NEW RICHMOND -- Proponents are hoping to get creative with plans for the new New Richmond library, looking at potential multi-use projects and public-private partnerships.
After a host of consultants, architectural studies and more, Interim City Administrator Noah Wiedenfeld said the project does not have much to show for the last 20 years.
“At the end of the day we don’t have a new library yet,” he reminded the City Council at its Monday, Jan. 11, meeting.
The community's needs are growing faster than the city’s budget, Wiedenfeld said, so it is time to look for ways to innovate.
The current library was built in 1963 when the service population was 4,500, and extended in 1989 when the service population was 11,000, Library Board Trustee Vicki Gjovik said. Today the library has a service population of 21,000.
“The facility does not meet the needs of the 21st century,” Gjovik said.
The city has 3.9 acres for a new library, obtained through a development agreement with the school district in 2016. The agreement required site work to begin in the fall of 2019, and the district has agreed to two extensions to that agreement so far, School Board President Bryan Schafer said.
The agreement includes limitations such as no residential development, no city or office structure and no additional buildings for commercial use. The School Board, though, would be interested in relaxing those restrictions, Schafer said.
Libraries have become more willing to consider non-traditional ways of partnering with facilities and sharing spaces, land and buildings, Gjovik said. “We hope we might be able to reenvision the role of the library in the community."
Public-private partnerships utilize the strengths, expertise and resources of different stakeholders, Wiedenfeld said, and mixed-use developments bring strong character and a walkable community between housing, work and retail.
Other cities have applied these types of models. Milwaukee has constructed four mixed-use libraries and plans to build two more, Wiedenfeld said. In one community library, the library owns a space but the larger building is owned by an owner that is still contributing to the city’s tax base. There’s a cost-savings, Wiedenfeld said, and the property also meets the additional needs of the community such as housing.
In Platteville, a town of 12,000 more comparable to New Richmond's 9,100, a 22,000-square-foot library was built with no new debt to the city and $600,000 in fundraising, Wiedenfeld said. The building is leased from a private developer for seven years, and will then be donated to the city as a tax write-off.
New Richmond has tremendous potential for something like this, Wiedenfeld said, adding, “There’s a lot of different partners in our community with needs.:
Mayor Fred Horne and council members expressed support for the idea.
“It’s going to take something like this, a public-private partnership to make this happen,” Horne said. “Let’s see what the possibilities are.”
The presentation also has been made to the school and library boards, who both showed support.
The next steps are to begin looking within the community for local partners, something that can start next week, Wiedenfeld said. Then they will work on an idea of what that partnership could look like before asking for feedback from the community, the boards and the council.