Firstar Bank president Chuck Warner has had prime viewing of the Downtown 2000 construction from the bank's tower at 900 Mass.
"It's a fascinating project to watch," he said. "And it's gone up so fast."
Despite the cold, snowy weather, construction crews were sidelined only 2 1/2 days this winter while working on the parking garage and arts center at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
The project eventually will include apartments, offices and retail space. And discussions are still underway to lure a hotel to the site. The total tab will be between $26 to $30 million, including about $7 million in city bond funds. The rest will come from 9-10 LC, a four-member developing company, and donations to the Lawrence Arts Center.
Working on the inside
Construction on the $7 million parking garage began in October, and the outside of the building was finished the first week of March. But the four-story garage is far from complete, developer Jeff Shmalberg said.
Inside work including elevators and wiring will take until fall to complete. Shmalberg said the 500-space garage which will include free short-term parking and some long-term parking should be open in time for the holiday shopping season.
Construction on the arts center began in November. The $7.4 million building will be 40,000 square feet about four times the size of the current arts center at 200 W. Ninth St. It will include three times as much exhibition gallery space, a larger auditorium and more art studios.
The arts center still is about $300,000 short of its $3 million goal for private donations for the building.
"We won't fill it when we first go in," said Ann Evans, executive director of the Lawrence Arts Center. "We're building for the future, which is the way we should do it."
Project to include retail
Construction on a building on the northwest corner of 10th and New Hampshire should begin in the next month, Shmalberg said.
The $3.5 million building will include retail space on the first story, a second floor of leased office space and 20 loft studio apartments on the top two floors. The building is 7,600 square feet on each floor.
That building should be finished by the end of the year, and retailers already have contacted 9-10 LC about locating there, Shmalberg said.
Construction may begin on another $6 million building north of the arts center by the end of the year. It will include 26,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor, with a second story of offices.
But Shmalberg and his three partners have been in discussions with several hotel developers who are interested in building in the area.
If they come to an agreement with a hotel developer, construction on the hotel might take the place of the second retail building.
Because of space constraints, the two sites couldn't be built simultaneously, Shmalberg said.
Shmalberg said the alley behind the Massachusetts Street businesses likely will open in the next few months, easing some traffic and parking problems.
"Initially, there was some adaptation and a learning curve as far as people getting around downtown," he said.
Drivers have been patient
Warner, of Firstar Bank, said customers have been understanding of the parking situation, even though customer spaces in the Firstar lot decreased from 50 to 20.
Across the street at Java Dive and Deli, 10 E. Ninth St., manager Ramona GeNies said she thought the construction had hurt business.
"It's eliminating a lot of through traffic," she said. "Plus, it's an eyesore."
But she said most customers haven't complained much about the construction. City Manager Mike Wildgen said he hadn't heard many complaints, either.
"I think after the first month, people just found their niche pretty well," he said. "People are pretty understanding, and it'll be much better when it's over."