Archive for Saturday, February 10, 2007

Plan would move post office to Riverfront

February 10, 2007


Lawrence's downtown post office would move into a portion of the former Riverfront Mall to make way for a new library, under a plan proposed by local postal leaders.

Judy Raney, Lawrence postmaster, confirmed Friday that she had sent a request to executives in the Postal Service's regional Denver office asking them to consider the mall space as a future postal site.

"It would keep us in the downtown area, and I think everyone agrees that is very important," Raney said.

But Raney said she had no timeline on when postal officials in Denver would make a decision on whether to pursue a three-block move to the Riverfront, which is at Sixth and New Hampshire streets.

Talk of the post office moving from its location at Seventh and Vermont streets has been ongoing since November, when the city's library board recommended that city commissioners pursue a development plan by members of the Fritzel family. The plan calls for building a $30 million library on the postal site, and would include about $100 million worth of private redevelopment on Vermont Street during a 10-year period.

Decision needed soon

Dan Simons, who leads the ownership group of the former mall building, also confirmed that talks with the Postal Service were under way. Simons - president of the Electronics Division of The World Company, which owns the Journal-World and Sunflower Broadband - said the proposal calls for the public portion of the post office to move into about 4,000 square feet of space in the eastern end of the building. The space would be on the top level of the building, which is the level that is directly accessible from the surface parking lot that is shared with the SpringHill Suites by Marriott.

The distribution portion of the post office would be in about 15,000 square feet of space on the ground floor of the eastern end of the building. The post office also would use the parking lot directly east of the building to store its postal trucks.

"It seems to work out very nicely," Simons said.

But a decision on the project is needed soon, Simons said, because there are alternative plans the ownership group could pursue for the eastern end of the building.

The post office space would include the area that the LEO Center, a nonprofit Christian ministry organization, occupies. Simons said it would be important to make sure the LEO Center was not left without a home.

"Everybody wants to continue the good work of the LEO Center and help it find a place that is more than adequate for its needs," Simons said.

Simons also said there had been discussions that the retail portion of the post office would be moved to the Riverfront building on a temporary basis. Simons said there was a thought that the retail portion could move into a new location on Vermont Street after the corridor was redeveloped. He said the Riverfront ownership group would be amenable to that.

But Raney, the postmaster, said she wasn't sure that was a feasible option because that would mean the distribution operations and the retail operations would be split.

"If you separate those functions, it would require more people to do the job," Raney said. "Keeping it all under one roof keeps the costs down and provides for better service because you have less transporting of mail back and forth."

City to discuss proposal

The post office discussions come at a time when city commissioners still are trying to decide whether to move forward on the library project. Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the library board's recommendation at their Tuesday evening meeting.

Commissioners have previously received the library board's recommendation and taken no action on it. As part of Tuesday's meeting, city staff members have compiled a memo outlining answers to several questions that they've received from the public.

Former Mayor David Dunfield - who also is an architect with Lawrence-based GLPM Architects, which worked on a competing library proposal not chosen by the library board - submitted several questions for commissioners to answer. He said he wasn't against the site, but thought that the specifics of the Fritzel proposal - such as how much it would cost the city to acquire the postal site - should be defined before the city considers the deal.

"It looks to me like we don't know enough about how all these issues will play out to make a commitment on the site," Dunfield said.

City Manager David Corliss, though, said the city was proceeding under the assumption that the total costs of the library - land costs included - would not be more than $30 million. Commissioners generally have agreed that they would put the library issue to a public vote.

"I think the commission has enough information to judge the proposals," Corliss said. "What the commission is going to need to do is prioritize all the different capital projects and that is what we have been doing. I think it is likely that if the library project proceeds it will be because the commission sees that the voters want to approve that type of project as a high priority for the community."


Keith 11 years, 3 months ago

"But a decision on the project is needed soon, Simons said, because there are alternative plans the ownership group could pursue for the eastern end of the building."

