The spending for an expanded public library has begun at Lawrence City Hall, and commissioners Tuesday said they’re open to at least considering spending a little bit more than originally planned.
Commissioners at their weekly meeting unanimously approved a $1.2 million contract to design a $19 million expansion and parking garage project for the library at Seventh and Vermont streets.
“This is a great night,” said City Commissioner Aron Cromwell. “This is going to be a fantastic project that will produce a fantastic building.”
It also may produce a few extra bells and whistles not originally planned for when the project was approved by voters in November.
Commissioners agreed to have Lawrence-based Gould Evans Architects include several options into their design work. They include:
• Adding another level of parking to the proposed 250 space parking garage that would be just south of the library. Another level would add 50 to 70 spaces but could cost another $1 million. Commissioners were told that any money for additional parking would not come from the $18 million bond issue approved by voters. Instead, the money would have to come from other city sources. Under the contract, the garage will be designed so the additional level can be removed from the construction plans if commissioners deem it too expensive.
• Designing the parking garage in a way that would allow it to also function as a 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. City Manager David Corliss said he envisions the transfer station would be located on the Kentucky Street side of the parking garage rather than the Vermont Street side.
• 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 transit hub and any improvements for the Farmers Market would have to be funded with money not included in the $18 million bond issue, Corliss said. But Corliss recommended that the commission at least get pricing options for all three additions.
“I don’t want to have to rebuild something after we’ve already built it,” Corliss said.
Commissioners agreed to at least let design work go forward, but stopped short of saying they could ultimately support construction of the additional items.
“I do have some concern because we asked the public to chime in and support this project in November,” Mayor Mike Amyx said. “Making changes to it at this time does concern me some.”
City leaders hope to accept construction bids for all the library projects in the fall. Construction then would take about 20 months. It is expected to create major disruptions to parking in the area, but the library intends to stay open during the project.