Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

MLK Library Closes, Construction Starts On Replacement

Old library at 3rd and Locust closing, new mixed-use facility being constructed.

By - May 17th, 2023 04:51 pm
Martin Luther King Library on its closing day, May 6, 2023. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Martin Luther King Library on its closing day, May 6, 2023. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The May 6 closure of the Martin Luther King Library branch was a cause for celebration for many city leaders and neighborhood residents.

A steady stream of visitors, including area Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs and Milwaukee Public Library director Joan Johnson, took one final look inside a facility they had visited countless times before.

The library, 310 W. Locust St., opened in 1971 and is part of a generation of one-story libraries whose mechanical systems are failing and whose designs can’t accommodate the varied uses of modern libraries. Since 2016, the city has publicly sought a mixed-use replacement for the King Library, but a prior developer failed to secure financing after repeated tries

Now, things are moving forward. Emem Group and General Capital Group closed on the financing of a $38.8 million, 93-apartment redevelopment on April 14.

The partners will host a groundbreaking ceremony Friday, but work is already underway.

A temporary library, 2767 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., will open on May 22. It will offer popular materials, hold pick-ups, laptops and wireless internet access.

The new, permanent library will be located in the base of a four-story, 42-unit apartment building. The city will own the 17,000-square-foot library as a condominium.

“The mixed-use library model has proven successful in other areas of Milwaukee, and I cannot wait until this new development that will include the new King Library is ready to open this fall,” said Coggs in a statement announcing the temporary library. “Libraries are vital for communities to thrive, and soon area residents will have access to a one-of-a-kind public space.”

But the new library building is only one of three structures impacted by the larger development. The project runs along the west side of N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. between W. Locust St. and W. Chambers St.

The mid-block Garfield Theatre building, 2933-2957 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., will be redeveloped. The two-story commercial building and lobby structure that faces the street will be redeveloped as eight live-work, two-story apartments while the theater structure, located along the alley at the rear of the site, will be demolished and used for surface parking.

A four-story, 43-unit apartment building will be constructed at the north end of the block.

Demolition of the one remaining building, a two-story, city-owned structure at 2977-2979 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., is effectively complete. All that remains is the foundation and a pile of bricks. The long-vacant building was built in 1904 as a tavern according to city assessment records.

JLA Architects is serving as the design firm on the development. Moody Nolan will design the library’s interior. Northcentral Construction is serving as the general contractor.

Urban Milwaukee will have additional coverage of the development following the groundbreaking.

Garfield Theatre and Construction Site

Library’s Last Day

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