The city of Middleton has issued a request for proposals to rethink the public properties downtown, which include the library, city hall, senior center and a number of surface parking lots. By the end of the year, the city hopes to have a plan that would expand the library, transform public spaces and potentially make way for more private development.
Now more than ever, downtown Middleton is a desired destination, said Abby Attoun, Middleton director of community development.
“What we’ve been seeing in downtown Middleton is an increase in land values. We’re seeing that more businesses are wanting to locate here, more people want to live here, more people want to work here in our downtown,” Attoun said.
Some recent examples include private development like the five-story Middleton Center apartments and new businesses and shops like the Longtable Beer Cafe and men's clothing store Journeyman Co.
And after several phases of private redevelopment, it’s “time to take a look” at the future of the city’s downtown properties, Attoun said.
In June, the Middleton City Council will select an architectural firm to fulfill the RFP and provide “community campus planning services” for the downtown area.
The property in the RFP includes the Middleton Public Library, Senior Center, City Hall, Train Depot & Museum, and several surface parking lots, all between Elmwood and Terrace Avenues. The RFP instructs the firm to "identify opportunities to modernize and/or replace the city's current public facilities ... where needed and appropriate."
The city is actually one of the largest property owners in the downtown area, Attoun said, but some of the buildings on those properties are aging.
The Middleton Public Library at 7425 Hubbard Ave. is “running out of space,” Attoun said. A 2016 Space Needs & Building Study for the library found that by one measure, the library is the “busiest of all area public libraries,” and by 2035 will need almost three times as much space. The study said staff and the public were “overwhelmingly” attached to a downtown location.
After the police department moved out of City Hall, 7426 Hubbard Ave., the building was never reconfigured to make the layout customer-friendly, Attoun said.
The Train Depot building, 1811 Parmenter St., will stay as-is, Attoun said, as it’s a registered landmark. But it’s also the Middleton Tourism Commission site, and it’s possible the tourism component could move elsewhere.
And most of the city’s property in the RFP is surface parking lots, Attoun said, and “from a planning perspective, a surface parking lot is not the best land use in the downtown.”
The new vision for downtown could include public-private partnerships, selling municipal land for private development, combining municipal buildings and adding structured or underground parking, Attoun said.
“While we don’t foresee any construction happening with municipal buildings for at least five years, now is the time to develop a plan for what we want to see for the future of the municipal property,” she said.
After the city selects an architectural firm, the first phase of the project will begin this summer; the firm will talk with city staff members and collect data to determine what space is needed. Then in the fall, those needs will be presented to the public for input and feedback, at which point the firm will come up with at least three concept designs. Those designs will be presented to the public for feedback, and one design will hopefully be approved by the Middleton City Council by December of this year.
Separately, the city plans to construct a downtown public plaza on a third of an acre between Elmwood Ave., Aurora St. and Hubbard Ave. The plaza will be both a quiet getaway and a space to host public events, which could include outdoor movie nights, high school orchestra performances or opera in the park, Attoun said in October. While initially planned for construction in 2019, the city is working on fundraising for the project and will begin construction in 2020.