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Madison celebrates remake of landmark Municipal Building

December 6, 2018

Madison is hosting a community celebration with music, art, events, displays and food on Saturday to mark the reopening of the landmark Madison Municipal Building.

After a two-year, $30.2 million renovation, the Municipal Building has been transformed from a neglected, worn, cluttered diamond in the rough to a civic treasure for both employees and the public.

The project, which required temporarily moving 225 employees to other locations, combines historic preservation and an interior design that uses glass, metal, and white, grey and earth tones to give the 90-year-old building an airy, modern feel. Employees began returning in late September.

“This building renovation is the result of years of study and planning and investing in our future while preserving history,” Mayor Paul Soglin said in a statement. “Community members are invited to walk through halls steeped in history and see how this beautiful facility has been restored and prepared for the future.”

The event runs from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. From noon to 12:30 p.m., Soglin will be joined by Madison poet laureate Oscar Mireles for a building dedication ceremony.

Throughout the day, there will be free performances, events, displays and behind-the-scenes tours, including of a private passage for judges from the former federal courtroom that leads to an area now reconfigured as a catering kitchen. A variety of local caterers will be offering tiny bites beginning at 11 a.m. and changing every 45 minutes.

Designed under U.S. Treasury Department supervising architect James Wetmore in the neoclassical revival style and built between 1927 and 1929, the Municipal Building was initially used as a federal courthouse and a post office. It was the first part of a grand scheme by renowned urban planner John Nolen to turn the street into a civic boulevard between the state Capitol and Lake Monona.

The city acquired the building in 1979, making significant renovations between then and 1982, including gutting the first floor and basement, and replacing steel-frame windows on lower floors that were incompatible with the original design. The renovation blends restoration with leading-edge design and technology.

“This day promises to be a family-friendly event made special by talented community performers and artists,” Soglin said. “It’s also a great opportunity to enjoy all that Downtown Madison has to offer.”

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