgEarlier this year, the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) Board of Directors, in consultation with Mayor Watson, took steps to evaluate finding a private partner to replace the aging downtown central library.

“The time has come to renew this important community asset. Working together, I know we can find an effective solution that provides great value for taxpayers,” said Watson. “I look forward to working with Council to get the best possible value for the current location, and injecting these dollars in a new facility to be built in partnership with the private sector.”

Watson laid out four key principles for ensuring the success of the proposed P3 process: 

  1. Affordability: The P3 proposal should provide significant benefit to Ottawa taxpayers. Watson believes that the total long-term cost of developing a new facility should be favourable when compared to the cost of redeveloping the 40-year-old facility at Laurier and Metcalfe.

  2. Role: The new library should serve as a central information, innovation and gathering hub that must also support Ottawa’s established and budding entrepreneurs. For example, Watson believes the new facility could partner with the new Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards to offer entrepreneurship programs to young people and adults wishing to start a new business.

  3. Transit: The facility should be built with direct access to either the Confederation Line or the current O-Train, so that it would be easily accessible to residents across the city. Access will improve even more once light rail is extended farther east, west and south.

  4. Public engagement: The proposed P3 process should include innovative and meaningful opportunities for Ottawa residents to have their say on the proposed P3 partnership.

Watson believes that Ottawa’s planned Stage 2 light rail transit expansion will allow the City to push the boundaries of where a central library could be built. 

“We want residents of all ages and abilities, from all corners of the city, to use this new central resource to improve and enrich their lives,” said Watson. “Continuing with the planned LRT expansion will provide us with the kind of certainty and stability needed to move forward confidently on key projects like this one.”

Watson also sees this as an opportunity to strengthen the city’s network of local libraries that will continue to serve as community-based information, innovation and gathering spaces.

Watson has a strong record of securing creative, affordable partnerships with the private sector. Such partnerships in his first term have included the Confederation Line light rail transit system, the Lansdowne Park revitalization and the recently-opened Richcraft Sensplex East. Just last week, Council approved the Mayor’s plan to redevelop Arts Court and expand the Ottawa Art Gallery as part of a $100-million revitalization project. 

“We need to keep life affordable for Ottawa families, while continuing to renew important community assets,” said Watson. “We need to find creative ways to collaborate with the private sector when it means we can find better value for residents. Our Council has shown that this can be done.”