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Government funds for Milwaukee will help redevelop MLK Library Branch into upgraded community space

Posted at 6:36 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 12:19:21-05

MILWAUKEE — Governor Tony Evers visited Milwaukee City Hall Wednesday to announce a multi-million dollar investment in the city and in Milwaukee County.

That investment is made possible through the Neighborhood Investment Fund grant program. The funds will be used to address local challenges that workers, families, and communities across Milwaukee County are facing, including housing and food insecurity, accessing quality, affordable childcare, and violence prevention.

“While our state is in a strong fiscal position moving forward, I know that many families, workers, and communities across our state have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and many are worried—worried about making ends meet, finding affordable housing, or enrolling their kids in high-quality, affordable early childcare,” said Gov. Evers. “I am glad to award these funds to help local leaders and community-based organizations across the area continue to serve and bolster their neighborhoods, ensuring they don’t just recover, but thrive.”

The City of Milwaukee will be able to use the grant money to provide funding for community development projects that will help create more than 400 affordable rental units and approximately 200 new spots in early childcare education services, invest in violence prevention efforts, and expand access to library resources with a new flagship Milwaukee Public Library.

Upgrading Milwaukee’s Martin Luther King Library Branch on Locust Street has been a goal of city leaders for years. Now, the project is finally coming to fruition and they are looking for community input.

“We’re thrilled that the Governor is going to be investing in this project,” said Sam McGovern-Rowen, the Project Manager with Milwaukee Public Library. “We are really listening to the people in that area who use that library most. This is for them. We are planning for more computers, high-speed WiFi, a high-tech 'makers' space that has been popular at some of our other branches. We want to add a community room that could be used for people to do online job applications or interviews in the zoom environment we’re living in now.”

“This community is so ready for an upgrade,” said Joan Johnson, the Director of Milwaukee Public Library. “This is one of our more heavily-used branches by children in the community. They’re really interested in using the computers after school, and we definitely need to be upgrading all the technology to make sure the entire community is really well served.”

They expect to start tearing down the current Martin Luther King Library Branch this spring. They will add a temporary branch location nearby during construction. The brand new, larger library in its place will be rebuilt with apartments above it. It is expected to be open by summer of fall of 2023.

Milwaukee County is also getting some of the grant money, and will be utilizing it to to support additional community development projects, including facility improvements to the Martin Luther King Community Center and building 42 homes for families affected by the pandemic. Additionally, county leaders will be using the funds for the Hillview Hall Rehabilitation Project which addresses health, housing, and food security needs of individuals who are experiencing homelessness and low-income families.

The Neighborhood Investment Fund is part of a nearly $650 million investment allocated by the governor last summer for community building and recovery efforts statewide. It’s administered by the Wisconsin Department of Administration. Grants being awarded range in size from $1 million to a maximum of $15 million and are funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Specific recipients of the Neighborhood Investment Fund program will be announced on a rolling basis over the course of the next week, at which time a full list of grant awardees will be released.

“The Neighborhood Investment Fund is all about making lasting impact for Wisconsin residents, and the projects awarded by Governor Evers today will help address housing, early learning education, and many other community needs in Milwaukee for years to come,” said DOA Secretary-designee Kathy Blumenfeld.

Wisconsinites can visit BadgerBounceback website to view pandemic-related assistance information for families, farmers, businesses, organizations, and communities.

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