By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jul 22, 2016 at 10:22 AM

On Wednesday evening, Milwaukee Public Library hosted a community meeting at the Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center, on Mitchell Street, about a new branch nearby in the former Hills Building at 906-910 W. Mitchell St.

According to MPL’s Sam McGovern-Rowen, about 50 people attended the meeting, including neighborhood alderman Jose Perez and Wisconsin Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, to hear from library administration – represented by MPL Director Paula Kiely – and representatives of HGA, architects for the project.

The new library would replace the Forest Home Avenue branch, a few blocks west, which opened in 1966.

HGA shared its initial designs and offered an overview of the 22,500-square foot library project, reminding those in attendance that the designs incorporated public input from previous community listening sessions.

"The design was very well received by the audience," said McGovern-Rowen, "so much so that one questioner wondered out loud if the lower level flexible space could be rented out for birthday parties."

After a Q&A session, community members were encouraged to add comments directly onto the images by pasting Post-It notes to copies of the drawings posted on boards.

"I think I can speak for my colleagues at MPL that we are very excited about the design presented by HGA," McGovern-Rowen said Thursday. "They set out to preserve and highlight the historic features of the building while updating the space to accommodate a 21st century, high-tech and flexible library space. I think the design successfully achieves those goals.

"Fitting a library into an existing historic space is a challenge for the architect and our internal design work group. Those challenges presented unique opportunities for the design and programming of the space. For example, the lower level of this library is going to be home to a flexible room that could have a variety of maker space functions – kitchen, video editing, sound recording, etc.

"Another example is the large ‘social stair’ on the first level. The stair provides one means of access to the mezzanine area and is also be a place for people to read a book, charge their phone, or just hang out."

The mixed-use project will also make use of Historic and New Markets Tax Credits to fund 60 apartments on the building’s upper floors.

You can read more about the history of the Hills Building, a former department store, here.

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.