However, in a report being tabled at next week's corporate services committee meeting, city staff noted the municipality would have the right to expropriate the properties should negotiations fail.
The block has a total area of 0.74 hectares, or approximately 79,500 square feet, and features two historic apartment buildings with a total of 28 units, a surface parking lot, and a development site, retail bank and headquarters building owned by the Civil Service Co-Operative Credit Society Ltd., now Alterna Savings.
The specific properties are:
- 156-160 Lyon St., owned by Benjamin Feinstein. Land registry records show the property has been held by members of the Feinstein family since at least the late 1950s;
- 388 Albert St., owned Irene and Bruno Kaczmarek, who have held part of the property since at least 1965, according to land registry records;
- The apartments at 408 and 414 Albert St., owned by 1470475 Ontario Inc. and operated by Fleming Property Management, whose website says the lowrises date back to the 1930s;
- The Civil Service Co-operative Credit Society Ltd. land at 400 Albert St., which has been held by the co-op since at least the mid-1960s.
Kimberley Ney, Alterna's senior vice-president of marketing and communications, says the company was only recently notified of the city's intentions.
"This news just came to us late last week that the city would be looking at our property, so we are getting the information about the same time you are," she said.
"It is our intention to cooperate with the city. We understand it is a prestigious piece of real estate downtown ... (and) we are willing to talk to the city about it."
Ms. Ney said there are approximately 250 Alterna employees working at the site. She said a new retail branch would be located downtown, but said it is possible the head office could move outside the core.
While Ms. Ney said Alterna first heard of the city's plans last week, municipal officials had actually selected the site a year ago, Pamela Sweet, chair of the library facilities planning committee, told reporters at a Wednesday morning press conference.
However, the library board decided it needed more time to research its requirements, such as how much space would be needed for a children's area or computer space to serve a city the size of Ottawa.
While these requirements are now finalized, detailed design plans for the new building have yet to be drafted and officials said contracts for architectural services and site work are likely more than a year away.
Ms. Sweet said the building is likely to be between four and six storeys and could include retail space, and possibly even offices and residential units. The new library is planned to sit atop an LRT station and provide access to the underground rail line. The staff report said it will be built to a LEED Gold rating, which measures sustainability and environmental standards.
After the property is purchased, the city will decide on a procurement vehicle for construction, said Ms. Sweet, adding all options, from a design competition to a more traditional public-private partnership, will be considered.
Beyond the $26 million for land acquisitions, the city does not know what the cost of the new library will be, said Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder, who also chairs the library board.
A previous long-range municipal budget forecast called for $181.5 million between 2012 and 2018 to be allocated to replace the main library, according to a staff report.
Acting mayor Michel Bellemare called the process to build the new library "a city building exercise."
Indeed, the ability to use the new library to contribute to city planning initiatives and develop the downtown was one of the criteria used to select the site, along with its character, contextual suitability, capacity and lack of physical, legal or operational encumbrances.
The Lyon/Slater/Bay/Albert location scored higher than both the fields and building of the old Ottawa Technical High School, as well as the Shamrock surface parking lot at Metcalfe and Nepean streets and the Lorne Building on Elgin Street, which has a large adjacent development site owned by Public Works.
Several existing buildings were also considered, but were determined functionally unsuitable for a central library.
Ms. Sweet said the property housing the current main library and Metcalfe Street and Laurier Avenue is likely to eventually be sold for between $19 million and $20 million.
She added that it will likely be five years before ground is broken for the new library, which she hopes could open its doors as soon as 2015.