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Library expansion bids come in below budget, allowing for coffee shop concept to be added back to project


When the Lawrence Public Library opens early next year, be prepared to find more than a good book. Perhaps a good cup of Joe awaits too.

And you almost certainly won’t be able to miss the 25-foot piece of art hanging from the ceiling.

City commissioners on Tuesday are set to approve the last major batch of bids for the $19 million expansion of the Lawrence Public Library.

As has been the case with other recent projects, contractors came in with competitive bids. The bids for construction of the library building totaled $9.09 million, which is about $622,000 — about 6.5 percent — lower than the budget for the project.

Architects and the city’s library design committee are recommending commissioners use the savings to add several design elements that will enhance the project. (Perhaps my wife is serving as a consultant on this project because that seems to be her advice when I happen to find a savings somewhere.)

Actually, most of the “enhancements” were included in the original design, but they were broken out of the main bid package in case bids came in higher than expected. If you remember, bids on the parking garage portion of the project did come in higher than expected, and a few items had to be removed. Architects would rather add things than remove them, so the design team adjusted these bids accordingly.

Some of the enhancements will be fairly technical, but at least one will be pretty noticeable, especially to those early-morning library users who may need a little bit more than a Stephanie Meyer novel to wake them up. The design team is recommending that a coffee bar be installed in the main lobby area of the library.

Library director Brad Allen told me that the concept is to have a private vendor come in and operate the facility. He said the amount of space devoted to the coffee bar makes it likely that the shop mainly will focus on coffee and beverages rather than having a large menu of food and pastries.

“There has been quite a bit of public interest in the idea,” Allen said.

No vendor has been selected yet, but Allen said the library has started to receive inquires from potential vendors. Once they find one, perhaps I will pitch my literary-themed name for the coffee shop — Fifty Shades of Black. (Never mind. I thought the best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey was the memoir of a conservative suit salesman.)

Other design enhancements included as part of the recommended bid package:

• A more acoustical-friendly ceiling for the library’s auditorium.

• Tile and wood flooring for the main lobby and reference desk area.

• The insertion of “tubular daylighting devices” that will allow more natural light into the building.

Speaking of light, it is going to be a major theme in the building. A 25-foot piece of art hanging from the ceiling will ensure that. As we previously reported, a committee of artists, library leaders and city staff members have recommended the glass artist team of Dierk Van Keppel and John Shreve be awarded a $75,000 contract to create public art for the new building.

Commissioners are set to finalize that contract on Tuesday, and more details about the proposed artwork are becoming available. The artists plan on having several pieces of glasswork in the library, but the main piece will hang from the ceiling above the atrium area of the library.

The piece is entitled “A Ribbon of Light,” and will be constructed of clear and colored glass that will be suspended by a stainless steel structure. Its length will be about 25 feet, and it will be from 3 feet to 8 feet wide. A rendering of the proposed artwork isn’t yet available. But you can get a sense of what the team likes to do by looking at some of their previous work here.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday to accept the bids and approve the contract.

As for how many local companies won bids on the project, I don’t know yet. The list of winning bidders is still being compiled, but it will be released prior to Tuesday’s meeting. Lawrence-based B.A. Green Construction is serving as the construction manager of the project. (UPDATE: A preliminary list shows several Lawrence firms did win bids as subcontractors for the project. In addition to work done by B.A. Green, Lawrence-based companies R.D. Johnson Excavating, Diamond Everley Roofing, Kennedy Glass, HiTech Interiors, and Commercial Floorworks are all set to win bids on the project.)

In case you have forgotten, the city already has accepted bids on the parking garage portion of the project. Those bids came in at $6.10 million. With these latest bids, the bulk of the project has been bid, and the total stands at $15.81 million. I’m sure there are still more expenses to come, but the project appears well-positioned to come in at or below the $19 million total price tag that was presented to the public.

Allen hopes the library will be ready for the public in spring or early summer 2014.


Greg Cooper 4 years, 8 months ago

Why not just build the thing under budget? What's the point in spending more dollars just because you can?

been_there 4 years, 8 months ago

Agreed, just put in some coffee machines if you think people really need coffee. If you feel you absolutely have to spend the money, make it for something useful to everyone. Better yet, don't spend it, we'll need it for the rec center.

Clinton Laing 4 years, 8 months ago

Truer words were never spoken. This idea is just to make the Library into a faux-Borders, and I want to keep the city out of the coffee business.

Mari Aubuchon 4 years, 8 months ago

Why spend MORE taxpayer money while also taking business away from other downtown coffee houses? Just because the estimate comes in under budget does NOT mean that the project itself will, as anyone who has done any renovation knows. If there is money left over when all is said and done, why not put it toward paying off the bond?

ResQd 4 years, 8 months ago

Because they think money grows on trees and will take every penny to get what they want. Why not just add a spa, Jacuzzi, and Italian tile while they are at it.

Michael Sizemore 4 years, 8 months ago

The statement, "Architects would rather add things than remove them, so the design team adjusted these bids accordingly." sends a very inaccurate message about the profession.

Architects are service providers who assist Owners with designing projects of their (the Owner's) vision. Judgment calls about items that are "in" or "out" of the scope of work fall to the Owners of the project, not the Architects.

