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Central Branch Renovations

Questions About the Renovations

How old is the present facility?

The Bishop's House (or Parish House) at the corner of Johnson and Bagot streets was originally built in the early 1800's and used as a residence for the Bishop, as a convent and as a boarding school before being closed and put up for sale in 1969. Extensions that had been built onto the original house were demolished in 1972, but the shell of the original building remained and was acquired by the City of Kingston. The mansard roof, original entrance and windows were restored and the Bishop's House was incorporated into the new library design by architects Lily Inglis and Wilfred Sorensen. The library branch opened in the current facility in 1978.

How many users are served by this branch?

Central is the second busiest branch in the KFPL system. In 2015, 214,800 people visited the Central Branch, borrowed 300,300 items, used the WiFi and Internet 54,157 times and asked 42,922 questions of our staff.

Why is it necessary to renovate the Central Branch?

The renovation is being driven by the need to replace the building's systems, particularly the heating, ventilation and air conditioning and electrical systems. They have reached the end of their service life. The building's original windows are also in need of replacement.

What is the cost of the project?

The construction budget is expected to be $8-9 million, out of a total project budget of $13.8 million, plus an additional $600,000 for moving and relocation expenses.  

When did Kingston City Council approve the project and how it is being funded?

All public library buildings within Kingston are owned by the City and the KFPL manages them on the City's behalf. The project is therefore being funded by the City of Kingston, with some funding transferred from the Library's capital reserve fund. Funding for the project was approved during the City's regular budget process in November, 2015.

A report went to Kingston City Council on July 12, 2016 asking that an amount up to $612,400 be transferred from the Library's capital reserve fund to cover lease of space, fit-up and moving costs. The request for the funding was approved. The actual costs will depend on the duration of the leases and the final moving costs, which will be subject to a competitive bidding process.

Will the current branch be closed at any time during the project?

Yes, the branch is closed for the duration of the construction. The last day of operation was November 26, 2016, and construction started in April 2017.  You may see references to a phased construction process in some of the reports. Due to funding constraints, we had initially planned to keep the building open while we completed the renovations over a 3-4 year period. After reviewing total project costs, risk management and liability and the disruption of library operations, the decision was made to close the library and complete the renovations all at once.

Where are your temporary spaces located and what services will be available?

We operated two temporary spaces from November 2016 to December 2018.  209 Wellington Street was the location for our downtown storefront. At the corner of Queen and Wellington Streets, this location featured a small collection of popular items, served as a location for reservations pickup, and offered computer and wireless Internet access. This location closed in December, 2018. Downtown library users can now access library services through a pop-up library at Artillery Park. 

Our administrative offices were moved to 18 St. Remy Place, off Dalton Avenue. This location also provided attached warehouse space, which allowed us to monitor the collection and to pull reservations efficiently for delivery to other locations on a regular basis.  As of December 2018, the Library's administrative staff and collections have been moved back into the Central Branch.

Will the parking lot be available while construction is taking place?

No, the parking lot will not be available. The parking meter will be removed and signage will be placed to indicate that it is closed. The contractor will require the parking lot for the duration of the construction.

Will the collection be accessible during closure?

Yes. Some specialized collections, such as the book club sets and DAISY books were relocated to other branches. The microfilm and our local history and genealogy collections were  available at the Isabel Turner Branch. Many of our genealogy and local history resources are available through Digital Kingston and the Internet Archive. Learn more about our genealogical resources on our website.

The rest of the Central Branch collection was moved to warehouse space adjacent to the library's temporary administrative offices on St. Remy Place.  As of December, 2018, most of the collections have been moved back into the Central Branch. Patrons can place reservations on items, but should be aware that it is taking longer than usual to fulfill requests as the building is still a construction zone as the finishing touches are completed.

What about programs?

We are offering programs at other locations during the closure. We have partnered with the City to offer our weekday storytimes at Artillery Park, and we are exploring other spaces and partnership opportunities. You can view our full calendar on our website. 

Who is the architect and how was the firm selected?

Following the Library's procurement policy, a Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued in 2014, and HDR Architecture Associates, Inc. were selected as the prime consultants for the project. The general contractor for the project is Everstrong Construction Ltd. They were selected through a two phase process, where firms were pre-qualified in the Fall of 2016 to participate in the tender process in the Spring of 2017.

It seemed that work took a long time to get started. What happened and is the project still on time?

There were a few factors that caused the design process to take longer than expected:

Because of the building's heritage designation and location at the edge of the Old Sydenham Heritage Conservation District, we had to receive approval of the proposed design and obtain a heritage permit from Kingston City Council. Plans were submitted to Heritage Kingston for review at their July meeting. Based on feedback received from Heritage Kingston, from the City's planning staff and from members of the public during our consultations in early August, the design was revised and a revised report was submitted to Council for their September 6, 2017 meeting. The heritage permit was granted, thus finalizing the exterior design, aside from some minor alterations that would need to comply with the conditions in the heritage permit.

The revisions to the original design made to satisfy heritage requirements required that the main entrance to the building, including the steps, sloped walkway and ramps, as well as the landscaping plan, be redesigned. The change to the entrance also meant changes had to be made to the interior space, particularly to the main staircase, vestibule, staff work areas and storage. After these design changes were made, the plans were reviewed by representatives from the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC) who asked questions and provided valuable insight to make sure that the project complies with the City of Kingston's Facility Accessible Design Standards (FADS). Their suggested changes were incorporated into the design. 

