The design for an expanded Lawrence Public Library — including at least a 3.5-story parking garage that uses a unique mesh-like exterior to promote an open feel— is one step closer to becoming final.
But now a new issue has emerged for the $19 million project: Should the library move from Seventh and Vermont streets while construction crews add onto the building?
First, the design issues. The library board approved the conceptual design plans of the library, including a terra-cotta facade set off by long, horizontal windows, and a grassy public plaza between the library and the parking garage. But the library board did not unanimously approve the plans. Board member Chris Burger said he simply didn’t like the look of the design.
“It is just a question of personal preference,” Burger said. “I think it is a highly skilled design. It is just not to my aesthetic preference.”
Burger also questioned whether the terra-cotta facade was adding unnecessary cost to the building, but the architects and other board members said they believed it was appropriate given the durability and life expectancy of the product.
Thursday’s board meeting, though, also featured renderings of a 3.5-story parking garage that will be just south of the library in what is currently a surface parking lot. Library leaders did not present the renderings of the garage when they unveiled the library’s design at a public event in July.
The parking garage design features an exterior that uses a “perforated metal skin” that attempts to give the garage an open and airy feel, said Steve Clark, an architect with Lawrence-based Gould Evans. Parts of the garage also are left completely open, except for a railing.
“There is a lot of openness for safety and security reasons,” said Jane Huesemann, an architect with Gould Evans.
The parking garage currently is envisioned as a 3.5-story facility that could park 250 cars. But the architects also have an alternate design that would add another level — or an estimated 76 parking spaces — to the garage. City commissioners will decide whether they want to fund an additional level of public parking as part of the project. The extra level is expected to cost a little more than $1 million. Library board members, however, said they’ve been told the city likely won’t make any decision about whether to proceed with the extra level until the construction project is bid and an exact price for the additional parking can be determined.
City commissioners, however, are tentatively scheduled to consider the designs at their Nov. 1 meeting.
When they meet, they’ll also be asked whether they’re interested in changing the construction strategy for the library. Clark said the project has been designed with the idea that the library will remain open at its current site throughout the 24-month construction period. That will require multiple moves for library staff and books since the entire library space will be remodeled.
Clark said he thinks library board members and city commissioners ought to consider creating a temporary library location elsewhere in the community while construction is under way. Clark said it is possible the construction time for the project could be cut nearly in half.
“I think it could make the library and the public’s lives a lot easier during the construction period,” Clark said. But the architects don’t have a recommendation on where the library could move to on a temporary basis, and they don’t have a cost estimate for the move.
Deborah Thompson, the library board’s chairwoman, said the group likely would consider a temporary location if it could save the city significant money on construction costs. But she said a location outside of downtown could create concerns for the board. Thompson said the library board, however, remained firmly committed to ensuring that library services would be offered somewhere during the construction project.