News and notes from around town:
• Get ready to add a new player to the daily battle of fast-food companies that takes place near Lawrence’s Free State High. Plans have been filed at City Hall for a Burger King to be built in the Bauer Farm development, which is along Sixth Street immediately in front of Free State. Plans call for the store to be just east of Champion Lane, which means the store will be east of the Taco Bell and SmashBurger restaurants that have been added to the development.
Bill Fleming, a member of the group developing Bauer Farms, said Burger King officials likely will want to get construction started in the spring, pending development plan approval from the city.
Fleming said the development has two more pad sites that it is marketing to restaurants, although he said they likely would not be fast-food restaurants because the locations may not accommodate drive-thru lanes.
“We would like to get more sit down restaurants out there,” Fleming said. “We’re really looking for any kind of high-quality retail.”
In addition to the pad sites, the development also has space for another multitenant retail building that would be between the Taco Bell restaurant and the building that houses SmashBurger, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, a Sprint store and other users.
• Plans for a major expansion and parking garage for the Lawrence Public Library are set to kick into a new gear — and add a few new twists. City commissioners at their Tuesday meeting will be asked to approve a $1.2 million contract with Lawrence-based Gould Evans Architects to design the project. The design fee will include all the standard architectural work to design the parking garage and the library expansion, which the city has said is expected to be a “signature public facility.” But City Manager David Corliss is recommending that the architects study several other options. They include:
• Designing the parking garage in a way that would allow it to also function as public transit hub. Currently, the city’s main transfer point for the transit system is at Ninth and New Hampshire streets. The transfer station today is essentially just an outdoor bus stop. A facility in the parking garage would include restrooms and indoor waiting area.
• Exploring the feasibility of expanding the size of the parking garage, which will be on the current parking lot between the library and the senior center. Corliss is recommending that the architects put together a bid option that would add another section to the parking garage. That would add another 50 to 70 parking spaces to the 250 spaces that are in the current plans. The additional money to pay for the extra parking, though, would not come out of the $18 million bond issue approved by voters in November. Instead, the city would pay for it from other sources, such as the parking fund or the capital reserve funds. The design would be done in a way that if the price for the extra parking was deemed too high, commissioners could reject that portion of the bid. Corliss wrote in a memo that he wants to explore the possibilities because the city should “maximize our ability to add parking spaces to serve downtown when the opportunity arises.”
• Consider how a public plaza area in front of the new library could be utilized to host the Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market. The market currently operates in the 800 block of New Hampshire and the 1000 block of Vermont streets. But leaders of the market previously have expressed interest in having more space for vendors, access to restroom facilities, and perhaps other amenities such as a portable kitchen. The idea of the Farmers Market moving to the library location was brought up several times during the bond issue campaign.
Corliss also said the city will begin studying the feasibility of a temporary bus route that may help people get to the library and the nearby senior center during what is expected to be a 20-month construction period. Parking in the area will be limited during construction. Corliss said the city will explore whether a transit route that travels between key parking lots in downtown could be created. The special route would operate just in the downtown area — kind of like a trolley — and would drop people off at the library area.
“Whether this system is financially/physically viable is not known at this time,” Corliss wrote in a memo to commissioners.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
• Commissioners on Tuesday also will consider authorizing $200,000 to be spent for a new exhibit for the recently renovated Carnegie Library building at Ninth and Vermont. The exhibit would be part of the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, which highlights the role eastern Kansas and western Missouri played in the days leading up to the Civil War. The exhibit would be part of the main room of the Carnegie, but would be designed in a way to continue to allow the room to be rented for wedding receptions and other events. Further details about what would be included in the exhibit weren’t provided to commissioners. The $200,000 would come from the city’s transient guest tax, which is charged to people who rent hotel and motel rooms in the city. The tax rate was increased in 2009, in part, to fund city efforts to attract tourists who are interested in the community’s history.
• Sidewalks evidently aren’t the only thing that need to be cleared of snow. The areas around your gas meters also are critical, says a representative from Black Hills Energy. Curt Floerchinger, a spokesman with the natural gas company, said that during these extreme conditions the regulators in a gas meter can freeze, which will cause a disruption in gas service. The main cause is too much snow piling up around a meter and then freezing. Simply sweeping the meter clean of snow periodically will help avoid problems. But the company also warns that if snow and ice freezes onto the meter, some care in removing it should be used. Banging on the meter with a shovel or hammer probably isn’t the best idea.