Archive for Saturday, November 18, 2006

Scaled-back plans for public library unveiled to city

November 18, 2006

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A new downtown library can be built for less than $30 million, according to proposals from a trio of private developers, but it will be smaller and have less parking than once envisioned.

Library leaders on Friday unveiled revised proposals from three private developers who resubmitted plans after city commissioners expressed concerns that their previous proposals were too expensive because they had public costs topping $40 million.

"I think we're in the range of what's politically acceptable now," said John Nalbandian, chairman of the Lawrence Public Library Board.

The new proposals will provide city commissioners with a menu of options for a new downtown library. Here's a look at the proposals:

l Vermont Street redevelopment. The largest proposal comes from members of the Fritzel family that proposes a $28.5 million library that could be located either on the parking lot of the current library site or on the site of the current post office at 645 Vt. But the developers didn't submit specific designs for the library, other than it would be about 94,000 square feet.

The larger part of the proposal included nearly $110 million in private development over a 10-year period that would surround the library on the 600, 700 and 800 blocks of Vermont.

"This plan not only achieves the public library's goals, which include a new building with adequate parking, but also answers a much larger citywide goal, and that is a redevelopment plan for downtown that is financially achievable and realistic," the developers wrote in their proposal to the city.

The private development would include 150,000 square feet of retail space, 100,000 square feet of office space, 130 apartment units, 120 condominiums, 100-room expansion of the Eldridge Hotel, and 39,000-square-foot conference center that would be attached to the Eldridge.

The Fritzel plan also proposes that all the parking for the projects - totaling about $16.5 million worth - would be built with private money. But the developers would request a subsidy from the city to assist with the public portion of the property and its maintenance. Details on how much of subsidy would be needed or how much of the total parking would be devoted to public uses wasn't available. Attempts to reach members of the development team were unsuccessful.

A development group led by Jeff Schmalberg and Martin Moore proposes a four-story library building at the southwest corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

A development group led by Jeff Schmalberg and Martin Moore proposes a four-story library building at the southwest corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

l An arts center site. A development group led by Jeff Shmalberg and Martin Moore are proposing a four-story library building for the southwest corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

The site is an empty lot adjacent to the Lawrence Arts Center. The group also is proposing that the city take over the vacant lot on the southwest corner of the intersection. The plans call for that lot to be a public plaza that could serve the arts center, library and the entire downtown.

"This would bring a signature building to the heart of downtown Lawrence and accommodate the library in a very efficient way," Shmalberg said. "And the proximity to the Arts Center, I think, is a fabulous feature."

The group submitted two potential library sizes. A 94,130-square-foot library would cost the city $25.8 million. A 113,233-square-foot building would cost the city $31 million. Shmalberg, though, argues the more accurate cost would be about $5 million less for the city because that's what he estimates the city could sell the existing library building for.

Those prices do not include the construction of any new parking. Shmalberg said a review of usage of the city's current parking garage in the 900 block of New Hampshire found there were about 260 parking spaces available during even the busiest time of day.

A proposal led by Lawrence business man Doug Compton proposes building a two-story library at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

A proposal led by Lawrence business man Doug Compton proposes building a two-story library at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

One other issue with the site, though, is that new taxes from private development in the district around the parking garage were projected to help pay for the existing parking garage, which was built and financed by the city. Under the latest proposals, all the vacant lots left in the development district would be occupied by nontax-producing properties.

l Library and a hotel. A development group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton is proposing to build a two-story library at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

For a 94,130-square-foot building, the cost to the city would be $29.2 million. For a 114,595-square-foot building, the city's cost would be $34.1 million. Both versions would provide 260 parking spaces for the library. More parking could be added for additional money.

Both versions also would include about $25 million in private development that would include a five-story hotel and office building just north of the library and a three-story apartment and condo building that would be on the back part of the site near Rhode Island. The private development would feature a mix of 250 public and private parking spaces.

The developers are proposing that the city could pay for the public costs with a one-fifth of a cent sales tax.

"That seems to be from my perspective pretty minor for the city to have a top grade library," said Dan Sabatini, the architect for the project. We feel like we have a real prominent location and would present a new way to look at the library. It would give it a storefront presence."

All the proposals are significantly smaller than what the Library Board sought earlier this year after receiving advice from a national consultant. The consultant recommended a library of 139,900 square feet, and had more than 400 parking spaces.

Nalbandian said it is clear that the library proposal is no longer politically feasible because of costs, but he said the community can build something significantly larger than the current 45,000-square-foot building.

