Archive for Monday, May 15, 2006

Library proposals to face scrutiny from committee

May 15, 2006


The time for fantazising is over. The time for decisions begins today.

After a two-year process of outlining the hopes and dreams for an expanded Lawrence Public Library - and a week after local developers submitted proposals which included residential and commercial developments that would reshape downtown - city officials this morning will start evaluating the realities.

All the choices now on the table could cost taxpayers $40 million or more.

"I guess the biggest thing for me is I've got to figure what we can afford," Mayor Mike Amyx said.

Some of Lawrence's more active interest groups are keeping a close eye on the process but aren't ready to render judgments.

"We're very interested" in the library redevelopment, said Rick Marquez, executive director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. "I think we'd like to look at the plans, let our members look at the proposals and think about them a little while, before we decide. Whether we like them, we don't like them, like some better than others - we just need some time."

Gwen Klingenberg, president of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods, agreed.

"More info is needed by the people I contacted," she said in an e-mail to the Journal-World.

The committee of officials and library leaders that meets today won't recommend a decision; instead, members will list the pros and cons of each proposal before sending the matter on to the City Commission.

"From there it could be a multiweek, multimonth process," said Dave Corliss, the interim city manager.

Whittled down?

The options:

¢ 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.

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¢ 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 that 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 Ninth Street.

¢ Expansion of the existing library, at Seventh and Vermont streets, into the building's current parking lot - parking would go below-ground. This is the only proposal with no additional commercial or residential development.

Any of the first four options, Amyx said, would amount to one of the largest downtown redevelopment projects in recent Lawrence history.

"This would probably be the biggest that I've seen," he said.

But those proposals could be whittled down, he said.

"When we started out, we were talking about a library," he said. "Then we did an (request for proposals) and started talking about more development. It's grown bigger than I thought."

The evaluation group meets from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. today at City Hall.

Developers' backgrounds

Here are some of the accomplishments of the four development groups competing to build a new, expanded library - and redevelop part of downtown. More details can be found at

¢ 9-10 LC is led by Lawrence developer Jeff Shmalberg, and includes Bob and Martin Moore. Previous projects - individually and collectively - include construction of the downtown parking garage in the 900 block of New Hampshire; Berkeley Towers, the mixed-use building in the 1000 block of New Hampshire that is home to Lawrence Municipal Court; the DCCCA Center Headquarters in the 3300 block of Clinton Parkway; and the Independence Inc. Headquarters in the 2000 block of Haskell Avenue. ¢ Gene Fritzel Construction Co. is responsible, most recently, for the redevelopment of the historic Eldridge Hotel in the 700 block of Massachusetts Street. The company was also the force behind the redevelopment of the west side of the 600 block of Massachusetts Street, where Starbucks, American Eagle Outfitters and other national chains reside. The company also restored Cedar Crest, the governor's mansion in Topeka. ¢ 800 New Hampshire LLC is led by Lawrence developers Doug Compton, Bill Newsome and Terry Sutcliffe. Compton and Newsome already plan for a new Wal-Mart on their property on the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive; Compton's First Management has built and managed a number of apartment houses throughout Lawrence, and he and former Kansas University basketball coach Larry Brown have purchased a number of downtown properties in recent years. ¢ Riverfront Development LLC is led by the Simons family, owner of the Journal-World, and includes Lawrence contractor Bo Harris. The Simons family redeveloped the former Riverfront Mall into the current home of the Springhill Suites hotel; they also refashioned the historic post office at Seventh and New Hampshire streets into the News Center, which is home to the Journal-World, 6News and World Online news operations. Harris is best known, most recently, for his Hobbs Taylor Lofts, the luxury condominiums in the 700 block of New Hampshire.


BrianR 12 years, 1 month ago

Wow, all of the proposals suck. Imagine that.

lunacydetector 12 years, 1 month ago

this should be put to a public vote that has all 4 proposals, how much each will cost the taxpayer individually and a fifth choice stating these projects will benefit approximately 1,200 people a day - "no new library."

it would be the ethical thing to do.

Sigmund 12 years, 1 month ago

While not every decision of the Kommission needs to be put to a vote (as much as I would like that it is just not practical), I think this one should. How about a rule that projects requiring the issuance or refinancing of municipal bonds must be approved by voters?

Pro_Lawrence 12 years, 1 month ago

They need to take every good feature of every proposal and combine them into one. Then they need to tax the commuters who travel outside of the county everyday to help pay for its cost.

gr 12 years, 1 month ago

I still like the palm tree idea. Maybe we could have as part of the deal a high-speed tram from one end of the town to another. $50 Billion anyone?

"I liked the library pictures with the palm trees. We could have palm trees transplanted each year. Why not? It's your tax dollars and all they have to do is increase them. Lawrence deserves it. It could put Lawrence on the map. It can conteract those "small mindedness assumptions". Maybe we can help support the Palmtrees-R-Us family."

gr 12 years, 1 month ago

Who's being sarcastic? ;-)

Don't you see my point. Planting palm trees each year would be nice, but some things are completely out of line. Looking at the pictures and hearing the proposals of the proposed library are completely out of line.

But, if they're going to go that way anyway, why not add these things? What would be the limiting factor? Doesn't appear to be reason. Nor money.

LongGoneFromLarryville 12 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, in Alabama they don't spend much money on libraries, either.

Here's a tip for y'all: this should be a public-private partnership. If I'm a developer, I can think of a lot of reasons I'd want to bring 1000+ incremental potential customers per day to my location.... and they all start with the letter $.

I'd deed that current block (where the library sits today) to a developer in return for a 50-year lease within the ensuing project.

townie42 12 years, 1 month ago

Fritzel wants public funds to develop a ton of disparate properties they can't make viable all at once.

Compton wants public funds to put up a hotel (why this one would work downtown I have no idea) & more downtown lofts.

Simons wants public funds to redevelop an otherwise unprofitable property & use the leverage to force out Mike Elwell.

IMO, it seems like the only reasonable alternatives are no expansion or expansion at the current site.

Unfortunately, the argument (as others have pointed out) is how to redevelop downtown, rather than what to do about the library. I think the library is the least of the concerns being dealt with in these proposals.

Wilbur_Nether 12 years, 1 month ago

tony88, how do you arrive at the figure $20M? Is it simply an arbitrary number?

Suqaad 12 years, 1 month ago

All I know for sure is that the builder formerly known as Fritzel is scaring my home. Just because you're a Fritzel, doesn't mean you're a Gene. Just say NO!!! Rebuild on-site, if there's enough need AND money.

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

It was just a couple of years ago that the downtown area was designated "historic." Reconstruction of the historic sites will make them eligible for federal and state funding.

Looks like these developers will get the taxpayers to pick up nearly all of the cost of their new project: the city kicking in four times what it should cost to expand the library, and the feds and state kicking in for "historic preservation."

KsTwister 12 years, 1 month ago

Why not a satillite library? I do not see why everything would have to be under the same roof in the age of internet.

Amandarama 12 years, 1 month ago

The Journal-World should "fantazise" about hiring an editor.

Rationalanimal 11 years, 11 months ago

Let's see, Compton, Fritzel and Schwade (a/k/a Dewey, Screwem and Howe) submitted the bids. Is there even any debate as to why this is more than the City Communishers thought. I'd even be willing to wager that in the end, one of the three stooges sells the ground the library is built on to the City. As to Mike Amyx's comment "we've got to determine what we can afford". My question is: is 40+ million even realistic to consider in the first place? Give me a break.

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