Archive for Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Town Talk: Architects, fundraisers make pitch to build new rec center for city; prospects for compromise on tennis lights brightening; beauty supply store set to open on 23rd Street

January 11, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• Maybe you haven’t heard, Lawrence isn’t interested in building a West Lawrence Recreation Center anymore.

Instead, it is interested in building a Lawrence Activities Wellness Center. If you are confused, nothing has really changed from what we’ve previously reported regarding the idea of a $15 million, indoor recreation complex that would be located somewhere on the city's west side.

But Parks and Recreation leaders have stopped calling the idea a recreation center and started calling it the Lawrence Activities Wellness Center. I suppose that is in part because the project would include five to six gyms, which is quite a bit more than a normal recreation center. But city leaders also want to highlight that the facility would serve the entire community.

Regardless, it is a sign the project is plowing along. The big sign in that regard is city officials recently have received proposals from architects and fundraisers who want to turn the idea into a project.

Three local architecture firms will be competing with five other firms for the right to design the new center, if city commissioners move forward. Firms responding to the city’s request for proposals were:

  1. Gould Evans, the Lawrence-based architecture firm that has been doing preliminary work for the city on the idea.
  2. Treanor Architects, Lawrence
  3. Sabatini Architects, Lawrence
  4. Williams Architects, Kansas City, Mo.
  5. Lempka Edson Architects, Lenexa
  6. Brinkley Sargent Architects, Dallas
  7. HTK Architecture, Topeka
  8. Convergence, Kansas City, Mo.
  9. SFS Architecture, Kansas City, Mo.

Commissioners also received proposals from professional fundraisers. If you remember, Bill Self’s Assists Foundation has expressed an interest in donating $1 million to the project, and the city would like to see if it could raise another $1 million to $2 million on top of that. The city received only three proposals from fundraisers. I don’t know if that is an indication of whether fundraisers think raising private donations for a government entity is too challenging, or whether the word just didn’t get out well to the host of fundraising consultants that are out there. Anyway, the fundraising firms are:

  1. Swanson House Fundraising Professionals, Emporia, which I’ve been told is the group Theatre Lawrence worked with on its successful campaign.
  2. Jeffrey Byrne & Associates, Kansas City, Mo.
  3. Hartsook Companies, Kansas City, Mo.

The city now will put together a team of staff members to review the proposals and begin interviewing the firms. City commissioners likely will be presented with a recommendation on which firms to work with by the end of February. At that point, the city will know how much these architectural services will cost. Ernie Shaw, the city’s acting director of Parks and Recreation, said he hopes whatever architect is selected will be able to submit plans to city commissioners by the end of July. So, circle that date on your calendar. At that point, city commissioners will be asked to decide whether they’re serious about moving forward on this project. It also may be the time that the city is asked to settle on a site for any new project. As we’ve reported before, a piece of city-owned ground near Sixth and Wakarusa had been considered the most likely location for the project. But a group led by the Steve and Duane Schwada has offered to donate ground near Sixth and the SLT, a site that some say would give the project more room to grow into the type of facility that could host regional or even national youth basketball tournaments or other such events. Other sites may emerge.

My sense is that city commissioners are going to want to have a good comfort level that they have the ability to raise private money over and above the $1 million amount from Self’s foundation before they green light this project. Is that likely? Who knows. Lawrence has been on a fundraising roll lately — the homeless shelter, the community theater and the public library expansion, to name three.

• One element I don’t expect architects will include in a new recreation center — oops, activities and wellness center — is tennis courts. That probably makes sense. Tennis hasn’t exactly promoted a lot of wellness in the neighborhood surrounding Lawrence High lately.

There has been quite a debate about whether the Lawrence Tennis Center — a joint facility between LHS and the city — should once again be lighted so Lawrence tennis enthusiasts can play matches at night. Neighbors have said the lights are going to create too much glare onto their property, and neighbors already aren’t in a good mood following what they believed was a poorly planned expansion of some athletic fields at Lawrence High.

City leaders have been looking for a way to reconfigure the lights at the center, and currently are getting some estimates from a local engineering firm. But I get the impression that parks and recreation leaders aren’t too optimistic that solution will be feasible.

But there’s another option. I’m not sure how it dawned on somebody. Maybe it just hit them suddenly like a John McEnroe tantrum. But somebody remembered that just up the street and around the corner there are eight tennis courts off Naismith Drive on Kansas University property. And guess what? They’re lighted.

