shopping areas, panel members say

Don’t expect the throng of big-box stores on South Iowa Street to be re-created soon anywhere else in town  not even at Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

Members of a committee revamping the city’s long-range commercial plans say Lawrence simply isn’t big enough to support another so-called “regional” shopping area. Sixth Street and the SLT has often been mentioned as the future site of such a center.

“My thoughts about another regional center have been tempered as I look at what we’ve got,” Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commissioner Ron Durflinger said Thursday. “We don’t have the population to support it.”

But committee members said they might create a new “subregional” category. That essentially would be like the current “community commercial centers” like Hillcrest Shopping Center at Ninth and Iowa streets, but with a big-box store as an anchor.

The Comprehensive Plan Committee, a planning commission subcommittee, has spent the past 18 months rewriting the commercial chapter of Horizon 2020, the city-county planning guide. Commissioners received a map Thursday of areas in Lawrence and the surrounding urban growth area that would be suitable for future commercial developments.

Panel members haven’t agreed, however, what they want those future developments to look like.

Durflinger said future community commercial centers might need a big store to draw the traffic surrounding stores would need to survive. Commissioner Tom Jennings agreed.

“There has to be something to drive the daily traffic,” Jennings said.

Commissioner Myles Schachter was skeptical.

“I’d prefer we have nothing but small businesses,” Schachter said. “We’d have more money stay in the community; we’d have more employment. We’d have higher wages.”