Back in February, I shared an update on a community visioning meeting hosted in downtown Pulaski with members of the Pulaski Economic Development Ad Hoc Committee (made up of village staff, elected officials, local business and school representatives) and the public. Fast forward 8 months, and conversations are moving ahead on how to bring new life into this long vacant space.
Since February, there has been interest from Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach in seeing the Brown County Library expand their current branch into the historic building. In his proposed 2017 budget, the County Executive included $300,000 to go toward this effort. The $300,000 would come in the form of a loan to the Brown County Library Board. The estimated cost of relocating, rehabilitating 6,000 SF of the building and expanding into a larger branch would be $665,000 for the Brown County Library – the budget inclusion would cover approximately half of that amount. The rest of the $365,000 would need to be raised locally to receive the funds. This loan would be repaid by the Library system to the County Board through savings from their prior lease with the Village of Pulaski in the current location ($16,000 per year).
The Pulaski branch of the Brown County Library is currently located at 222 W. Pulaski Street, 1/4th of a mile from the proposed new location. The current space is in a leased building with 3,600 SF – the new facility would be 6,600 SF. In the Brown County Library Facilities Master Plan, a few suggestions for improving the Pulaski branch experience included more natural lighting and exterior entry to the meeting room (allowing for after hours rental use), more natural lighting within the branch, and expanded space. The per capita visitation rate is 8.6 – with annual traffic through the branch in 2014 and 2015 being between 52-54,000 people.
To compare this traffic level to other branches within the Brown County system, the per capita visitation rate is closer to 3-5 in other system locations. It is confirmed through circulation data that this branch is not only utilized by Pulaski area residents, but also by nearby Shawano and Oconto County residents. For some in Brown County living in the Town of Pittsfield and the Village of Hobart – this is the most proximate library branch. In fact, the Village of Pulaski is co-located in all three of those counties, as can be seen in the map below.
The Shawano County Library system has six branches (Shawano, Birnamwood, Bonduel, Mattoon-Hutchins, Tigerton and Wittenberg) and offers 166 service hours each week across those six branches. The Oconto County Library system has six branches, too (Farnsworth, Gillett, Oconto Falls, Lena, Lakewood and Suring) and offers 251 service hours each week across those six branches. The Brown County Library system has 9 branches and offers 439 service hours each week across those branches. All three county systems are a part of the larger Nicolet Federated Library System, which covers eight counties (also includes Door County, Florence County, Kewaunee County, Marinette County and Menominee County).
Community members are looking now to best practices examples for both championing a community-driven design for the building, as well as examples of the types of outside (grant) funding that might be available to pursue an adaptive reuse project. A project that has some parallels is the Tribune Building in downtown Wisconsin Rapids – a former newspaper building that is being adapted into a LEED Gold certified community center with meeting space, a commercial kitchen, microbrewery, and more. The Tribune Building project is being championed by the local Incourage Community Foundation in Wisconsin Rapids and has been highly successful in bringing in outside dollars to help offset the $14 million price tag to completely renovate and redesign the interior spaces and exterior design. A group of Pulaski stakeholders is planning a day long trip to Wisconsin Rapids to learn more about the experiences learned through that project, before hosting a few more community meetings to identify needs and wants locally, as well as the best way to structure the building development and design.
The $300,000 still must be formally approved when the budget goes before County Board supervisors in November, but the momentum and excitement to transform this building into a community-used space is felt in Pulaski. More to come!