News and notes from around town:
•UPDATE: An official with LMH has clarified that construction on the Endoscopy Lab and Pain Management Center already is well underway at the hospital. That portion of the bond issue will reimburse the hospital for the work.
It looks like another multimillion-dollar construction project is in the works. City commissioners were told Tuesday evening that Lawrence Memorial Hospital is planning to issue $10 million in hospital revenue bonds to expand and relocate its Endoscopy Lab and Pain Management Center on the first floor of the hospital and to renovate its main kitchen on the lower level of the hospital. The hospital hopes to issue the bonds before the end of the year.
The project becomes the latest in a series of big-dollar projects that could provide a boost to the city’s construction industry during the next couple of years. Others include:
-- $20 million for a new Bowersock Hydroelectric Power Plant.
-- $18 million for a public library and parking expansion.
-- $20 million for a new Berry Plastics warehouse facility.
-- $4 million for a new corporate retreat northwest of Lawrence.
-- A multimillion-dollar expansion of the Eldridge Hotel, Seventh and Massachusetts streets.
-- About $10 million for a new seven-story apartment, retail and office building at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
• There’s also a new sign that the multi-story building at Ninth and New Hampshire will proceed, regardless of whether the city approves a set of incentives that the developers requested.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the project has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday at the site. Bill Fleming, a spokesman for the development group, previously has said that the project likely would happen without the incentives, but that the group would like the city’s assistance to make the project a higher-quality attraction for downtown.
City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting agreed to have staff study the incentive request, which involves the city paying for about $280,000 worth of public infrastructure and reserving about 65 spaces in the adjacent public parking garage. But the meeting also showed that the incentive request will have little margin for error on the commission. Both Commissioners Lance Johnson and Mike Dever abstained from the vote. Johnson owns the local engineering firm The Peridian Group, which has prepared the site plan for the project. Dever owns a local environmental consulting firm that did an assessment of the property for the lending institution on the project. If both commissioners continue to abstain from future votes that will mean the incentive request will have to win all three votes from the remaining commissioners in order to move forward.
• Part of the analysis city leaders are expected to make about the incentive request is how the new $10 million building will help the city pay off the adjacent public parking garage. City officials provided new figures on how much that garage is costing the city in bond payments each year. Currently, the city pays $780,000 a year to make the annual payment on the 20-year bond. The bonds are not scheduled to be paid off until 2020. The proposed seven-story building will be part of a previously approved tax increment finance district, meaning the majority of new tax revenues from the project automatically will be set aside to pay for the garage’s bond payment. An exact figure on how much the proposed building will generate in taxes hasn’t been determined yet. That will depend on what the building is ultimately appraised at, and how much of the building is taxed at a commercial rate vs. a residential rate.
But, to give you an idea, a $10 million building assessed entirely as residential would pay $142,000 a year in taxes based on current rates. A $10 million building that is assessed half at the commercial rate and half at the residential rate would pay about $230,000 a year in property taxes.
• There will be a new leader working to turn Kansas University research into new start-up companies. KU announced Wednesday morning that Julie Goonewardene has been hired as the university’s associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship. Goonewardene comes from Purdue University and the Purdue Research Foundation, which has been cited as a successful research program that city and KU leaders hope to replicate.
At Purdue Goonewardene was the director of business development, where she helped create a venture capital fund for Purdue-based start-up companies. She also is the former CEO of Cantilever Technologies, a high-tech firm that was purchased by i360technologies Inc. She'll begin work at KU in mid-January.
• You’ve heard of Easter egg hunts. Now there’s a candy cane hunt. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department will host a candy cane hunt from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 4 in front of Holcom Park Recreation Center, 2700 W. 27th St. The event is open to children 6 and younger. In addition to the hunt, refreshments will be provided, a craft activity will be offered and a visit from Santa is expected. The cost is $2 and people need to register by Dec. 3 at any parks and recreation office.
• The city’s 34 annual Holiday Bazaar also is approaching. The arts and crafts event will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Community Building, 115 W. 11th St. In addition to items for sale, the event will feature holiday music. No admission fee will be charged.