Archive for Saturday, November 11, 2006

Public should weigh in on new library, mayor says

Amyx says question ripe for ballot; developers not pursuing project

November 11, 2006


The pace needs to quicken on the decision of whether Lawrence will build a new library, Mayor Mike Amyx said Friday.

Amyx said he wanted the City Commission to begin thinking about putting the issue on the April ballot.

"A project this size is going to have to receive the blessing of the public," Amyx said. "We may as well know early on whether we're going to get it or not."

Amyx made his comments at the same time that members of the development group proposing to use the former Riverfront Mall as a library site said they were no longer actively pursuing the project.

The four private development groups that originally expressed interest in partnering with the city on a library project have until Wednesday to submit new plans to the city, after city commissioners determined the previous proposals were too expensive.

Dan Simons, who heads the ownership group of the former Riverfront Mall at Sixth and New Hampshire streets, said his group would not resubmit a plan.

"You want to support something that you are passionate about," said Simons, who is part of the management team of The World Company, which owns the Journal-World. "An environmentally friendly library on the river is something we believe in, but it just doesn't seem possible at this time.

"I still think the site is a great opportunity. But Lawrence is - I don't want to say at a crossroads - but there are a lot of issues, whether it is streets or sewer or water treatment projects, and maybe our idea is just not the right time for Lawrence yet."

Simons said he was not sure that the community has reconciled its wants for a new library with the costs of such a project.

"What they want to achieve with what dollar numbers are being tossed around doesn't seem to jibe," Simons said.

Previous proposals by private developers had included $40 million or more in public financing, although some of the public debt was designed to be paid off by taxes generated from new private development surrounding a library.

The Riverfront group had been in discussion with members of the Fritzel family to combine forces with that group on a library project at the Riverfront site. Now that those talks have ended, Bob Schulte, an executive with Gene Fritzel Construction Co., said his group would go back to its previous plans that call for a new library on the site of the current post office at Seventh and Vermont streets.

The post office would be moved to an undetermined downtown location, while some of the post office's distribution center functions might move to the former Tanger Factory Outlet Mall in North Lawrence. A deal with the post office, though, has not been finalized.

Groups led by Lawrence developers Doug Compton and Jeff Shmalberg also are still expected to submit proposals for the city to consider. Compton's plan calls for the library to be at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. Shmalberg's plan would put it at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

Although he isn't submitting a proposal, Simons said he was not ruling out the use of the Riverfront building for the library if the city wanted to initiate the discussion at a future date. He said the building, which sits on city-owned land, is large enough to house a library and additional city office space, if needed.

Amyx said that once the proposals come in next week, he wants the library board to review them and make a strong recommendation to the City Commission. Amyx said commissioners then would need to decide if there were a specific project - including cost estimates and location - that they felt comfortable putting on the ballot.

Whether an April election is the preference of other city commissioners is an open question. City Commissioner David Schauner said much would depend on how quickly the library board could review the proposals. He said an April election may not allow for a significant campaign effort to be formed.

"I think that is a very legitimate concern," said Schauner, who said he thought a decision would need to be made by the end of the year to give the issue a fair chance on the April ballot.


Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

Does anyone else find it odd that the developers of both the Tanger Mall and the Riverfront Plaza have been rescued from absolute failure by housing city,state and now looking at a federal agency? Not enough excess retail dollars around for support? Were these two projects accompanied by retail and/or economic impact studies?

Why not just provide a plan for a stand alone library either at it's current location or at ninth&New Hampshire?

Forget the retail. If the retail does not pay off what then? It comes back on the taxpayers. It seems to me that taxpayers are doing their share for two major failed retail operations.

If ninth and New Hampshire is picked the parking garage is used more often. Perhaps the metered lots on New Hampshire will generate more revenue as well.

What to do with the "old" library? Sell it? Move the Senior Service Center and other tenants into the old library and allow the Fire Deparment to acquire that entire corner/ complex?

Why move the post office? Leave the Fire Department where it is.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

Where: 9th and New Hampshire


It's practical and we know the library will not sit idle. 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 but would make use of existing resources.

*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 Art Center parents/children needing a place to go during class or rehearsal breaks.

*Sell the library to aid in financing new construction or move the Senior Service Center and other tenants into the old library and allow the Fire Deparment to acquire that entire corner/ complex?

