After chalkboards for residents to write and draw their vision for the future of Library Mall stood for most of the summer months, Library Mall and the 700 and 800 blocks of State Street are slated for a face-lift in the next few years after University of Wisconsin and city officials and community members finalize plans for a redesign of the area this fall.
The blocks, which encompass the University Book Store and St. Paul University Catholic Center, will undergo a complete reconstruction, Gary Brown, project manager for the university, said in an email to The Badger Herald.
Developers sought input from the community on the project through several different avenues, including community chalkboards that occupied Library Mall and State Street throughout the summer, Chris Petykowski, a spokesperson for the city’s Engineering Division, said. The chalkboards were erected to encourage students and other citizens to write down their ideas for what they would like to see in the designs, he said.
The city planners took pictures of the chalkboards every day in order to capture recurring ideas and themes. Originally, the idea was for people to tweet a picture of what they wrote on the chalkboards, Petykowski said, but the tweets did not take off as anticipated. However, the chalkboards were still a big hit with people eager to share their ideas, Petykowski said.
“I think people are excited about [the project],”Petykowski said.
The ideas shared by the public include requests for better lighting, more seating and shade for visitors to the area.
The plans will likely include space for public gatherings, as well as possible venues for public speaking, according to a statement from the city. Library Mall will remain a pedestrian mall. However, consideration will be given to cyclists, private redevelopments and food cart vendors. The design should balance the historic location as well as support the variety of users and activities, the statement said.
Although the university owns Library Mall and the city owns the 700 to 800 blocks of State Street, the design will be a collaboration between the city and the university and will ensure the designs for the spaces work together, Petykowski said.
Developers also held a number of public meetings to gather public opinion as well as provide information throughout the project, according to Jason DiPiazza, team leader and project engineer at MSA Professional. DiPiazza added there is the possibility of holding more meetings with more UW stakeholders in the coming weeks.
DiPiazza said project developers presented the designs for two concepts which are based on summary of public commentary and gathered feedback on them at the public information meeting held Aug. 13.
“The two concepts that we have are two design frameworks based on more public feedback,” DiPiazza said.
The reconstruction of the 700 to 800 blocks is the final phase of an initiative to redesign State Street, Petykowski said. The last reconstruction for State Street happened in the 1970s, and the 700 and 800 blocks, which transition into Library Mall, are now in need of repair because the concrete sidewalk is cracking, he added.
According to the statement, UW will determine the budget for the redesign project according to the final plans.
The university has currently only committed $150,000 for the redesign process related to the redevelopment of Library Mall, Brown said.
However, Brown said the university has not pledged any funds to the actual construction that will happen on Library Mall and that private fundraising will raise money for the construction of the project.
City and university planners are currently in the middle of the design and approval process and are collaborating to finalize the concepts already in place, Petykowski said.
The reconstruction of the State Street portion of the project will happen first, DiPiazza said. Planners will finalize the designs for the 700 and 800 blocks of State Street in the fall, and construction is slated to begin in the summer of 2014, he said. Planners will submit their preliminary designs for the Library Mall portion of the project in the fall, he said.