Lawrence is on track to get a multimillion-dollar, privately owned art gallery in East Lawrence, but first city taxpayers will be asked for another round of public assistance.
City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will consider approving about $800,000 worth of street improvements and other construction-related expenses to upgrade the area around the recently renovated Poehler Lofts building near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets.
The proposed improvements are designed to assist a renovation of the Cider Building, a turn-of-the-20th century warehouse building that developer Tony Krsnich is working to convert into an art and events gallery.
“I hate to overpromise, but I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t turn into a real destination,” Krsnich said.
He and his partners are investing $1.8 million to convert the building, and Krsnich confirmed the gallery will be run by Kim Weinberger of Weinberger Fine Art Gallery in Kansas City.
Krsnich said Weinberger currently is in New York working to bring significant works from noted artist Hunt Slonem to the gallery. All told, Krsnich said the gallery is expected to have more than $1 million worth of art in it when it opens, likely in the next two months.
“This is probably the riskiest deal I have ever done in my life, but the importance of it in terms of what it can do for East Lawrence is so great,” Krsnich said. “I really think it will solidify East Lawrence.”
Now, city commissioners will have to decide whether the area should receive another round of public infrastructure funding. The bulk of the projects sought by Krsnich are improvements to existing pieces of city infrastructure. They include:
• $263,000 to rehabilitate Pennsylvania Street between Eighth and Ninth with new brick pavers.
• $279,000 to reconstruct Ninth Street from Delaware to Pennsylvania and to improve the intersections of Eighth and Pennsylvania, Ninth and Pennsylvania and Ninth and Delaware.
• $111,000 for stormwater improvements.
• $123,000 for new parking on Pennsylvania and Eighth streets, new sidewalks, and pedestrian lighting.
Krsnich also is asking the city to pay for about 75 percent — or about $30,000 — of the costs of installing a sprinkler system in the building, and about $7,800 in utility connection fees for the project.
This round of funding is in addition to two other requests the city already has approved for the area. In July, the city approved use of the Neighborhood Revitalization Act for the deteriorating building. The act will allow the developers to qualify for a 95 percent property tax rebate on the project for 10 years, which could total as much as $500,000, depending on future tax values.
In 2011, the City Commission also approved about $1.3 million worth of public improvements in the area needed to assist in the renovation of the Poehler Building into 49 affordable apartments.
Those apartments — the bulk of which are rent-controlled because the project received tax credits from the state — were fully leased in the first 12 hours the project began taking applications.
Krsnich said the Cider Building project will benefit the neighborhood by bringing new people to the area. Plans call for the ground floor of the building to house artwork while also being able to host wedding receptions or events for about 250 people.
The project will include an outdoor courtyard that can accommodate about 150 people. Krsnich confirmed that famed Lawrence artist Stan Herd will design the outdoor space, and that Herd is moving his studio to the area, which is being called the Warehouse Arts District.
The second floor of the building will be converted into small-scale office spaces that will be designed for entrepreneurs that need “drop-in” office space.
“It really will be a plug and play type of deal for small businesses,” Krsnich said.
In addition to the public infrastructure improvements, Krsnich also may ask for a Community Improvement District for the area. But the district, unlike other CID proposals in the city, would not involve a special sales tax.
Instead, Krsnich is proposing that a special property tax assessment be placed on lots in the district. The district would include all the property between Eighth and Ninth streets on the north and south and Delaware and Pennsylvania streets on the east and west.
Krsnich and his partners own most of the property in the district, but not all. The city owns a parking lot in the district, and would be obligated to pay a special assessment of about $20,000 as part of the plan.
Proceeds from the special taxing district would be used to pay for burying electric and cable lines to the property.
City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.