Archive for Friday, October 29, 2010

Details revealed in $1.5 million Carnegie Library building renovation

$1.5 million project at Carnegie Library to highlight region’s role during Civil War

October 29, 2010


Over 30 apply for Watkins Museum position

More than 30 people have applied to be the next director of the Watkins Community Museum of History.

Judy Billings — director of the non-profit group that oversees management of the museum — said a committee has narrowed the field to six candidates. One round of telephone interviews has been completed, and the board soon will decide whether to bring some candidates in for more interviews.

Billings said the original plans called for the position to be filled by the beginning of the year, but she said the group will take more time if needed.

“We realize this is a very critical position in the life of the organization, so we don’t want to rush into this,” Billings said.

The position has been filed on an interim basis by former city manager Mike Wildgen since 2008 when the previous director was dismissed.

Details on how city leaders hope to use the Carnegie Library building to lure Civil War tourists are emerging, as a $1.5 million renovation project is set to be done by year’s end.

Judy Billings — director of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau and the group that runs the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area — confirmed her office has secured a new permanent display from a branch of the National Archives. The display focuses on the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its role in sparking the Civil War.

The heritage area group also has hired a Kansas City-based consultant to develop a larger display for the main room of the Carnegie. That display will highlight the region’s role in the beginning of the Civil War but also will have a broader theme on how freedom has evolved.

“It will prompt thinking about our freedom and how it is related to events that have occurred in this area, and it will prompt people to think about how they feel about their freedoms today,” Billings said.

The effort will require some city funding. City Manager David Corliss said the display ultimately may need upwards of $200,000 to be completed. But Corliss said his recommendation is to fund the work from the city’s guest tax, which is charged to visitors at Lawrence motels and hotels. Corliss said that makes sense because a major goal of the project is to make the Carnegie the starting place for tourists who visit national heritage area — which includes 41 counties in Kansas and Missouri.

“I feel like we have to spend some money to rehabilitate the facility and create the exhibit to show we’re going to be a good leader for the Freedom’s Frontier area,” Corliss said.

The funding issues will be presented to city commissioners later this year.

Corliss said work to bring the building up to speed is nearing its end. Crews built an addition onto the north side of the building to house new ADA-compliant bathrooms and elevators. Work also was done to prepare the lower “garden level” of the building to serve as the offices for the convention and visitors bureau and Destination Management Inc., the non-profit that oversees the heritage area.

The main floor of the building, in addition to the exhibits, also will serve as a meeting and reception area that can be rented through Lawrence Parks and Recreation. Ernie Shaw, interim director of Parks and Recreation, said the main reception space in the Carnegie should seat about 200 people. That’s about twice as big as the popular reception area the department rents at the Lawrence Visitors Center in the old Union Pacific Depot.

“I think this building will end up attracting quite a few people who otherwise wouldn’t be coming to downtown,” Corliss said. “This will give them a new reason to visit.”

Billings said her groups hope to begin moving in during December. The Kansas-Nebraska Act exhibit may be up by mid-January, but the larger exhibit likely won’t be completed until spring.


Frank A Janzen 7 years, 7 months ago

Americana Music Academy. Get them in there.

Mari Aubuchon 7 years, 7 months ago

I would have rather seen it become a children's library, but, as it is, I am wondering why it doesn't have more than one meeting space. Perhaps, then, we wouldn't need to add to those at the library.

And spend more money...

no_thanks 7 years, 7 months ago

Same people who led the charge for this project are leading the charge for the library. Both are examples of how public funds (granted the library is up for vote) are allocated to "pet" projects rather than thinking about how to better use our tax dollars (which includes reducing taxes).

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Why on earth didn't we use this space for a library annex?

The main reason against that was the need to bring it into compliance with ADA - but they're doing that for this project anyway.

Shane Powers 7 years, 7 months ago

I hope it goes well. Freedoms Frontier is a pretty cool organization, a different take on learning about and experiencing history than the traditional methods.

That being said, I can also see where others are coming from. This building (one of my personal favorites in town) used to be a library, then sat vacant for years, now they're trying to get funds to turn an old library into a museum AND add on to the library??

kernal 7 years, 7 months ago

Big whoop; not good enough to change my mind. Do agree with Wilbur that space is being wasted. Think outside of the architecture of the '70's and '80's.

vegetablegirl 7 years, 7 months ago

Jafs- I agree. This should be our "extended library". Secondly, how many "meeting spaces" do we need? We have meeting rooms in the current library, meetings rooms at the Chamber of Commerce, meeting rooms at the LMH expansion, meeting rooms at Bert Nash and last but not least, meeting rooms at the DG County Fair Grounds. What a total waste of space......

Mari Aubuchon 7 years, 7 months ago

Exactly. There are also meeting spaces at various Parks & Rec location (South Park, Holcomb, E. Lawrence, Community Bldg).

Just because 200 requests for meeting space had to be declined at the library does NOT mean that these groups were not able to find another place to meet.

As a long-time patron and supporter of our library, I am not pleased by the final plan for improvements.

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