A local sculptor says he's ready to take the renovation of the former Consolidated Barbed Wire Co. plant off the back burner.
Mike Elwell, a bronze sculptor and former associate district judge, said he and his partner on the project, Ron Miller, will resume work on the historic riverfront building this month. It's located directly west of the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza Factory Outlets.
By next fall, Elwell said the 14,000-square-foot ground floor of the building, should be open as a sculpture garden and live music venue. Elwell and Miller also plan to locate a series of artisan shops in the building, which dates to 1883.
Windows along the north side of the building will provide a riverfront view and a Paris cafe atmosphere, Elwell said.
After a couple of years of planning, they got started on the actual renovation two years ago and continued working on it until about two months ago.
The hiatus in work on the building isn't a sign that Elwell and Miller have lost enthusiasm for the project. Nothing's changed, he said. ``Same concept, same everything.''
The delay came when Elwell decided he needed to finish up another project he had in the works. That was the transformation of the former Granada Theater, 1020 Mass., into an entertainment center. The former theater reopened last month.
Now, Elwell says, they can refocus their attention on the barbed-wire building. Although much of the heaviest work already has been completed -- the building's brick exterior has been tuckpointed and machine mounts were jackhammered out of the building's concrete floor, for example -- there's still plenty of work left.
But first, Elwell said, they must clean up after this summer's flood, which rolled right into the waterfront building.
``The next step for us is to get our Bobcat down there and get the silt out of the basement,'' he said.
That's what was left behind by more than seven feet of water that filled the basement this summer. Elwell estimated there are 20 to 30 tons of sludge to be removed from the basement and said some of it would be deposited near the building to support trees on the river bank. Floodwaters eroded the shoreline and endangered trees that bald eagles use as roosts, Elwell said.
The cleanup presents a logistical problem.
``We've got to figure out a system of bringing the Bobcat down the (factory outlet center's) promenade,'' he said, explaining it was likely they'd have to construct a plank bridge to their building.
Elwell said he'll be concentrating this fall on weatherproofing the building so that work on the interior can continue through the winter. That means the roof will be repaired and some windows installed.
The Consolidated Barbed Wire Co. operated its plant, once the largest employer in Kansas, at the site until 1909. Until 1960, the Lawrence Paper Co. used the building for its production operation.