Building a new library in a downtown park might be a little too outside the box for city commissioners' tastes.
A majority of city commissioners Wednesday said the idea of using Constant Park as the site for a library - as suggested this week by a team of city-hired consultants - is innovative but probably not very likely.
"I don't see it in the mix right now," City Commissioner Sue Hack said.
The idea of using the park - which is directly north and east of Sixth and Tennessee streets and abuts the Kansas River - was one of many ideas that the PlaceMakers consulting team unveiled at Tuesday evening's City Commission meeting.
Consultants touted the area as a winning solution to the city's library question, in part, because the city already owns the property and its location would serve as a gateway into downtown.
It also would eliminate the need to move the existing downtown U.S. Post Office, which is a major part of the current proposal for a new library. Members of the Fritzel family have proposed building the library on the current site of the post office at Seventh and Vermont streets as part of a public-private partnership to redevelop major portions of Vermont Street.
But several commissioners said Wednesday that they were not convinced the Constant Park location would do much to meet one of the commission's goals of using the library to spur downtown development.
"I'm afraid that it wouldn't have the same ability to help boost the vitality of downtown," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said. "I don't think it would do much to address our parking needs in the downtown either."
Highberger, though, stopped short of saying the current post office site was the best location for a new library, although it has been recommended by the city's library board.
"My main concern about that location is whether the library has become a secondary consideration in the plan," Highberger said of the plan, which calls for about $100 million in private retail, commercial and residential development over a 10-year period.
Mayor Mike Amyx also said he wasn't interested in considering the Constant Park location. Instead, he wants city commissioners to begin focusing on whether the city can afford a new library, which has been estimated to be a $30 million project. He said he plans to have the library issue on Tuesday's City Commission agenda.
Hack, Highberger and Amyx all said they were reluctant to move forward on the Constant Park location, in part, because the idea had not been presented to the city's library board, which did a full review of the Fritzel proposal.
Hack also said she liked the Fritzel proposal because of how it could add needed parking to the northern parts of downtown and spark new development on Vermont.
"I think it has great potential," Hack said.
Bob Schulte, an executive with Gene Fritzel Construction Co., said his group was continuing with efforts to find a new downtown location for the post office in order to move the library proposal forward. Schulte confirmed that the company now is looking for a larger downtown location than they once were.
That's because the post office no longer has an interest in using the former Tanger Mall location in North Lawrence as a site for its distribution center, he said. Schulte said the post office, for efficiency reasons, now wants to keep both its retail and distribution operations in a single location downtown.