Efforts to create a new communitywide literacy center are not dead, but plans to locate the center in the historic Carnegie Library building won't happen soon.
Organizers of the proposed Hughes Carnegie Center told city commissioners Tuesday night that grant possibilities for any new literacy center had become tough to find.
"Grants that were available 15 to 24 months ago have, I won't say dried up, but have significantly decreased," said Hans Fischer, a member of the organizing group for the center.
Fischer told commissioners that the organization no longer was asking the city to fund $61,000 in start-up money to allow the center to begin operating by the second half of this year.
But Fischer said that the group was still holding out hope of finding grants that would allow the project to move forward in 2006. City officials likely would be asked to contribute tax dollars to help fund the center.
Fischer said the group also wanted the city to continue to move forward with renovations on the former Carnegie Library building at Ninth and Vermont streets. The organizers have long sought to locate the center in the historic building that has been vacant since the Lawrence Arts Center vacated the building for a new downtown home. Fischer said the building would be a good home for the center because of its ties to Hughes, a noted author who grew up in Lawrence.
"Let's face it Langston Hughes as a young man spent many, many hours in that building and it became a part of what he became," Fischer said.
But city commissioners said they did not want to promise that the building would be used for the literacy center. Instead commissioners said that planning for a literacy center should be included in the discussions about expanding the current library.
Fischer said the group would work with library planners to determine if the literacy center could be included in a new library project.
Commissioners, though, said a slowdown in the center's progress shouldn't be seen as a sign that the city had abandoned the idea. Mayor Mike Rundle said he believed the center would gain widespread community support as people realized that it was more than just a place to help people learn to read.
"I think there is a broader concept here," Rundle said. "We can really build upon the powerful legacy left behind by Langston Hughes. We can create a center for the humanities much like we already have a place for the arts."
Commissioners did agree to move forward on design work to make the Carnegie building compliant with the American with Disabilities Act. The city has received a $98,000 federal grant that could be used to help pay for those costs. City commissioners are expected to receive proposals for those renovations in mid May.