Library leaders will have one more option to look at. City-hired architect Steve Clark of Gould Evans will develop a plan to build a new library on the existing site at 707 Vt. He said the site could accommodate either a 94,000- or 114,000-square-foot building and between 310 to 350 parking space. He's still developing cost options, but said such a project would be at least $30 million and likely more.

Library Board members agreed to meet again at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 30 at the library, 707 Vt. They hope to forward a recommendation to city commissioners by mid-December.

Mayor Mike Amyx has said he would like to have a public vote on the issue in April, but other commissioners have stopped short of backing him on that issue.

Comments

thubbard76 8 years, 5 months ago

I didn't realize a new library had to be "politically feasable", I though economics was the problem.

hawkattack 8 years, 5 months ago

$30 million, $60 million, $600 million, who cares. Few people want this, fewer need it. Who the hell still goes to Libraries anyway? But, who the hell rides the buses?

Here's an idea, let's build the flippin Bypass and quit talking about crazy ways to waste the city's taxpayer dollars. After that lets fix adn mainatain our existing roads. Then, after we pay for schools, the police and fire departments if anything is left lets cut taxes. What a novel idea. These three have to go.

Jeff Barclay 8 years, 5 months ago

Wonder if the new library will ever celebrate diversity by having a Traditional Family Month?

monkeyhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

"This plan not only achieves the public library's goals, which include a new building with adequate parking, but also answers a much larger citywide goal, and that is a redevelopment plan for downtown that is financially achievable and realistic," the developers wrote in their proposal to the city.

....a much larger citywide goal? I really don't get this one. Do they mean the city politico's goal? They certainly cannot think that the entire city is in favor of this "new library".

It becomes more and more apparent that this not simply a library (re)development and it never has been. This does not serve the needs of the entire community, only the needs (and wants) of those who have as their main goal the protectionism and promotion of the downtown area.

Mr. Amyx, please push for a vote on this matter so we can soundly defeat it and not have to waste all those developer's time anymore.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 5 months ago

"They certainly cannot think that the entire city is in favor of this "new library"."

They probably have at least as good an idea as you do about what "entire" city wants.

"please push for a vote on this matter so we can soundly defeat it and not have to waste all those developer's time anymore."

A vote on this issue has always been assured, but first there has to be a proposal to vote on.

And don't feel sorry for the developers. They all know that at most one of them will get to build it, and they are bidding because they know the winner will make a lot of money from it.

Even if you don't like their proposals, the city commission had nothing to do with what they produced other than telling them that their original proposals were too expensive.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

I like the Schmalburg plan the best...a very nice looking building. It makes use of existing parking garage space which I believe much of it metered. More meters could added. Plus there are metered spaces on all streets plus the New Hampshire parking lot is nearby for further over flow. Bus stops are very close by as well.

Sell the old library or have the city take it over as they will be needing more space let's face it.

Yes the old library plan could work however it sounds as though the retrofit plan will cost a bit more.

Sigmund 8 years, 5 months ago

I plan on requiring any new development to do an Environmental Impact statement and demand that every detail of any plan fits into and preserves the historic character of Downtown Lawrence. Don't even think of using modern construction materials!

Not one single element of the new library may be manufactured in China and every single supplier MUST be a local merchant and they must pay every single employee a living wage with full health insurance no matter how menial the job. No national corporations may make a dime of local money and every contractor and supplier must take their payments in Boog dollars. Finally, I think we need the Bozo Business Czar to complete a market study to determine if there is a need and the impact on existing book and video stores already a part Downtown Lawrence!

If the library is fully discussed by the proponents and opponents and put to a vote, I have every confidence that the citizens of Lawrence will soundly defeat this white elephant.

SteelHorseRider 8 years, 5 months ago

Sigmund - You are assuming the citizenry will have the option of choosing to cancel any and all plans and not just choose which one they want THE LEAST.

Jackson 8 years, 5 months ago

What will a new downtown library will "revitalize"? More bars? Better shelter for the homeless?

IF Lawrence needs additional library space, it should be be where people live!

Two library annexes (west & south) would be more useful, and could be built for less than ten million!

A new downtown library will be useful for a large brass plaque for city comm. names, however. Also, to enrich the chosen developer.

Any any case, a new library, annexes, or the option to do nothing, should be voted on by taxpayers - not decided by 5 commissioners!

kugrad 8 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, but we can't afford to have our property taxes increased 4 mils to maintain a new library, let alone the tax increase it will take to build it. Let's be straight about one thing, the cost of building the library will be paid by property owners, but the cost of MAINTAINING it will be a permanent tax increase that more than doubles the current 2 Mils the library operates on. I use the library regularly, twice a week, and have for years. It is FINE. It would be better to just improve the books and computers at a lower cost. Maybe some slight remodeling. This is UNNECESSARY and we can't afford it. Our taxes are too high. Our sales tax is through the roof - highest around. Do you really think we need this bad enough right now to increase our taxes again? Gas rates are going up, water rates, trash hauling rates, all services. On top of tax increases, homeowners are hurting. This is a luxury we don't need and can't afford. I say this as one who deeply values libraries.

suesay 8 years, 5 months ago

I agree with one of Jackson's points. Has anyone else proposed the idea of having an annex or two? I think that's a better idea...

Godot 8 years, 5 months ago

kugrad, you are right. Another new tax we are getting hit with is the emissions tax charged to the gas company that will be passed on to the consumers.

Sigmund 8 years, 5 months ago

What? When we tax big companies they simply pass the tax to consumers?? This can't be true!!! Does Bozo and the PLC Kommissioners know about this???? How absolutely devious of them!!!!!

Godot 8 years, 5 months ago

"I agree with one of Jackson's points. Has anyone else proposed the idea of having an annex or two? I think that's a better idea..."

Several people have made that suggestion. However, the powers-that-be want to make sure everyone has to go downtown to access library services, even if it would be more convenient to the citizens, and may even increase the number of library users, to have satellite libraries. Why are they refusing to even consider adding branch libraries? Because many people in this city would never bother to go downtown if they were not forced to.

And, besides, this is not really about a library. This is about meeting space and hotels, and condos and retail space. This is about downtown redevelopment. They are trying to make you believe it is about a library so you will be more likely to think it is a necessity.

So, you see, the city commission is willing to tax the entire community, and burden future citizens for years and years to come, for the financial benefit of a few downtown property owners.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 5 months ago

You're right, cool. Who cares about which proposed style looks best?

NO NEW LIBRARY.

Sigmund 8 years, 5 months ago

cool, you seem to be missing the point. This is NOT about the Library, if it was your suggestion would be implemented. This is about the PLC Kommissioners lining the pockets of DEVELOPERS AND AT THE SAME TIME throwing a bone to RICH DOWNTOWN LANDLORDS. Your suggestion does neither of these things and will NOT BE CONSIDERED.

Wilbur_Nether 8 years, 5 months ago

Now, wait a minute. I thought I read on these very forums that a $70M project was a "done deal." (And most posters conveniently ignored that tens of millions of that were to be underwritten by the developers.) The existing library is inadequate for the needs of those of us who use it on a regular basis. Finally, the City Commissioners need to hake on themselves the responsibilities of making planning decisions on issues such as this, the SLT, etc. Sending these things out to public votes defeats the representative nature of the city government as well as the entire purpose of having a commission. I thought I voted for people with backbones and the intestinal fortitude to make the decisions they thought were best for Lawrence. If they don't have those attributes, I'm more than happy to vote for someone next election that does.

Godot 8 years, 5 months ago

What about the existing library is inadequate for your personal needs, Wilbur_Nether?

Godot 8 years, 5 months ago

The public must have input on projects that they will have to pay for through increased property and sales taxes for years and years to come.

The the city commission in Lawrence is far from an example of representative government; the commissioners are elected at large, not by district or precinct. As a result, there is no expectation or evidence that the interests of all the areas of the city are fairly represented on the commission.

The Lawrence electorate cannot allow the partisan, agenda-driven majority on the commission to make major spending decisions, such as the building of a new, multi-million dollar library, the redevelpment of downtown, the speculative purchase of contaminated land, the purchase of farm land in Norht Lawrence, or route of the SLT, without a referendum, a majority vote of the public.

Godot 8 years, 5 months ago

Before anyone claims that it is too costly to hold elections, consider the money that has been paid to consultants.

Let Lawrence citizens decide what is best for their city. Excise consultant fees from the city budget.

white_mountain 8 years, 5 months ago

I see the article doesn't mention anything about what kind of coffee bar the new library will have.

This is something they really should consider, as it would be extremely inconvenient and time consuming to be forced to make a separate trip to Starbucks just for coffee.

Sigmund 8 years, 5 months ago

Or Henry's or Amy's or Prima Tazza or Java Break or Z's or Bourgeois Pig or any of the dozens or restaurants and bars which serve coffee!

roger_o_thornhill 8 years, 5 months ago

I guess if the existing buildings on the northeast corner of 9th and New Hampshire mysteriously go up in flames, we'll know whose plan was chosen. Oooh, that might be going too far. It is an ugly plan-looks cheap. As for the comment just above about "coffee bars" and convenience; What do you want? There isn't a "coffee bar" in the current library, is there? Maybe it needs one of those rock climbing walls too, huh? No wonder these plans seem overly expensive. I'm sure it will need an overly state-of-the-art computer center and more movies than Blockbuster. Lots of newer, forgetable titles for the kiddies. (You know, like the Saw movies. Now there's a franchise that has unfortunately claimed several hours of my life--enough to consider myself among the victims.)
If I can add some unnecessary expense, I propose a large fountain filled with sculpted figures. All bronze and crome. It'll even cost less than the monstorsity across the river @ the train depot. That's right, I called a work by the revered and "famous" Jim Brothers a monstrosity. Would have rather had a 20 foot John Brown Jayhawk over there. At least it didn't look like something from "Clash of the Titans" (Harry Hamlin, Burgess Merideth, early 1980s). Anyways I've digressed.

Siggy's right. There are so many places to get coffee/coffee drinks around downtown that it isn't even funny. Try getting a decent mocha west of Kasold. Try going to the library out there. Oh yeah, you can't do either. You must go to the land of little parking. The place where busses tangle and drunks abound. Where you are likely to have a hole burned in your shirt by a passer-by who can't control their cigs. And forced to walk in the planters because young dopes think that their domination of the sidewalk is some sort of sign of their greatness. Downtown would be fine if it weren't for all the people. Hehe.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 5 months ago

What the hell are you talking about, Godot?

There will be an election on the library-- there has never been any indication from any city commissioner that there wouldn't be, and I believe that it is mandatory, anyway, if bonds of that magnitude are to be issued.

And in case you weren't aware of it-- there will be city commission elections in April of next year (with a primary in February, if necessary.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 5 months ago

The difference between existing coffee shops and one in the new library is that none of the existing coffee shops have an extensive library collection at their disposal.

A coffee shop at the library would likely generate enough funds to easily cover the expense of including it in the plans. (Why do you suppose Border's has one?)

Godot 8 years, 5 months ago

Great idea, Bozo. Tax the citizens to create a venue for government-owned coffee shops that put the existing, privately owned coffee shops out of business.

Godot 8 years, 5 months ago

Bozo wrote, "What the hell are you talking about, Godot? There will be an election on the library-- there has never been any indication from any city commissioner that there wouldn't be, and I believe that it is mandatory, anyway, if bonds of that magnitude are to be issued"

Bozo, I was responding to Wilbur-Nether's post of 5:47PM Nov 18. You might want to read that snippet since Wilbur and you seem to support the same causes.

I will also remind you that an increase in property tax does not require a referendum.

If they want it, they can have it.

I am reminded of an old movie where the Pharaoh said, "Let it be said, let it be done."

jafs 8 years, 5 months ago

I agree that none of these plans are necessary - I use the library regularly and find it large enough for my needs. My suggestions for improvement are to improve the quality of circulating materials (many CD's and movies skip now), use the space more efficiently, and hold patrons accountable for their use/abuse of materials.

Wilbur_Nether 8 years, 5 months ago

Godot wondered "What about the existing library is inadequate for your personal needs, Wilbur_Nether?"

The issue isn't that the library should (or shouldn't) meet my personal needs. The issue is that it should meet the needs of the user population at large. To that effect, I have observed: not enough space for the collections too small a collection in general not enough places for persons to sit and read materials too few computer workstation with too many restrictions limited meeting space limited ability to secure the meeting space at premium times

Wilbur_Nether 8 years, 5 months ago

Godot suggested that "The the city commission in Lawrence is far from an example of representative government; the commissioners are elected at large, not by district or precinct."

Which strikes me as a tremendously limited definition of "representative government." Although I am necessarily skeptical of wikipedia as a rule, I find this definition from that site to be more in line with what I think of as a representative democracy: "Representative democracy is a form of democracy founded on the exercise of popular sovereignty by the people's representatives. The representatives act in the people's interest, but not as their proxy representative-i.e., not necessarily always according to wishes, but with enough authority to exercise initiative in the face of changing circumstances. It is often contrasted with direct democracy, where the representatives are absent or only proxy representatives"

Wilbur_Nether 8 years, 5 months ago

Godot wrote "Before anyone claims that it is too costly to hold elections, consider the money that has been paid to consultants."

For me the issue is not the cost or cost efficiency of an election; I elected people I expected to make decisions in my interest. If they cannot or will not, I'll elect people who will.

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