Wauwatosa officials are taking a closer look at the city's municipal complex and trying to determine whether or not the aging building is worth the cost to maintain it.
Officials are considering the possible redevelopment of the building that some of which was constructed back in 1955 with recent additions completed in 1992.
The complex houses Wauwatosa's city hall and public library and sits on the southwest corner of North and Wauwatosa avenues. Through a redevelopment project, it's possible the building would be torn down and replaced with a combination of public and private uses and the library would be rebuilt on existing green space on site. City officials would choose a new home for the city hall.
Or, nothing could happen at all and the site would continue as it is, untouched.
It's not the first time the city has entertained the idea of redeveloping the building; local leaders have long discussed redevelopment possibilities in lieu of spending more money on shorter-term improvements. In spring 2015, officials heard a presentation from HSI Properties - the Brookfield-based developer behind the State Street Station - about rebuilding the library and civic center. The developer is responsible for the rebuild of Milwaukee's East Library, which includes retail and housing.
The Budget and Finance Committee delayed a vote on an office remodel in January of last year in order to consider the possibility of having a private developer do a total rebuild, possibly with apartments, condominiums or retail spaces.
There are big decisions to be made, as Library Director Mary Murphy phrased it during a financial affairs meeting earlier this week. At the meeting, Chicago-based real estate and development advisory firm S.B. Friedman shared its findings about possible redevelopment options for the 8.5-acre, city-owned site.
And the options are plentiful.
The consultants identified a number of possibilities for the site including multi-family, commercial, town homes, professional offices, non-emergency medical, subsidized or inclusionary housing and retail uses. There are developers "chomping at the bit" to respond to a request for proposals, if one was established, the consultants said.
Plus, developers like to work with libraries because they draw lots and lots of people, said City Administrator Jim Archambo.
To better learn what the public wants to see happen (or not happen) for the site, S.B. Friedman partnered with a number of neighborhood associations to survey residents in the surrounding residential areas. The firm also spoke with library and school district representatives; Longfellow Middle School is across the street from the municipal complex.
"The results of the survey and information obtained from stakeholder interviews revealed a strong preference of respondents for the city to not pursue redevelopment of the site," according to a report from the firm.
Specific concerns of community members included: increased traffic, the effect of development on property values, concern over the location of new city hall facilities, and the impact of new development on neighborhood character, according to the report. Traffic was a universal concern of all parties interviewed and it was suggested that a traffic impact study should be presented to the community alongside any potential development program.
Eighty-six survey responses were received. That number was alarming to some in attendance of the committee meeting, including Alderwoman Nancy Welch, who said she was "disappointed" to hear the survey only asked surrounding community members about the possible redevelopment instead of those across city limits, as the project would likely impact the entire community.
The Wauwatosa Public Library recently housed some construction work of its own; it unveiled its new, $120,000 Student Commons center Aug. 24.
Elected officials stressed during the committee meeting that discussions about a possible redevelopment of the municipal complex are in the early stages and more conversations about the project are to come.