A consultant will earn $50,000 to study possibilities for redeveloping downtown, but Lawrence city commissioners could stop payment at a moment's notice.
Gould Evans Associates, a Lawrence firm coordinating a team of redevelopment experts, will take on a dozen tasks toward helping bring new businesses to the city's central business district.
But commissioners want to keep tabs on the project. They agreed to spend the money, as long as they could keep track of each phase of the project and call it quits at any time.
The conditions make sense, Commissioner Bob Schulte said, because half of the commission's original project -- turning the under-used 1000 block of Massachusetts Street into apartments, offices and retail shops -- already has been planned for redevelopment without any guidance from consulting specialists.
"If the marketplace is going to do the job, then we don't have to spend the money to find out if it's possible to do a job that's already happened," Schulte said.
Schulte, however, voted with fellow commissioners who approved the consulting contract unanimously Tuesday night.
The first test for the project will come at stage two, the analysis of what financing tools could help draw developers to invest millions of dollars in a downtown project.
A Lawrence Chamber of Commerce task force suggested a $35 million project between Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets, from 10th to 11th streets. Steps toward redevelopment already are taking place in half of that area: The End music store has opened, and plans are on the table for six apartments and more retail and office space.
No problem, said David Evans, one of two consultants leading the project. Flexibility is essential.
"Downtown's a dynamic process," he said. "You need to look at this analysis as a dynamic process."