Observers have differing opinions as to what may have given the winning candidates an edge over their challengers in Tuesday's city commission election. One theory is that the winning candidates were strong in their support of the "downtown" being the city's primary retail center and that they favored a municipal golf course.
This may or may not be the case.
However, before the commissioners decide to fund a municipal golf course and assume the possible costs of such a project, they should make sure there will be no added taxes or possible future obligations placed on city taxpayers to cover golf course costs and that no current city programs will be short-changed to pay the golf course bills. If the course is such a sure bet, it is difficult to understand why those proposing the course the consultants and the course developers don't establish and operate the course. Why would they pass up such a good deal?
Keeping the downtown as the center of the city's retail business is highly questionable, based on current sales figures by businesses on Iowa, 23rd and Sixth streets. But if city officials hope to maintain the downtown's role, they will have to have cooperation from downtown businesses and adjacent property owners in figuring out how to open up more space for large retailers, provide the necessary parking and plan for improved traffic flow.
Currently, the city's retail area cannot grow west, due to parks and residential neighborhoods; the river cuts off growth at the north end; city parks form a boundary on the south; and neighborhood groups are opposed to any further intrusion into the East Lawrence neighborhood. Where can so-called "major" department stores build in the downtown? Already, three different mall proposals have been rejected.
The retail situation is far more important to Lawrence's future than the golf course matter, and it is hoped downtown merchants and city officials can figure out where and how to encourage major retail development in the downtown, if that is the only location to be approved by city officials. Lawrence needs to plan for future major growth for retailers. Otherwise it is likely a major shopping center may be located in close proximity to Lawrence and this would have a severe economic impact on local downtown firms.