Archive for Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Development by design

City seeks cohesive look for new retail developments

July 25, 2006


Call it the Lawrence look.

For many people, that means a wide Massachusetts Street sidewalk, built for strolling past substantial brick or stone buildings replete with wrought iron fences and colorful, interesting landscapes. The last thing you expect to see is a large asphalt parking lot or big logo sign advertising a chain store.

Soon, that Lawrence look may be coming to a neighborhood near you.

City commissioners tonight are scheduled to approve a new set of commercial design guidelines that will create a substantially more stringent set of regulations for all new retail and office developments in the city.

"They definitely have the potential to transform our new commercial centers as we grow over the years," said Dan Warner, a planner with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department who has been working on the regulations. "This will have a lot to do with the image that we project to people, and to ourselves, in the future."

Major details of the guidelines include mandating designs that attempt to put buildings closer to the streets, and in turn, put large parking lots behind buildings so that they are not as easily seen by passers-by. Commercial buildings also would be required to use many more natural materials - such as brick or stone - rather than cement blocks or other manmade materials.

Planners cited the Louisiana Purchase development, 23rd and Louisiana streets, at right, as an example of a project that has used materials and color well.

Planners cited the Louisiana Purchase development, 23rd and Louisiana streets, at right, as an example of a project that has used materials and color well.

Planners cited the Home Depot/Best Buy development at 31st and Iowa streets as one that did not make good use of materials and color.

Planners cited the Home Depot/Best Buy development at 31st and Iowa streets as one that did not make good use of materials and color.

And "corporate architecture," the type of design that a major retailer uses over and over again in communities across the country, would not be allowed.

"We're wanting developments that look like they should belong in Lawrence, not everywhere else in the country," Warner said.

Several city commissioners agree.

"The big thing is to make sure that we get projects of the highest quality," Mayor Mike Amyx said. "That's what we're trying to accomplish with this."

But isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder? City commissioners said they weren't concerned the guidelines reached into areas best left to each developer's tastes.

"I think there is some consensus around the community that our downtown and some of our older commercial areas have a feel that people really like," Commissioner Boog Highberger said. "If we can bring some of those elements to other parts of town, that would be a benefit.

"Plus, I can't say that I've ever met anybody who really likes the look of a traditional strip mall."

Warner also said the guidelines leave plenty of room for architectural creativity. He emphasized the guidelines don't mandate that all new projects look like downtown.

"We definitely don't want to get the same designs over and over again," Warner said.

City commissioners conceded the guidelines could add costs to the typical commercial development project in the city, though they didn't have estimates.

Developers thus far, though, haven't objected to the guidelines. Several people involved with new commercial development said Monday they hadn't yet thoroughly reviewed the guidelines. Others said they were mainly concerned that the guidelines be fairly applied.

"I don't write the rules. I just have to follow them," said Mike Keeney, with the Peridian Group, a Lawrence engineering firm that works on a number of commercial projects.

Here are some of the other standards in the proposed guidelines:

¢ Developers would be required to submit a "palette" of proposed materials and colors to be used in the project to ensure "unity" among all the buildings in a development.

¢ Existing trees should be used in the site design.

¢ Commercial developments of at least 5,000 square feet should have at least 8-feet wide sidewalks and provide a pre-determined amount of open space for benches, fountains or other amenities.

¢ Open-air drainage channels would be recommended to handle stormwater runoff on sites where such channels already exist. The drainage ways would be planted with native grasses and would be landscaping focal points of the developments.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


lawrencechick 11 years, 10 months ago

It's about time. It's too late for South Iowa, but maybe future development will look a little better. We would be lucky to look like Overland Park, it's better than looking like Topeka!

Skeptic 11 years, 10 months ago

Uh, if you put the parking lot "in back" of the store, are you just turning the store around? Now all the stores will have their back to the street.

Doesn't this create a traffic bottlneck to get around the store?

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 10 months ago

so no one is allowed to be unique? we are all your slaves we will do as you say we will

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 10 months ago

well I want a mini vegas so lets just do that ok.

jfan 11 years, 10 months ago

I completely agree with lawrencechick...could not have been said any better!

common_cents 11 years, 10 months ago

Reality Check:

"The thing is, there are a few towns in this country that practice good planning. Lawrence is trying to be one of them. Why do you people always have to "s*%t" on anything that our town staff tries to do?"

Good planning is in the eyes of the beholder:

Large multi-living complexes planted right next to long-standing single family neighborhoods. Especially we the last thing we need is more multi-living complexes.

