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Old central library location to be turned into research hub

Last Updated Dec 10, 2018 at 7:09 pm MDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — It’s sat empty ever since the Calgary Public Library moved its central location to the East Village in November, but it won’t stay that way for much longer.

First opened in 1963, the Castell Building will remain a place of knowledge and learning, thanks to a partnership between the University of Calgary and the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation.

“We’re very excited for this partnership with CMLC, between the University of Calgary and specifically the Faculty of Environmental Design,” said U of C President Dr. Elizabeth Cannon. “This space in the old library will be activated through teaching, through research and really a community hub.”

It will provide a satellite location for that faculty, as they explore what cities should be like in the future.

“Really provides an opportunity to look at city buildings. And really, in that context, seeing how you can design cities to be more resilient, to be more innovative and to be more connected.”

READ MORE: New Calgary Public Library opens

It’s a five-year partnership that begins in January, with $200,000 being spent renovating the main floor and basement of the old building, which sits along the CTrain line next to city hall.

Michael Brown is President and CEO of the CMLC and is happy to see this project fit with their revitalization plans in the downtown.

“The old central library is really a space that if we let it sit vacant for too long, it’s going to turn into something that we’re not really happy with. Over the last year, we’ve started having discussions with a number of city groups, and one of the groups that came forward was an environmental design group at the University of Calgary. They saw the vision of what this building could be and what it could turn into.”

But that money does not mean it will transform the building into a luxurious space — because that is not required.

“It’s not going to be necessarily a neat and tidy space, this is going to be a working space, this is going to be a studio space,” said Dr. Cannon. “And that’s what you want. A lot of creativity, a lot of innovation around the futures of cities.”

“They’re used to working in spaces that aren’t quite perfect yet, they can keep designing as they work their way through it,” added Brown. “So $200,000 in this kind of space I think is peanuts to attract that great a tenant.”

Dr. Cannon added this fits with the university’s ‘Eyes High’ strategy, which is also related to the recent opening of a research park in the northwest.

It’s expected to draw in lots more traffic into the downtown, from students and faculty, to professionals and just general members of the public, as there will be numerous events inside the building as well.

“Young people, old people, it’s definitely going to bring the uber-engaged in terms of their community. We’ve used the term for many, many years, urban explorers. They want to see things like this in their core,” said Brown.