Shaw said he recently approached KU about a partnership that would allow more community usage of the courts. Shaw said KU has been very receptive to the idea. The courts likely would need to be resurfaced, and the old lighting system may need to be upgraded. Those improvements may cost $80,000 to $100,000, but that still may be a better bargain for the city than tangling with LHS neighbors over lighting.

The idea is going through the bureaucracy at KU, but Shaw said he thinks there is some promise there. The courts are not heavily used by KU. The university’s tennis team does not use them for practice. If the idea gets approval from KU officials, it then will have to go through the city’s bureaucracy. But there may be news to report in the next few weeks.

• Speaking of tennis, if you have a face that looks like a tennis racket. . . . No, that’s not right. If you admire Anna Kournikova’s. . . . No, I shouldn’t go there. Well, you’re going to have to come up with your own transition on this one.

But the point is, look for a new beauty supply store to open along 23rd Street in the coming weeks. Kelvin Heck, a broker with Lawrence’s Colliers International confirmed to me that he’s brokered a deal for ACE Beauty Supply to open in the Southern Hills Shopping Center, which is the one with Perkins near 23rd and Ousdahl. The business will be in a spot next to Pizza Shuttle. It also will be near B-Street Design, which is a relatively new beauty school that has opened in the center.

ACE, which also operates a store in Kansas City, is another sign that the Southern Hills Shopping Center is on a rebound. Heck said once the beauty store opens up — probably in February — the center will be fully leased for the first time in quite awhile. Heck and his co-workers at Colliers are busy finalizing their annual report on retail, office and industrial vacancy rates across the city. I expect to get that information soon and pass it along to you.

But enough of that talk. Now, back to Anna Kournikova.


Steven Gaudreau 6 years, 5 months ago

Hows about an architect firm donate their time to the project instead of the usual 10%?

anonyname 6 years, 5 months ago

How often do you offer to work extensive hours on a project, rather than doing paying work, for free? I'm not saying they have any reason to charge an excessive amount, but your proposal's a little ridiculous, if you think about it.

Evan Ridenour 6 years, 5 months ago

You would laugh at them for being idiots for being in their profession if you knew how low their profit margins are compared to the work they do and the amount of liability they are subject to.

You don't know what you are talking about.

jimmyspeachbaskets 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm sure they'd appreciate you spelling TREANOR correctly as you bash them. In fact, I'm sure of it.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 5 months ago

There is a lit tennis court in a park across from the high school. It's on it's own city block with plenty of screening. How many tennis courts do we have, and how many do we need? I have never had a problem finding a court for an occasional game.

I do miss the old courts next to the high school. It was a pleasant setting. Like playing in a park. The new courts are not as appealing. I would have been happy with just new surfaces.

gatekeeper 6 years, 5 months ago

Two courts in N. Lawrence that are lit and they just redid them last year.

bigjaybabyjay 6 years, 5 months ago

"The courts are not heavily used by KU." Umm...I play frequently and have run into problems with court availability on campus. When those courts were full I would then go to LHS. On several occasions I couldn't get on at either location.

Yes, courts are generally available during the day and on bad weather days. On nice evenings, hardly ever.

somebodynew 6 years, 5 months ago

"Those improvements may cost $80,000 to $100,000, but that still may be a better bargain for the city than tangling with LHS neighbors over lighting. "

Only if the neighbors are going to pay for those improvements. I am not up on all the details of this thing, but I thought there was a lawsuit and settlement somewere in here. Settlement to me means it should have been taken care of. (Granted not everyone will be happy.) We just spend untold $$$ building this brand new facility; So why are we now looking at spending another $100K to appease a bunch of neighbors who already made their claims known and (I thought ) were addressed??

Glad to see the City isn't broke or anything.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

I still say have the city provide enough funding to build a "recreation" center similar to the one on E. 15th St. or at Holcom, and anything above that should come from private funding.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 5 months ago

+1. We should encourage the YMCA to open a facility here.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

It seems if this project is for the city population it would be located in a more central location not on the west side.

These athletic projects have become tax dollar money holes

Why not put this expensive rec center to a city wide vote?

We had to vote for: 1. Library expansion 2. Road repair money 3. The T

This new high dollar structure is for west side real estate sales not for Lawrence,Kansas.

Taxpayers shelled out not by choice $20,000,000 million for the PLAY project through the back door of USD 497. The spending for this project sees no end in sight. Taxpayers got pushed aside on this decision.

Why does Lawrence need more and more and more and more? What is the point?

These athletic projects have become tax dollar money holes.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

This rec center is a further extension of the PLAY project.

Should the city spend $20 million or more on the PLAY project? 76% said NO.

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