Library project moves forward

Rendering of the Lawrence Public Library, as seen from Vermont Street.

Rendering of the Lawrence Public Library, as seen from the southwest plaza.

Rending of the Lawrence Public Library, as seen from the Outdoor Aquatic Center on Kentucky Street.

Let’s get ready to build.

Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday saw the latest designs for a $19 million expansion of the Lawrence Public Library and put the project on track to begin construction by mid-November.

“We really wanted to make this a signature public building,” said City Commissioner Aron Cromwell. “All the elements really have come to play here. It will have a public-square feeling to it.”

The design for the library, though, looks different than when it was unveiled by library leaders last year. The building still uses large amounts of terra-cotta stone, but the new design uses more glass at the corners of the building and along Vermont Street.

“I think it is a design that is very open,” said Sean Zaudke, an architect with Lawrence-based Gould Evans. “We want a design that explains how the library can support the community.”

The main way it does so is by letting the community see into the library. The new design put a particular emphasis on making the youth and teen rooms of the library on public display by making them visible from Vermont Street.

The inside of the building also will include fewer walls and more wide-open spaces, Zaudke said. Several reading rooms will be on the perimeter of the building, with larger, more bustling rooms near the building’s main entrance at the southeast corner of the building. Smaller, individual reading rooms will be on the west and north sides of the building.

City commissioners also got their most detailed look yet at the parking garage design. Plans still call for a perforated metal skin to cover most of the garage, although glass towers to house stairways and an elevator also will be used.

“We really want to make the interior environment of the garage as open and light-filled and ventilated as possible,” Zaudke said.

The parking garage will be the first part of the project under construction. Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously agreed to seek bids for 18 different bid packages, ranging from concrete to steel work, for the garage. Bids are expected to be approved by Nov. 6, and work would begin by Nov. 15.

Architects hope construction of the garage will be completed by June. Work on the library itself isn’t expected to begin until February. April 2014 is the tentative completion date for the project.

Commissioners on Tuesday left their options open regarding how large the parking garage will be. The new garage will include at least 250 spaces — up from the 125 spaces currently provided in the library’s surface parking lot. Commissioners also are considering adding an additional level that would provide another 72 parking spaces but are still considering ways to pay for the project. The bids for the parking garage will include amounts both with and without the extra level.

In other news, commissioners:

l Balked at the idea of allowing $695,000 in land acquisition costs to be reimbursed through a tax increment financing district for a proposed hotel development at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

The development group, led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor, had sought to have the costs to purchase the land added to the list of items eligible for reimbursement through the TIF district.

But commissioners said it was too late in the process to bring up the request. A representative of the development group said the hotel project will continue on without the reimbursement.