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Chat about the future of East Lawrence with developer Bo Harris

September 26, 2006

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Bo Harris

Bo Harris, the man behind the Hobbs-Taylor Lofts in the 700 block of New Hampshire Street, has more development in mind to revitalize East Lawrence. Now he is proposing a mix of housing and commercial uses in the area near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets, but faces some neighborhood opposition.

Moderator:

Hi folks! I'm Joel Mathis, managing editor for convergence here at the Lawrence Journal-World, and I'm moderating today. Bo has just joined us, and we'll start shortly.

Bo Harris:

Hi All:

I'm ready for your qustions.

gontek:

Bo,
Can you share with us your vision for the future of Lawrence, particularly with respect to Downtown and East Lawrence?

Bo Harris:

My vision is to enhance the existing vitality of downtown Lawrence. I feel that this can be done through the use of mixed-use projects -- and when I say mixed-use, I am particularly referring to projects that strengthen the retail environment while bringing 24-hour-a-day citizens, by way of residences, to the central business district. I see the tie from downtown to the East Lawrence project being extremely important to enhancing that development vision. Our downtown is very limited in footprint, and I feel we can bring additional residents and office users into the downtown area with the close walking distance of the East Lawrence project.

Bo Harris:

In addition, I feel it is very important for Lawrence's various public institutions to continue to locate in our central business district first. That is to say, projects like the Lawrence library and others that may be envisioned in the future.

justthefacts:

Do you think that the residents of Lawrence are harder to work with then in other cities/places and will you be proposing any other new projects in downtown Lawrence?

Bo Harris:

Lawrence is a slightly different environment, but I think the citizens' response is consistent with what I would probably see in other university communities. I don't know if the terminology is "harder" or if it is simply a different response to economic development.

geekin_topekan:

Mr.Harris,
Are you considering using eminent domain laws to acquire property?I am sure that the property owners would be compensated but what about the people that actually live there?Some have rented for years.Do you take those people into consideration?Do you have a compensation plan for the residents that would be evicted should eminent domain come into play?

Bo Harris:

No, we do not plan on using eminent domain. Have not, and don't plan to.

gontek:

Bo,
What type of neighborhood support have you seen regarding your developments?

Bo Harris:

At this point, I feel like the East Lawrence neighborhood has given good support. It has been hard to accomplish, but I've always tried to take into consideration their position on the different aspects of this development.

jade:

We are already so overbuilt in residential and commercial uses that it will take at least 8 years to catch up. In East Lawrence, how many homes do you want to displace with the development of more unnecessary commercial space?

Bo Harris:

We do not plan on displacing any residences to create commercial space. Our commercial space will be built in existing historical structures as we acquire tenants for that space. Thus, in this zone of the redevelopment, no unnecessary space will be built -- only unutilized or underutilized buildings will be redeveloped. Zone 3 could include as much as 7,000 sq ft of neighborhood services-type business that may be partially speculative. I'm not sure that I have read the study indicating we have 8 years of commercial space in Lawrence overbuilt. My conversations with Kansas City and regional developers always indicates that Lawrence is underbuilt regarding retail.

ThomasJefferson:

Do you see the Two Rivers Trail (aka Burroughs Creek Trail) benefiting residents in your housing complex? If so, do you plan to leave enough space for it to be extended to the Kansas River?

Bo Harris:

Yes. Through discussions with the East Lawrence neighborhood and the trails group, I have always indicated that their choice of pass-through the project would be implemented. I think it will be a great asset to this project.

KsTwister:

Was a consideration to existing structures on Massachusetts or Vermont not just as equally desirable to use the loft/retail concept of restructure as some cities are doing now?

Bo Harris:

With regard to development of mixed-use proects on Mass Street and Vermont, a big consideration with loft ownership is covered and secure parking. This tends to restrict development on a street such as Massachusetts.

andrewn:

Mr. Harris, what are your plans on addressing concerns over gentrification of East Lawrence form the residents?

