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City stacks up options for library project

Paul Snyder

paul.snyder@dailyreporter.com

Despite months spent considering two multimillion-dollar proposals to turn Madison’s Central Library into a mixed-use development, city leaders now are tempted by a simpler third option.

“The cost of doing a rehab and renovation of the library is less than roughly 50 percent of doing a new building,” said Library Board president Tripp Widder.

The city hired Milwaukee-based Hammel, Green and Abrahamson Inc. to sketch out rehabilitation options and costs. The results ranged from basic building upgrades to adding another floor and 1,000 square feet at costs of roughly $10 million to $14 million, said Alderman Mike Verveer.

“I hadn’t heard Central Library put in such a positive light in a long time,” he said. “I always thought rehab was off the table, but the presentation confirmed there is a third option.”

If the city chooses that option, Verveer said, Madison will send out a new request for proposals because HGA’s work was only used as a comparison to the mixed-use proposals offered by Madison-based companies T. Wall Properties LLC and

Plans to rebuild Madison’s Central Library, 201 W. Mifflin St., Madison pictured Friday, into a mixed-use development could fall by the wayside in favor of renovating the existing building.  Photo by Henry A. Koshollek

Plans to rebuild Madison’s Central Library, 201 W. Mifflin St., Madison pictured Friday, into a mixed-use development could fall by the wayside in favor of renovating the existing building. Photo by Henry A. Koshollek

T. Wall’s proposal is estimated at $45 million and Fiore’s at $75 million.

Fiore Executive Vice President Bill Kunkler said Madison will miss out on substantial new economic development by working with what it has instead of selecting one of the two other proposals.

“It’s important to put it in the context of broader economic development,” he said. “By rehabbing the central library, you’re creating no new tax base. Within the broader urban context, that might not be the best use of taxpayer money.”

Widder said Kunkler makes a fair point, one with which the city and Library Board will wrestle in the coming months. The Library Board and city committee charged with considering project options will make a decision later this year.

“In terms of factors identified, (creating new tax base) was one of the objectives with a new Central Library plan,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is the financing gap is a problem.”

Madison Public Library Director Barbara Dimick agreed. She said the library foundation is facing a tough road when it comes to raising money.

“Even after the economy recovers,” she said, “the thought right now is that we wouldn’t be able to amass any significant money for another three or four years.”

Dimick last year said Central Library was on its last legs and needs a new direction. She said Thursday she hopes its legs can stand a little longer.

Under deals Madison would strike with either T. Wall or Fiore, the city wants to generate about $10 million for the project in private donations.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz put $1.7 million in Madison’s proposed 2009 budget to cover the city’s portion of a mixed-use project and committed to setting aside another $14 million in city money in the 2010 budget.

That makes the rehab and renovation option look much more attainable, Verveer said.

“It’s not to say I’m in favor of these over the T. Wall or Fiore proposals,” he said. “But frankly, it’s very compelling given the fiscal considerations we need to be making right now.”

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