Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

City library construction could cost $30M or more

February 23, 2006


City commissioners confirmed Wednesday it could cost at least $30 million to build the type of library they think the community deserves.

But at a study session with library planners, commissioners said the project should keep moving full speed ahead.

"We have grossly underfunded our library for years, and now it is time to step up to the plate," Mayor Boog Highberger said.

City commissioners gave support for most of the general goals that a group of architects and library consultants have proposed for a new downtown facility. Those goals include a new building that would be 125,000 to 140,000 square feet, up from 52,000 square feet today; an increase in circulation that would put the library in the 75th percentile of all Kansas communities, up from the 50th percentile today; a minimum of 148 public computer terminals, up from 47 today; and a significant increase in meeting space.

"The planners have done a good job of not trying to create the Mercedes-Benz of libraries but rather a quality library that would serve us well for a long time," City Commissioner David Schauner said.

Election talk

But whether the public will buy it is an open question. Many details are up in the air. Commissioners did not discuss possible ways to pay for construction of a library. In fact, library planners did not give any cost estimates for the facility, but after the meeting several commissioners said they had an idea of the enormity of the project.

"I would say $30 million is probably a minimum for the total cost," Highberger said.

Commissioners have long said a public vote to support a tax increase likely would be necessary for the project to move forward.

"I have always thought that the public will be the ones who decide whether a new library is needed or not," City Commissioner Mike Amyx said.

Talk of a referendum didn't surface much Wednesday, but there was a brief discussion that the earliest a public vote could happen would be April 2007.

A 'deplorable' situation

Paying for the project's construction costs is only part of the financial considerations for commissioners. Library leaders also said state benchmarks show Lawrence ranks in the bottom 15 percent of per capita spending for its library.

Consultant Jeffrey Scherer said the library's annual operating budget of $2.6 million needs to increase by about $1 million, with more spending as the population grows. Scherer said the community should be prepared to increase its per capita funding for the library's operations from about $26 per person to about $40 per person. Scherer said that would bring Lawrence up to the 50th percentile.

"The revenue situation, I think, right now is really deplorable," Scherer said. "I don't think there is any other way to say it."

Possible sites

But before commissioners tackle any funding issue, they want to settle on a site for the project. Library leaders and commissioners have said the library must remain downtown, but whether the current site at Seventh and Vermont streets is adequate hasn't been determined.

Developers have informally proposed at least five sites for city leaders to consider. Some of those sites are the former Riverfront Mall building at Sixth and New Hampshire streets that is owned by members of The World Company, which publishes the Journal-World; the 900 block of New Hampshire Street; parts of the 1000 blocks of New Hampshire and Massachusetts streets; parts of the 800 block of Pennsylvania Street; parts of the 800 and 900 blocks of New Hampshire Street; and areas in the 600 and 700 blocks of Vermont Street.

Commissioners said they were interested in receiving official proposals from developers in the next couple of months, but they stopped short of saying they thought a public-private partnership was the best way to proceed with the project.

Library leaders did show commissioners several concepts for a new library built on the existing site. The one that piqued some interest was a plan that would build a new 165,000-square-foot, two-story library by stretching into the current library parking lot. Parking would be replaced by a 260-space parking garage beneath the building.

A concept also was presented for a 130,000-square-foot building south of the current library where the Lawrence Senior Center and Fire Station No. 1 are located. A new two-story, 440-space garage would be built to the north where the library is today. Steve Clark, an architect with Gould Evans, said the idea hadn't garnered much enthusiasm because of difficulties related to relocating the senior center and the fire station.


Richard Heckler 12 years, 3 months ago

I say go for it. Obviously it's a project that will be done. The price will only increase with time. Go with a new building at 9th and New Hampshire(empty lot) rather than retrofit the old. The new parking garage will be used more.

Sell the old downtown building and of course put that money into the new library. Don't give that piece of real estate away. Libraries are a practical expenditure of funds.

justsomewench 12 years, 3 months ago

i'm curious to know...

how is it determined which architects get to work on preliminary designs for proposed projects such as this?

also, while i'm sure there's some request-for-bid on services procedure once the project has the green light, are the projects then truly awarded without bias?

it could be my imagination, but it seems i see the same architects on city/usd497 projects over and over.

(i'm not even sure i want to know...)

