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Neighborhood protest: Milwaukee Public Library – Villard Square Branch

Photos submitted by Engberg Anderson Inc.

Creative planning keeps Villard Square Library from closing branch

The six silhouettes hold protest signs and stand before a large, open book in the main corridor of the Milwaukee Public Library – Villard Square Branch.

They serve as a reminder to visitors of how close the city of Milwaukee came to closing the branch in 2003 and how a neighborhood successfully fought to keep its library open.

“I think that’s one of the most spectacular pieces of artwork,” said Doug Skinner, the project architect with Engberg Anderson. “It speaks to the history of the community and the peaceful activism that led to that library taking form.”

Skinner was part of the Engberg Anderson team that helped design the $3.81 million, 12,400-square-foot library, which is within a mixed-use building at the corner of 35th Street and Villard Avenue. The library, completed on Oct. 15, 2011, takes up the first floor, and 47 apartments round out the rest of the building.

The residential idea came from the Northwest Side Community Development Corp., but it’s not typical residential, said Dave Misky, assistant executive director of the City of Milwaukee Redevelopment Authority. The apartments are marketed to “grand families,” those in which the grandchildren live with their grandparents.

Photos submitted by Engberg Anderson Inc.

“They hoped to hit a home run with the grand-family living,” Misky said. “They thought it would be a nice synergy between people who use the library: older people and young kids.”

Milwaukee Public Library Director Paula Kiely said the organization looked at a number of mixed-use libraries around the country to get ideas for the project, but there was nothing quite like the Villard project.

“What we proposed to do by having the grand-family apartments was something that we hadn’t seen elsewhere,” Kiely said. “Of course, it’s the perfect audience for a public library.”

But there still were challenges to turning the library idea into reality.

The primary challenge was coordinating the project schedule and timing it to the city’s approach to raising money, Skinner said.

Money also posed a challenge to the project, and creative financing turned out to be a crucial element of the project.

The city had allocated $2.75 million to build the library, but that was not enough.

So the Redevelopment Authority was designated as the owner to help leverage additional money. The agency assembled the needed land and then helped get new-market tax credits to provide nearly $700,000 in equity.

“It was some incredibly creative leveraging of city resources … in order to get additional equity into a library that for years had been neglected,” Misky said.

— Tony Anderson

Photos submitted by Engberg Anderson Inc.

Location: Milwaukee

Submitting company: Engberg Anderson Inc., Milwaukee

General contractor: Arteaga Construction Inc., Milwaukee

Architect: Engberg Anderson Inc.

Engineers: Engineering Concepts Inc., Waukesha (mechanical); Dolan & Dustin Inc., Wauwatosa (electrical)

Owners: Redevelopment Authority City of Milwaukee; Milwaukee Public Library

Project size: 12,400 square feet

Project cost: $3.81 million

Start date: March 15, 2011

Completion date: Oct. 15, 2011

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