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Archive for Friday, December 1, 2006

Board OKs postal site for library

Recommended $30M proposal includes underground parking

December 1, 2006

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A new $30 million library should be built on the site of the current downtown post office, according to a unanimous recommendation by the city's Library Board.

Now, city commissioners must decide whether to put the issue on a ballot for city residents, halt the project or reduce its scope on fears that it is more than the community can afford.

"We haven't decided anything yet," Mayor Mike Amyx said after a Thursday afternoon meeting of the Library Board.

The Library Board has, though. The seven members of the appointed advisory board made a strong recommendation for a project put forward by members of the Fritzel family. Here's what the proposal includes:

¢ A new 94,000-square-foot library - more than twice the size of the current library but about 20,000 square feet less than what library staff members lobbied for - on the current post office site, 645 Vt. That site is immediately north of the current library.

¢ At least 260 underground parking spaces beneath the new library. That would be a significant increase from the amount of parking at the current library, which has about 120 spaces.

¢ Post office services would remain downtown, said Bob Schulte, an executive with the Gene Fritzel Construction Co. He said the post office likely would remain on Vermont Street somewhere near its current location.

¢ The current library site would be used for a new multiuse commercial and residential building or expansion of the nearby Eldridge Hotel. In neither case would the Douglas County Senior Center or the city's adjacent fire station be forced to move from their sites, which are just south of the current library.

¢ The new multiuse building could have up to 500 new parking spaces built beneath it, Schulte said. The parking spaces could be a mix of public and private spaces. How much it would cost the city to acquire the use of some of the new parking spaces, however, hasn't been determined.

¢ In total, the development surrounding the library would take part in the 600, 700 and 800 blocks of Vermont Street on property the Fritzel group owns. It would include up to $110 million in private development during a 10-year period that would add 150,000 square feet of retail space, 100,000 square feet of office space, 130 apartment units, 120 condominiums, at least a 100-room expansion of the Eldridge Hotel and a 39,000-square-foot conference center attached to the hotel.

"We believe the selling point for our project has been that it does the most for downtown Lawrence," Schulte said. "It has the most opportunity to invigorate and keep the downtown strong."

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Postal response

The project does come with at least one major question: Will the U.S. Postal Service leave its longtime downtown location? Postal officials were not at the meeting, and attempts to reach them afterward were unsuccessful.

Schulte, though, said his group has had very positive discussions with post office officials, and that those will accelerate now that the Library Board has made its recommendation.

He said the key to getting post office leaders to move is to provide them a new space that is every bit as good as the current space. He said everyone agrees that downtown must continue to have a post office, although the back-office distribution portion of the post office could move out of downtown.

Library Board members said they thought the proposal provided the best location for a new library because it was near its longtime home and would provide much-needed parking to the northern end of downtown.

"If we can enhance the parking in this area, we will advantage the downtown as a whole," said John Nalbandian, chairman of the Library Board.

Other proposals

Two other private developers submitted proposals. A group led by Jeff Shmalberg and Martin Moore submitted a plan to build the library on the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets, adjacent to the Lawrence Arts Center. Another group led by Doug Compton proposed a library for the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. A proposal to build the library on the current site also was prepared by a city-hired consultant.

Developers submitted cost estimates for the project that ranged from about $25 million to $30 million. But Library Board members decided to disregard those cost estimates because many details of the designs still must be determined.

Instead, the board decided to assume that the cost of library and parking construction would be $30 million on any of the sites.

One significant difference between the Fritzel proposal and the proposals by the two other private developers is that the city loses control of the current library site under the Fritzel plan.

The other developers had given the city the option of keeping that site for future city use. The site has been valued at anywhere from $3 million to $5 million.

Money question

Amyx was the only city commissioner who attended the Library Board meeting. He said he wasn't going to offer any opinion on the Fritzel plan until he had more time to review it. But he did say the city will have to have a serious discussion about how it would pay for a new library. Possible sources could be a new sales tax or a property tax.

In either case, the issue ultimately will be decided by voters. Commissioners have said they are committed to putting the project on a citywide ballot.

When that will happen, though, is unclear. Amyx had once suggested the April 2007 ballot, but said he was uncertain whether the city would have enough time to work out all the details.

