Turning a new page on Madison's Central Library - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Turning a new page on Madison's Central Library

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By Teresa Mackin - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook | Blog

MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison's mayor hopes to move forward with plans to renovate the city's current central library.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz plans to turn a new page in the central library saga: by moving forward with reconstruction of the library at its downtown location.

The mayor briefed a number of alders Monday afternoon, explaining how he came to that "quick pivot:" from wanting to build an entirely new library: to wanting to reconstruct the old.

He explained, after months of negotiations, the city was unable to bridge a more than $1 million dollar gap with Madison-based developer Fiore. The city had allotted $37 million dollars in its budget for a new library, and the mayor says Fiore offered $38.5 million. The city is calling it a $5 million dollar gap, pointing to the $1 million dollar difference in project costs, plus $4 million dollars for sale of the current site (one proposal had included the developer purchasing the current site- that proposal was removed from the table).

Now, the mayor says the city has two options: head back to the drawing board and find a new developer, or reconstruct on the current site.

Preliminary estimates show reconstruction could potentially be 10 million dollars less than the cost of building a new library.

Madison Public Library Board President Tripp Widder says, "There are people who suggested we slow down, take a breathe, look for other sites, but I'm just concerned the wait will cost us this unique opportunity to achieve low costs in a site I wouldn't trade."

The mayor also answered the question: why move forward so quickly? He said delays could cost the city money, that it's time to take advantage of new market tax credits and low construction costs. He believes a reconstructed library could be open within a year. He says if the city goes back to the drawing board, it could take more than four years to see a new library, and in the meantime, could cost.

Widder adds, "If all things put off went wrong at the same time, it could cost up to $5 million dollars just to maintain the existing facility. That's just money wasted."

Cieslewicz says, "This is a time when we can get some of the best construction prices we've ever had, and people are in need of jobs... This is a moment in our history when we need to get this done."

Madison alder Mark Clear plans to introduce a resolution to the common council next week that would give members the chance to weigh in on this new plan of action. They've already allotted $37 million in the city's budget for the library, one they originally thought would be completely new.

The Madison Central Library is 45 years old. Plans for a new library have been in the works for nearly a decade.

After much discussion Monday evening, the Madison Central Library Board decided to support that resolution allowing the city to renovate the library on its current site.

Some board members had hoped the city would head back to the negotiation table with the developer, stating there's a lot of unhappiness in the community with remodeling. 

Construction on a new $37 million dollar library was going to start this fall, but negotiations broke down over money last month.

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