KsTwister 11 years, 5 months ago

The sign on Wakarusa says" Future site of Lawrence Library". Sounds to me that decisions have already been made--with or without public approval. Time to petition city hall to lay down the checkbook --at least until next election.

SpeedRacer 11 years, 5 months ago

Since when does the will of the people matter? Cite the SLT. We are electing these idiots to represent us, they need to start making decisions about how to spend our ever increasing tax money in a manner which truly reflects the will of the people. Just about every article I have read in the LJW in the past week is about something DOWNTOWN that the commission wants to spend money on. Get with it!!! Fix my curbs! Start looking at the rest of this sprawling city for where the dollars can be better spent.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

I once suggested that Wal-Mart space be filled with office space a satellite library and/or a small Comp USA or some such store.

kugrad 11 years, 5 months ago

We don't need a new library. A much better use of a much smaller amount of money would be to improve the collection. The library is not free. The library already takes about 2 mils to operate. That is paid for by property owners, although everyone, including the homeless, can use the library. If we build on, add a new library, or do anything, the bond issue it takes will not be the end of the tax burden. There will have to PERMANENTLY be at least a 4 mil tax increase to sustain a new library. I don't know about you, but I can't afford more and more property tax increases. I use the library regularly. At least once a week. I have a dozen or more items checked out at all times and I rely on interlibrary loan and other services. Everything works fine. The staff is very good and I get access to what I need, as well as the needs of my family.
At some point, this town will need a satellite library, but now is not the time. Our property taxes are outrageous. Our sales tax among the highest in the nation. We tax basic necessities like food (unlike many other states). Sorry folks, but, as nice as a new library would be, we need to live within our budget. There is talk of a new homeless shelter. Now a library. What makes people think we can afford these things when taxes are stretched very high, utility rates rising, and so on? We don't need a new homeless shelter and we don't need a new library. They would be nice, but we can't afford it. We cannot burden property owners with additional taxes. It just isn't right.

Mike Myers 11 years, 5 months ago

This article makes me sad. I have always felt that our biggest planning failure as a city is our failure to embrace the river. This was recently confirmed by the AIA study group. I think we need to have visual and pedestrian access to the river from the south. Instead we have created an impenetrable wall there. Once those walls may have made sense as industry needed access to the river and trains for power and materials. No longer is this the case yet the walls remain. I was and still am very hopeful that we can better utilize the riverfront. Creating an opening for visual and pedestian access somewhere between city hall and the mall would be ideal. The current mall is located way too close to the river for my taste. There should be ample room for a river walk, fishing area, kayak access, connection to new nature trails to the east etc... This could be done in connection with the Harris East Lawrence development. I think demolishing portions or all of the current mall/hotel really has to happen if we are going to utilize the river in the way we should.

Unfortunately this will be an expensive proposition, one compounded by the short-sightedness of the developers of the current riverfront mall.

  1. Leave the barbed wire building and the power plant for historical context.
  2. Demo the mall/hotel.
  3. Create a nice pedestrian connection to the river from the north end of Mass and New Hamshire.
  4. Locate the new library in a rennovated and substantially enlarged Reuter Organ building. Utilize as much of the existing parking garage as possible and add to it.
  5. Develop the riverfront with sidewalks, trails and kiosks, less hardscape as you go east. Make a connection on the east to the rails-to-trails.

If we are going to spend money on a new library, why not think big and really put a plan together that will stand the test of time and really add value to our city. THE RIVER, THE RIVER, THE RIVER.....

KsTwister 11 years, 5 months ago

Empty City Hall and put it there, it does not stand for anything,city offices can move into Tanger---something we already paid for. Next election please.

KsTwister 11 years, 5 months ago

There are more people (and congressmen)with more money to spend on Libraries in Topeka. You can't have caviar on a peanut butter budget. All roads leading to a new library look like C**p. More important issues first, like use the money to coax businesses here so taxpayers can get this monkey off our back and share the load.

bflanders 11 years, 5 months ago

KsTwister commented above: "The sign on Wakarusa says" Future site of Lawrence Library". Sounds to me that decisions have already been made--with or without public approval."

When I read this, I was very puzzled (and concerned), so I just drove out there. I think the sign you're talking about (it reads "Future Site for West Lawrence Facility") is for Warren-McElwain Mortuary. I did not find a sign anywhere between Clinton Parkway and 6th Street on Wakarusa that refers to the library.

Bruce Flanders Library Director

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