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.


janniebullinlawrence 8 years, 1 month ago

I think they could find a cheaper alternative, but a library is a valuable thing. While the internet may be an adequate resource there is no replacing books. There are people who frequent the library daily, weekly , monthly and some only go a couple times a year, but everyone utilizes the library at some point. I feel like the quaility of the communities library says something about the community as a whole. Often we forget what a library means, we tend to take for granted that it will always be there if we need it. Do you remember your first library card? I do and I was so excited, I looked up and down, ceiling to floor and found two books to check out. Everything was quiet and one could smell the musty books everywhere. Remember those big card catalogs? Inside the whole world at your fingertips. Yes a new library costs money and yes they could move it to an exisiting building, but to attack the library, to complain about spending money for a new one, well that is sad. Cut out all those ridiculous roundabouts, stop paying Council members for civic service, put a freeze on cost of living increases for City employees but don't rob the community of a library. On any page of any book lies the gift of knowledge and it is free to anyone who desires it. The freedom to learn is both a privaledge and a right of every citizen wether they are rich or poor, old or young, homeless or taxpayers.


offtotheright 8 years, 1 month ago

This makes me want to vomit!

Why not take one of the already EMPTY buildings (that stupid Tanger Mall--the homeless could catch a ride on that already EMPTY T BUS), that empty Centennial School, those EMPTY sale barns in East Lawrence, the EMPTY Farmland building, etc...and make one of those into a friggin library!

And Merrill....not everyone in West Lawrence rides a BMX bike! I am not looking for fun...I want my taxes to go DOWN!


conservativeman 8 years, 1 month ago

Why do we have to have tax payer parks? Make them private parks and then the users of the parks pay. I'm tired of subsidizing others play.


Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month 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.


Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month 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.


ljreader 8 years, 1 month ago

Since the current library is already a destination for the homeless, why not use it for the new homeless shelter? Then, take the site in east Lawrence where the Salvation Army plans to erect its new shelter, and put a library there. The east Lawrence neighborhood would certainly benefit more from a library than from a homeless shelter. Of course, this would interfere with the commissioners vision of east Lawrence as the designated ghetto of Lawrence.


offtotheright 8 years, 1 month ago

I have got to move!

You libs want a new library............YOU PAY FOR IT! I refuse!


ctmom 8 years, 1 month 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.


conservativeman 8 years, 1 month ago

The new library should have a tax payer ID card for use. If you are a tax payer or if a tax payer sponsors you, say a family member or relative, then you can get a library card. If you are on welfare or homeless, NO PRIVILEGES FOR YOU, ONE YEAR!

Marion, Your plan is too expensive and eminent domain never! Let's get it down to 1 million. Use steel buildings or something. I don't want to pay for aesthetics. They could buy or lease the retail outlet off of I-70 and 40 hwy. The bus runs there and there is plenty of parking.


from_kansasland 8 years, 1 month ago

Hey, I just want to know one thing....Will the new library have shower facilities for the homeless to use? ....since many homeless people tend to hang out at the library all day!

I ask because the other day I was sitting in a chair reading a book and some homeless dude sat next to me and he smelled like you-know-what!! Oh, God!! It was awful! He smelled like he had a pair of underwear on that had not been washed in a year!! And I got a shiver up my spine when it occurred to me what a pair of men's briefs must look like when they have been worn each and everyday for an entire year without having been washed once!!

.......Excuse me while I go throw up!!

Maybe the library should install a few free-use washers and dryers for the homeless to use?

God! I just know that that homeless dude's underwear could have stood up on its own in a corner!!


ljreader 8 years, 1 month ago

With the internet, it seems like the need for a giant building to warehouse printed material is becoming obsolete. I, too, prefer to hold a book rather than read off the internet. However, our public library rarely has the books I am looking for. Their interlibrary program is great- I have yet to search for a book I could not get using this loan system- further making a larger library unnecessary. A new (or bigger) library would be great if the city had extra money lying around. As it is, our plates are full with necessary projects that we do not have enough money to fund. Our leaders need to be reminded that they cannot continue to tax us for every little whim or fantasy they have in mind. They are bleeding us dry. Do we want better roads, sewers, artwork, sidewalks, roundabouts, parks, etc or a library? If we try to have it all, soon our residents will not have enough time to use a library, as we will all be working 3 jobs to pay our taxes.


Marion Lynn 8 years, 1 month ago

I was asked, so here we go!

(1) Obtain at fair market value or eminent domain if necessary the vacant lot on the West side of Vermont next to the Dr.'s office, pave it an put in meters.

(2) Obtain at fair market or through eminent domain the empty Allen Press parking lot and the old grocery store currently used by Allen Press as a warehouse; demolish it and use the entire thing for a metered parking lot.

