By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

Although final details are waiting in the wings for later this year, housing could be a key component to the so-called Library Block project that would intermingle mixed-uses with an expansion of the existing Irvin L. Young Memorial Library.

The board of directors serving on the Whitewater Community Development Authority discussed the latest details around Library Block, based on two firms’ responses to a request for proposals.

At the most recent CDA meeting, held Jan. 17, Executive Director Dave Carlson discussed the pair of RFP submissions that came in recently — one from Kenosha-based Bear Development, the other from Madison-based Horizon Development Group.

Both of the developers’ preliminary concepts for Library Block called for housing, either in the form of market-rate rentals or some with a subsidized component.

The housing, based on Bear and Horizon’s proposals, would augment the 10,000-square-foot expansion to the library. City officials for years have asserted the library in its current configuration is operating out of cramped quarters.

In his discussion with the board of directors, Carlson said the tentative plan in motion is to further pursue the pair of RFPs in the months ahead, though he stressed the overture does not bind the city to accept one or the other.

“The thought was, ‘Let’s pursue these with what we’ve got,’” Carlson said. “But if we’re not feeling it … we could seek out something else. We’re not bidding for anything here.”

Carlson conceded he was hoping the preliminary details offered up in the firms’ RFPs also would have included a retail component.

“But we’ll pursue (the pair of proposals) and see where it leads,” Carlson said.

City Manager Cameron Clapper said there is one additional tentative proposal on the table that could further broaden the mix of uses for the property — allocating space for city offices or programs.

While the CDA has been involved in some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of Library Square, Carlson in his discussion was quick to point out it is one of multiple entities at the table.

“At the end of the day, it’s really the library’s baby,” Carlson said.

  • In other business Jan. 17, the directors appointed CDA member Al Stanek to serve as vice-chair through April. Stanek was one of two contenders for the second-in-command position, the other being council member James Allen.

Of the directors in attendance, three voted in favor of Stanek and two cast votes in favor of Allen. Council member Chris Grady, who also serves on the CDA board, abstained from voting.

Grady unsuccessfully proposed having Allen and Stanek both serve as vice-chairs, because one has frequently advocated for housing and the other has trumpeted the need to bolster commercial development.

Other board members, however, said Grady’s proposal was an overreach for a position that essentially functions as a fill-in when the CDA chairman is absent. Larry Kachel currently serves in the leadership role.

“I don’t see why there’s such an issue with this,” said CDA board member Donna Henry, who previously served as vice-chair. “The job … is to take the role if the chairman isn’t there.”

 
 

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