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Archive for Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Process city

The neighborhood negotiation of development projects may not be unique to Lawrence, but it takes a patient developer to work through the local process.

August 29, 2006

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It's hard to imagine that the process currently under way related to a couple of proposed developments in Lawrence is typical of most communities. For better or worse - and there probably is some of both - this is the way business gets done in Lawrence.

Stories in Sunday's Journal-World reported on two meetings, both on Saturday, in two central-city neighborhoods. At both events, developers were meeting with residents of the areas surrounding their proposed projects to gather their feedback in hopes of garnering neighborhood support for their plans.

At Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread Ave., two men working with a potential mixed-use development at 12th and Indiana streets were just at the beginning of the neighborhood negotiation process. A meeting of the Oread Neighborhood Assn. didn't provide any positive comments for the original plan to build an 80-foot-tall building to house 15 mostly high-end condominium units and commercial space.

People didn't like the size of the development or the style of the architecture. Having already received poor reviews from the city's Historic Resources Commission, the developers were ready with a scaled-down version of the development that was 58 feet tall, designed in the Prairie style with a combination of commercial use and 16 apartment units. That drew a more positive response from the 20 people in attendance.

A few blocks away, at New York School, 936 N.Y., another developer appeared to be getting closer to a consensus on his plans for the 800 block of Pennsylvania Street. The residential and retail project had been the subject of a heated battle between different East Lawrence factions. Although the developer had received tentative approval for the project from the Lawrence City Commission, he was asked to continue working with neighborhood residents to resolve several issues.

The group present at Saturday's meeting was satisfied with the plans that were presented, but the developer said after the meeting he still was concerned that vocal neighborhood residents who hadn't attended the meeting might raise objections.

As a developer, there are a couple of ways to look at the neighborhood negotiation process. If a developer takes a philosophical approach, he or she probably can see it as a way to make a project better and that it's important that people who live near a new development see it as a positive addition to the neighborhood. A less philosophical view might be that a city that sees such a negotiation as an acceptable and necessary part of the development process is a difficult place in which to do business.

There's no doubt Lawrence is a participatory town. It's great that so many people care enough about their neighborhoods to take part of their Saturday to voice an opinion about a proposed development. But the community also should appreciate the patient developers who are willing to go through such a process in order to make an investment in the future of Lawrence.

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