A Mixed-Use Library to Replace the East Library?
Alderman Nik Kovac, whose district includes the East Library on 1910 E. North Avenue, held a public meeting on November 11th to solicit feedback on the proposal of converting the one-story, single-use library into a mixed-use building. The meeting, which was held in the East Library meeting room, attracted a standing-room only crowd, and included representatives from the Library Board (of which Kovac is a member), the Department of City Development, and the Mayor’s office. In addition to Nik Kovac, Common Council members Ashanti Hamilton and Milele Coggs were in attendance.
The Library Board has proposed transforming the way library services are delivered by introducing three different types of libraries, mixed-use facilities, area libraries, and express libraries designed to expand facility hours and modernize operations.
The intent is for the second implementation of the mixed-use library concept to be done with the East Library. To-date three proposals have been made for the site including two hotels (one by Doug Weas, whose firm redeveloped the nearby Kenilworth facility for UWM, another by ASQ Center developer Bill Orenstein, Founding Principal of Williams Development Corporation) and an apartment building by Mercy Housing, who is currently proposing a nearby apartment building. Alderman Kovac also noted as a possibility that a potential request-for-proposals might be expanded to include the adjacent Continental Savings Bank building. After a presentation on the broad efforts of the Library Board and the increasingly smaller budget they’ve been dealt, feedback was solicited from attendees.
Similar to many East Side meetings, audience comments focused around design, parking, and building height. Written comments were collected, but of the 27 comments made before the group they focused on…
- 10 comments included concerns about design, many of which were aimed at the design of a potential parking garage, including one from Thea Kovac requesting that Spancrete not be used, an obvious reference to the unfortunate outcome of the Downer Avenue Garage design process.
- 6 comments included concerns about congestion and parking.
- 5 comments included concerns about with the height of the potential building, to which Kovac reassured the audience that a potential design review board would keep the height in scale with current zoning limits of 60 feet, similar to the recently completed Cambridge Commons.
- 3 comments included concerns about the perceived negative effects of privatization.
- 2 comments included concerns about the installation of solar panels or green roofs as cost-saving solutions.
- 1 comment was voiced in support of increased density
- 1 comment was voiced in full support of the mixed-use concept as put forth by the Library Board.
Assuming the Library Board elects to go forward with the process of converting the library to a mixed-use facility, the likely next step in the process is to prepare a request-for-proposals (RFP) to solicit official development proposals.