Oldest trick in the real estate playbook, I hope we don't fall for it.

moveforward 11 years, 3 months ago

Ever tried to mail a package downtown on a typical sleepy afternoon? The line is long and slow - even with all tellers active. The downtown post office is not fine.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 3 months ago

Wow, this is a bit premature. What happens if the voters say NO? Will there just be a sales tax increase, or raise that mil levy to max? Are we are being strong armed into financing this thing? Seems that there are negative feelings about funding downtown redevelopment throughout the "other" Lawrence.

Why the rush to push this through before spring? Taxation without representation is not good.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 3 months ago

Wonder of wonders. A plan that will funnel $millions in public money into both the Simons and Fritzel coffers.

sourpuss 11 years, 3 months ago

Why don't they break up the library into branches OR make the downtown library a research/adult library and build a really innovative children's library and activity center elsewhere?

KsTwister 11 years, 3 months ago

KU has a library, the schools have libraries, bookstores abound, Internet has information access and we don't need a library downtown because the exiting library IS DOWNTOWN. I don't want to pay for a library again or rent any new building for a new one. I want my many tax dollars used to fix the sewers that keep backing up into my neighbors beautiful homes, fix curbs,streets,and sidewalks; and fill those empty strip malls with businesses. Lawrence keeps trying to fix what isn't broken and ignoring what is. How stupid is that? Next election and hurry.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 3 months ago

There are far too many questions yet to be answered regarding downtown taxpayer-funded redevelopment with the "library" as an anchor.

Where did the $30,000,000 figure come from? How could it bounce up to $70,000,000, and then after measuring public reaction, pop back down to the lower figure? Was the public being played as a human experiment by the guys on the hill?

Does the city give the old library building to the developer grata? Is the cost of demolishing (inc. asbestos and lead removal) the post office in the $30,000,000 figure? Is the cost to move the p.o. included? Will the city own the "new library" building?

How will downtown redevelopment be profitable for the taxpayer who will see a $1200 increase (or more) in their annual property tax? How will a new library help with the city's tax base? What other plans does the cc have for generating taxes and giving some relief to those who are already overburdened? What examples can the city point to as prudent use of our taxes over the past 5 years?

bthom37 11 years, 3 months ago

So what happened to moving the post office to the Tanger outlet mall? I believe the Fritzels have purchased Tanger, which would seem to be a logical first step towards getting the post office in there. Not saying it's a good idea, but there was much talk of this just a few months ago.

skinny 11 years, 3 months ago

We do not need a new library.

With the computer technology advancing everyday everything will be on e-books anyway. So let's now waste any more money by allowing the city of Lawrence to build a useless library!

Bladerunner 11 years, 3 months ago

The current library works fine. The current post office works fine also. Why mess with it? So we can raise taxes and line the pockets of the Fritzels and Simons?

"Commissioners generally have agreed that they would put the library issue to a public vote."

Let's hurry up and vote this beast down so we can start working on some real issues instead of this imaginary one .

ronwell_dobbs 11 years, 3 months ago

I grew up in Wichita, KS and loved to go to the NEIGHBORHOOD library. I could actually ride my bike there with a bit of creativity as not to have to cross any major streets. At the time Wichita probably had about 6 branch libraries and one major downtown library. Today it has 10 locations. Let's look at it strictly by numbers:

Wichita estimated population in 2008: 566,506 (source: Number of locations: 10 Citizens per location: 56,650

Lawrence estimated population in 2008: 107,349 (source: Number of locations: 1 Citizens per location: 107,349

Is this really the way to build a quality library system?

Do I even need to run the same numbers comparison for Johnson County?

Let's build local branches so children trapped in suburban cul-de-sacs have somewhere to go to learn, meet others, and stay out of trouble without having to enlist Mom's help to travel across town.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 3 months ago

Tanger Mall and Riverfront Mall were created by the same type of thinkers who are coming up with these great ideas. On any given week-day that the Riverfront Mall lot is busy without PO traffic. And both malls have become dependent on state and city government tax dollars or bascially have no tenants. Obviously neither are desirable. The PO people do not seem too excited. Mr. Simons should probaly take up his other opportunity and move on. One would think the USPS would need an in depth analysis before accepting this ready made plan.

