Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Who Wants to Redevelop the Capitol Library?

City aims to redevelop sixth library to add to tax base, create new library.

By - Jan 3rd, 2019 05:40 pm
Capitol Library. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Capitol Library. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee is poised to get yet another new public library branch under an innovative public-private partnership.

This time it’s the Capitol Library that will be redeveloped. Milwaukee Public Library issued a request for proposals (RFP) on December 27th, seeking a developer to combine a new, 17,500-square-foot library facility with either apartments, condominiums, retail or office space. Developers have until January 29th to respond.

The current Capitol Library is located at 3969 N. 74th St., just south of W. Capitol Dr. The RFP requests that any proposal be located within one mile of the current site. The new library would be conveyed to the city as a condominium, so the city does not have to pay property taxes to itself. The remainder of the development would be required to pay property taxes.

The city has already seen great success in redeveloping the Villard Square, East and Forest Home (now Mitchell) library branches. Construction is underway on the Good Hope Library, which will replace an obsolete facility on W. Mill Rd. A proposal to redevelop the Martin Luther King Library is still pending.

According to library officials, once the Good Hope Library is finished the program will have created $25 million of taxable property and 271 new apartments, many of them affordable. The Capitol Library, which opened in 1964, is the last branch planned to join the redevelopment program. The remaining six libraries are newer (Bay View, Washington Park) or have received updates (Tippecanoe).

Many of the mixed-use library development proposals have relied on a mix of low-income housing, new market and historic preservation tax credits to fund the projects. Developers have included Gorman & Co., HSI and a partnership of Royal Capital Group and Maures Development.

The design of the new library’s interior will have a separate RFP process and will be funded by the Milwaukee Public Library. The 2019 city budget includes $1.4 million for the redevelopment of the Martin Luther King and Capitol libraries.

The city anticipates construction starting on the new Capitol branch in 2020.

What Happens to the Old Library?

The developer is not required to take possession of the former library as part of the deal. The Department of City Development would look to sell or lease the property to a future user. The Common Council recently approved the sale of the former Forest Home Library for $450,000 to immigrant rights non-profit Voces De La Frontera for use as the organization’s headquarters. The organization intends to spend another $100,000 on improving the facility.

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