"Look at all the work that needs to happen between now and then," Amyx said.

Nalbandian said he also thought an April election might be too soon. He noted that the Fritzel project, unlike the others, did not provide a specific design for the library. That likely would have to happen before it could be presented to voters.

Amyx said he wants city commissioners to discuss the issue at their Dec. 19 meeting.

Comments

janeb 8 years ago

seems to me if they can add 500 parking spaces under the current building that would solve one problem then they could add a story to the existing builing and leave the Post office alone. Looks like Fritzel has a deal with the eldridge hotel.

Ragingbear 8 years ago

Well, to be fair, the city didn't approve anything. Like the zillion other proposals regarding their library, they are just going to jerk us around until they waste as much money discussing and "researching" it as they would have if they just built it in the first place.

Lawrence is a college town. We symbolize education in the Midwest. As a matter of principle, we should have a superior library, in some form or another. Personally, I am not against satellite libraries, but those produce alot of extra cost for staffing, utilities, maintenance, repair, etc.

goodcitizen 8 years ago

This deal smells funny. I hope the city studies it very closely. There seem to be too much "trust us" and "just sign here". BTW I got my property tax bill yesterday. It seems it is going to cost me another 220 dollars to live in my house next year. I can't imagine what a family on a fixed income would do...probably skimp on presciptions or trips to the doctor to make up that amount. Thank goodness we are not currently hurting (dinks who both got raises), but we are just one layoff away from homelessness, and that tax hike just means things would happen more quickly. And my government is crying for me to take responsibility for my "golden years", but here goes 220 dollars not invested or saved next year. For those wondering, I do not live large, in fact out house is valued way under the "average" home sale price, both our cars are economy cars and 10 plus years old. I love Lawrence, but the city needs to consider how affordable (or not) this town is going to be for the working classes.

Mike Blur 8 years ago

Ladies and gents, this is a primo example of the pro-business, pro-growth factions of Lawrence business and industry getting together and planning on how to scheme to make money with the public providing the seed money.

I'm amazed - this plan shoud curry of the favor of the pro-growth, anti-downtown, anti PLC crowd. This is a blatant attempt by Fritzel, Nalbandian (former commish) and Amyx to gentrifry the north end of downtown. Don't worry about the homeless habitating the new library - with extensive investment in this project, you bet that Fritzel et al. will do their level best to protect property values.

Don't think for a second that Fritzel, Amyx and Nalbandian DON'T recognize the huge taxpayer-financed revenue stream possibly realized by this project.

The absence of Boog, Rundle and Schauner from this meeting (where was Sue? this is right up her alley) should be taken as an indication that this project is going nowhere fast without the support of the majority of the Commission.

Keep this in mind, Lawrencians - a vote in April for the pro-business candidates like the ones recently throwing their hat in the ring is a vote for taxpayer-financed boondoggles like this one.

Pro-business! Pro-development! Pro-gentrification! Yayyy!

aquakej 8 years ago

That retarded tax hike was due to schools wanting more money. It had nothing to do with the library, and unlike the library proposal, it was not voted on or for. It should have been put to a vote. I don't want to spend any more money on our crappy schools.

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

If the city loses control of the current site does that mean it will be sold? How much is Fritzel paying? or not?

If my memory serves me well recently Bruce Flanders said the board was advised the current structure could not withstand the weight of an add on.

Will this be a free standing library without commercial?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"Looks like Fritzel has a deal with the eldridge hotel."

The Fritzels are among the ownership group of the Eldridge.

Godot 8 years ago

Among the other details that the Library Board has failed to consider or reveal, is how the additional $110,000,000 of redevelopment of downtown will be financed. Could it be that they are not telling us that the Fritzels intend to ask for Tax Increment Financiing? And who will own this new library? Will the city own it, or will the Fritzels maintain control and lease it back to the city?

Looks like the Fritzels won the brass ring on this one - a $30,000,000 (give or take a few mil) library that they have not even designed yet, and a complete redevelopment of several blocks of downtown Lawrence.

Construction going on in downwtown Lawrence for the next 10 to 15 years should make it a real pleasant place to live. And then, with the additional residents filling all those condos, traffic will be a mess.

This is awful.

