Archive for Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Architect pursues ‘new urbanism’

Lawrence resident touts plans for Bauer Farm project near West Sixth Street

November 15, 2005


Mike Treanor wants to bring downtown's pedestrian-friendly patterns, public parks and active nightlife to a 43-acre cornfield in the heart of Lawrence's suburbia.

His Bauer Farm project would be the city's largest example yet of "new urbanism," a concept that seeks to build old-time design principles into the latest construction projects.

Picture on-street parking, small front yards, raised front porches and garages on alleys out back, Treanor said. All along the north side of Sixth Street, from Wakarusa Drive to Folks Road.

"This would not be gated," Treanor, of Lawrence, told about 100 Rotarians and their guests gathered for a luncheon Monday at Hereford House. "It's not one, homogenous $300,000 or $400,000-(per-home) subdivision. It's based on having affordable, elderly and market-rate offerings right in there."

And much more.

Treanor, principal of Treanor Architects and a co-owner of the Bauer Farm project, envisions a development that stretches well beyond its planned 200 or so residential units: townhomes along Sixth Street, single-family units in the middle and four- or six-unit "mansion homes" along the site's northern boundary, Overland Drive.

Plans for Bauer Farm, proposed to occupy 43 acres along the north side of Sixth Street, between Wakarusa Drive and Folks Road, call for a mixture of homes, offices, businesses, parks and cultural offerings - all designed with an emphasis on "pedestrian-friendly" concepts. Lawrence architect Mike Treanor described his project to Rotary members during a lunch meeting Monday at Hereford House.

Plans for Bauer Farm, proposed to occupy 43 acres along the north side of Sixth Street, between Wakarusa Drive and Folks Road, call for a mixture of homes, offices, businesses, parks and cultural offerings - all designed with an emphasis on "pedestrian-friendly" concepts. Lawrence architect Mike Treanor described his project to Rotary members during a lunch meeting Monday at Hereford House.

The project also calls for small playgrounds, professional offices, retail shops and - on three acres of donated land at its center - a 33,000-square-foot Lawrence Community Theatre. All would be included in the fabric of the new neighborhood, one that wouldn't be afraid to embrace Free State High School to the north, heavy traffic along Sixth Street to the south and all the strip retail centers that await within walking distance.

By design, Bauer Farm would make room for cars but encourage people to get out and walk, he said. Townhomes actually would face Sixth Street, and the site would include paths connected to Sixth so that residents and visitors could walk to the Dillons grocery store, Marisco's restaurant or dozens of other businesses nearby.

"It quiets the traffic, and it creates a sense of place," Treanor said, explaining "traditional neighborhood development" ideas that resemble areas of East Lawrence and Old West Lawrence neighborhoods near downtown. "You're part of the community instead of turning your back on it."

Treanor has been working on the project for three years, hoping to convince city officials that his vision - like those of "new urbanism" experts elsewhere - is worth embracing. His presentation to Rotary followed an earlier talk by Sue Hack, a Lawrence city commissioner, and Marguerite Ermeling, a Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioner.

Developer Bo Harris, owner of the Hobbs-Taylor Lofts project downtown, will discuss his "new urbanism" visions in two weeks.

Ted Haggart, president of Douglas County Bank, is sold on the concept. The bank moved into the neighborhood nearly two years ago by opening a branch at the northeast corner of Sixth Street and Folks Road - just south of Briarwood, another "new urbanism" project that mixes small front yards, prominent front porches and garages off alleys.

Haggart doesn't see any problem expanding the city's development options to bring some traditional forms back into favor.

"There's room for variety," said Haggart, who attended the luncheon.


average 12 years, 7 months ago

Not everyone shares your dotage. Millions of elderly people do walk to stores, with their own folding trolleys, in cold places like New Jersey, Boston, Montreal.... My own grandparents included. Outside of placing city parks, these architects are looking to build this project themselves for profit. If no one wants to move in, they will suffer. Free-market economics, y'know? It's not like there won't be overgrown bungalows from Lenexa to Noria as an alternative. But, when your zoning laws say that developers can't build multi-use dense walkable neighborhoods (which they do believe will sell), then there is a problem with the laws.

lunacydetector 12 years, 7 months ago a downtown in the middle of a cornfield (will this protect downtown since it is just like downtown? i thought wal-mart somehow will hurt downtown?). what an illogical concept! i'm trying to figure out why 'they' include 'smart' in the phrase 'smart growth' - which is synonymous with 'new urbanism' (is the reporter intentionally leaving out that smart growth IS new urbanism?).

there's nothing like crossing 5 lanes of traffic on foot, yikes! zona rosa west lawrence here we come. goodbye one whole block of the downtown.

average 12 years, 7 months ago

In 1854, some wacky idiots started a downtown in a cornfield. What an illogical concept. Downtown Lawrence thrived in 1920 with, what, 12,000 people? We add that to our population every seven years nowadays. At one time, we built new downtowns... new towns altogether. Now, the nation's population is growing every bit as rapidly, but we can't allow new "main streets" to be built. (Why? The car gods will be displeased?)

