Milwaukee Public Library, Mitchell Street Branch

Renaissance For Treasured Building And A Community

Built in 1919 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the structure that once housed the former Hills Department Store is an architectural gem, complete with decorative columns, ornate railings, and terrazzo floors. Such details have again come to life with the transformation of the building into the Mitchell Street Library.

Working with city officials and members of the diverse community served by the facility, the old was combined with the new to create a highly functional 21st-century library. During the design process, numerous bilingual public engagement sessions and open houses were held to understand what was important to local residents. For example, the lower level includes a flexible and technology-infused Teen Zone where “technology lockers” house a graphics workstation, 3D printer, mixing booth, and recording studio. The building includes a kitchen for educational programs on healthy eating, and in the spring, an adjacent alley is transformed into an outdoor program space that includes raised gardens where produce is grown. The building is designed to be an educational anchor for the neighborhood.

Also, as part of Milwaukee’s 21st Century Library strategy, the Mitchell Street facility is located within in a mixed-use development. The library occupies the first floor, the mezzanine, and a portion of the lower level of the building, with 60 market-rate apartments on the four floors above.


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Building Type



16,000 SF

  • 2019 IIDA Wisconsin, Best of Competition
  • 2018 WICREW, Judges’ Choice Impact Award

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