Godot 8 years ago

The city had to recompense the downtown businesses for the inconvenience caused to them by the construction mess of replacing the sewer lines. What will happen to the existing downtown businesses during the ten years of construction that this "revitalization" will take?

My guess is they will just go out of business to make way for the new, upscale chain stores that are surely in Fritzel's plan.

Godot 8 years ago

Speak up to your commissioners about this, folks. They can do this without a vote simply by increasing your property taxes.

The TIF will come later, in the form of additional sales taxes.

We are taking it through the nose, here.

Godot 8 years ago

I have a new name for the Library Project:

The Fritzel Family Estate Preservation Plan.

goodcitizen 8 years ago

Regardless of whether or not the tax hike for schools was voted on, there is only so much middle class/working class income to go around. The commission needs to look at how affordable this town really is for working families. Unless you want this town to go the way of Aspen, where only families of the income levels of Fritzel and Simons can afford to live here. The working class people will have to commute in to serve them.

classclown 8 years ago

Combine the library and post office. That way everyone entering to drop off or pick up mail can be counted as library patrons and during those times when there is a long line, people will have something to read while waiting.

jafs 8 years ago

The one good thing about this article is the comment that the issue will be put to a vote - if this is true, then I feel somewhat better - perhaps Lawrence residents will use some common sense and turn down these proposals.

classclown 8 years ago

"How much it would cost the city to acquire the use of some of the new parking spaces, however, hasn't been determined."

======================================

A parking lot built under a public library with public money and the city needs spend more public money to acquire the use of SOME parking spaces? That is absurd. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Godot 8 years ago

In all fairness to the taxpayers, and to give at least a passing nod to not being totally corrupt, the library board and the city commission should entertain a proposal for a site that is not downtown, just to compare cost and convenience for the communitiy as a whole.

My suggestion would be to solicit bids for building a new library at Eagle Bend. There are many, many positive aspects.
1) the city is already committed to paying for the use of that land. 2) There would be no destruction of existing downtown buildings and infrastructure to build it, no disruption of other downtown businesses. 3) Plenty of space for parking. 4) The homeless would have to go away from downtown to find a place to sleep. 5) There might be even more people who use the library than use Eagle Bend. 6) The money we already pour down the Eagle Bend rathole could be used on something that, supposedly, the entire community would use.

classclown 8 years ago

From chat with Bruce Flanders http://www2.ljworld.com/chats/2006/nov/27/bruce_flanders/

Hunter2049: Mr. Flanders, sir, wouldn't it be more advantageous for the city to look to build a new Public Library in a more centralized location? There are many indications that the city is growing to the West and South, and there are even some projections that say to the East, but none, absolutely none suggest a boom in the population to the North-East part of the city. Certainly one would rebuttal with a comment on preserving the downtown area, but at what cost? Rare is it that I would drive close to a half an hour (assuming I lived on the far South-West side of town) and then drive around in circles for ten minutes to try and find a parking spot just to visit our Library. However, a new, more centralized location (or centralized in the sense of future growth) makes perfect sense. Whatever growth in visitors the Library may gain by rebuilding downtown may be doubled, tripled, ten-fold if an Annex or a new Library were built in a more centralized location. Why has the Library board refused to consider this, and if it has been considered, what is the justification for not placing it elsewhere in the city where it would be accessible to a countless number more people?

Moderator: We'll make that the last question for the day.

Bruce Flanders: Your question is a very valid one, in my estimation. The Library Board, as recently as 2000 or so, was focused on satellite library service. The Library Board received direction around that time, though, from the City Commission to pursue expansion of the downtown library, and that has been our sole focus in recent years. If you look at a map of Lawrence, downtown Lawrence is in the northeast quadrant, thus creating driving distances to downtown of 3 or 4 or even 5 miles from locations within the City limits. Why not a centralized location? From a dispassionate vantage point, it does makes sense. I believe, however, that the majority of Lawrence residents, or certainly the ones that I have heard from, feel VERY strongly about the success and future of downtown Lawrence, and are willing to make certain financial and convenience concessions to support the community's central business district. A public library is most definitely an anchor for area surrounding it. Study after study in various communities have shown how public libraries generate tremendous vehicular and foot traffic into their area of a community - traffic which translates to economic benefit for the surrounding retail areas. So, in summary, I think your idea of a centralized location makes sense from a purely convenience / cost standpoint, but from a political and ecodevo standpoint, the downtown location is hard to argue.

classclown 8 years ago

In other words... "We can give you a less expensive library that would serve more of the population, but it's not about that. We want to prop up downtown whatever the cost to the taxpayer.

girly 8 years ago

Stills sounds too crowded and packed in to me. I prefer something further west with more exterior space. And I don't think I'd feel comfortable in underground parking at night anyway. Big mistake.