KsTwister 12 years, 3 months ago

I am going to say this again(first post did not get here). This needs to be on a ballot (by itself).We are overtaxed in Lawrence now and by the time we are taxed for new parks,sewer treatment plants,infrastructure,streets and roundabouts.City Hall may be the next collapse like all around it if these items are not addressed by priority of true need.

lunacydetector 12 years, 3 months ago

where will the homeless stay during their holidays downtown?

why not a homeless shelter/ library? that's all i ever see down there anyway - at least they look homeless - or are they liberals mixed in with the homeless residents?

Jamesaust 12 years, 3 months ago

I thought a "rec center" already had dibs on the taxpayers' pockets?
Or was that the sewer system?
The Sierra Club Clean City Kyoto Club? No, no, I believe it was the city parks. Now that I think about it, maybe it was the half billion dollar additional to Kansas' public schools. Well, maybe it was .........

Kookamooka 12 years, 3 months ago

Get OVER the money. I don't know why the city can't just issue the debt in the form of municipal bonds that our beloved baby boomers can invest in for their retirement. Tax exempt municipal bonds are the way of the FUTURE!

In order to retain some measure of human civilization, we need to invest in institutions of knowledge. Libraries reach the most people. And I don't know about you, I like to hold a book in my hand and turn pages once in a while. If you prefer the internet, why not just have a chip inserted in your head and become a cyborg!

Kookamooka 12 years, 3 months ago

Stop thinking about the needs of adults and start focussing on the kids for God's sake. What about their needs? I doubt the University of Kansas cares one Iota about the kids in this community until they become National Merit Scholars.

The adults in this log are so short sighted!

Tony Kisner 12 years, 3 months ago

Put a measure for a sales tax increase on the ballot for funding. Anyone wanting to pay more for organic carrots at the Merc, will see the correlation of new library = expensive carrots. Not new library = increase mill levy on a tax bill that comes in the mail if I want it to or not. Need meeting rooms, I think the old library is sitting empty, the old Mason hall is sitting empty. KU has space all over.

ctmom 12 years, 3 months ago

Instead of building a new central library, build some branches. I grew up in Prairie Meadows and we would go to the library about six times a year as a child, if there were a library closer than downtown I'm sure we would have gone more often. I live in Connecticut and in our town of 65,000 we have the downtown library and a branch, which is luckily in walking distance to my house, so I take my children there weekly. The branch has a decent selection of adult and children materials. If there is a book that I really want that isn't at the branch I can either request it or go downtown and get it myself. Lawrence is definitely big enough to have two branches.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 3 months ago

Where: 9th and New Hampshire Why: *It's practical and we know the library will not sit idle. It will be busy as always.

*Ideal companion to the arts center

*Coffee shops and a cafe or two nearby. Don't need these in the library as like Topeka.

*Avoids relocating fire department and senior center expense

*Avoids cost of rent to move library during construction

*Retrofit at current location may not be the best bang for the buck. Retrofitting takes time which means more dollars. Retrofitting is hard work.

*Retrofit likely would not save on cost of construction according to consultants.

*Expanding 9th and New Hampshire parking garage provides enough parking for art center and library plus street parking is available. Other sparsely used lots are also nearby.

*Primary public transportation hub at 9th & New Hampshire

*Two or three story building would blend well with existing new structures

*Would be convenient for parents/children needing a place to go during class or rehearsal breaks

*Sell the library to aid in financing new construction:

Perhaps some of existing one cent sales tax money could be applied to this project. Some things will need to sit on the back burner. There seems some implied rush. Rome was not built in a day.

Street repairs are scheduled annually so sooner or later matters will be resolved. The location/schedule of repairs may need adjusting. Don't repair streets that are not in dire straights. Is there reason to panic over street conditions...probaly not. Schedule repairs accordingly with annual schedlules. Some new streets may have to wait.

This is not a new idea by any means as it's been on the table for awhile.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 3 months ago

The park situation could well be lack of planning for the last 20 years. There needs to be a provision whereby land is dedicated in every new development for schools,fire departments and parks with a rec center here and there. That's got to be part of the deal where neighborhoods are being planned othrewise taxpayers get soaked on land price.

West side residents deserve parks and a "regional" rec center. Perhaps a new west rec center should include real live BMX bicycle about fun.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.