Bo Harris:

I've communicated with the neighborhood that I've felt, due to pressures beyond anyone's control, that East Lawrence is an area that will face a great deal of pressure for gentrification. I feel our East Lawrence project will certainly contribute to this process; in fact gentrification is something that will take place with or without the project. In short, I feel the enhancements the project brings to the neighborhood greatly outweigh its contribution toward gentrification.

Bo Harris:

I've communicated with the neighborhood that I've felt, due to pressures beyond anyone's control, that East Lawrence is an area that will face a great deal of pressure for gentrification. I feel our East Lawrence project will certainly contribute to this process; in fact gentrification is something that will take place with or without the project. In short, I feel the enhancements the project brings to the neighborhood greatly outweigh its contribution toward gentrification.

jade:

Do you live in East Lawrence? If not, why are you the person to talk about the future of these neighborhoods?

Bo Harris:

No, I do not live in East Lawrence. However, I was raised close by on Barker Street, and my grandparents lived at 13th and Connecticut. As I grew up, Lawrence was a much different community; I certainly had many friends from that area of town. Of course, none of this makes me the designated director of that neighborhood's direction. I did read the East Lawrence planning document prior to pursuing this project, and have always felt that it followed that vision, the vision of the neighbors themselves.

Bo Harris:

No, I do not live in East Lawrence. However, I was raised close by on Barker Street, and my grandparents lived at 13th and Connecticut. As I grew up, Lawrence was a much different community; I certainly had many friends from that area of town. Of course, none of this makes me the designated director of that neighborhood's direction. I did read the East Lawrence planning document prior to pursuing this project, and have always felt that it followed that vision, the vision of the neighbors themselves.

gontek:

Bo,
Why are you goinog to all the trouble with the pennsylvania property? Couldn't you jsut build a couple of duplexes on your property there with no interference or hassle?

Bo Harris:

Building two duplexes just isn't what Harris Construction is all about. I have thought long and hard about just where in Lawrence a project developed with community enhancement and quality in mind could take place. That included downtown Lawrence and any site either side of the Kansas River. I am very interested in the redevelopment and preservation of existing buildings, and all these factors lead to the approximate two-block area at the northeast edge of the East Lawrence neighborhood.

Moderator:

That's the last audience question we'll take. Where does your proposal stand in the city planning process?

Bo Harris:

The next step is two readings of the various ordinances that the City Commission voted on approximately six weeks ago. We have not received a schedule for those readings at this time.

Moderator:

Thanks Bo.

Comments

cutny 8 years, 3 months ago

Well, sounds like the old "some of my best friends are... black/gay/Jewish/from East Lawrence. But, golly, his grandparents lived there, that certainly gives him the right to tear it up. Who does he think is going to rent these little neighborhood stores for the market-rental rate. The days of mom and pop shops have passed. Empty retail space is synonymous with the outskirts or Massachussetts, and this will only add more. Only corporate backed retailers can afford the space and guess what? Look around Bo, they don't want it.

Sigmund 8 years, 3 months ago

Not only is this project potentially the best thing to happen to East Lawrence, but it is being done with private money at risk. If Cutny is right Mr Harris and his investors will lose money potentially limiting their ability to do similar projects. If it is a success he will make money increasing his ability to do other successfull projects, assuming the BBC (Bozo Business Czar) allows future projects.

Contrast this to governments who have a unlimited amount of funds to throw down rat holes. The "MT" for instance which will never have to be a success as long as the City Kommission keeps giving corporate welfare to the failed bus company.

geppetto 8 years, 3 months ago

cutny Where do you come up with these facts? Why did you bring race, religion and sexual orientation into the mix? Are you racists? What's Bo tearing up? As far as I can tell you don't live in East Lawrence and you know nothing this development. The development is in the block of 8th and Penn. The plan will be restoring the Poehler building and build 2 mix use building and some single family homes.

Geppetto

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