Kat Christian 8 years ago

I agreee with Janeb - a story should just be added to the current library OR extend on the current library out across 7th to where the post office is. There would be a breezeway for cars to go through. Relocate the Post office to where the senior citizen place is and rebuild a new senior citizen complex on the empty lot next to the Lawrence Art Center. They'd still be downtown - the post office downtown and in a convenient location and the post office will be bigger. Should make everyone happy.

Kat Christian 8 years ago

I agree girly I don't like parking garages either - I guess they'll have to hire a guard for the parking garage.

Sigmund 8 years ago

Satellite branches to the current library would provide ALL areas of the city nearby access, reduce the amount of congestion downtown, and at a lower costs.

On the downside, the construction companies and developers would make less money.

Bud Stagg 8 years ago

I say build a new library around 23rd and kasold and bulldoze the current library for parking. Bet that would only cost about 10 million. But that plan wouldn't serve to keep the dying downtown alive. I'm sick and tired of propping that place up.

Where is my prop for my business???

Guess I should move it to downtown where my employees and customers can't park and we can't afford the rent.

kugrad 8 years ago

I love the library, but we simply cannot afford this LUXURY at this time. Look at the alternatives: 1. Sales tax - already the highest in the state and among the highest in the USA!!!!!! 2. Property tax - taxes have increased steadily, along with utility rates, in recent years. Property owners should not shoulder the burden of a resource used by all. We can't afford it and it is unfair.

There are cheaper alternatives to upgrading the library that don't require building a new one. Some remodeling and purchasing things for the collection would be great and save millions upon millions.

I love the library and I use it daily. Those who live here can also use the university library for research. There are libraries online and interlibrary loan. We CANNOT afford this library.

Do you want a 4-5 mil property tax increase just to pay for the operation of a new library (yes, above and beyond the taxes to build it)??? We can't afford the luxury of a new library. Too bad that developers want the money; we can't afford to give it to them.

guesswho 8 years ago

I know this is about the library - but it bears on taxes - my understanding is that taxes are going up so much here and elsewhere because of Bush's tax cuts - the federal government is taking in less taxes (from the wealthy) so transfers to states and municipalities are down; cities have to make up for that lack of transfer by raising taxes.

And, under President Bush, families making over $1 million annually got an average tax break of $128,000-while the income of typical families declined by nearly $1,500.

Satellite libraries may prove to be more costly in the long run, with increased maintenance and spreading resources over a wider area, then a library we could be really, really proud of.

KsTwister 8 years ago

Kugrad is right. This is a burden on the taxpayers who live here,the election in April needs to clear the pipe dreams of City Hall. Underground parking, ha, the city cannot keep the above ground parking from drainage problems and flooding. And LJW's biased poll should at least add none of the above.

watergirl 8 years ago

The City of Lawrence has all of the proposals on their website:

http://www.lawrenceks.org/currenttopics/library/

I haven't made up my mind on this one yet; I want to read all the proposals, dorky maybe, good way to make an informed decision, yes.

Gut reaction: I'm for a stronger downtown library and several satellite locations if the city will give this another thought.

Also am against the city selling/trading any city land to a private developer. Maybe the city could lease the land to the Fritzels for the proposed new development:

Godot 8 years ago

Guesswho needs to read more current propaganda, at least something that has some reference to fact.

riffraff 8 years ago

Details for the original Fritzel Library plan can be found here:

www.eldridgedistrict.com

javery 8 years ago

By the way, did anyone see the article at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/294036_homelessness29.html that describes how Seattle's new library is becoming a de facto homeless shelter?

Anyway, if the city of Lawrence is determined to build a new library, I'd say do it in the lot next to the Arts Center. Don't worry about parking. Just use the parking garage across the street. Building an underground parking garage in the midwest when you are not in a major city is rather comically stupid. Kansas isn't exactly hurting badly for land.

