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.
Maybe your Valentine prefers coffee over chocolate, and maybe mine will pour a pot of Folgers down my pants if I bring her anything less than five pounds of Hershey bars.
Well, good news for both of us: A new coffee shop is opening in the coming days at 19th and Massachusetts Street, and I’m pretty sure my wife won’t be able to buy a pot of Folgers there.
Alchemy Coffee — which is set to go into a portion of the building that houses the Iwig Dairy store at the southwest corner of the intersection — will feature hand-crafted coffee.
“The whole idea of it is the science of coffee,” said owner Benjamin Farmer. “That is where the alchemy thing plays into it.”
If you want to know about the science of coffee, just let Farmer talk for a couple of minutes. He’ll bring up phrases like pour over, French press and something called clever coffee. As many regular readers will attest, anything related to “clever” likely is beyond my grasp. But Farmer tells me it is a brewing method that uses a paper filter and is kind of a mix between a French press and a traditional pour over. So, I’m sure that clears it up for you.
Alchemy Coffee probably will have to be a bit clever to figure out how to make its location work. The building at 1901 Massachusetts has struggled to keep businesses, in part because the site has some significant parking challenges. In fact, I believe the city had to approve an administrative waiver from the parking requirements to allow Alchemy to locate in the building.
But Farmer said he is aware of all that, and believes a coffee shop may be the right fit for the building because it has the potential to be very pedestrian oriented. The shop will be in the part of the building that faces 19th Street, which puts it on the route to Lawrence High. Plus, the neighborhood around the shop is densely developed, meaning there are lots of homes within walking distance of a cup of coffee. Farmer said he hopes the shop will become a gathering place for area residents.
“I have always loved coffee shops because of the community feel and atmosphere and the idea of coming together over something as simple as coffee,” Farmer said.
Renovation work is underway on the shop. Farmer said he expects to be open before the end of the month.