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News and notes from around town:
• This information may end up being worth exactly what you paid for it, but I’ll pass it along anyway. There are definitely rumors out there that Chick-fil-A is scouting Lawrence for a location for a new store. Whether the rumors are true or not, is another matter. But I’ve heard from multiple sources now that Chick-fil-A is considering sites on Sixth Street and on 23rd Street. But, if I had a dollar for every time I heard a Chick-fil-A rumor, I would be able to buy several Chick-fil-A sandwiches. But I decided to pass this one along because the rumor seems to be gaining steam, and if you can’t dream about a Chick-fil-A on a Friday, when can you dream about one?
• Lawrence Public Library leaders are doing more than dreaming about raising $1 million to help expand the downtown library. Kathleen Morgan, development director for the Lawrence Public Library Foundation, confirmed that the campaign has raised all but $158,000 of its $1 million goal. Morgan also confirmed that the approximately $220,000 in state tax credits that the project has been awarded have been snapped up by donors. I think there also may be some news coming on possible naming rights for portions of the library. I’ll poke around some more on that.
I also mention the $1 million fundraising campaign because I still get some questions about why the library expansion project is now often referred to as a $19 million project when voters approved $18 million. Well, the $1 million in private fundraising is the answer. The private fundraising component was always part of the plan, and we had reported that at various times. But during most of the campaign, we did refer to the project as an $18 million project because that is how much taxpayers will be liable for. Recently, I’ve started calling it a $19 million project so people understand the full extent. I know, it sounds like the type of trick my wife tries to pull on me each month when the monthly chocolate bill comes in the mail, but really, it is not anything like that. Sorry, if I’ve created confusion. (What? You don’t get a monthly chocolate bill?)
• I’m wondering what you think of the idea of the Lawrence Public Library perhaps finding a temporary home while its downtown facility undergoes an expansion. That idea was floated at Thursday’s library board meeting. The current plan is for the library to stay at its existing location at Seventh and Vermont and have construction crews work around them. But architects have said if the library moved to a temporary home it might cut the 24-month construction project in half. The chair of the library board indicated the group may consider such a move, but said if the temporary space wasn’t downtown that could be a problem. I’m wondering what you think about that. Does a temporary space for the library have to be downtown or could it be in one of the vacant buildings on the edge of the community? It should be an interesting discussion. City commissioners likely will receive a presentation from architects about that issue and others at their Nov. 1 meeting.
I’m guessing the Borders location at Seventh and New Hampshire streets will get some discussion as a possible temporary home. One library board member, though, indicated she had heard that space likely wouldn’t be available. I’ve been doing some checking and haven’t heard of a tenant being found for the Borders location once the Halloween store vacates the space after the season is over. But perhaps that has changed. I’ve got some calls out on that. But it also could be that the Borders folks don’t want to take the building off the market for the 12 to 18 months that would be necessary to accommodate the library. I’m guessing that the vacant space in the former Riverfront Mall also may get some discussion. (Full disclosure: Members of the Simons family, which owns the Journal-World and this Web site, have an ownership interest in the Riverfront property.)
UPDATE: I talked to the broker for the Borders property. He confirmed that he does not yet have a tenant lined up for the Borders space once the Halloween store closes for the season. He also said his group wouldn't rule out talking to the library about temporary space, if city leaders decide to move in that direction.
• Look for more lighting changes in Downtown Lawrence. As we previously reported, the city used about $170,000 in federal stimulus funds to install LED street lights on part of Massachusetts Street in downtown. But that amount was only enough to do about half the lights on Mass. Well, now the city thinks it has figured out a way to do the rest of the lighting project using federal funds. The city has about $150,000 left over from the $858,000 federal grant — which also paid for part of the sustainability coordinator’s salary and new heating and cooling systems at the public library. Originally the city had planned on using that $150,000 to upgrade lighting at the library. But delays in finalizing the design for the expansion of the library has screwed up the timing of that project. The city needs to spend the federal dollars or risk losing them. Now, the city is proposing to use the $150,000 to complete the rest of the downtown lighting project. The city thinks it will be a good investment. After one month’s operation with the new LED lights, the city is estimating that the lights save about 16 percent on energy use. City commissioners are scheduled to approve moving ahead with the lighting project at their meeting on Tuesday night.