Both of these malls are the choices of a real estate/developer owned city government. They owned the greater number of seats on the city commission and the planning commission when these two failures came down the pike. The same group that has brought up high property taxes. So why put Chestnut,Dever or Bush in office as their money is coming from the same sources as the mall thinkers came. Their supporters do not like the word NO for an answer ever.

Why the city would lose control of the library space deserves a detailed explantion to the taxpayer.

RealityCheck provided some excellent food for thought.

If the library must move, as always 9th&New Hampshire is logical because it is empty and has been for years .

white_mountain 11 years, 3 months ago

Chad, ask them when they're planning to put this library issue to a vote.

Also, ask them whatever happened to a decision on the SLT..

See if you get a straight answer to either.

50YearResident 11 years, 3 months ago

The reason the Riverfront Mall failed is because you can't get enough traffic into it. Any other high traffic business (like the Post Office) will also fail.

Not to mention that the JW will benefit by a 100 year lease which will more than pay for thier whole investment of the mall purchase.

Do I see a conflict of interest here?

ronwell_dobbs 11 years, 3 months ago

Oh what the heck. Here are the numbers for Johnson County:

Estimated population in 2005: 506,562 (source: Number of library locations: 10 Citizens per location: 50,656

I'm sure it rankles everyone at the Lawrence Library to talk about the Johnson County library system, but darn it, if it delivers good service shouldn't we look to it as a possible model?

PeteJayhawk 11 years, 3 months ago

Ugh...I work in the Riverfront Plaza and have a hell of a time finding a parking spot. You've got a sizeable hotel there, a call center that employs 400 people, a cable company with accompanying public store, and a giant bar/banquet facility there already. How in the hell do they expect to add a post office...or anything, really? There's nowhere to park!

Jackson 11 years, 3 months ago

Another middle-of-the night FIASCO!

Access and parking dooms the River Front location for ANYTHING, especially a tax supported enterprise!

Any location East of Mass. for either a P.O. or library is a bad idea for numerous reasons.

Leave the P.O. where it is (or, better yet, build a couple of branch P.O.'s).

Leave the library where it is, & build two or three branches.

Let voters decide on ALL OPTIONS!!!!

EXks 11 years, 3 months ago

Great thought provoking posts ronwell!

Satellite branch libraries enrich families lives, promote family values and add value to the neighborhoods.

Lawrence does need a new downtown library, the currnet one was built THIRTY FIVE years ago when the population was half what it is now.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 3 months ago

IMO both malls failed due to location & inability to get in and out. Tanger might have made it had they made arrangements for a grocery store as the primary anchor. Food is a staple. There is simply too few retail dollars which might have been discovered had the owners subjected themsleves to a retail impact study.

Why is all new downtown development on the north end only? How does that help our small business industry that thrives on walk by traffic no matter what city? This has Wal- Mart mentality behind it. When all downtown business does good Lawrence taxpayers do good...should that not be the objective?

Looks like downtown will finally have a small grocery store for its' pleasure. That's forward thinking. Placemakers designed a small grocery space in their downtown design. Now what about North lawrence?

Stephen 11 years, 3 months ago

Maybe we need to spend another 250K on some more consultants. No new library downtown !!!!!!
How come the Journal World isn't reporting how hacked off people in Lawrence are about the 250K spent on the consultants. Everyone I know, furious!!!!!

white_mountain 11 years, 3 months ago

Stephen, not only the $250K they've already spent.. but what do they have budgeted for future consultant expenditures?

They sit around scratching their beards raw, but nothing ever gets done and no decisions ever get made (can you say "SLT"?)

And we pay them for this??

EXks 11 years, 3 months ago

Here's an idea! Why don't most of you put down the tv remote, visit your local library today and actually see your tax dollars at work.....I'll bet my next paycheck 90% of you have never stepped foot in the place.

Jackson 11 years, 3 months ago

If 90% of Lawrence taxpayers have "not stepped foot in the downtown Library", maybe there is no need for even a branch, let alone a larger facility.

miker 11 years, 3 months ago

Let's load the $$dough$$ on pallets & send it on an airplane ( or mail truck ) to......Really , if it's not broken...

