Friday, November 21, 2014

Milwaukee's New East Library

Milwaukee has torn down the cruddy old public library building in my old neighborhood and replaced it with a mixed use building. In so doing, they improved the neighborhood, got a nicer building, and added a lot of housing units and parking to the block. Jeramey Jannene has the story in Urban Milwaukee:
The new East Library is only part of the much bigger project occupying the slice of land at the northeast corner of E. North Ave. and N. Cramer St. Legally speaking, the city owns a condominium inside a bigger building. This allows the city to own the library space, and to avoid paying a lease that would have to include taxes it would be paying back to itself. To make the complex ownership structure work, the city gave the land to the competitively-selected developer for free, in exchange for receiving the 16,000 square-foot library condominium grey box for free. The city then invested $3.9 million in building the library out. The developer invested approximately $15 million in the building. The developer had to also pay for a temporary library location.

...The building, which is already open, includes 99 apartments and 6,000 square-feet of yet un-rented retail space. There are 113 underground parking spaces an 40 street-level stalls (tucked under the building) for library patrons and employees....

...Besides the fact that the city gets more tax revenue when it can tax whatever is built above the library, mixed-use libraries have another advantage, they’re substantially cheaper to build. A new, non-tax-paying, 20,000 square-foot facility was estimated to cost $11.7 million to build. The new East Library, at 16,000 sq.-ft., will end up costing the city only $3.9 million — plus property tax revenue will flow to the city.
This seems like a win/win for everyone.

Honolulu could have taken a lesson from this with the new Aiea Library, which sits in the middle of nowhere and has no housing or rental space included. I wonder if satellite libraries will even be needed in 25 years: technology suggests a lot more books will be available online. At least Milwaukee's East Library should be readily convertible into rentable/sellable commercial space if that is true.

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