Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Views vary on New Urbanism proposal

Bauer Farm plan features mix of housing, shops, offices and a theater

January 8, 2006

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Lawrence city commissioners are about to get their first taste of New Urbanism, and they must decide whether the high-density style of development is bitter or sweet.

Commissioners on Tuesday will consider approving The Bauer Farm project - a mix of housing, retail stores, offices and even a community theater on 43 acres at the northeast corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.

Approval of the project is being viewed by some commissioners as more than just allowing a single new development to move forward.

"I'm hoping it will set a tone for future creativity in development projects in the community," City Commissioner Sue Hack said.

Hack and Mayor Boog Highberger have been strong proponents of the New Urbanism style of development, and have advocated that a new set of city codes be written that would more easily allow the pedestrian-friendly development style that is designed to mimic the feel of older neighborhoods.

City commissioners on Tuesday will consider approving The Bauer Farm project on 43 acres at the northeast corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.

City commissioners on Tuesday will consider approving The Bauer Farm project on 43 acres at the northeast corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.

The Bauer project - which is being developed by local architect Michael Treanor - incorporates many of the New Urbanism concepts, including houses served by alleys, apartments located above stores and offices, and plenty of sidewalks and trails that will allow residents to walk to neighborhood shops.

"It will really give people another type of living choice," said Dan Watkins, a Lawrence attorney who represents Treanor.

Not everyone is enamored.

"I'm not at all convinced that it is New Urbanism," City Commissioner David Schauner said. "I think it is a fairly traditional site plan that has tried to attach a new label to itself in hopes of getting more commercial square footage than either the City Commission or the Planning Commission has said is appropriate."

Schauner said he has heard concerns from neighbors who fear that developers are trying to place too many people and stores onto the 43-acre site, and that the development will add too much to Sixth Street and other area roads.

The city commission has previously said it wants to limit commercial retail space at the intersection to 62,000 square feet. The project comes in with a proposed 61,350 square feet of retail space. But it also includes another 10,000 square feet for banks, 40,000 square feet for office uses and about 25,000 square feet for the Lawrence Community Theatre, which has expressed an interest in moving to the site.

Originally, plans also called for a 133,000-square-foot convention center and hotel near Wakarusa and Overland drives. But that idea did not receive a positive recommendation from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission. Watkins said the area now likely would be used for office or residential uses or a mix of the two.

All commercial buildings would comply with proposed design guidelines that the city is considering. Those guidelines require large amounts of natural material and "four-sided architecture."

The residential portion of the project includes 23,000 square feet of apartments and condo uses that would be over or among stores and offices. It also would include 18 custom homes, 18 carriage style homes, 19 starter homes, 93 row homes and 60 condo units that would be in 11 "mansion houses" that would be designed to look like large old homes. Many of the homes will be built on smaller lots than currently allowed in the city's development regulations.

"I have some major concerns about the size appropriateness of the development and the traffic it will create," Schauner said. "I think the neighbors will shoot us if we permit that big of a development on that corner."

But Hack said the community needed to begin embracing developments with higher densities as land becomes more expensive. She also said the development wouldn't create traffic headaches.

"There will be traffic, but this is along a state highway (Sixth Street)," Hack said. "It is designed to carry traffic. I think this is a project that we would look back on and be proud to have in Lawrence."

Commissioners will consider the project at their meeting at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

Comments

jhawkdpt 11 years, 9 months ago

i am not sure this is appropriate for this area...what about closer to downtown?

Kathleen Christian 11 years, 9 months ago

Sixth street may have been built to withstand traffic but what about the rest of Lawrence and especially the downtown area? This new development will bring in more people to the area, not just people already living here. Already we have traffic problems on 23rd street that have not been remedied - though there has been talk about improving. Stick to one project at a time.

cms 11 years, 9 months ago

It is my understanding that this type of development works well outside a large metropolitan area where services might be limited. I agree with Schauner that this is just a new housing development. This town needs to be careful. I see many rental signs still up on houses and apartments that should have been leased in August. Development on the outskirts will hurt downtown. I am a pro-planned growth advocate so I think this city needs to carefully review growth and yes, as someone posted earlier, perhaps concentrate on moving traffic within our town first. Just curious, what is the occupancy rate of Hutton Farms?

MadAsHell 11 years, 9 months ago

Is the goal of this "new urbanism" to make everyone live in a Disneyland Main St. USA phoney baloney town? The design in the concept sketch provided looks so archaic. Why don't they at least design something that reflects the current era (21st century) and not some throwback to 19th century riverboat days?

lunacydetector 11 years, 9 months ago

'new urbanism' is the 'new' religion of the century. all hail the new urbanism god. i loved living in a dorm and i'd like to live the dorm life in my adult life too, just like some want with these congested planned developments. bring back the chamber pot and the open sewers, get rid of the automobile, the backyard, and cramp everyone into tight living arrangements - that's what I want! - not !

zona rosa, zona rosa, zona rosa!

Godot 11 years, 9 months ago

They want to build something that looks historic for the east coast and transplant it to Kansas where something like that never would have been built.

Earth to Hack and Treanor: Lawrence is not New York City or Boston. If you desire to change the nature of the city, look to the future, not backward to the history that belongs to some other geographical area.

It is laughable to think that our commissioners are pushing us toward embracing the kind of living conditions one has to accept in overpopulated cities. Look around, folks, there is still plenty of room to grow around Lawrence without having to promote density.

The more people you cram together in one space, the more government and laws you need to keep order. New Urbanism is the socialists' dream.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

I'm not at all convinced about this particular development, but the expenses of sprawl (those damn Arabs are still sitting on top of our oil, and global warming will mean Boston and New York will look like NOLA) mean that increased density is necessary.

But go on down and have another swim in denial.

Godot 11 years, 9 months ago

NOLA was the proof that density is a death knell for those trapped in it.

invisible_insanity 11 years, 9 months ago

As long as this plan has adequate parking, a small grocery/convenience store and maybe a bar, then it sounds like a great idea - I am interested in seeing the site plan. Not everyone wants to live in the suburbs with a big yard. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but more choices for living styles is a good thing. I personally enjoy living in a reduced maintenance community with shopping/dining/entertainment within walking distance. Although traffic and the sewer systems are concerns, I don't think traffic will be as big of a deal as some people think since the people who live here will not have to drive as much - that is one of the benefits of a community like this. I do agree with MadAsHell thought with regards to the concept drawing, something a little more modern seems appropriate.

corporate_sleaze 11 years, 9 months ago

to MadAsHell,

You're right, new developments should reflect current society. For example, 1.) The only thing visible from the street should be a solid, huge garage door. No house, no windows, no porches, and certainly no stupid floor mats that say welcome. 2.) No single family housing at all. Everything should be duplexes and apartments. 3.) All "yard areas" have to be surrounded by a eight foot privacy fence.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

"NOLA was the proof that density is a death knell for those trapped in it."

Yea, and being a below-sea-level coastal city with an inadequate levy system in a hurricane zone is just an interesting sidenote. We certainly wouldn't want to consider the sprawl into coastal marshlands over the last few decades that exacerbates storm surge.

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