Historic Designation Could Halt Demolition of Forest Home Library
City poised to sell building to developer, who would develop office building in its place.
The Historic Preservation Commission finds itself poised to debate the historic merits of a city-owned, mid-century modern building.
An application to historically designate the former Forest Home Library, 1432 W. Forest Home Ave., has been filed by Kelsey Kuehn and Eric Vogel, an educator and architectural historian, both of Vogel Design Group.
The library, which closed in 2017 when the city opened a new library at 906 W. Historic Mitchell St., is poised to be sold by the city and demolished. ICAP Development would acquire the property and develop a $5 million, 18,000-square-foot medical office building for an office tenant.
“The interior architecture is emblematic of the mid-century period and features an open floor plan with exposed post and beam lattice construction that casts striking light conditions across the space,” wrote the applicants in their submission.
The application could trigger the unusual, but not unprecedented situation where a city department must publicly argue with another over the historic merits of a city-owned building.
The 14,500-square-foot building was completed in 1966. It was recognized by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Wisconsin chapter and the Institute of Steel Construction in 1967. “The history of the architectural applications of Corten steel reveals that the Forest Home Library is far more distinct and important than it might first appear,” wrote the applicants. The building was designed by the architecture firm of von Grossman, Burroughs & Van Lanen.
Kuehn said she hopes it spurs debate that leads to the building’s preservation. “This process will open a forum for community dialog,” she told Urban Milwaukee.
Immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera was poised to buy and rehabilitate the building in 2018, even securing Common Council approval, but the organization found another building on W. Historic Mitchell St. that is being redeveloped into its home.
The one-story library building occupies a trapezoidal site bordered by S. 15th St. and W. Forest Home Ave. A parking lot is included on the north portion of the property.
The property is one of the first midcentury buildings the commission has considered for historic designation.
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