A NEW chapter in the life of Newcastle’s City Library got under way yesterday as the first stone of the new building was ceremonially laid.
The city’s old library was wiped off the map in May and now its replacement is rising from the ashes.
Work on the foundations have now been completed and the building’s new steel skeleton is growing on to the city’s skyline.
And yesterday the construction phase of the new six-storey library officially began.
The occasion was marked with a ceremony during which the Lord Mayor Coun Peter Arnold and Newcastle City Council leader Coun John Shipley laid the founding stone.
The Lord Mayor and Coun Shipley led a VIP party from the Civic Centre to commemorate the moment.
Representatives of the project architects Ryder and the building contractors Tolent were also on hand to take part in the ceremony and to give a presentation to mark the beginning of the next phase.
The council’s executive member for culture, heritage and libraries Coun Pauline Allen said: “The new City Library will be a very valuable community resource.
“It will be open seven days a week with meeting rooms that can be used by businesses, community groups and other agencies and we confidently expect annual visitor numbers to reach 1.4 million.”
The new library is part of a £40.2m regeneration initiative between the Newcastle City Council and Kajima Partnerships.
Bosses hope the library will be open to the public by the summer of 2009.
They say the new centre will be one of the best in Europe and will provide a massive contribution to the city’s regeneration and development.
With work on the foundations of the new building, which is being constructed on the site of the former library at Princess Square, already completed, its steel skeleton is now rapidly going up.
Kajima Partnership’s development manager Craig Smailes said: “With the complicated foundation work complete, the erection of the structural steel frame marks a significant milestone in the completion of the new city library.”
Once finished, it will include new facilities for children and young people, a 180-seat performance space, a crèche, a cafe and internet access computers. Tolent Construction Ltd’s project manager John Luke said: “Following demolition of the old city library building and completion of the new foundations, it is most satisfying to see the new library rising out of the ground.”
At least 95% of the former City Library is being recycled.
The PFI project also includes a new High Heaton Library, on the site of the former library in Newton Place. This features a separate children’s library, a community meeting room and a customer inquiry point for information about council services.