Plans for a new Central Library were altered last week when Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Fiore Companies called it quits over negotiations concerning construction of the new building downtown. But even the disappointed must be breathing a sigh of relief now that all the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Central Library is finally over. There is no more worrying to be done regarding the location or architecture of a building, the costs of a construction company or developer, or role of public works and the taxpayer's dollar. In fact, one could say that new life has been breathed into a project bogged down for two years with red tape and planning.
It was two years ago, in the spring of 2008, that the Library Board voted to issue a Request for Proposals for a new Central Library. And it's hard to believe, but it was just this past fall that a new downtown library seemed to be guaranteed. Even Mayor Dave could barely contain his excitement and expectation for a new library in a Nov. 11 blog post titled ""Book It.""
""I never expected back in August when I made the decision to try for this in my capital budget, that the new library would be approved with so little contentiousness in the end,"" wrote Cieslewicz. ""That's owed in large part to the Madison Library Board and Foundation and to the Fiore Company, the library developer, for laying such a strong foundation for the project.""
The question many are asking is, ""What happened?"" But the Mayor's blog suggests that this is something the Mayor does not want to dwell on. ""It was a complex proposal from the start with lots of moving parts. In the end, we just couldn't reach agreement."" The Mayor is pointing out the fact that what is done is done. Apparently he and the Fiore Company have moved on, and so should we.
Madison could and perhaps should be happy the plans with Fiore fell through. It is more economically and environmentally beneficial to revamp the existing building. Despite the supposed letdown, Mayor Dave sounds optimistic that plans to renovate the library will be well received at City Hall, saying in a recent blog post, ""My initial discussions with alders have been very positive on the reconstruction.""
If there is one thing most Madisonians agree on, it is that downtown Madison and the South Central Library System are in need of an efficient and modern keystone library. This dream could be a reality now that some more of the red tape barring progress on the library project has been peeled away. A new downtown library has been long, long overdue, and in light of the dissolution of negotiations with Fiore Company the city should move ahead with the plan to renovate the existing Central Library structure.
Frankly, it is somewhat surprising that renovation was not the city's first choice. As previously stated, remodeling and working with the existing building will be cheaper (to the tune of $10 million) and greener, making this choice seem more attractive to the fiscally conservative and environmentally conscious alike. I have to say annoyed as I am about the duration of this library planning I like this renovation idea better.
The city was smart to not have placed all their eggs in one basket. The Central Library back-up plan exists and the city should get going on the remodeling without further delay. I second the Mayor in his plea that time not be wasted in looking for other locations. Two years have been spent discussing locations, designs and budgets. Sooner or later, the talking must end. Future generations will not be able to appreciate or benefit from the Common Council's notable decision to fund construction of a public library. Here's to hoping the end of negotiations with Fiore Company is really a blessing in disguise.
Kathy Dittrich is a senior majoring in English and French. Please send all feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.