Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Fritzel group moving ahead on library expansion proposal

December 13, 2006

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Executives of the Gene Fritzel Construction Co. were at the downtown post office recently taking measurements and inspecting the building for possible acquisition.

Thomas Fritzel and Bob Schulte are leaders of the Fritzel group, whose downtown library expansion proposal has won support of the Library Board.

The group's proposal involves building a $30 million library on the current site of the post office, 645 Vt. The Fritzels are proposing that the current site of the library, which is just south of the post office, would be used for either a new multiuse commercial and residential building or an expansion of the nearby Eldridge Hotel.

The plan also includes building at least 260 underground parking spaces for the new library and perhaps up to 500 new underground spaces for the multiuse building. In total, the group is proposing $110 million in private development over a 10-year period on property that the Fritzels own in the 600, 700 and 800 blocks of Vermont Street.

Lawrence Postmaster Judy Raney characterized the possible purchase of the post office site as being in the preliminary phases and reiterated the need to keep a retail presence in the downtown area. She said that plans for a pending $500,000 remodel of the downtown post office continue.

"Anyone can make a proposal, and if real estate deems it a fair and equitable proposal, then the remodel could be put on hold," Raney said.

She said a "newer facility with fewer problems and more parking for our customers and employees" would be beneficial.

Meanwhile, the City Commission is expected to consider the Library Board's expansion recommendation at its Dec. 19 meeting.

"All options are on the table," Mayor Mike Amyx said. "One thing that I want is all funding options that the city will have essentially in its toolbox to consider a library proposal. We'll make a decision on the dollar amount that we're willing to ask the public to commit."

Amyx stipulated that any move of the post office would be fine as long as "the retail portion had its main presence downtown." He said the city had no preference as far as a location for a new postal facility, calling that a private deal.

Schulte, one of the Fritzel group's primaries, said the Library Board's recommendation allowed the talks to move to another level. Facing a February start date for the planned remodel of the post office, the group's goal is "to have something back to the post office" soon.

"The idea is that the post office would essentially relocate at no cost to the post office. So the cost of providing the location and providing the structure is on us," Schulte said, adding that they are actively seeking alternate downtown sites.

In a meeting Dec. 6, Amyx and City Manager Dave Corliss indicated to Schulte and Tom Fritzel their understanding of the importance of redevelopment for the future of downtown.

Two other private developers submitted proposals. A group led by Jeff Shmalberg and Martin Moore submitted a plan to build the library on the southeastern corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets, adjacent to the Lawrence Arts Center. Another group led by Doug Compton proposed a library for the northeastern 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.

- Bob Thurber is a post office employee and a fellow of the Citizen Journalism Academy sponsored by The World Company and the Kansas University School of Journalism.

Comments

Sigmund 8 years, 8 months ago

"The idea is that the post office would essentially relocate at no cost to the post office. So the cost of providing the location and providing the structure is on us, Schulte said ..." And by "us" he means you, Mr., Mrs. and Ms. Lawrence Kansas Taxpayer!

Great deal for Post Office, but I wonder what private property for the new Post Office will be acquired by use of Eminent Domain?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

This post office plan needs some detailed explanation. Tacking it on to the library cost....hopefully not.

It would be helpful if the LJW could provide some detail when statements such as this are made. It is quite similar to one Fritzel or the library board made stating that the city would lose control of the current library$5,000,000 site....how is that? Does anyone out there actually believe that taxpayers do not give a damn?

ASBESTOS 8 years, 8 months ago

The first line of this article says it all:

"Executives of the Gene Fritzel Construction Co. were at the downtown post office recently taking measurements and inspecting the building for possible acquisition."

Translation "Fritzel INC>, decides for YOU the Lawrence TAXPAYER what is best for you. The will do what they want, and YOU will pay them. Even the Post Office will cower before them, WHY??

Becasue whom will get the new post office construction?

I can see all the deal rigging going on now.

