Archive for Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Retail at Sixth St., trafficway gets OK

Development approved 3-2 despite concerns about downtown

May 10, 2006


City commissioners approved a new retail area at Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway on Tuesday, but not before clashing over whether it would damage downtown.

Commissioners on a 3-2 vote approved a project by a group of longtime Lawrence developers that would add nearly 185,000 square feet of retail space to the northeast corner of the intersection.

But commissioners David Schauner and Mike Rundle said they strongly opposed the project because they feared it would help create a glut of retail space that would cause other existing retail areas to become vacant and blighted.

And the city's prized downtown, they said, wouldn't be immune.

"I know there are commissioners who believe that the marketplace should control the situation," Schauner said. "But there will be a winner and loser in the marketplace, and I know one of our commission goals is to protect downtown.

"I want to make sure that anything we do first does no harm to the goal we have of protecting downtown."

Developers said they were confident it would not. The development group includes members of the Fritzel family, which has several downtown developments and is vying to create a $150 million public-private partnership to build a new downtown library, retail and residential development.

"This is going to be a great project, and it is not going to compete with downtown," said Tim Fritzel, who is part of the development group that also includes Thomas Fritzel, Duane Schwada and Steve Schwada.

Instead, the developers said they were proposing exactly what city planners have called for at that intersection since 1997 when the Northwest Area Plan was created. Ultimately, a majority of city commissioners agreed.

"They have come forward based on the plans of this body, and they have followed those plans," Mayor Mike Amyx said.

Amyx and supporters of the project also pointed to a city-hired consultant who in January issued a report concluding that Lawrence was losing a larger-than-average number of shoppers to other communities, and that the city could safely absorb significant amounts of new retail development.

"That study provided some accurate and important information about our community's unmet retail needs," City Commissioner Sue Hack said.

But the study likely will become the focus of debate in the near future, as both Schauner and Rundle said they questioned its findings. In particular, they said they thought the consultant may have been too aggressive in projecting future population gains for the city and calculating the buying power of its residents.

And City Commissioner Boog Highberger, who voted for the development, said he also wanted to review the study in more detail. He said he voted for the new development Tuesday night because commissioners still had the ability - through the approval of the project's preliminary development plan - to order the project to be built in phases.

Developers haven't yet submitted specific plans that show what type of stores the project may have. But the rezonings would allow for a big-box tenant of up to 175,000 square feet. In fact, the zoning requires that the project have one store that is at least 40,000 square feet as an anchor tenant.

In addition to the retail development, the project also will have significant amounts of housing. The rezonings call for up to 75 single-family homes and 36 duplexes, and could allow approximately 600 apartment units, though some of that portion of the project also could be required to be used for office development.

More data wanted in Naismith Drive decision

City commissioners Tuesday night agreed that they needed more information before deciding whether to make any changes to the configuration of Naismith Drive.

Commissioners had been asked to consider changing the northbound section of Naismith from 23rd to 19th streets from two lanes to one, with the extra space turned into a bike lane.

But the road would need to operate as a two-lane road on Kansas University game days. Commissioners directed staff members to talk with KU leaders about the idea. They also asked the Lawrence-Douglas County Bicycle Advisory Committee for a recommendation, and asked residents in the area to have a neighborhood meeting about the idea.

Consultant could look at Peterson Road changes

City commissioners are interested in hiring an engineering firm to help them determine how to extend Peterson Road westward.

Commissioners told staff members to start preparing a request for proposals that would allow the city to hire a consultant to find a feasible way to extend the road that is expected to be an important east-west corridor as more growth occurs in the northwest area of the city.

A route going straight west has been opposed in the past because it would go through a large parkland area.

Sewer upgrade advances

A key project in ensuring that the city has adequate sewer capacity to handle projected growth is moving along. Commissioners approved a $1.8 million contract to improve a pump station near Sixth and Kentucky streets. The project is expected to be completed by March 2007.

Commissioners question wireless tower request

City commissioners aren't ready to let a wireless telephone company begin planning for a new wireless telephone tower along Harper Avenue.

