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News and notes from around town:
• It will be the opposite of traffic calming — Lawrence motorists with a steering wheel in one hand and a Starbucks double espresso in the other.
Indeed, Lawrence soon will get its first drive-thru Starbucks.
As we reported in January, Starbucks reached a deal to build its first Lawrence drive-through store at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Champion Lane, which is just west of the new Burger King.
Well, construction work finally has started on the project. Dirt is being moved at the corner. A representative with the development group told me the building is scheduled to be completed in December, which means Starbucks could be up and operating by late 2012 or early 2013.
Starbucks will be the anchor of a 4,600-square-foot retail building that will have room for two other retailers. Bill Fleming, a representative for the development group, said tenants for the other two spaces haven’t yet been signed, but he expects interest to be high because of the traffic Starbucks likely will generate.
“We think it is going to be pretty popular, especially with that location,” Fleming said.
The location is just south of the site of Theatre Lawrence, the multimillion dollar community theater building that is under construction in the Bauer Farm development. The location also is right across the street from a Starbucks that is in the Dillons grocery store at Sixth and Wakarusa. No word on whether the new store will impact the future of that coffee counter. I suspect it won’t.
Instead, it will impact our self-image. Despite what those pesky Census numbers say, we’ll now forever be able to consider ourselves a big city. Anyplace that has two Starbucks right across the street from each other has to be a big city, right?
And yes, the location of the store basically is in front of Free State High. Maybe the Starbucks drive-through can be added as a stop on the driver’s education course. That would teach real world driving skills for sure.
• One place that will be a little bit calmer in the future is the Lawrence Public Library.
As we reported, city commissioners on Tuesday approved a 20-month lease for the library to move into the former Borders bookstore, 700 N.H., while a $19 million expansion is underway at the library at Seventh and Vermont.
Commissioners said it was an easy decision to approve the move because staying in the library during construction was going to create a chaotic scene for both patrons and employees.
Tuesday’s discussion, though, produced several new details about the project. Here’s a look:
— City leaders now are projecting construction work on the new parking garage for the library will begin in November, and work on the actual library will start in February. Previously, city leaders had not been very specific about when construction would begin. Library leaders are now projecting the new library will be open by summer 2014, or about two to three months earlier than once projected.
— The library expects to be open in the former Borders location by late December or early January. The move, however, will require a complete closure of the library for at least a couple of weeks, said Library Director Brad Allen. He said it will take that much time to physically move the books, computers and other equipment to operate the library.
“I’m hoping that we’ll be closed no more than two or three weeks,” Allen said. “I wish I had a better answer. My goal is to minimize the time we’re closed as much as possible.”
— Allen is projecting about 50 percent of the library’s collection will be moved to the Border’s building. The other 50 percent will be stored off-site. The library currently is in negotiations to rent space in the former Allen Press property at 11th and New Hampshire. Allen said patrons will be able to request any item in the library’s collection. He said he hopes items would be available for pickup within a few hours of the request, but definitely by the next day.
Allen, who took over as director earlier this year, said the arrangement will make for an interesting experiment.
“It will be interesting to see what size of collection the community really needs and how we use our collection,” Allen said.
— Plans call for all of the public access computers currently in the library to be moved to the Borders location.
— Downtown parkers should prepare for a change once the library moves into the space. Currently, many people have been parking in the private lot of Borders, which closed its doors early last year. City Manager David Corliss said steps will be taken to ensure the parking lot is available for library patrons.
Corliss said it is likely the lot will be made into a two-hour lot while the library occupies the building. The city’s parking control officers also will be instructed to start patrolling the lot.
The end result likely will be that more pressure is put on the existing city lots downtown. That especially will be the case once construction work begins on the new parking garage for the library. The garage will be built in the current city lot adjacent to the library. That means the 100-plus vehicles that routinely park in that lot will have to find somewhere else to park in downtown.
— The amount of parking available in the Borders lot will shrink some. That’s because library leaders are proposing to park two temporary mobile offices in the lot. Leaders don’t want to take up space in the building with administrative offices.
— The city will pay $234,000 in rent during the 20-month lease for the Borders building. In addition, the city is projecting another $216,000 in expenses such as property taxes, rental of the modular office units and lease payments for space to store the library’s collection.
But the city also is expecting to save money on construction of the library expansion. The city’s construction manager has said it is likely contractors will give better bids knowing that they do not have to work in a building that will remain open to the public.
The city, however, is not projecting the cost savings to be enough to completely offset the cost of moving to Borders. The current budget still calls for the move to cost the city an extra $69,000 over and above the projected cost-savings. The plan is for the $69,000 to come out of a nearly $770,000 contingency fund that is part of the $19 million budget for the library expansion.
• It doesn’t really have anything to do with the move, but while rummaging through the budget numbers for the library, I did find one interesting number: Current plans call for the project to spend $75,000 on public art.
The city long has had a policy to include public art as part of new public building projects. The idea informally has been called “A Percent for Art.” Once upon a time — I believe it was in the early 1990s — the idea was the city would spend 1 percent of the cost of a public building project on public art.
That was the idea but it never was written into city law as such. In other words, it is a guideline, not a requirement.
It will be interesting to see what the public’s reaction is to spending $75,000 on public art during this economy. I’m sure some folks will be disappointed that it is not more. After all, if you spent 1 percent, the total would be around $190,000. Some could argue that the city is spending a few million in public infrastructure dollars to help convert the area around the Poehler building in East Lawrence into an arts district, yet it won’t spend the full 1 percent to actually create a great piece of art.
I’m also sure some will think it is an unneeded expense given everything else that is on the city’s plate. At some point, I suspect city commissioners somehow will have to bless the idea of spending $75,000 on public art.
In the meantime, it will be fun to watch what ideas come forward for an art project of that size. The city has the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission, which I suspect will be involved in determining the specific project that is selected.
It also is fun to think of just how large a $75,000 public art project could be. Will this be the largest public art project in Lawrence? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is. After all, the $19 million library expansion is one of the larger public building projects in recent memory. In the coming days, I’ll try to get a list of public art projects in Lawrence and how much they have cost.
But what is really fun to think about is this: What would a $540,000 public art project look like? And, oh yeah, what if it had a sewage theme?
At some point — not this year — the city still thinks it needs to build a $54 million sewage treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River. One percent of a $54 million public project is $540,000. I’m not suggesting that is going to happen, but it is fun to think about what a half-million dollar Ode de Toilet would look like.
Actually, I just thought about it. It’s not so fun after all.