That said, this city has some really messed up financial priorities.

I wish that the city would spend a bit less on supporting (encouraging) the homeless, and maybe scale back plans for the library. I admit that having a larger library would be nice, but there are far more pressing things that I think the city should be taking care of, especially when it comes to the roads.

The roads here are just awful. Even new roads here develop potholes in the blink of an eye. And old roads are already filled with potholes. The city occasionally attempts to patch these, but they come unpatched at the first sign of rain, or heaven's forbid, ice or snow. At first you might just think that this is due to environmental factors, yet when you get on state run highways just outside of Lawrence, the road quality immediately improves quite a bit. Can we please spend a bit more money on building roads up to a decent standard?

I would also love for the city to spend a few dollars on pain for the roads. The paint on some streets (for example on 9th Street east of Iowa) is extremely faint, and at night, or when there is any rain or otherwise poor weather the lines are extremely hard to see, even for someone like me with decent vision who is in their 20's).

How about plowing roads after there's been a snow storm? The city seems to do a remarkably poor job of this (if they even do it at all). Even days after a snow storm, it seems like there are still large amounts of snow left on even major roads like Iowa. Yet when you get out of Lawrence on the highways, those roads have been clearly plowed. I've lived in other places in the midwest and they seem to do a good job of staying on top of clearing the streets during winter, but Lawrence seems dangerously inept about this. What gives? This is unacceptable.

I say lets fix some of these problems that endanger the lives of productive members of the Lawrence community, before we start considering libraries or the homeless.

tir 8 years ago

Why not convert the old Carnegie Library (former Arts Center) into a children's library? That would free up some space in the main library and provide more room for the children's collections. It's just a few blocks from the main library anyway. If that's not enough, add a satellite or two in the "growth" areas of town. Maybe the city could partner up with Walmart to include a library in the development at 6th & Wak instead of wasting more of our tax dollars to fight them.

Shelby 8 years ago

the seattle library is LAME on many levels.

Godot 8 years ago

Considering that the cost of the proposals were considered to be equal, (and that is bogus) and that the Fritzel project did not include a specific design, what was the basis for choosing the Fritzel plan?

ranger73 8 years ago

If you build a parking garage under the library, won't all the tree huggers be upset since you are polluting the library with all the exhaust fumes and smell that would drift up throughout the library?
And nice to decide to put it where the post office currently is, especially when there are no representatives from the USPS there to defend their location. Must be emminant domain.

News_to_me 8 years ago

There were no representatives from the Postal Service there because they have no interest in moving from that building. I work for the Postal Service and, although I'm sure I can't and don't believe everything they say, this is the word we have been getting. Of course, anything can be had for a price. We'll have to see how much money the Fritzels etal are willing to throw at the P.O.

Additionally, I do have concerns about spending that kind of money on a facility that in a few years could possibly be obsolete due to the abundance of information from the Internet. Did anybody hear the latest about Walmart and DVD downloads? They could already be going the way of the videotape already. Not that books are going to disappear, but the demand for them can certainly decrease when there are so many other sources of information plus we are becoming so much more a high-tech society

Godot 8 years ago

"We'll have to see how much money the Fritzels etal are willing to throw at the P.O."

They can throw as much as they need to. Now that they have the kiss of approval from the Library Board, without even having provided firm figures or even a desing, they can negotiate with the USPS with an open checkbook....OUR checkbook.

Godot 8 years ago

I have figured it out. The basis for choosing the Fritzel plan was that it would cost the most, disrupt the most people, and result in the most eminent domain actions.

Godot 8 years ago

Is the USPS exempt from having its property taken by eminent domain? After all, it is a private corporation now.

Godot 8 years ago

I am already cringing about the costs of the lawsuit the between the USPS and the City of Lawrence over who owns the rights to that little piece of land at 7th and Vermont.

Godot 8 years ago

Imagine how much money it will take to compensate the USPS for 1)purchasing its prime location, 2)finding a new location, 3) moving, and 4)continuing to provide service during the move.

Priceless, simply priceless.

KsTwister 8 years ago

....or who were the THREE in April.

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