A new look and new money both are on tap for an $18 million expansion of the Lawrence Public Library.
The library’s chief fundraiser confirmed that more than $500,000 in private donations have been raised to help pay for portions of the library expansion, and the public soon will get a look at a new design for the exterior of the downtown building.
“Everything is starting to take shape,” said Kathleen Morgan, executive director of the Lawrence Public Library Foundation.
On the financial side, Morgan said the group is more than halfway to its goal of raising $1 million for the expansion. City voters last year approved $18 million in bonds to fund the expansion, but the library foundation committed to raise additional money to provide extra resources for the library’s children’s room, teen area, technology upgrades and an outdoor plaza.
Morgan said a “quiet phase” of fundraising began five months ago, and thus far 70 donors have contributed to the project. She said a community-wide fundraising drive likely will kick off in the fall.
Fundraising efforts received a boost from the state. The Kansas Department of Commerce has awarded the foundation $222,000 in state tax credits. The tax credits — which reduce the state income tax liability of donors — will be made available to donors who contribute more than $1,000 to the project. The donors receive a tax credit equal to 50 percent of their donation. The credits will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, Morgan said.
“It has come along really well,” Morgan said of fundraising. “There is a lot of potential out there. I have always said that the library is an easy sell.”
Coming up with an appealing exterior design of the project is taking more time. Several renderings were presented to voters during last year’s campaign, but Morgan said architects at Gould Evans are making major modifications to those renderings after getting feedback from the public.
“The actual look has been changed pretty significantly,” Morgan said.
The library is planning a public unveiling of the new design at event in either late July or early August, Morgan said.
Morgan, though, did offer a few details. They included:
- Changes have been made to address concerns that there wasn’t a very good entrance for pedestrians who are coming from west of the library. “They have reconfigured it so you don’t have to walk through the parking lot to get to the front door,” Morgan said.
- Plans for the parking garage no longer call for the garage to stretch from north to south. Now, the garage’s long edges stretch from east to west. In other words, designers have rotated the orientation of the garage from previous renderings.
- The parking garage changes have created an open space between the parking garage and the library. That area is now being designed as a public plaza. “We think it will almost be like a pocket park,” Morgan said. The area will be sloped, following the natural terrain of the ground, from a high point at Vermont Street to a low point at Kentucky Street. Morgan said that may make the area ideal for hosting outdoor movies and other performances. Morgan confirmed there also has been talk of moving the Lawrence Farmers Market to the plaza area, although no decision has yet been made. Library leaders also are working on new type of outdoor programming that the library could offer.
Morgan said designers aren’t yet finished working through all issues. For example, determining whether the project will include some sort of covered walkway between the parking garage and the library entrance is still being studied.
The design of the building ultimately will be presented to city commissioners for approval. Plans call for construction to start on the expansion in 2012 and for it to be completed in 2013. The library will remain open during the project.