Archive for Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Literacy center penciled in for Carnegie Library

April 14, 2004


A literacy center should be the next tenant of the historic Carnegie Library, the Lawrence City Commission decided Tuesday.

The designation came six months after commissioners said the Langston Hughes Center for Community Enrichment was the front-runner to occupy the building at Ninth and Vermont streets.

"I think we had a process and there was one (organization) that rose to the top," Mayor Mike Rundle said. "Our first reaction was the best reaction."

But approval comes with conditions that leave the Hughes Center's victory on less than solid ground. Commissioners said that before they give final approval, the center must return with a business plan that demonstrates where it will get money for operations.

"It's pretty important ... that we're not talking about subsidizing another outside agency with city funds," Commissioner David Dunfield said.

Elizabeth Schultz of the Hughes Center said her organization had wanted an indication it would win the competition for the Carnegie before working on fund raising.

"If we receive the green light, we will start thinking about funding needs immediately," Schultz told commissioners.

Tuesday's decision came two years after the Lawrence Arts Center left the building for a bigger new location, and after a year of structural renovation.

Commissioners decided in November that the Hughes Center was their favorite candidate for the building but asked center officials to work out a space-sharing arrangement with the Lawrence Arts Commons, the runner-up in the process.

Hughes Center leaders said in March such an accommodation was impossible. But arts advocates on Tuesday asked for another chance.

"People can be under the same roof, but not under the same umbrella," said Bill Carswell, a supporter of the commons proposals.

Despite the pleas, commissioners said the Hughes Center would be the tenant. But they suggested the center may get a roommate in the form of a temporary "subsidiary" tenant.

Built in 1904 on the northwest corner of Seventh and Vermont streets, the building served as the city library until 1972, then was home to the Lawrence Arts Center until 2002. It has been vacant since then.

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