Downtown Lawrence should be surveyed for historic properties before a proposed community coalition writes a master plan for downtown development, the chairman of the Historic Resources Commission said Thursday.
"My view is that before any changes of any structural or substantial physical degree be made, a professional and competent survey of historic properties should be done in the area," said Barry Newton, HRC chair.
Newton was reacting to a report by a Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's Downtown Development task force on maintaining the economic vitality of downtown.
Among its proposals, the report recommends encouraging department stores and retail chains to locate downtown, and encouraging the construction of multifamily housing within downtown boundaries.
Lawrence city commissioners will be asked to appoint a community coalition to formulate a downtown development plan when they receive the report March 17, said Bob Georgeson, task force chair.
DOWNTOWN Lawrence Inc., which has endorsed the report, and members of the task force met with the HRC to discuss the report Thursday.
Newton suggested that a survey of the downtown area should be conducted before the coalition contemplates any major changes.
The survey would evaluate each downtown property in terms of its architectural and historic significance. Newton estimated that such a survey would take 10 months.
"We would want to be involved very early on in establishing the criteria of some sort of survey," Newton said. He recommended that at least a couple of HRC members should serve on the community coalition.
Newton said today that the city could apply for state funds to conduct such a survey. He couldn't estimate how much it would cost.
THE SURVEY'S purpose wouldn't be to curb development around historic properties, only to inform the coalition's decision-making process, Newton said.
Newton pointed out that there are six structures downtown listed on the state historic register and thus covered by a law that requires the Kansas State Historical Society and the HRC to review construction projects involving the buildings. State law also requires those bodies to review construction projects within a 500-foot radius of the listed properties.
The HRC is a board appointed by the city commission to advise commissioners on the historic significance of Lawrence properties and to educate the public about historic preservation.
The meeting with the HRC was one of several scheduled between groups that might be affected by the report's proposals, task force members and DLI officials.
DLI officials plan to present the comments of the HRC and other groups to city commissioners when they review the report.
Later in the meeting, the HRC received a report on the history of the old ice plant at 616 Vt., which is slated for demolition.
Robert Harrison, co-owner, has said that the plant has outlived its usefulness and should be demolished to make room for new developments.