Four Lawrence developers have put forth plans to reshape downtown with construction of a dramatic new city library surrounded by retail and residential development.
All four proposals are public-private partnerships that would be more than double the size of the current library - and would include new condominiums, office space and, in some cases, new retail development and hotel space. Taxpayers would be asked to pay about $40 million or more under any of the proposals.
"Any of these four proposals would make a huge and lasting change in the downtown fabric," said City Commissioner David Schauner. "It is going to be both an opportunity and a challenge."
The projects include:
¢ Massive redevelopment of parts of the 600, 700 and 800 blocks of Vermont and Kentucky streets by the Fritzel family, owners of a local construction company.
¢ A proposal by members of the Simons family - which owns the Journal-World - to place the library along the Kansas River, in the former Riverfront Mall.
¢ Redevelopment by Lawrence developer Doug Compton would turn much of the east side of the 800 block of New Hampshire Street into a library, retail-residential development and a large public plaza designed by artist Stan Herd.
¢ A plan by developers of the Downtown 2000 project to suspend a multistory library above a section of New Hampshire Street near the intersection of Ninth and New Hampshire.
City commissioners will evaluate all four proposals against the idea of simply expanding the existing library at its current location of Seventh and Vermont streets.
Whatever direction the city goes, it almost is certain the project will require a public election to approve bonds to pay for the new facility. That election likely would happen no sooner than April 2007, said library director Bruce Flanders.
In the meantime, city commissioners will have a full public airing of all the proposals. A committee of city officials and library leaders will review each proposal and list pros and cons of each. Its first meeting will be from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday at City Hall, and will be open to the public. City commissioners are scheduled to have a public study session on the proposals at 9 a.m. June 8 at City Hall, but they aren't expected to choose a winner at that time.
"There are a number of policy decisions that have to be made, and we'll be talking about those in the coming months," said interim City Manager David Corliss. "This is not something that will be decided in a month."
Thomas Fritzel, a member of the family that owns Gene Fritzel Construction, will urge city commissioners to think big. Fritzel said his family's proposal - in addition to giving the city a larger library - would add enough new retail, parking and residential development to allow downtown to compete with the Plaza area in Kansas City and the rapidly developing retail area near the Kansas Speedway.
"Downtown Lawrence needs to refocus and really become a destination point again," Fritzel said. "If the downtown and the city do not unite on a project, market share for downtown will continue to decline."
The Fritzel project would have the city and his company combine to redevelop significant portions of Vermont and Kentucky streets. Major details of the project include:
¢ A 126,000-square-foot library would be along Sixth Street between Vermont and Kentucky streets. The building would be constructed to allow for expansion to 150,000 square feet.
¢ Six new retail, residential and office buildings - each with several hundred covered parking stalls - will be built along Vermont and Massachusetts streets. The new buildings - including everything from shops to condominiums - would be on the vacant lot immediately south of the Eldridge Hotel; on the current library site at the southwest corner of Seventh and Vermont streets; on the city-owned parking lot on the northeast corner of Eighth and Vermont streets; on a lot just north of the Talbots store in the 600 block of Vermont Street; on the current site of the U.S. Post Office at Seventh and Vermont, which would move its distribution facility to an undetermined location closer to Interstate 70; and on the city-owned parking lot on the east side of Vermont Street between Eighth and Ninth streets.
More on the Library plans
- 6News video: City Commissioners discuss new site for library expansion
- "A New Direction" at 9th & New Hampshire Street (.pdf)
- "Town Square" at 800 New Hampshire Street (.pdf)
- "Eldrige Redevelopment District" at 600 Vermont (.pdf)
- "Riverfront Library" on Sixth Street (.pdf)
- City keeps Carnegie control (05-03-06)
- Commission weighing plans for library expansion (04-22-06)
¢ Total cost for the project is estimated to be at least $150 million. The proposal did not include specific figures on how much the public would contribute to the total cost, but Fritzel said it could be about $40 million for parking and other infrastructure and another $25 million for the library building. But according to a feasibility study, he estimates the project will generate $70 million in new tax revenue over a 20-year period.
¢ The project would be built in phases over a six-to-10 year time period. Once completed, it would add 1,864 public and private parking spaces.
¢ A new convention center space could be about 20,000 square feet and would be built onto the Eldridge Hotel using the city parking lot just west of the historic building.
¢ The project would include space for a downtown retail post office to replace the space lost from the dislocated post office.
¢ The development would require the removal of several houses in the 600 block of Kentucky. The proposal noted condemnation of some property may be necessary.