That is illegal. This needs to be turned to the NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL NOW!!

This is not how decisions are madw with public funds. There is obviously a lot of "close door meetings" going on. That is what KORA is about.

This deal and Fritzel's actions look and smell BAD. Someone is corrupt and looking the other way. And someone needs to go to jail for corruption.

ANd YES DO TELL how is the city loosing control of the current Library site? Someone hawk it or put a lien on it??? DO TELL.

This looks VERY VERY BAD.

budwhysir 8 years, 8 months ago

Are you ready for a solution???? lets invest our money in the old bookmobils. I think we have several we could use at the "t". Then we could put a library on every corner in town and move them at the end of the day

Godot 8 years, 8 months ago

Sigmund wrote: "Great deal for Post Office, but I wonder what private property for the new Post Office will be acquired by use of Eminent Domain?"

Compton has plenty of property for sale on the west side of the 1000 block of Mass. Bet he'd be glad to sell it to the USPS for a pretty price.

Godot 8 years, 8 months ago

"In a meeting Dec. 6, Amyx and City Manager Dave Corliss indicated to Schulte and Tom Fritzel their understanding of the importance of redevelopment for the future of downtown."

This whole boondoggle is NOT ABOUT A LIBRARY! It is about redeveloping downtown, at the expense of the taxpayers.

And, now we see that Amyx is the mover and shaker in this project. He is invested in seeing that it gets done.

Note that Amyx wants all funding options on the table. That could include, of course, increasing the mill levy. This does not require taxpayer approval.

Time to change the name of Lawrence to "Boulder on the Kaw."

deec 8 years, 8 months ago

This under the table Fritzel deal is typical for Lawrence developers. They are just getting more blatant about it, since it is labelled by them as the Eldredge redevelopment district. I love the unique Lawrence downtown and used the library extensively when I lived there, but come on. Branch libraries in some of the unused retail space around town make a lot more sense. How much can it cost to put up some shelves and run cabling for computer stations?

ASBESTOS 8 years, 8 months ago

REQUEST THE NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL TO LOOK INTO THIS ABNORMAL TAXPAYER FUNDED DEVELOPEMNT PROCESS!!!

Hell call the KBI up. This is what corruption looks like.

girly 8 years, 8 months ago

Move it west. No one wants underground parking. Ask the public!

News_to_me 8 years, 8 months ago

Geez folks, get a grip! Nothing has been decided about anything and you're already up in arms. Go to a city commission meeting (the one on the library is Dec 19th), ask questions, make comments. Don't just make accusations with no basis in fact. This is the Library Board recommendation. As Amyx said, "we will make a decision on the dollar amount that we're willing to ask the public to commit to." It has already been pared down from 50 million and it may get cut yet again.

As far as downtown redevelopment goes, think about it. The Post Office doesn't pay taxes, the library doesn't pay taxes and not a single one of those downtown parking lots pay taxes. If you get more businesses in those places that do generate property taxes and sales taxes (from out of town visitors) then maybe our property taxes would go down or at least quit going up. It's kind of like owning your home. If don't protect your investment and let it fall into disrepair then your investment is shot.

Some things to think about...

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

It looks as though a convention center will be built downtown in the current library location....the Fritzell plan.

How about 3 library proposals accompanied with interior and exterior design to include dollars and cents then put the matter to the voters.

Should one proposal be extensive modification of current site and one satellite location?

Under ground parking I believe is quite expensive.

News_to_me 8 years, 8 months ago

Well said merrill. On Tues. Dec 19th the City Commission will receive the recommendation of the Library Board for a new library on the current site of the Post Office. This is the Fritzel Group proposal. I am sure that at that meeting more details will come out. I am not sure that they are quite to the stage of detailed drawings. There will be much discussion by the city about the proposal before anything is decided and then it goes to a vote. The time for intelligent discussion is now, not focusing solely on the negatives of the plan but also on the positives for downtown and all of Lawrence.

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