Michael Sizemore 4 years, 8 months ago

Depends. Some are structured to share cost savings. Again, it's the difference between "suggesting" and actually "approving." The City approved and authorized the additional costs.

Chad Lawhorn 4 years, 8 months ago

That wasn't meant to be a negative comment about architects. I was just trying to convey that it is more favorable to design a project with everything in it, then take out some components in an effort to ensure the client that it will come in at or under budget, and then be able to easily add those items back in as the budget allows. From what I've been told, that is a less painful process than having to go to the client at the end of the bidding process and discuss what items need to be removed from the project in order to bring it in on budget. That's all I was trying to say. Thanks, Chad

Michael Sizemore 4 years, 8 months ago

NP - I know there was no ill-intent. Sorry, I didn't mean to sound like a grammar troll. Thanks for the edit!

youngjayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

A coffee bar would be a wonderful addition to the library!

chootspa 4 years, 8 months ago

Agreed. I'd love a coffee bar at the library.

Kate Rogge 4 years, 8 months ago

Food, and the insect pests that gather around food sources, shouldn't be in the same building as the library and its books. I'm surprised the library administration agreed to this.

WilburM 4 years, 8 months ago

Almost every major library has some kind of eatery. You're imagining a problem here. Best regional model by far is the Topeka Public Library, which is highly inviting to the public, and has a nice bistro. If we're going to spend a lot of money on this public facility, you want it to be used a lot. A coffee shop will help, and should easily support itself.

MarcoPogo 4 years, 8 months ago

You sound like another poster around here...

Bob Forer 4 years, 8 months ago

$600 to $800 would be dirt cheap for downtown rental, even if its a small space. The revenue from rent would obviously go to the city, with the revenue from sales going to the vendor.

Voting on who the vendor should be??? With that logic then we should be taking a public vote for all employment hirings. That's not the way a representative democracy works.

Centerville 4 years, 8 months ago

Fine if the proceeds from the coffee shop go to the bondholders.

George_Braziller 4 years, 8 months ago

As a former Director of Operations I've been through the entire design/build/budget process before for constructing a new facility. We had a list of things of things we HAD to have, and a list of thing's we'd LIKE to have, but I had to work within a maximum $1.65 million budget.

I came in under budget because a lot of the "want" list was eliminated to get me there. But it wasn't completely ignored. The design was changed so that the "wants" could be easily added later when funds were available.

The City shouldn't underestimate the pubic PR "Brownie Points" they would get for coming in under budget. There are already five coffee shops within a block of the library.

been_there 4 years, 8 months ago

Will parents leave children unsupervised in the library while they sit in the coffee bar?

Patricia Davis 4 years, 8 months ago

Good god, that is one ugly building. Serving coffee inside will not make this building one bit more attractive.

Bob_Loblaw 4 years, 8 months ago

But serving alcohol would.....ask any college student about them goggles....

Paul Wilson 4 years, 8 months ago

Who does that? The same type of people that wonder why they are broke and have credit problems. If it's under budget....is there really any other logical choice but to save the money? I'm sure all the renters and folks that really don't pay any taxes anyway have no problem with it.

Clark Coan 4 years, 8 months ago

The fantastic Topeka library has a great café. Borders had a coffee bar as well. It will be a great addition.

Kate Rogge 4 years, 8 months ago

When the Borders bookstore became available - now the interim site of the library - we should have bought it, added a second floor to it, and moved the library into it instead of the ugly, expensive, building we'll have at the current site.

Brian Hall 4 years, 8 months ago

REAL WORLD: Library: We have more money than we need for this project, we can add some of those other things we were talking about like a coffee bar, nice tile and wood to make the lobby look better and a better acoustical ceiling.

Citizens: Why? Why don't you use that money to repay the bond and cut down on some interest, rabble, rabble, rabble!!

FANTASY WORLD: Library: We have more money than we need for this project. We could add some of those things we had to remove but since we have the extra money we should pay back some of the bond.

Five to seven years later Library: Due to requests of the patrons, we have decided to add some of the more requested things such as making the lobby more welcoming with tile and wood floors, a coffee bar and redoing the auditorium ceiling to have better acoustics.

Citizens: Why? Why didn't you do this when the library was originally built instead of wasting the money you have now? Why wasn't the ceiling made to have better acoustics in the beginning rabble, rabble, rabble!!

fan4kufootball 4 years, 8 months ago

Under budget - how do they even know yet? There is always changes to contracts along the way for unforseen things.

Coffee shop at a library - most stupid thing ever!!!!! Beverages and books do not go together!

Sunny Parker 4 years, 8 months ago

19 million dollars is absurd! Leave the library in the Border Building and save our money!

Terry Sexton 4 years, 8 months ago

Is a selection of coffee table books included?

Elizabeth Halsey 4 years, 8 months ago

Agree that ending up under budget makes more sense than spending what could be saved. It might also perhaps reduce some of the bitterness of the expense that wasn't supported by all. I don't drink coffee, but if this part of the project moves forward, I think it would be community-minded to award this to a local vendor at least.

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