I am not a fan of eminent domain but this would be a good use.

(3) Build the current library up to the max for which it is desinged.

(4) Bring the old library into ADA compliance, build a portico entrance on the East to meet ADA (Not all entracnes to an old building must be ADA compliant.). Move the retired center there.

(4) Crunch the old cop shop and City Hall; that thing has the historic significance of a 7-11 store. Pave it, put in nice trees, shrubberies, parking meters and well appointed walkways.

(5) Surround these new parking lots with nicely trimmed out brick/stone half-walls with flower planters on the tops, make them clean well-lighted places with Victrorian/Edwardian style street lamps.

(6) Purchase at market value or through eminent domain the old Masonic Temple, spend the money to revamp it and make it ADA compliant; close off parking in front of the building for a passenger unloading zone and use it for public and private functions.

(7) Purchase at market value less the TIFF fines or through eminent domain less the TIFF fines, the vacant lot at 9th and New Hamshire where the hotel will never be built and do up a similar parking lot; perhaps attaching it to the existing one but for God's sake, do it with some kind of style!

Yes, I know I just spent about 17 million bucks of the taxpayer's money.

Should my plan be adopted, I will send the city a bill for $1.3 million; 10% of the money that I saved it.




Tony Kisner 8 years, 1 month 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.


Kookamooka 8 years, 1 month 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!


conservativeman 8 years, 1 month ago

Marion makes an excellent point. I would recommend that a commission, oversight group, something get this under some sort of oversight. Has a cooperative effort with KU been discussed? Seems to me that the biggest need for a library is at the University. Perhaps between KU and Haskell is the best spot. Make it a joint endeavor, capture funding from federal (Haskell), state (KU) and local (Me).

Lawrence needs to plan smart!


macon47 8 years, 1 month ago

Did the "consultants' find out how many people actually use the library every day?. When they triple the size of it and usage triples, will that number Be enough to warrant spending $30 million? THIS SMELLS JUST LIKE OUR MT BUS SYSTEM. a lot of taxpayers monies being utilized By a small number of citizens.

I think we ought to let booger pick it all the way back to garnett, And rundle clog him self back to western ks. Then perhaps we Could get some commissioners that want to run the city like a business, Instead some gimmie gimme freebie fun for all program. Reminds me of "let them eat cake" fiddle de dee, Fun fun fun, till our daddy took the check book away. There are a lot of people in Lawrence that get up everyday , go To work come home, raise a family, and don't have all the lay about time the liberals do to enjoy the amenities booger and rundle want to provide them for FREE!


Kookamooka 8 years, 1 month 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!


Jamesaust 8 years, 1 month 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 .........


lunacydetector 8 years, 1 month 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?


billyflay 8 years, 1 month ago

why do we need a library when we have the internet?

the same small percentage of people use the library over and over, it's just another freebee for liberals,


KsTwister 8 years, 1 month 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.


macon47 8 years, 1 month ago

Do booger and rundle do anything but think of ways to spend OUR money On warm and fuzzy amenities like parks and libraries so we can be on par with Topeka?? We have hopes and dreams of nicer things for our family but we put food on the table and fix the roof first. Of course we don't have an open check book like these guys. I assume the users of the library would be more than willing to let the taxpayers that don't use facility pay for it with their money, rather than the users pay any type of fee??


Marion Lynn 8 years, 1 month ago

If ever a "Task Force" or "Study Group" was needed, it would be for one to very carefully examine the incestuous relationships that exist between the City Of Lawrence, Kansas and several local architectural firms.

I notice that the figure of "$30 million" seems to have an almost magical significance around these parts.

$30 million to rebuild the streets.

$30 million for a new library.

A city debt of what?

The face and usage of libraries is changing and do not misunderstand me, I advocate for learning and libraries but at the same time, the internet is changing the manner in which libraries are used and an ever-decreasing percentage of the population actually uses physical facilities.

This ongoing and significant process needs to be carefully examined before such an amount is spent.

Additionally, it has been shown that the per-space cost of parking garages in Lawrence, Kansas runs 50% higher than the national average at any given time.

Old decrepit buildings could be purchased, knocked down, the land paved over into decent outdoor ots for far less than the construction costs of another monument to an architect.

I'm not certain as to the covenants regarding the use of the old library building but the Carnegie foundation stuck them in there, and there are restrictions on what can be done with the building and land without having it revert to the foundation as I recall.

If a new library is to be built it should be on the present site with improvements to the existing structure and expansion to the south.

The proposed site on New Hampshire is nothing but a smoke screen to cover up the lining of the pockets of the land owners and the architectural firms involved.




justsomewench 8 years, 1 month 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...)


Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month 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.


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