If our population is going to double in the not-distant future, why not allow a free-market choice? Betcha lots of these townhomes will sell.

TruthSeeker 12 years, 7 months ago

New Urbanism is here to stay. Like it or not (Luny D., Marion (Vito or Mike Capra or whatever you want to call yourself these days) and the other doom sayers) you will finally have to get out of your van and walk somewhere. This will hopefully help your cardiac function thus improving blood flow to parts that aren't working right now. It will decrease your depression and maybe you won't be so NEGATIVE about everything. Hey you might even know what it's like to be happy and quit running around with your fingers in your ears yelling like a two year old "I told you so, I told you so, I told you so......can I have a cookie".

Healthy people are happy productive people which is what New Urbanism promotes. Being able to have a park area in walking distance without having to dodge all this auto traffic would be a gift to everyone.

Maybe there wouldn't be so many elderly in walkers if they were able to walk more in a pedestrian friendly environment when they were younger.

God Bless and I hope to find you Happy, Healthy and Positive.

The TruthSeeker.

cowboy 12 years, 7 months ago

Sounds like a way to build glorified townhomes in a very dense configuration and note that the affordable price was not mentioned in the article. Affordable my @#$

Kookamooka 12 years, 7 months ago

Lawrence has a lot of uncomfortable growing to do. We are going to feel the pain. I think the city council has done a good job of controlling the "ugly" growth in favor of the "pretty" growth. And if we have to grow...shouldn't we grow in a well thought out way? I'm just concerned, like others have said before me, that the gates will go up and it will be an "exclusive" place. It seems everyone has their UTOPIAN vision.

Kookamooka 12 years, 7 months ago

OH yeah!! I hope they figure out what to do with their sewage.

moveforward 12 years, 7 months ago

Hey... in a free market we know that it will either float... or not. More power to them. It sure beats a field of T1-11 split level beige boxes.

Janet Lowther 12 years, 7 months ago

Y' know, way back I the 1970s I read a book decrying how rigid zoning made the "Typewriter sleep with the plumbing:" How rigid segregation of land uses left billions of dollars of infrastructure unused outside of business hours, and billions more worth of infrastructure little used during business hours.

I'm not sure I'm a fan of the smaller lots advocated by "New Urbanists," since in some newer neighborhoods the houses seem more jammed together on their 6000+ square foot lots than old east Lawrence does on much smaller lots.

Good to see someone putting their money where their mouth is on mixed use neighborhoods.

dviper 12 years, 7 months ago

It sounds like if you are a developer and want to get a project 'blessed' by the city commission just start calling it 'new urbanism' and include some nice progressive (the new word for liberal) type elements into the mix. They probably forgot to mention the roundabouts and other traffic calming devices that will be needed by the high density. I also noticed that LJW forgot to mention the already heavy traffic FSHS generates, which is increasing every year.

The only way to make a project like this financially feasible is to have the density be very high. I'm sure lots of other developers with undeveloped ground near by are watching this very closely and probably getting a good belly laugh. They could make a lot more money by turning their undeveloped ground into 'new urbanism' projects, since the density allows more to be developed.

The Briarwood subdivision just to the east struggled for years. The home prices in there were much higher per square foot than anywhere in Lawrence, and for the most part still are higher. I know of several families who lived there and transferred out of state with their job and lost money on the resell of their homes. Another problem in these type of dense developements is parking. Almost all parking is in the rear, and if you have a regular sized truck, it is a tight squeeze just to park in your rear driveway.

Despite the issues raised above, I wish the developer success. I don't think it will end up developed like he has envisioned it, and the prices will not be affordable to the average Lawrence citizen, but there is always room in Lawrence for alternative ideas, just walk downtown and that is crystal clear.

Godot 12 years, 7 months ago

Hey, if Treanor and whoever else he teams up with have the attitude, "If you build it they will come," then they should go for it.

Jamming that many people into one place will require extreme diligence on upkeep. But, with less yard, maybe that wouldn't be a problem. Who would keep the sidewalks cleared? Don't count on the homeowners to do it; they don't do it in the rest of the town.