Massive housing development without proper planning for sewers and streets - THEN coming to the taxpayers to cry "well we spent all the money somewhere else, now we need more to fix what we did!"

Ignoring the north and east sides of town for so many years and NOW wanting more funds.

Spending money on "preservation" projects. If the public wants these preserved, then I'm sure private funding will be overwhelming.

What's my better plan? Simple: cut back all non-essential services spending; get the house back in order; zone single family dwellings in neighborhoods which are currently single-family dominated; zone multi-living complexes in groups; require developer pay for ALL necessary improvements to accomodate said developments, with the city covering maintenance once the improvements are built; require that said improvements are completed before the dwellings are deemed resideable.

I have many more things that could be done which are much better than what is happening now, and it all starts with controlling the spending and getting our base infrastructure back in order and stopping the silly spending. We don't really need anymore funny statues or sidewalk art before we need the roads and sewers repaired and/or upgraded.

Considering they've done everything they could to stop Lawrence from growing, doing these things can't hurt development any further.

Stop the nonsense.

jafs 11 years, 10 months ago

Amen, common_cents!

I completely agree - we need to take care of the basics first.

Also, I agree that there's nothing wrong with trying to shape the future of one's town with careful planning. Perhaps we'll see some of that, although the whole library expansion discussion concerns me.

Emily Hadley 11 years, 10 months ago

Planning is good. I like 23rd and Louisiana much more due to the Schlotszky's building that closes the parking lot off from the streets.

19th and Mass wouldn't be so bad if someone would finish that almost-redone building and lease it out. If you aren't interested in intersections that focus on automotive services, then this topic should interest you even more, as good planning can reduce having to drive all over town.

I know a guy who drove to Wal-Mart and Target when he lived at 33rd and Iowa because the landscape was so awful. The intersection "crosswalk" is a deathtrap, and he hated walking across acres of hot, shadeless parking lots so empty that people come careening through from every direction. How amazing would it be if the landscaping around the Wal-Mart access road was actually nice to look at? It wouldn't cost much more than the bad landscaping. Babysteps of improvement and restraint in new development can yield amazing results.

We could make our city very liveable with better planning, and prevent areas of town from being so ugly, unwalkable and unbikeable. I don't like that there are areas of Lawrence that I avoid going to simply because the layout of the development is so gross.

I would love to see new developments with more green space and efficient paved spaces, even if it wasn't to my my personal taste.

oliveGarden 11 years, 10 months ago




Wouldn't GOOD planning be void cars and parking lots? I don't care where a parking lot is or what "On the Border" looks like, it still sounds like regular development.

clarkcoan 11 years, 10 months ago

I like the part of the guidelines which encourage the saving of existing trees when new commerical property is developed. It should be extended to residential development.

Scott Drummond 11 years, 10 months ago

"We would be lucky to look like Overland Park, it's better than looking like Topeka!"

My God, what an aspiration!!

fletch 11 years, 10 months ago

I like how the same people who bitch about the city setting visual standards are the same people who always complain that big government is bad and should be focused at the local level. Guess what guys, this is exactly that type of local rule that you've been asking for. Local governments setting up their own community standards instead of letting Washington or Topeka do it for them.

Of course, most of you don't really want local governance. You just want to complain about government at all levels, and you'll use whatever arguement you can muster. Cranky old people. Sigh.

Brandon Perkins 11 years, 10 months ago

Are you flippin serious? The City Commission is just full of themselves. What's next? Will they tell me what color car to buy? Is it still ok to use 2 ply Charmin or do I need to change to 1 ply to save a tree?

I can understand a "uniform" look for a development, but not for the entire city. They say Home Depot is a bad example of building materials. Is the orange too bright? They are all built the same way. It is called conformity. The City Commission needs to realize that their own little make believe world where everyone is a perfect little soldier does not actually exist. Change is good.

lunacydetector 11 years, 10 months ago

there isn't any ground to develop new shopping centers anyway, so why should the commissioners give a rip about the colors? louisiana purchase is butt ugly with zero parking. perhaps they love it because it is a great place for their supporters to protest the war.

frankly, i'm surprised the hillcrest shopping center didn't make the list since it is run down looking - like they like.

lunacydetector 11 years, 10 months ago

Pilgrim, from Pilgrim- "Oh, come on. Think about it. Where is the Merc? Who bags groceries for the Merc?"

exactly my point.

i wonder if the rotting salmon colored shopping center at 19th & Haskell made their 'love list' as well? hmmmm....too bad there isn't a link listing the centers they love and the centers they hate. i bet the ones they love don't have any visibility, like the louisiana purchase.

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