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Milton City Council asks for estimates on renovation of Shaw Building

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Neil Johnson
February 6, 2013

— Hey, Milton taxpayers: Like the idea of the Shaw Municipal Building with an expanded two-floor Milton Public Library? It would have expansive reading areas with window-side views and the whole second floor to itself.

How about a Shaw building with City Hall moved from upstairs to the first floor? It'd have its own entrance, plus special flooring and snappy counter and woodwork treatments in the public areas, according to preliminary designs.

Welcome to the Shaw Building 2.0.

Maybe.

A planned makeover of the Shaw Building has been on the drawing board between city staff and architect Angus-Young Associates for months, but the real test—whether the city council can stomach the changes—is yet to come. The council Monday pushed through a proposal to get cost estimates from Angus-Young for a redesign that would split space on the first floor of the Shaw between City Hall and the library.

Under the plan, City Hall would move from the second floor, which it occupies about half of. The library would take over the entire second floor with reading space.

The cost-estimate proposal moved forward after an hour-long debate during which some council members seemed shocked at the idea of City Hall sharing space with the library on the first floor.

The council was split on the plan. Mayor Tom Chesmore cast the tie-breaking vote to move forward on getting costs estimates.

While Chesmore blanched over the potential cost of the proposed changes, Alderpersons Brett Frazier and Maxine Striegl said they felt that City Hall was being wedged into space downstairs and that plans for a proposed library expansion seem to dominate usable space in the downstairs and the entire upstairs.

Frazier, Striegl and Alderman Dave Adams voted against getting cost estimates for the plan, which was one of several design options presented Monday by Angus-Young President Jeff Hazekamp.

City staff, library officials and the city's library board all favored the plan, officials said.

Some of the trepidation Monday might have stemmed from the fact that it was apparently the first time anyone on the council had seen the renovation plans.

Chesmore said before the meeting Monday night that city officials had only just received preliminary designs of the Shaw redesign, which includes separate entrances for City Hall and the library on the building's east side.

City staff and Angus-Young have held planning sessions on the renovations for months. The city in August made a long-term commitment to renovating the Shaw Building, and City Administrator Jerry Schuetz and library director Lisa Brooks told The Gazette last year that a major goal would be to add space to the library.

The library last year had almost 80,000 patrons, according to city estimates. It averages more than 230 patrons a day, making it the busiest library in Rock County per capita.

The city examined for months how it could best use 7,000 square feet of space freed up after the Milton School District Central Office moved out of the second floor of the Shaw building last year.

City staff liked a design using the whole second floor for reading and programming because they felt it maximized space for the largest growing segment of visitors at the Shaw building—people who visit the library for programming or leisurely stays of a half-hour or longer, Schuetz said.

Moving City Hall to the first floor and creating a separate entrance for the library would create a separate identity for the two departments, he said. It would also make it easier for people to access the library and City Hall.

"The concepts that drove the discussion, we wanted to improve citizen access to both departments," Schuetz said.

Striegl questioned the ideas, saying she feared the city would eventually run out of room with a City Hall space that is roughly the same square-footage as the current City Hall

Chesmore and Frazier worried about how potential developers would feel meeting with officials in a City Hall that would share a windowless conference room with the library.

Frazier and Chesmore indicated that it seemed the plans for City Hall were an afterthought.

"I don't want them to see something that looks like a rat maze. I want them to see that the city's progressive in economic development," Chesmore said.

Schuetz defended the plan, saying that staff favors it. He said the city has 6,000 visitors a year—a fraction of the library's use—and that concepts for public use of City Hall are changing.

In years to come, it's likely City Hall will have fewer and fewer walk-in customers, Schuetz said. Instead, the emphasis should be on how to best serve citizens.

And he said library use is a clear indicator that larger and more diverse library space is needed.

"We have to look at how people will use these departments moving forward. I don't know that there's as much a need for more space, as there is for more efficient use of the space we do have," Schuetz said.



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