By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Apr 17, 2023 at 12:38 PM

(This post was updated on May 16, 2023.)

To get ready for construction of a new mixed-use project that will include a new Milwaukee Public Library Martin Luther King Branch, the current branch at 310 W. Locust St., will close on Saturday, May 6.

Its replacement will be built in partnership with General Capital Development, LLC and Emem Group LLC, on the site of the existing branch, two privately-owned plots of land and two city-owned lots.

The new branch is expected to open in autumn 2024. In the meantime, a temporary branch will open on Monday, May 22, at 2767 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Dr.

A farewell event will be held Saturday from noon until 4 p.m. with an all-ages story time, music, refreshments and craft projects.

The new building – which will integrate ticket lobby, facade and two-story retail portion of the 1927 Garfield Theater into the new structure – will include 93 affordable housing apartments and a more than 18,000-square-foot branch library.

Sale of the theater closed last week.

A groundbreaking event for the new development is set for 12:30 p.m. on Friday, May 19.

“This type of development reflects the Library’s strategic objective to provide community resources that are neighborhood-based, accessible and provide a wide array of programming designed to meet specific needs identified by our residents,” said Library Director Joan Johnson.

“This cost-effective model of sharing space mirrors recent investments at the Villard Square, East, Mitchell, and Good Hope branches where conscious efforts have been made to address racial and economic disparities by providing increased access to vibrant spaces and vitally important services.”

The library's interior and some exterior features are being designed by Moody Nolan Architects, the largest African-American owned and operated architecture firm in the United States. The residential component and library exterior is the work of JLA Architects.

MPL plans to include geothermal heating and cooling and rooftop solar panels to make the library the greenest in the city and potentially the state.

"Milwaukee's libraries continue to play a critical role in the lives of this city's residents," said Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson. "Libraries play an important role in literacy and learning and in offering access to resources that might not otherwise be available at a community level. The advancement of this development reflects this city's continued investment in a strong and connected library network."

According to MPL, the new branch will include flexible-use community rooms, a makerspace, improved access to technology, new furnishings and an updated and refreshed presentation of library materials and resources.

“I am excited the new King Library branch will be built for the next generation of book lovers, and that quality housing will be provided to residents in our community," said Ald. Milele Coggs. "I am proud of the work of so many to bring this project to life.”

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.