The $16 million library under construction in downtown Charlottetown, P.E.I. has escaped major setbacks through COVID-19 and the developer expects it to come in close to the price tallied prior to the pandemic.
“We’re tracking somewhere between three and five per cent over budget but given the times we are working in I think that is a tremendous achievement for the whole project team,” says Wade Arsenault, senior project manager and CEO of the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation (CADC).
The 35,000-square-foot adaptive use project is in a 1950s federal government building on Charlottetown’s main street. It replaces the library half its size across the street that lacked accessibility features and administrative space.
While the project has faced some material supply chain issues, overall construction has gone ahead “pretty well uninterrupted,” says Arsenault, adding construction on Prince Edward Island has been less restricted by the pandemic than other provinces.
The provincial government is the majority stakeholder of the CADC. Its partners are the City of Charlottetown and the Town of Stratford.
The library’s new home will be on the main floor of the Dominion Building, a six-storey former post office that had already seen a conversion on upper floors to residential apartments and a law office. The library will double the size of its predecessor, include administration offices and be wheelchair accessible.
Arsenault says the move is ideal because it keeps the library in downtown Charlottetown and it is close to its former home, minimizing moving costs and complications.
While the space had been gutted prior to the CADC’s acquisition, the renovation still required the removal of one office space to prepare for the fit-up of the new library, he says, noting while there was a small asbestos removal job it did not hamper construction.
Renovations are in final stages with construction crews doing floor finishes and setting millwork, slated for completion in time for the library move-in possibly in late March.
The project has been constructed in four phases, three of which have been led by current P.E.I.-based general contractor Williams Murphy & MacLeod Ltd.
James C. Johnson Associates Inc. did the demolition.
An architectural design by P.E.I-based Nine Yards Architecture, the new library features a “glass bumped out” terrace facing the street and a rear terrace that looks over a town square.
Arsenault says Nine Yards partnered with MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited of Halifax which had designed the Truro library and played a design role at the new Halifax public library.
“When we put out the RFP we required the architect to have some recent library design experience…because we wanted to make sure we were getting the latest in design for modern libraries.”
The library will have dedicated administration offices and a loading bay for shipping books to other libraries in its system on the island.
Arsenault says the choice to renovate an existing space rather than build new proved a smart decision when the pandemic hit.
“We didn’t have to build a structure which in this day and age with supply chain issues and labour shortages etc…would have complicated the project further.”
While renovating an old building can come with engineering and construction surprises, he says there were few in the federal building.
“We were concerned about the ability of the existing floor to carry the bookstacks but analysis of the as-built for the building (a concrete cast-in-place structure with steel columns) showed it was more than adequate to carry what we are going to put in.”