Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

E. Lawrence closer to historic designation

March 2, 2006


A portion of East Lawrence slated for redevelopment is one step closer to placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

A cluster of five former industrial buildings near and along Pennsylvania Street, between Eighth and Ninth streets, has been nominated to the register by state historic preservationists.

"The district really represents a time period of when Lawrence was in its industrial heyday," said Patrick Zollner, the state's deputy historic preservation officer.

A development group led by Lawrence developer Bo Harris hopes the buildings - which include the former Poehler Grocery Warehouse building on East Eighth Street and the former home of Polk Oil Co., near Ninth and Pennsylvania - can come to life again.

Harris in 2002 proposed creating a mixed-use development, to include about 75 units of apartment-style housing, offices and retail development.

"We think this is a good way to preserve the existing buildings that are there and make them useful," said Harris, who is the chief executive officer of Harris Construction Co. "And the second exciting part of this is that it is a short distance from downtown. It really is only about four short blocks."

The historical designation would allow developers to apply for tax credits for restoration of historic buildings that are used as income-producing properties. For preservationists, the designation would further ensure that renovation of the buildings will preserve their historical feel.

"It doesn't mean they have to be museums, but it means that the historical character of the building remains," Zollner said.

Nomination to the national register automatically places the property on the state register of historic places. That requires any future work in the area to go through appropriate historical reviews.

Zollner said the National Park Service - which reviews the nominations for the national register - should make a decision within 45 days.

The redevelopment project, though, still has several more steps.

Some neighbors have expressed concern about the density of the project. Some buildings proposed for the west side of Pennsylvania Street would be three-stories tall and would have a mix of commercial and residential uses.

"We're concerned about what could happen," said Nicolette Proudfoot, a neighbor who lives immediately west of the project. "It seems like he wants to pack a lot of people in there. It is a lot of density and it could be a lot of cars."

Harris said he's been meeting with the groups in the neighborhood for three years and believes the project can be designed in a way to make the uses compatible with the existing single-family homes.

The project is tentatively slated to go before the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on March 15. The project also would have to receive approval from the Lawrence City Commission.

Nominated sites

The Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review recommended two other Lawrence-area sites for inclusion on the national register: ¢ The Stony Point Evangelical Lutheran Church, on N. 600 Road near Vinland. The 1883 church is the last standing building of Stony Point, a once active rural Douglas County community. Officials said the building was an excellent example of a late 19th century one-room church. Plus, the interior is largely unchanged from its original construction. ¢ 80.8 acres that represent most of the commercial area of downtown Ottawa. An active downtown Main Street program has been advocating for the area's inclusion on the register.


Spades 11 years, 10 months ago

There is a limit for preservation of historic buildings. I say raze the old and raise the new. These buildings hold no architectural significance. What happens more often than not, is government money is used (or tax breaks are given, same basic thing) to remodel the old existing buildings, stores will move in and find that the location is wrong or the buidling does not meet their needs. They lose money because after the initial excitment wears off, people no longer shop there, the stores go out of business, and we have sparkling new-looking old buildings that are sitting empty. I've seen it happen in Chicago, in Iowa, and more recently and closer to home, in downtown Kansas City. If there is a better use for this land, tear down the old.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

Too late-- Harris is already moving ahead with renovation work.

Spades 11 years, 10 months ago

I think a lot of people would rather see renovated old buildings. I love old buildings. But here is the reality check: as I stated before, many times the location of the old renovated buildings is not condusive to commercial opportunities, and not in good neighborhoods for residential. After the initial renovation and 'grand openings,' the excitement dies, the stores go empty, or people don't want to live in expensive residential condos in older, sometimes run-down neighborhoods. I'll put money on this becoming an empty renovated area in 5 to 10 years, especially with Lawrence building newer areas (both residential and commercial) south and west. Try as they might, East Lawrence will suffer if they don't develop new.

gontek 11 years, 10 months ago

As a resident of this area, Bo Harris is my hero. Lawrence needs more developers like him.

weterica 11 years, 10 months ago

It is great to see someone with the amazing hold on planning and historic preservation as our friend Spades. And he's studied the issue.

He's seen all before in Chicago, Iowa, and downtown KC (a town with such a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long history of adaptive re-use).

What we need is a non-murderous Quantrill, but one that will force our town to build more suitable buildings, like that cool strip mall at Harper and 23rd-that thing makes the far eastside livable!

Rip East Lawrence down and go new! While we're at it, let's tear down downtown. There are too many empty storefronts, and plus, it is an outdoor shopping plaza (what happens when it's cold and rainy?-burrrrr)

And it is tacky how Free State Brewery turned that stupid trolley barn into a thriving business. (The ambiance of the place created by new juxtaposed with the old has nothing to do with the appeal, so don't even try it, dudes!)

I like the Riverfront Mall better--I mean Riverfront Sprint telemarketing/ Corningware outlet--I mean Sunflower Broadband/ Springhill Suites--I mean...well, whatever it is today. My point is: new is better.

There is really too much emphasis on historic memory in Lawrence. How many empty storefronts do you see at 119th and Strangeline, hippies!

nb4d 11 years, 10 months ago

There are many businesses and people being affected by Harris' moving in, buying buildings, and kicking people/businesses out. There are several businesses located in "his" buildings that have been told to leave. These are small mom & pop owned places, that will have a very hard time finding another place with reasonable prices to rent in Lawrence. A few of these businesses who are being kicked out, have made great contributions/enhancements to these old buildings. But this seems to be for nothing.

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