Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau is slated to set up its new offices in a historic downtown building as the bureau begins to work on attracting more tourists interested in the area's history.
Judy Billings, director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, confirmed Thursday that the agency plans to set up its offices on one floor of the former Carnegie Library building at Ninth and Vermont streets. The building also will be used for office space for staff of the new Freedom Frontier National Heritage Area, which is being overseen by Billings.
"It seems to be the perfect fit for us in a lot of ways," Billings said. "To have the heritage area offices located in a historic building, we think that will be a great fit."
City Manager David Corliss said he supports the CVB and the heritage area moving into the city-owned building. He said plans call for the daylight basement area of the building to be devoted to office space. But Corliss said he still wants the main floor of the building to be used as an area that Lawrence residents can rent for banquets, receptions, recitals or other events.
"I want that building to be another reason for people to come downtown," Corliss said. "If there are 100 people who attend a music recital in the building, that is 100 more people who will be in our downtown on that day."
The CVB's move likely won't take place until sometime in 2008 at the earliest. A $1.2 million expansion project is being planned for the building. The expansion has been in the works for more than a year and is not a result of the CVB plans. City staff members have said the expansion is needed to bring the building, which was constructed in 1904, into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act. The former library building has been vacant since the Lawrence Arts Center moved out of the building in 2002.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau began looking for a new home after a decision by its board to sever its ties with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, which currently provides office space for the organization. The CVB is breaking away from the chamber as part of a strategy to create an umbrella group to oversee the National Heritage Area and other efforts to create tourism based on the area's Civil War history.
The CVB is scheduled to move out of the Chamber's office at the end of this month. Corliss said the city will be providing the CVB with temporary office space in the office building the city leases at 947 N.H. The building, which also houses the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department, has storage space that can be remodeled to accommodate the CVB's five-member staff.
Corliss said the city would have to reach a financial agreement with the CVB for use of the office space and the Carnegie building, but that may not be difficult, given that the CVB receives the bulk of its funding from the city via the city's transient guest tax.
Billings said she hopes to use the office space for fewer than two years. Corliss said he hopes construction can begin on the Carnegie building expansion in 2008. Originally the expansion was scheduled to begin this year, but the project has been delayed as city leaders work to meet federal guidelines that would make the project eligible for a $100,000 grant and about $100,000 worth of tax credits that the city could sell to help reduce the cost of the project.
The delay will give the National Heritage Area more time to determine its staff needs. Billings said the heritage area plans to hire one staff member this year, but will wait until a formal management plan is completed next year to make other hires.
Billings said the nonprofit heritage area has raise about $150,000 of the $700,000 it needs to fund its first two years of operations.