L.E. Phillips Memorial Library Named ‘Project of the Year’ by Business Magazine
it’s the first time a northwestern Wisconsin project has been given the honor
The L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library’s $18.5 million renovation was the talk of the town when the facility underwent a yearlong physical transformation – inside, outside, above, below, and programming-wise – which ended last year, and it was recently named Project of the Year by a Madison-based magazine.
In Business announced its annual Commercial Design Awards (CDA) winners in its September issue, and Eau Claire’s own public library received two titles: “Project of the Year” and “Best New Development or Renovation-Civic.” The win marks the first time the “Project of the Year” honor went to a development in northwestern Wisconsin.
The general contractor of the library’s renovation was Eau Claire’s own Market & Johnson. The architect was MSR Design of Minneapolis and the engineer was Illinois-based IMEG.
This year’s CDA judges – Diana Pisone, president of Chicago design firm Stantec; Josh Mertes, project executive of Chicago-based independent owner representation firm RLE Project Management; and Mark Fenton, principal for commercial general contractor Redmond – cited the library’s expansion of community offerings and services as well as its thoughtful physical renovations as some of the reasons the project was singled out.
“This project allows for all patrons to participate in an elevated museum quality experience, both in function and form, when using this public space,” one judge said.
Read the full write-up on the library shared in In Business:
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the UW-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty found that Eau Claire County and southern Chippewa County had the second highest poverty rate in Wisconsin, shining a spotlight on access to public services. Given the importance of education to upward mobility, that included library services at a facility with more than 1,200 visitors each day.
If L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, the most visited destination in downtown Eau Claire, was going to be a viable part of the long-term solution, it needed an upgrade and additional space for programming and community gatherings. Thanks to a. 6,800-square-foot expansion and a 61,000-square-foot renovation, the newly remodeled library now offers more than books to the community – it’s a destination for creativity, innovation, and learning.
For this and other reasons, our CDA judge selected this very civic improvement as our Project of the Year. “This project allows for all patrons to participate in an elevated museum quality experience, both in function and form, when using this public space,” notes one CDA judge.
Through their mission to serve the whole community, public libraries are at the center of social responsibility. Contemporary public libraries are full of active and flexible spaces that create a dynamic learning environment, and this library is unique because it now has something for everyone: an innovation lab with a full kitchen for hosting events, workshops, and classes; an art gallery; an expanded children’s area with reading and playrooms; a 200-person public program room; a catering kitchen; and outdoor spaces to get fresh air with a new book.
Original constructed in 1976, the renovated library serves as the heart of the city, creating a link to the Eau Claire River and downtown civic facilities and meeting the community’s goals of promoting lifelong learning, creating collaborative spaces, and supporting open access to diverse materials and resources.
Statewide projects completed in calendar year 2022 were considered for the CDA honors alongside those in Greater Madison with 12 awards given, including Best Outdoor Landscaping Project (The Memorial Garden at Exact Sciences Headquarters, Madison), Best New Development or Renovation-Restaurant or Bar (Swagat Indian Cuisine, Sun Prairie), Best Renovation-Office (National Guardian Life Insurance Headquarters, Madison), and others.