I have this vision of what this affordable housing will look like in 20 years: run down and over crowded.

I also envision lots of cars parked on the street --visitors, kids, etc.

Of course, none of this should move forward until the sewer problem is solved. Unless Treanor wants to solve that problem for us.....

So are we also looking at needing a new grade school out that way, and what about access to a library?

lunacydetector 12 years, 7 months ago

if you 'smart growth / new urban nazi's' want to talk about a 'free market,' then why didn't the City allow wal-mart to build since they were abiding by city regulations and mandates until the anti-growth City Commission turned the tables and changed the rules? i don't think wal-mart is a good operator but they played by the rules. now there is a proposed downtown in a cornfield that zoning regulations do not allow in the heart of the sprawl that WILL hurt downtown, and all you 'new urban nazi's' are all for it. where exactly do you live, what part of town?

i was an executive for a national retailer for 25 years (now retired), so i consider myself an expert. lawrence does not have enough retail, but building a downtown on the outskirts of town is not good policy for all you protectionists of the downtown.

just go to zona rosa in north KC, something like that here will definitely hurt the downtown. i am amazed that the 'smart growth / new urban nazi's' who favored the riverfront mall (now defunct) and the tanger outlet mall (now defunct), are so high to accept something that would be detrimental to our downtown. please explain your logic, other than state that a high density mixed use urban environment with no backyards will be the healthy cure all for all the ills of society.

Godot 12 years, 7 months ago

The traffic surrounding it is really intense. Once you get inside and find a parking space in one of the perimeter parking lots, it is okay. But it has destroyed the atmosphere of the surrounding neighborhood. Just my opinion.

lunacydetector 12 years, 7 months ago

...but intense traffic will force people to walk :) oh, goody!

Richard Heckler 12 years, 7 months ago

This concept seems like it would be a financial disaster at 6th and Wakie. However this same concept would likely fly in the warehouse district of Old East Lawrence. Old East Lawrence supports the idea. Bo Harris is working with the neighborhood on this concept I believe.

Currently that much retail in that area will require a large population increase. The downtown has that old time charm which is the primary reason that it still has life.

I find the architecture of new urbanism rather attractive and certainly beats the cookie cutter T 111 siding craze. At least this idea has character. Kind of reminds me of some East coast neighborhoods.

Huckleberry 12 years, 7 months ago

Lunacy: You're an "expert" on the retail environment, worried about hurting downtown. I remember reading a couple months ago a discussion saying that all the corporate shops downtown were what is hurting it. The Gap, Coldstone, Buffalo Wild Wings, etc. I don't know if you were involved in that or not. My point is that the only reason the national chains are taking up all the space is that rent is getting so expensive downtown, its getting to be that the national chains are the only ones who can afford it. Being an expert, you should see that another appealing site like this would keep rents downtown from skyrocketing. Where else in Lawrence is a retailer going to get the foot traffic they will get downtown?

You are not the expert you claim to be, but you do sound very intelligent with your 'smart growth / new urban nazi' name calling.

You argue about as well as Marion. Can't find any facts, so resort to name calling

hawkbygod 12 years, 7 months ago

This plan is about nothing more then choice. Some people are tired of living in traditional 1950's suburban neighborhood. This isn't going to kill downtown or increase density throughout the town. You don't have to look far to see that people want more housing options. Even Leawood announced a new unbanism community to the North of their Town Center.

This is also not going to give developers a green light to do anything with their land. There will be performance standards in place that will limit things like the amount of traffic it can produce and the total amount of retail space it can contain.

For people tired of living in traditional sub-divisions, and for those that lack the time/money/skill to take care of an older house close to downtown, this is a great chance to live in an area that suits their wants and needs.

lunacydetector 12 years, 7 months ago

huckleberry, if the national chains bolt and move from the downtown, most spaces will remain vacant. why would this be? because of the appraised value and how much the owner financed. the properties are also valued very high for tax purposes by the county appraiser. any recent owner or refi will not be able to lower the rent because they won't be able to pay their mortgage. this will create stagnation. who would want to have some company sign a long term lease who pays a minimal rent that doesn't cover the mortgage payment? and who would want to pay out of pocket for the good of the community? nobody.

Godot 12 years, 7 months ago

I just returned from a trip on sixth street to Wakarusa and back, and took a gander at the land in question on the way. How much more traffic can that road handle? Would this project cause another re-configuration of sixth street?

And I agree, who, but a very nimble, young person, would even think about trying to cross that on foot? Also, I would not want to live in a house that fronts on sixth street just because of the lack of serenity from all that noise and hustle and bustle.

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