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Archive for Wednesday, November 12, 1997

ARTS CENTER EXPANSION GOES ON TOUR

November 12, 1997

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A committee studying expansion options for the Lawrence Arts Center plans to forward its recommendations to the Lawrence City Commission for consideration Dec. 9.

While the problem may be seen from many angles, officials looking into options for expanding the Lawrence Arts Center know there can be only one solution.

And they'll meet again next week to hammer out a set of guidelines intended to help Lawrence city commissioners make the final call early next month.

A tour of the arts center, 200 W. Ninth, and its surroundings Tuesday offered Commissioner Marty Kennedy and seven other committee members a chance to hear architects, planning staffers and preservation advocates bounce ideas and concepts off one another.

And he welcomed the advice, on everything from the viability of preserving alleys to the need to emphasize the existing front-door entrance.

"That's their job, to make it sound good," Kennedy said. "Our job is to take the information back to the city commission ... and decide which direction we're going to go."

The committee's next meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday at the center. Commissioners are expected to consider the information during a meeting Dec. 9.

"I think we're making real progress," said Commissioner John Nalbandian, also a member of the committee. "We're approaching this as a problem to be solved rather than a battle to be fought."

The 15-stop tour offered insights and explanations into possibilities for the estimated $5.8 million expansion project. Committee members are trying to figure out how the building -- the city's former Carnegie Library, a landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places -- could expand, either by displacing rental homes to the west or professional offices to the north.

Any expansion is likely to add another 20,000 square feet to the building to provide space for a new performance hall, classrooms, studios and other features.

"Either way you look at it, it's a wonderful thing to work with," said John Gaunt, dean of architecture and urban design at Kansas University, who serves on the committee. "It's a powerful corner. It's a very strong corner. It's a monumental corner."

The expansion issue, likewise, has faced monumental questions for several years, and arts center officials have been working for 10 years to come up with a workable plan. In fact, the arts center's board of directors remains on record as wanting to relocate to a new building, which would be built on city land at the southwest corner of North Iowa Street and Peterson Road, just south of the Kansas Turnpike.

But commissioners prefer to keep the center downtown, and they informally have committed $3.65 million in taxpayer money toward the project.

-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is fagan@ljworld.com.

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