As Mayor Dave Cieslewicz pushes to quickly renovate the central library, an influential Downtown group wants to revisit a more ambitious proposal by the Fiore Cos. to build a new $37 million central library with a second phase of private development on the existing library site.
Meanwhile, Hovde Properties, a major Downtown developer and landowner, is offering to help make the grand vision possible.
"We are encouraging the city to go back and continue the negotiations," said Susan Schmitz, president of Downtown Madison, Inc., which promotes the central city. "We think it's worth it."
In an e-mail last week responding to a question from the State Journal, William Kunkler, Fiore executive vice president, said, "If there was still hope in realizing this vision, we would be the first ones at the table."
Cieslewicz said he's willing to "talk to anybody at any time." But restarting negotiations with Fiore or chasing new options presented by Hovde could cause long delays that would add costs and put construction jobs on hold, he said.
"This is the time, the moment in history," Cieslewicz said. "I think delay is deadly."
If renewed negotiations fail, DMI supports the city hiring a consultant to study a renovation, now estimated at $31 million, and would urge the city to work with the private sector to consider redevelopment potential near the current library site, Schmitz said.
Hovde, which owns five properties between the library and Capitol Square, would like to develop a new state Historical Society and Department of Veterans Affairs museum on its land and supports the Fiore library plan, Hovde president Mike Slavish said.
Now, Hovde is willing to help make the Fiore plan work, buy the existing library site and do the private redevelopment, or become involved in other ways, Slavish said.
A new library and redevelopment of the current library site with commercial space and parking is best for Downtown, he said.
"We support DMI's position," he said.
Cieslewicz meets with the Library Board on Monday.
City Council President Pro Tem Mark Clear, 19th District, said he'll introduce a resolution to the council on April 13 asking support for renovation. The move is designed to give the council the choice on how to proceed, Clear has said.
Earlier this month, talks suddenly collapsed between the city and the Fiore Cos. on a $37 million, six-story glass and stone library on its property at the corner of West Henry Street and West Washington Avenue and a private $50 million mixed-use project on the existing library site at North Fairchild and West Mifflin streets.
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Cieslewicz, Library Board President Tripp Widder and others now back renovation as the best way to get a state-of-the-art facility.
But many city officials and library advocates continue to raise questions.
Troy Thiel, chairman of the city's Downtown Coordinating Committee, said he will ask his committee to approve a motion asking the mayor and council to fix the negotiation with Fiore and "do the right thing for the future of Madison."
Initially, Fiore-Irgens was to build the library's core and exterior and the city the interior as a public works project.
But the city and Fiore-Irgens couldn't agree on a price — Fiore said it would cost $23.9 million plus $1.1 million for construction interest and parking spaces, and the city offered $23 million.
Cieslewicz decided the city would do the exterior and interior as a public works project, but the city and Fiore fell $1 million apart on the value of the Fiore site and its work to date on the project.
Fiore also refused to buy the existing library property for a second phase of development. The mayor said the inability to sell the existing library site made it impossible to proceed with the original plan.
Hovde, with its interest in the museum, could help, Slavish said.
"We would be willing to enter into discussions to purchase the library site," he said. And if the Fiore site is unavailable for the new library, "there may be other sites."
The state budget includes $4 million to continue planning for a joint museum and the state is exploring three sites: near the library, near the Department of Workforce Development Building, 201 E. Washington Ave., and the Government East parking garage, 215 S. Pinckney St.
The historical society and veterans affairs are still assessing space needs and operations costs, said Carla Vigue, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration.