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.
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.
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.