Walker library task force created

Library Board, City Council debate fate of subterranean library

On July 14, the Minneapolis Library Board took a grudging step closer to creating a task force with the City Council to study the possibility of turning Uptown's Walker Library into a mixed-use facility.

The Board's Central and Community Library Relations Committee, which is made up of the full Board membership, voted 7-1 to create the task force, though several members expressed frustration with the City Council.

The Board made a single change to the proposal from the Council's Ways and Means Committee: it narrowed the redevelopment possibilities to only those that might be available for the current Walker site at 2880 Hennepin Ave. S. The original proposal had stated that the task force could look at relocating the library elsewhere in the Hennepin and Lagoon area.

In May, the Council rejected the Library Board's decision to sell $440,000 of library referendum bonds to fix the underground Walker's damaged combination parking deck and roof. The Council has final approval over all Library Board bond sales.

Library Board President Gregory Gray told the Board that "We made a good decision, and I think that they should have abided by it. Unfortunately, they didn't."

Gray will head the task force with Mayor R.T. Rybak if the Council and Board finalize the task force proposal in upcoming meetings.

Library trustees Diane Hofstede, Laurie Savran and Rod Krueger also expressed frustration with the Council and the task force proposal.

"I don't see how this resolution would give us a better library," Hofstede said. "It looks like we're going for a development."

City Councilmember Dan Niziolek, whose 10th Ward includes Uptown, has been pushing for the subterranean Walker to be rebuilt above ground in a mixed-use facility featuring condominiums and possibly some small stores.

Niziolek has said he wants "a grand library" to replace the Walker, a building he has said doesn't currently contribute to the vitality of Uptown.

He said he doesn't oppose the site-specific amendment the Board tacked on to the task force proposal.

"I'm very excited about this," Niziolek said. "I know there's a lot of upset feelings about this, and [the Library Board] showed they're really about making a good library system. So I really appreciate their willingness to work with us."