David Parker: A Strathmore-built synergy

A partnership between two Strathmore-based organizations has resulted in the construction of a new building that will serve both in joint use as well as in their separate and very different needs.

Western Irrigation District (WID) and the Marigold Library System were in need of more modernized and functional space. By joining forces, they have been able to move into a new facility that is proving to be ideal for the current and future requirements of both not-for-profit community minded organizations.

BRZ Partnership Architecture was awarded the design, a company that principal Hank Brzezinski says has lots of experience with libraries. It is currently doing renovations to modernize buildings for the Calgary Public Library in its Shawnessy and Saddletown branches.

He says the new build in Strathmore was a challenge as the building was flipped to have the front entrance at the back facing residences, so that people living nearby wouldn’t have to look onto a large yard where trucks and vans would be constantly arriving or departing, while creating noise.

The joint venture is a 32,000-square-foot building surrounded by ample landscaped parking, designed with 5,600 square feet of collaborative spaces used as meeting rooms for both organizations. And the plan is to make the spaces available for the local community’s use after the move-ins are completed and things are running smoothly.

Marigold’s wing is home for its 30 headquarter staff who look after its 43-member municipalities surrounding Calgary plus two First Nations Reserves that they serve.

Michelle Toombs — who joined the Marigold system 12 years ago as CEO, after serving the Calgary Public Library for many years — says its service population has tripled since 2002 which meant, after conducting a study to determine space needs and costs, the decision was made on a new structure rather than modifying its former, old building or purchasing and renovating an existing one.

Its new headquarters will provide sufficient staging and workroom areas for shipping and receiving, adequate space for the IT department to manage supplies and hardware, and provide a safe area for loading and unloading vehicles.

Toombs says today the system, that was established in 1981, is the third largest library system in Alberta based on population served, with 340,000 clients in its service area. Marigold also collaborates in supporting others libraries in the province sharing some 3.3 million items that can be ordered at, and delivered to, any branch across the province.

The professionals in Strathmore serve 180 libraries who annually sort and transport over two million items, consisting of a variety of books, DVDs, Blu-rays and streaming music, movies and TV shows.

Catalogues of the offerings, selected and maintained for the different libraries, must be constantly updated, and some of the local branches also organize their own individual contributions for members that might include power tools, bicycles, camping and party supplies.

WID, meanwhile, has been in the business of saving water, putting land to work and enhancing water safety for over 75 years using high-efficiency irrigation systems to sustain the future vitality of a vast area that covers some 38,450 hectares of farmland. It also has agreements to supply raw water to several municipalities, golf courses and wetlands within it jurisdiction.

Its new headquarters wing is now home to its 30 staff involved in administration, operations and a sizeable shop with high bay doors that assist with storage and maintenance of its large fleet of vehicles.

Both organizations needed to increase spaces due to growth and to be able to have room to host larger meetings, the collaborative synergy of the new building solves all of their needs in a cost-effective solution.


David Parker’s column appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at .

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