Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Council Approves Revised Library Deal

Library hopes third time is the charm for new branch on Martin Luther King Dr.

By - Dec 18th, 2019 12:50 pm
MLK Library proposal by Young Development Group, LLC. Rendering by JLA Architects.

Young’s original MLK Library proposal. LLC. Rendering by JLA Architects.

Heading into its fourth year, the Milwaukee Public Library hopes a proposal to redevelop the Martin Luther King Library branch at 310 W. Locust St. can secure financing.

Young Development Group won a request for proposals to redevelop the library in December 2016. The firm, formed the same year by Lavelle Young, proposed to use federal New Market Tax Credits to finance a four-story building with three floors of apartments above a new library. But it failed to secure the necessary credits to advance the $15.6 million project.

A revised proposal, in partnership with Haywood Group, would have included the redevelopment of the adjacent Garfield Theatre, 2933-2957 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. The library would have occupied a portion of the building’s first floor, with apartments above. A new building with apartments would have been developed on the site of the current library. But the Milwaukee Public Library Board of Trustees rejected the proposal due to concerns about the per-square-foot cost.

Now Young is partnering with General Capital Group to bring the project to fruition. The new plan includes a four-story building with 44 apartments above an approximately 17,000-square-foot library and 1,400 square feet of commercial space on the site of the current library. An additional five-story apartment building would be constructed at the north end of the block along W. Chambers St. The budget for the project is $28 million.

“We’re very excited about this new project,” said MPL executive director Paula Kiely to members of the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee last week.

The revised project will rely on low-income housing tax credits to finance apartments in a new building. “I just really want to reinforce that Lavelle has done the visioning,” said General Capital partner Sig Strautmanis. “I just want to say we’re here to support, provide backstop to Lavelle.”

It’s the first time the company has partnered with a graduate of the Associates in Commercial Real Estate (ACRE) program that is designed to provide training for minorities and women for careers in real estate. The firm has experience with affordable housing development.

“It’s taken a little bit to get here, but I’m glad we are here,” said area Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs. “I grew up on 3rd and Burleigh; MLK Library was like a second home to me.”

The library also has a history for Young. He grew up across the street and his family still owns property nearby.

The branch library is a single-story structure that opened in 1971. As with many of its peers, the city has looked to replace the aging structure with a development that pays property taxes and can provide a modern, efficient first-floor library.

The Common Council unanimously endorsed the revised agreement Tuesday morning. It grants site control of the library site as well as city-owned properties at 2971-2975 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and 2977-2979 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. The partners will need to acquire a privately owned lot at 2967 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and the green space at each side of the Garfield Theatre. The theater is currently not included in the redevelopment plan, but is located between the two proposed buildings. Documents from Young list it as a “future renovation.”

Young is working with JLA Architects on the project’s design.

The library system is nearing completion of a new Good Hope Library and is working on the redevelopment of the Capitol Library.

2016 Renderings

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Related Legislation: File 191277

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