FROM VACANT TO VIABLE
Redevelopment project converts blighted,
contaminated property into vibrant public library
By Jennifer Schmidt
he public library is where place and possibility meet.”
Author Stuart Dybek’s eloquent quote is prominently
imprinted on a feature wall of the Waunakee Public Library in
southern Wisconsin and poignantly emblematizes the striking
transformation that’s taken place on the property where the new
40,000-square-foot facility stands.
It wasn’t long ago that, what’s now a stunning, state-of-the-
art facility being lauded for its modern design and purposeful
integration with the surrounding park-like environment, was a
defunct foundry full of toxic contaminants and decorated with
piles of debris, overgrown vegetation, broken windows, and
offensive graffiti. The Waunakee Alloy Castings Corporation
was established in 1953 and ceased operations in 2009 – its
buildings sitting idle ever since.
“Imagine a conglomeration of tin sheds – some big, some
little – but in their entirety 29 different tin sheds that, together,
made up the operations for the foundry,” described Todd
Schmidt, the Village of Waunakee’s administrator and economic
development director. “Now imagine all of those surrounded
by cracked concrete with weeds growing above your head, and
then imagine those tin sheds with open areas for critters, areas
of roof that were rotted and gone, and some of those buildings
Top: Open and exposed entrance into former foundry. Released
PCB fluids and spilled mercury were discovered just inside open
garage door. Bottom: Exposed and discarded electrical capacitors
releasing PCB-containing oils onto floor.
2 | TRENDS
Ingenuity, Integrity, and Intelligence.