Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Waterline project causes retail ripples

Downtown businesses ask for marketing campaign to offset repairs, noise

June 6, 2006


Think of it as a nearly $50,000 open sign.

With chain link fencing strung up and down parts of Massachusetts Street and tractors and construction crews drowning out the noise of street musicians, downtown merchants can understand how some customers may think parts of downtown are closed for business.

That's why they're asking city commissioners at their weekly meeting tonight to provide $48,100 in public money to help fund an aggressive marketing campaign to draw shoppers to downtown during a waterline replacement project that is expected to last through mid-September.

"I think what is really important is to just let everyone know that regardless of what they see, that all the businesses in downtown are open," said Rick Marquez, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc.

Marquez said if the city provided the nearly $50,000 in funding, that downtown businesses could be counted on to provide about another $20,000. The nearly $70,000 would be used to buy print, radio, television and Internet advertising that promotes downtown. Marquez said the advertising would be designed to reach shoppers from Lawrence, Topeka and smaller area towns.

Gary Jesseph, of Nowak Construction, clears away dirt and mud from around a leak in a waterline. Jesseph later applied a clamp to secure the fire protection line Monday in the 700 block of Massachusetts Street.

Gary Jesseph, of Nowak Construction, clears away dirt and mud from around a leak in a waterline. Jesseph later applied a clamp to secure the fire protection line Monday in the 700 block of Massachusetts Street.

The request will get some serious consideration from city commissioners. Commissioner Boog Highberger said he recognized the waterline project - which is reducing portions of Massachusetts Street to one-way traffic - had potential to create short-term pain to retailers.

"I think preserving downtown retail is important to all of us," Highberger said. "This public project is going to pose some challenges to private businesses, so I think some public assistance is probably appropriate here."

City staff members also are cautiously recommending approval of parts of the project. David Corliss, interim city manager, said city commissioners may want to approve funding for half the request - a total of $24,050 - and then monitor the activity in downtown to determine if additional funding is needed.

Corliss, in a memo to commissioners, said it would be important for the city to not set a precedent of providing funding to private businesses every time a city project hurts them.

But Corliss said a case could be made that the downtown waterline project was different than typical city infrastructure projects. That's because downtown businesses basically are the only ones that rely on the city to provide parking. The waterline project is eliminating parking from one side of both the 700 and 800 blocks of Massachusetts Street. Corliss also said because of the downtown's design, merchants were much closer to the actual construction than most businesses affected by other city projects.

In addition to the advertising component, the marketing plan could include some signs to better direct people to parking and the creation of small, downtown events. Marquez said while details hadn't been developed on any events, possibilities included a summer-kickoff event, a back-to-school event and enhancements to the city's downtown sidewalk sale.

City commissioners will meet at 5 p.m. tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


lunacydetector 11 years, 11 months ago

gee, i wonder if the city would taxpayer subsidize businesses in other parts of town that have had sales drop when road construction screws up entrances. i can think of two businesses run out of business because of road construction, but of course, these businesses weren't downtown.

here's an idea. why not make these construction crews doing repairs have a deadline to complete their work or they get fined bigtime?

cowboy 11 years, 11 months ago

While I can understand the slow biz downtown , you knew it was coming , whats the surprise ?

jamnjohnks 11 years, 11 months ago

"Marquez said the advertising would be designed to reach shoppers from Lawrence, Topeka and smaller area towns."

I thought that Lawrence didn't wan't the slime of Topeka to come visit downtown. Oh wait...the rich slime of Topeka came come spend their money here, just not the average or below average slime.


bankboy119 11 years, 11 months ago

I think everybody knows downtown is still open but why not drive 15 or 20 minutes to the Legends?

monkeyhawk 11 years, 11 months ago

Welfare to promote downtown very lawrence. Aren't they already offering a bribe, I mean incentives, for early completion?

The traffic around WalMart is difficult, why not include that area?

fletch 11 years, 11 months ago

monkeyhawk: because Walmart choose to do that construction on their own. The shops downtown didn't get a say in having their parking and access obstructed and jackhammers going on all day long. The city owes them one on this.

I'd like to see a Lawrence Night Out downtown. Get the stores to stay open until sunset. Have live music in the park. Just have a really nice Friday or Saturday night to draw everybody downtown and enjoy some good food while they are at it.

craigers 11 years, 11 months ago

I like the idea about a night out downtown. However, we should not have to subsidize the downtown merchants. Everybody knows they are still open. Maybe business is down since all of the students are gone. That does impact business. Don't throw away 50K for marketing for downtown. The prices are high enough they can pay for their own advertising.

Confrontation 11 years, 11 months ago

The campaign would surely encourage everyone to rush downtown and pay incredibly high prices to Mass Street merchants.

Kathy Gates 11 years, 11 months ago

I was pleasantly surprised to see these comments. I had expected the usual "save downtown at any cost" mentality. I don't recall any special consideration given to businesses along 6th street when they tore that up a few years back. And what about the businesses on Kasold with the road construction right now?

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

smgkag, you have it right.

Good for Corliss for at least pointing out that this would be a bad precedent. But it is more than that, it is unfair to all the other businesses in town that have to take it on the chin when their business suffer due to infrastructure issues. Considering that we have miles and miles of streets and sewers to repair, the commissioners had best think this through very carefully.

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

Great ideas, sbsow and fletch. If only the city commission could regulate the hours when businesses must be open to the public.

That might be the tradeoff business owners have to make in order to justify having taxpayers (competing business owners) pay for their advertising: they must relinquish the right to determine when their businesses are open to the whims of the City Commission.

I, for one, think 24 hours a day would be more convenient for my personal needs. I am composing my "interested citizen" letter right now.

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

My saracasm and disdain are directed at the business owners downtown who collaborated to present this ridiculous idea to the commission, and to Corliss who even recommended that the city meet them half way.

ForThePeople 11 years, 11 months ago

Hey? is that guy who holds the "Honk for Hemp" sign Boog Highburger?


monkeyhawk 11 years, 11 months ago

In addition to the advertising subsidy (the slippery slope), look for us to get hit for the cost of the sprinklers in the tinder boxes that comprise Mass. Of course, property owners can opt out. But, who could possibly stand to gain from that??? Ahem...

It is clear that downtown, the gem of Lawrence, is the REAL Lawrence. All the rest of us are just pretenders.

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

"It is clear that downtown, the gem of Lawrence, is the REAL Lawrence. All the rest of us are just pretenders."

and the Sugar Daddies for Downtown Lawrence.

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

"Baby, I need some bling, I mean, some REAL BLING: I need a library, a really BIG library with lots of computers and wireless internet and a coffee shop, and a convention center, and a really big, underground parking lot, and sprinklers, and new sewers, and new lofts and new office space, and, sweetie, you know while all this construction is going on, I'm going to lose business. I need to let my public know I am still available. 'Course, I can't pay for this, what with all this construction interfering with my bizness, but you can, I know you can, won't you do it, just for me, get me some advertizing, pleeeezzzz? You won't be sorry.... I'll pay you back in taxes off the extra business I bring from the BLING you pay for.

Sigmund 11 years, 11 months ago

Godot- 100 points for making me laugh so hard my double skim frapachino came out my nose!

Sandra Willis 11 years, 11 months ago

Hey, I've been living in Lawrence for over 16 years, now.

The Weekend Nights on the town would be a truly great thing to have. If the T bus ran later in the day, we'd use it to get downtown as well ...

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