Library on the river
Dan Simons - president of the electronics division of The World Company, which owns the Journal-World - believes his group's proposal presents a realistic plan for creating a unique library for downtown Lawrence.
"We're not saying that hundreds of thousands of square feet of national tenants are going to come in and fund this," Simons said. "Basically, all the commitments are from existing players in town. It is a realistic plan to create what we believe would be the signature building of Lawrence."
Key points of the plan are:
¢ A 140,000-square-foot, three-story library that would overlook the Kansas River. The building would occupy the former Riverfront Mall building. Plans could call for an additional story to be added to the building. Simons said the building would be designed to be one of the five most energy efficient buildings in the country.
¢ The current 100-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott would move out of the former mall building to make room for the library. A new 160-room Marriott hotel would be built on the east side of the 600 block of New Hampshire Street on property adjacent to the former Reuter Organ building. The hotel would have about 10,000 square feet of convention space.
¢ Also in the 600 block of New Hampshire Street, 40,000 square feet of new retail space - including a remodeling of the Reuter building - would be constructed. Also, 52 condos would be built near Seventh and New Hampshire streets. Sunflower Broadband offices also would move out of the former mall building into new space in the 600 block.
¢ The eastern end of the former Riverfront Mall building would be converted into a parking garage with 30 condos on its top level. There also would be a multistory parking garage in the 600 block of New Hampshire Street, as well as a new surface parking lot east of the former Riverfront Mall building. In total, the project would provide 838 parking spaces.
¢ The plan also includes buying the Abe & Jake's Landing nightclub and converting the space into 20,000 square feet of meeting space.
¢ The total project has an estimated cost of about $133 million. The city would be asked to bond about $75 million of the project - with the rest coming from developers. But the developers estimate the project will generate about $25 million in new tax revenue the city will be able to use to help pay its share of the project.
¢ Sixth Street would be extended east, to connect to Rhode Island and Connecticut streets.
¢ Renowned sculptor and Lawrence resident Jim Brothers will serve as consulting artist for the project.
A bridge library
Jeff Shmalberg, a member of the 9-10 LC company that redeveloped the 900 block of New Hampshire Street, believes the city has a ready-made location for the new library. He's proposing the city build it on already-vacant, construction-ready ground in the 900 block of New Hampshire.
That would place the library adjacent to the Lawrence Arts Center and right across the street from a city-owned 500-space parking garage.
"If the library goes here, you would basically have a city-owned cultural-civic block," Shmalberg said. "And we believe we have the simplest project. The sites are ready to build on. The library can save a lot of time and money by choosing this site."
But the site will require a unique design. Shmalberg and his architects are proposing the library be built on both the east and west side of New Hampshire Street. That means a portion of the building would be suspended over New Hampshire Street.
Key details of the project include:
¢ The library would be 127,000 square feet, on the first two floors of a five-story building. The remaining three floors would be occupied by office space and 20 loft-style condos.
¢ The building could accommodate anywhere from about 275 to 400 covered parking spaces, depending on city needs. Those spaces would be in addition to the 500-space parking garage already in the 900 block of New Hampshire Street.
¢ Shmalberg estimated the public investment in the project could range from about $40 million to $50 million, depending on parking. He said a total project cost including the privately developed condo and office space wasn't yet available.
Library and lodging
A development group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton would turn the eastern side of the 800 block of New Hampshire Street into a new library and add a new hotel to downtown.
The project would include just two buildings - a 130,000-square-foot, two-story library, and a 126,000-square-foot, six-story building that would house a 120-room hotel in addition to condos and office space.
"We feel like this is a very simple solution that also is elegant and timeless," said Dan Sabatini, the architect for the project. "It really doesn't have any obstacles to overcome. All the ground is owned by the city or individuals who are willing to participate. We really are trying to keep the library out of a development that would hinge upon certain things happening."
Key points to the project include:
¢ About $49 million in public funding; developers estimate the project will produce about $10 million in new revenues to offset those costs. The private sector would invest about $20.5 million.
¢ The site would include removal of basically everything on the eastern side of the 800 block of New Hampshire Street, including the Aquila natural gas building near Ninth and New Hampshire streets. The development would not remove the new Pachamama's restaurant near Eighth and New Hampshire streets.
¢ The project would include two levels of below-ground parking that would provide 570 parking spaces.
¢ The library would be designed to accommodate a 25,000-square-foot expansion.
¢ A 35,000-square-foot outdoor plaza would be in front of the library. The plaza would be planned by noted Lawrence artist Stan Herd.