Archive for Monday, January 25, 2010

Lawrence City Commission to consider construction bid to renovate old Carnegie Library

Construction plans are in the works for the old library at Ninth and Vermont streets. Bids will be presented for approval on Tuesday.

January 25, 2010


The architect's rendering of the proposed renovations to the former Carnegie Library building.

The architect's rendering of the proposed renovations to the former Carnegie Library building.

For $1.4 million, the old Carnegie Library may become a focal point of downtown Lawrence again.

City commissioners on Tuesday will consider accepting a $1.4 million construction bid to make the 107-year old building at Ninth and Vermont streets accessible to people with disabilities so that it can be used as a public meeting place and as offices for the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

“I’m excited about moving forward on it,” Mayor Rob Chestnut said. “I think that building really represents one of the more important historic structures in the city.”

The project involves adding 2,000 square feet to the building — in a portion of an adjacent city parking lot — to primarily house restrooms and an elevator.

Once work is completed — perhaps in about six months — the basement level of the building could be used as offices for the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau and as the headquarters for the new Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area. The main floor would become new space for Lawrence Parks and Recreation to rent out for receptions, or to use for classes such as aerobics, dance or other programs that have grown in recent years.

“We think it could be a boost for downtown,” said Ernie Shaw, the city’s interim director of parks and recreation. “It will be just a block away from Mass. Street.”

Shaw said he thinks the space has a lot of potential for wedding receptions and various reunions, much like the city-operated Union Pacific Depot site in North Lawrence. But the new Carnegie space will be about twice as large and will be able to host events of about 150 people.

“We probably turn away about 100 events a year from the depot because it isn’t large enough,” Shaw said.

Chestnut said he’s also supportive of the project because it gives the national heritage area the space it needs to begin growing its programing and fundraising efforts.

The project to revamp the Carnegie — which has been vacant since the Lawrence Arts Center moved from the building in 2002 — has been in the works for more than two years.

Chestnut, though, said the project now may become a reality because the city has identified a source of funding for the renovations. As part of the 2010 budget, commissioners approved a 1 percent increase in the city’s guest tax. That increase will generate $500,000 over 10 years. A previous city commission had set aside about $450,000 for the project, and the city also has about $100,000 from a previously awarded federal grant. The remainder of the money will come from city reserve funds.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.


Matthew Herbert 8 years, 2 months ago

5 years ago, I spoke to the city commission with a full room of other Lawrencians about using the building for the Americana School of Music and various other music outreach programs. The commission, led by Sue Hack at the time (I believe) gave us a bunch of plastic smiles, then voted against us and instead voted to use it for parks and rec storage. I REFUSE to spend taxpayer money renovating that building if our commission continues its regressive thinking about the uses of that building.

absolutelyridiculous 8 years, 2 months ago

sure hope we don't need the reserve fund to pay for city employee salaries. I say NOT right now.

everett21 8 years, 2 months ago

this Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area thing; does anyone know how to get ahold of them? i have tried to get ahold of them on the listed phone number with no response before...

leedavid 8 years, 2 months ago

We have 1.4 million dollars? Whoa.....why would we spend it on a library? More people go to Barnes and Noble than the library. Lets spend it on something we really need.

quimby 8 years, 2 months ago

I fully support the rennovation of this beautiful, historic building. Lawrence definitely needs more unique spaces for public events such as wedding receptions, and this building has been vacant for too long. It's an asset to our community and should be open to the public as soon as possible.

HardwoodGoat 8 years, 2 months ago

quimby: There are plenty of churches in Lawrence for wedding receptions. Curbs and driveable streets are an asset to our community also. I wonder what the kickback on 1.4 mil is?

redwombat 8 years, 2 months ago

Hardwoodgoat: There aren't plenty of churches to hold weddings in Lawrence. Most churches don't let people get married there without being members or without paying exorbitant fees in the $3000-$5000 range.

And the rest of you people don't forget that people who take parks and rec classes pay for them which in turn helps pay for things like, you know, the pools, the parks, the playground equipment, etc.

A building like that available for wedding receptions would be booked from April through October, would be booked for holiday parties/non profit fundraisers (think festival of trees or the like) November and December, and would be a great central location for all community town halls, political rallies, etc., etc.

This historic building needs renovation and should be saved. There are so many in this community who harp about new construction and tearing down old decrepit houses. Perhaps those LPA people ought to get behind this. A lot better than sitting empty or being used for storage.

George_Braziller 8 years, 2 months ago

Try contacting Judy Billings at the Chamber of Commerce office. I think she has a desk/office in the Community building but is also spending part of her time at the Chamber.

everett21 (Anonymous) says… this Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area thing; does anyone know how to get ahold of them? i have tried to get ahold of them on the listed phone number with no response before…

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 2 months ago

Word on the street is that an out-of-town contractor had the low bid.

avoice 8 years, 2 months ago

edgeofbaldwin: More than 20 desperate contractors attended the bid meeting for this project. The one that bid $1.4 million left a lot on the table to win out in this extremely competitive process. Contractors have NO business right now. That may not make this project any kind of priority, but don't go thinking that construction workers are getting fat off taxpayer dollars. Their industry has shed the most jobs over the past 5 years.

KsTwister 8 years, 2 months ago

Just remember the federal grant money still comes from our pocketbook too. Nice you got the cost whittled down from $3 million. Bet that would fix a lot of streets and help with a sewer before asking citizens here for it, AGAIN.

Don Zimmer 8 years, 2 months ago

What happens to normal business people or others when they get elected to office that all fiscal restraints go out the window. I hoped that the present commish's understood the poor economic environment and were better stewards of our money. The building will still be there when the economy improves. Bailing out the Oread building owners millions for 8 jobs. buying top of the market land for the school or future recreational needs, 2 high school football stadiums, etc. while declaring budget deficits and basic services cuts. Who would have guessed?

thefactsare 8 years, 2 months ago

Judy Billings is not at the Chamber of Commerce, she is at the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

George_Braziller 8 years, 2 months ago

Who knows where the office is now. Visitors Bureau used to be with the Chamber.

jafs 8 years, 2 months ago


My sentiments exactly.

It seems it's much easier to spend others' (taxpayers) money than your own.

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