The Platteville Library Block project ran into two snags last week.
One snag may be considerably more difficult to deal with than the other.
The Platteville Common Council approved the design of the Library Block March 24, with the exception of the facades on West Main Street and South Chestnut Street, including the new library.
The vote came after complaints about the design’s not matching the historic districts to the new library and hotel’s west and east. including downtown.
“It doesn’t fit,” said Garry Prohaska, a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, who spoke at the meeting. “There’s only one building in the entire town of Platteville that matches it,” UW–Platteville’s Hugunin Hall. “It doesn’t fit with the downtown. It’s a clash.”
Another commission member, Arlene Siss, asked why the commission was “never visited by the people designing this? … I’m a little disappointed that this did not happen.”
“I think some of this is just your own interpretation,” said at-large Ald. Dick Bonin to Prohaska.
“I’m not interested in stopping this project,” said Prohaska. “The project can be improved and made better.”
District 4 Ald. Ken Kilian said he also favored the project, but proceeded to criticize the north and east sides of the project, saying there should be “horizontal that goes there and vertical that goes there, and there’s little of that that you see.
“This is a very important project, and for us to not look at the project is not a good way to consider the project. We’re hurrying through this. There’s time for this.”
“I don’t think this is the flashiest, most impressive design we’ve ever seen,” said at-large Ald. Amy Seeboth-Wilson, who added, “Technically, this is not our building project.”
“We don’t have the funding organized yet, and to start redesigning and rebudgeting, I don’t think we have the ability to do that,” said District 1 Ald. Barb Stockhausen.
City Manager Larry Bierke echoed Stockhausen, saying, “This is something as a city we haven’t paid anything for” to design the buildings.
“I think it will draw people in because there is so much glass,” said Common Council President Eileen Nickels. “I’m not in favor of trying to make the Library Block look like a building on Main Street.”
Kilian moved to amend the motion to approve the design by not approving the Main and Chestnut fronts, and having them reworked with city staff. That motion was approved 4–3, with Stockhausen, Bonin and Nickels opposed. The motion to approve the design of building was approved 7–0.
What happens next is unclear, since the design wasn’t sent back to the Plan Commission, which approved it March 2. The Historic Preservation Commission is meeting today at 6 p.m., with the Library Block on the agenda.
The bigger roadblock could be the fact that the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority has not yet approved the New Market Tax Credits that are a major part of the project’s financing.
The tax credit program is a federal program to promote investment in low-income rural communities, administered by WHEDA. The program is intended to “enhance financing for projects in highly distressed areas throughout Wisconsin that have demonstrable community impact.”
Bierke said WHEDA may give an answer on the tax credits next week.
The Library Block project includes a library double the present size, a 77-room Holiday Inn Express hotel, a renovated Neighborhood Health Partners clinic in the present library building, and parking.