Work on PE’s historic library set to be completed in 2021

The mammoth task of refurbishing and renovating Port Elizabeth’s main has gained momentum.
Picture: Eugene Coetzee

The mammoth task of refurbishing and renovating Port Elizabeth’s main library in the heart of the city has gained momentum, with work to the building’s structure under way and an estimated completion date of mid-2021 announced by the municipality.

With just on R15-million already spent on the colossal task undertaken by the municipality, further work on the historic building will depend on the future budgets of the municipality’s directorate of sports, recreation, arts and culture.

After severe flooding in 2006 and 2012, the library – first opened in 1902 – had suffered considerable damage, creating an environment hazardous to the public and library workers, municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said.

“Accordingly the Main Library building was closed to the public in September 2014, and library personnel were relocated to alternative library facilities,” he said.

Local architecture firm The Matrix Urban Designers and Architects were appointed by the municipality to investigate and assess potential health hazards, and the planning, specification and contract administration of any remedial work required.

In 2015, a report on the building containing recommendations for remedial work and estimated project costs of R37.3-million, was submitted to the municipality.

“This estimated project cost exceeded the directorate’s [of sports, recreation, arts and culture] project budget of R18.1-million for the 2015/16 – 2017/18 financial years,” Mniki said.

Subsequent reports presented by the sport, recreation, arts and cultural services committee to the municipality, saw the council resolve that additional funding be sourced to complete the project.

The first phase, costing nearly R2-million and completed in October 2016, saw a section of the municipality’s Struanway depot converted into a warehouse to store cleaned and decontaminated books and historical artefacts.

Part of that phase included converting two shipping containers into facilities to clean the books and transferring them to the depot, which cost over R1-million.

Tenders for phase two of the project – which includes repair work, renovations and refurbishment of the heritage site – went out in January last year, with the official site hand-over taking place in November. The nearly R12-million contract was awarded to Ibhayi Contracting.

Tender submissions for the second part of phase two – which includes internal renovation and refurbishment on all levels as well as extensive work on electrical installation, and on fire detection and suppression systems – would be advertised early next year, Mniki said.

It was expected all building work would be completed by the end of March 2021.

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