The new mixed-use building, Villard Square, located at 5190 N. 35th St., was unveiled with a free public celebration on Saturday, October 15th at 9:45am. The celebration highlighted a major innovation for Milwaukee’s neighborhood libraries. For the first time, one of Milwaukee’s twelve neighborhood libraries will occupy the ground floor of a building with privately-owned affordable apartments located above.
Saturday’s opening event included a parade of books from the old branch to the new at 9:45 a.m., led by the Paradigm Drum Line, and a ceremony with remarks and a ribbon-cutting by Mayor Tom Barrett, Common Council President Willie Hines, Alderman and President of the Milwaukee Public Library Board of Trustees Ashanti Hamilton, Library Director Paula Kiely and others. Other activities included music by students from Lincoln Middle School of the Arts and the Larry Moore Jazz Trio, refreshments, giveaways, crafts and more. The apartments were also available for tours and rental applications were accepted.
The building is a new mixed-use development by Gorman & Company and the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation that includes the library and 47 apartment homes targeted to families where grandparents are the primary caregivers. The new Villard Square branch covers 12,770 square feet, and includes 50 desktop and laptop computers for users, community meeting and study rooms, children’s and teen areas, and self-checkout stations, as well as an on-site parking lot for 32 cars. The facility features custom artwork designed especially for the library by City of Milwaukee artists Paul Kjelland and Nicholas Lampert. The new library replaces the aging, energy- inefficient Villard Avenue branch that first opened in 1968. Originally named North Milwaukee Library after the village in which it was situated, the library was renamed the Villard Avenue Library in 1994.
“Libraries are critically important to our communities, not only because they support education and lifelong learning, but because they add economic value to a neighborhood.” Mayor Barrett said. “The construction of this new library was made possible through perseverance, creativity and the support of numerous people and organizations and I congratulate them all. This project is a shining example of what can be accomplished when people put their hearts and minds together.” The Villard Avenue Business Improvement District, managed by the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation, actively fostered support for the new library.
The project represents an investment of more than $11 million in the Villard Avenue neighborhood. The financing for the affordable housing component was provided by Boston Capital as a tax credit investor, Harris Bank and IFF as lenders, the Tax Credit Assistance Program (TCAP), ARRA Section 1602 funds from WHEDA, and more than $2 million of CDBG funding from the State of Wisconsin and the City of Milwaukee. The City of Milwaukee committed $1,291,500 to purchase the library space, partnering with the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM) to creatively utilize New Market Tax Credits to reduce the City’s capital outlay for the project. Additional funding was provided by the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation and the City of Milwaukee Arts Board.