EXks 11 years, 3 months ago

Jackson, my implication was to the posters who do nothing but whine on this site, I've never stepped foot in my neighborhood fire station, but common sense tells you we still need them. A community still needs its libraries!

Stephen 11 years, 3 months ago

I'm starting my own "consulting firm" if anyone wants to join in let me know. My first stop is the next city meeting. The second stop is Costa Rica, all expenses paid.

davisnin 11 years, 3 months ago

Before you get too mad about consultants, think about the areas of expertise possible for a person. Who is best able to come up with policy on every aspect of life in this town? Would a lawyer? A political scientist? A military officer? Even those professions normally found at the top of the political tree don't have the knowledge in specific areas to write policy. So would you rather have a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker making nine grand on the commission, pull something out of the air that effects the next 30 years of this city. Or would you perhaps be happier with an expert in the field.

davisnin 11 years, 3 months ago

Oh yeah, the post office idea is ridiculous. I can't park in that lot today.

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

This is not about serving the public, this is about enhancing downtown, so no amount of requests for alternate locations, or for satellite branches, will be entertained until we unload every city commissioner who has been on the commission since 2002. See for youself, in this opening paragraph from the Friends of the Library section on The Plan for the Expansion:

"The Lawrence Public Library Board of Trustees has been planning for enhanced facilities and services for close to a decade. The original plan, unveiled in 1998, was to implement a series of storefront satellite library service outlets. This plan progressed for several years until 2002, when the City Commission asked the Library Board to refocus on the enhancement of the main library in downtown Lawrence - the space that extends north and south from 6th Street to 11th Street, and east and west from New Hampshire Street to Vermont Street.

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

The city has invested 10 years of committee member and empoyee time on this project, plus thousands and thousands of dollars in consultant fees, and Corliss is obviously committed to seeing that this project is completed. What really bothers me is the statement that the commissioners have "generally" agreed to put this up to a public vote. Watch out for that word, "generally." It leaves a lot of wiggle room.

MadAsHell 11 years, 3 months ago

Excellent! One more way Simons/Fritzel/Compton can destroy this town.

Jackson 11 years, 3 months ago

Postmistress Raney sent a "Request to the Postal Dept. to re-locate the post office to River Front Mall".

Is she (also) an employee of the World Co.?

white_mountain 11 years, 3 months ago

I have an idea: let's create a voluntary tax for those in favor of a bigger library..

Those in favor of the new library can voluneer their tax refunds and we can get this thing built!

moveforward 11 years, 3 months ago

hawkperchedatriverfront said,

"the Simons family has no money and need a bailout. Fritzels are in debt to the varied wives."

Seriously, are you lucid?

Let the left enjoy culture, altered states and idealism. Meanwhile, the rich get richer and the powerful play for prifut.

It is a beautiful thing... is it not?

budwhysir 11 years, 3 months ago

A new library? We are getting a new library?? Wow I didnt know that one had gone thru. So does that mean we will finish the SLT sometime this year??

Isnt there a hotel in the old mall?? how would that work out, a post office in the same area as a bar and a hotel???

Anyhow, Im glad we have taken care of the library problem, this one has been giving us trouble for years.

budwhysir 11 years, 3 months ago

I am very sad to see that there is not much written about this article now. I was realy excited that we may be getting somewhere and we could complete the SLT. This new library is going to be great.

I wonder what the plans look like. Does anyone know how long it will take to build this?? I am looking for some information for research and wonder if they will have to shut down while building

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

budwhysir, sorry, you will have to wait until after the library is approved before you can have your questions answered. See, Corliss has assured us that the project will not cost any more than $30,000,000, and Fritzel has assured us that we will like it, we will really, really like it.

Trust, it is simply a matter of trust.

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

Remember when the library board started the discussion of expansion, and it was only going to cost $7million? Ah, those were the days.

budwhysir 11 years, 3 months ago

But the article said the post office was trying to move so we could build a new library. Wouldnt that mean that if they move we will build a new library? Or should it have read the post office is getting ready to move in case we decide to build a new library

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