In addition to the revisions to the design, additional testing was completed. The pre-cast concrete columns were x-rayed to ensure they were strong enough to support the changes being made to the main staircase. Further investigation was done in several places around the exterior of the building to determine the condition of the bricks, insulation, vapor barrier in order to specify the remedial work to be completed on the building's facade.

All of this work contributed to the final drawings being finalized and the tender being issued about a month later than expected. Once construction started, some unexpected conditions were encountered in the building and behind walls. The condition of the brick on the Johnson Street facade and ties that secure the brick to the building required more extensive repair than was planned for, the building's electrical transformer required replacement, and excavation and waterproofing were necessary for the foundations of the historic Parish House. Original plans had the library re-opening in the Spring of 2018. This has now been moved to March 23, 2019.

Will there be any work done on the exterior of the Bishop's House?

There was some excavation and waterproofing done around the foundation of the Bishop's House as part of the project. New planters were also constructed on Bagot Street and the historic plaque will be reinstalled. The repointing of the limestone, repair of the lintels and painting of the historic windows and door was not included as part of the renovations and will be done as a separate project in the near-future.

What collections and services will be featured in the renovated building?

The collections offered by the Central Branch will be housed on lower, more accessible shelving with wider aisles between the shelves. The reconfiguration of the space will allow for better organization of the collection and more intuitive wayfinding. The expanded and redesigned marketplace area will provide more opportunities to showcase new and popular materials and to highlight collections that are of interest to our community. Part of the reconfiguration of the space involves separating the children's and teen areas and relocating to them to first floor. Adult fiction, magazines and our new and popular collections, including CDs and DVDs will also be located on the first floor. The first floor will also feature hands-on opportunities for learning and collaboration in our maker space and attached programming room. The Friends of the Library will have their own dedicated space to sell their merchandise and highlight their activities. There will be ample space for the community to interact, learn and be inspired. The second floor will house the adult non-fiction collections, local history and genealogy, including microfilm, and computers. By separating the more active and social activities from the research and study functions, we will be better able to serve the needs and meet the expectations of our community, whether they will be looking to engage with library staff or other citizens or needing quiet space to do research or learn.

How will accessibility be improved in the building after the renovation?

The entrance to the building and the first and second floors will be completely renovated following the Ontario Building Code and the City of Kingston's Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS). We will be working with the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC) to make sure the design, furniture and shelving are accessible to all members of the community.  A few specific improvements include washrooms, which will be relocated and redesigned, shelving, which will be lowered with the aisles widened between shelves, and the entrance and ramps and sloped walkway at the front of building.

Will there be art gallery space in the new library?

Over the past few years, KFPL has been successfully moving from a passive role in providing collections and services, including art exhibition space, to one where we engage with the community through programming and outreach. KFPL has developed partnerships with the City's Cultural Services Department, including the City museums, with Kingston WritersFest, and worked with heritage organizations to make their collections available through digitization. Our Art of Illustration program looks at picture book illustration as art and provides children with the opportunity to explore different media and methods. Through our KFPL Live speaker series, we have hosted discussions on many different topics of interest to our communities. KFPL has received much positive feedback from community members regarding this change of approach, which has brought greater numbers and more diverse participants into our branches. At the same time, the reconfiguration of the meeting room and foyer spaces on the second floor to address accessibility and security concerns means that wall space will be limited. Going forward, the Library looks forward to plan with Kingston's large artist community how this model can be expanded, bringing together the community and artists in interactive ways.

Will there be a café in the new library?

Accessibility requirements and space constraints, as well as the lack of a business case, mean that a café will not be incorporated into the new design. The Book Ends Café was operated by the Voices, Opportunities & Choices Employment Club (VOCEC), one of Providence Care's Community Mental Health Services. Their lease was up at the end of 2015, and with the upcoming renovation of the Central Branch and concerns about the financial viability of the business, they decided not to renew their lease for 2016. While a valued service to library patrons and staff, VOCEC had a difficult time breaking even at the Central Branch, losing money in each year of operations. We are happy to share with you that VOCEC is currently thriving in new community locations, including the YMCA of Kingston. Also, prime space in Providence Care's new hospital has been designated for a café to be operated by VOCEC. Opening another café that is not financially sustainable does not fit with the financial targets and budget direction we received from the City of Kingston in August, 2015. We appreciated the efforts made by VOCEC and are pleased with their new success in other locations. We have incorporated vending machines into the re-designed space and will follow the City's lead in providing healthy options in those machines.

What is LEED and what level are you trying to achieve?

We are following the City of Kingston's Enhanced Municipal Green Building Policy which requires major renovation and construction projects to achieve silver level certification in the Canada Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. The goal is to minimize energy costs, waste and greenhouse gas emissions and to protect indoor air quality. For more information about the City's green buildings and sustainability initiatives, please see their website. The project is expected to achieve the LEED certifed level.

When will the building be completed?

The Central Branch re-opened on March 23, 2019. 


Last update: May 8, 2019