Garage celebrates progress

The new downtown parking garage played host to a party Thursday complete with a band, food and plenty of concrete.

The party was put on by CSR Quinn, a Marshall, Mo., company that supplied pre-cast concrete parts for the garage, Mar Lan Construction LLC, which built the garage, and 9-10 LC, developer of Downtown 2000. The garage is part of the downtown redevelopment project.

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Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo

A downtown party at the new parking garage in the 900 block of New Hampshire Street gives Joe Stogsdill, 11, and his mother, Sheila, assistant city planning director, an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the new Lawrence Arts Center construction on the east side of New Hampshire. The Stogsdills were checking out the view Thursday from the top floor of the garage structure.

"When we do a big job like this, we like to have a party," said Pat O'Brien, an engineer with CSR Quinn. "Cooking is kind of our hobby."

The company, which also supplies parts for office buildings and bridges, completed its portion of the project ahead of schedule, said Jeff Shmalberg, a member of 9-10 LC.

The 500-space, $7 million garage should open about the time school starts. Railings, landscaping and elevators are still to be completed, he said. The garage was originally scheduled to be finished in December.

"Everything has fallen in place from the day the contractor started digging the hole," Shmalberg said.

Martin Moore, another member of 9-10 LC, said 1,000 invitations for the party were sent to downtown businesses, contractors and subcontractors, city officials, developers, real estate professionals, neighborhood associations and friends. He said he expected from 400 to 600 people to celebrate the almost-complete garage and the rest of the Downtown 2000 project.

"It's a wonderful addition to downtown," he said. "There's a lot of public support to making downtown growing and vibrant."

The project, which stretches along both sides of the 900 block of New Hampshire Street, also will include apartments and new retail and office space.

Kasi Wiseman, an employee at Kinko's, 911 Mass., attended the party with co-worker Nick Balda. She said a few months ago she thought the garage was an eyesore but with the brick facade and detail work, it looked a lot better.

She said the garage would ease parking congestion downtown.

Shmalberg said that within 30 days, construction would begin on another building just south of the parking garage. The four-story building will be retail on the first floor, leased city offices on the second and 20 loft studio apartments on the top two floors.

Across the street from the garage, construction of the new Lawrence Arts Center should be done by early next year, said City Commissioner David Dunfield, a project architect.

"It was not an easy winter to be doing excavation," he said. "But I think they're making very good progress."

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