Milwaukee unveils new $20 million public library project

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Over the next five years, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is hoping to revamp the Milwaukee Public Library system with a $20 million proposal. The most notable project, announced Saturday, September 21st, is the replacement of four libraries -- Forest Home, Mill Road, Capitol, and King.

During tight financial times, Barrett says the city's comptroller came up with a way to pay for the project.

"By good management of our long-term debt and restructuring and taking advantage of refinancing over the last several years, we are not going to have to make, in this instance, cuts in other areas," said Mayor Barrett.

The rebuilt libraries are going to look much like the Villard Square Branch, which now has condos above the library itself. The same plan is being carried out at the East Side Branch, where construction began in July.

"We will be sharing expenses with our partner, so whether it's a hotel that's above us or a set of apartments, we will share the cost of roofing, of parking, of maintaining the outdoor spaces and the common spaces," said Paula Kiely, Milwaukee Public Library Director.

While the first thing people might notice at the renovated sites are the apartments or condos on top of them, officials say there will be plenty of work inside the spaces as well.

"We envision the footprint of our libraries, the internal footprint, changing -- providing more space for people to work independently or in groups to have access to technology," said Kiely.

The propsal also calls for $1.5 million worth of repairs to the Central Library downtown and a complete renovation of the Tippecanoe Library on the south side.