Archive for Saturday, June 14, 2003

Structural makeover to bring historic building into 21st century

June 14, 2003


After sitting empty for a year, the Carnegie Library building should be filled with construction workers this summer, making sure the downtown landmark keeps standing.

"This is 'don't let it fall down' work," City Manager Mike Wildgen said Friday.

The Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday will receive a report from GLPM Architects that recommends renovation and repair of the building's roof, windows walls and more while it awaits a new tenant.

It's just bare-bones work to ensure the building's structural integrity. A fuller renovation will wait until the city selects new tenants for the Carnegie.

"This phase of the renovation work will make the building fundamentally sound and safe," GLPM president Dale Glenn wrote in a memorandum to city officials.

Wildgen said the city had set aside $750,000 in its capital improvement budget for the project.

"We don't think it will cost that much," Wildgen said.

The building at Ninth and Vermont streets has been mostly empty since spring 2002, when the Lawrence Arts Center vacated it for new digs in the 900 block of New Hampshire Street. Before that, the Carnegie building served as the city's library from 1904 to 1972, reputedly the location where writer Langston Hughes read some of his first books. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Officials say a thorough modernizing of the building will be needed before it can be used again. Aside from the roof and windows, new mechanical and electrical systems are needed. Other modifications also are required to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

During the building's vacancy, members of the Lawrence Coalition for Homeless Concerns tried to persuade commissioners to allow the Carnegie to be used as a temporary shelter for homeless people who use alcohol and are not served by the city-subsidized Salvation Army shelter at 946 N.H.

Other agencies have suggested using the building for a Langston Hughes museum, a replacement for the South Park Recreation Center, a children's library and a variety of other uses. City officials haven't made any progress in choosing a winner from the applications.

"It's just on hold," Wildgen said. "There's no hurry on that, from what I can tell."

The commission meets at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

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