Commissioners told T-Mobile that they wanted to see documentation that another privately owned tower in the area wouldn't meet the company's needs before it allowed a 120-foot tower to be built at the city's fire station at 2100 Harper Ave. T-Mobile has proposed to pay the city $1,000 per month to locate the tower on the property.

The city did allow Sprint to move forward with a $1,700-per-month lease to place wireless telephone equipment on the water tower adjacent to the fire station.

Commissioners did not give final approval for Lawrence Freenet, a nonprofit Internet provider, to place wireless equipment on the tower for free. Commissioners said they wanted to meet with Freenet to ensure the company was still meeting its goal of providing Internet service to low-income residents.


Kelly Powell 11 years, 10 months ago

The amount of money sprint is paying for tower use seems cheap....I know it is just a steel structure on top of a pre existing building or water tower....But it still seems like they should be getting more for it(I bet they would charge me more for the exact same thing)

cowboy 11 years, 10 months ago

Schnauer and Rundle actuually sat there and tried to act in a discriminatory manner last night on these votes , had they prevailed it would have been another costly lawsuit for the city. Can you spell incompetent !

Steve Mechels 11 years, 10 months ago

Great, so much for reducing traffic with the trafficway. It's a never ending problem; build a bypass to reduce traffic, then you have businesses on it and heavy traffic again, so build another bypass......

mztrendy 11 years, 10 months ago

If they want Downtown to be nice again, get rid of the hippies, homeless and drunks. Ban bars downtown. Use those buildings to add new businesses. At least at the new one, I won't have to step over the homeless man to get into a shop.

cowboy 11 years, 10 months ago

Make rundle and schnauer pay for the attorney fees they have run up by being discriminatory, did you watch the process last night Reality check ? The applicants followed and met every published and approved plan the commission has put in place and still these two idiots wanted to scuttle it.

These two should be recalled before they do any more damage. Kudos to Amyx for returning some comon sense to the commission. 1% growth is pretty close to not growing at all while our surrounding areas are growing at 3% up to 7%. 1% growth wont pay for inflationary cost increases so you can watch the city's buying power be shrunk by inflation. This city needs to get its head out of its rear and move forward again. No growthers can move to Ottawa if you like a small town with a cute downtown , take the bums with you while your at it !

cowboy 11 years, 10 months ago

We should hand them a bar of soap , a razor , and a job application , maybe a handful of Antabuse

Richard Heckler 11 years, 10 months ago

Losing shoppers to KC metro will not stop with this move. Developers are not authorities on planning and have no idea how it will effect downtown. These shopping areas are items that need economic impact studies before being approved. Where was it? Just because a report stated we were losing shoppers to KC and Topeka does not justify decisons without an economic impact study.

How many decades have shoppers been doing K.C. and Topeka? Did we need a study to make this observation?

What will this property bring to Lawrence? More down sized big names which do not offer choice or the best prices which is why Lawrence citizen continue to shop Topeka and KC Metro. Lawrence is surrounded by large commercial competeition which will always offer value and selection. College towns seldom offer the same values as very large shopping districts.

I disagree with Boog's decision and his logic.

conservative 11 years, 10 months ago

I understand the viewpoint of the people who want to maintain the small town ambiance of Lawrence. However it is not possible to do that AND stem the flow of sales dollars going to Topeka and Kansas City. As long as I can purchase the same things for less money in a location that isn't hard for me to get to, I will. It is the only responsible thing I can do for my family. If I bow down to the concept of paying 20% extra, or more, for something just so that I can support a Lawrence business, I won't be able to afford to send my children to college, or I won't be able to afford to retire. A prime example is the Home Depot in Lawrence. Before it was approved and allowed to build, I did all my remodelling purchases in Kansas City and Topeka. I could not possibly justify the expense of local outfits just to avoid a 40 minute drive. Since Home Depot was allowed to build, my home improvement purchases in KC or Topeka have been limited to items that I cannot purchase in Lawrence. I have no problems keeping my purchases in Lawrence as long as there isn't a terribly negative impact on my finances. Some will undoubtably feel that I am only supporting big business in this manner (and they may be correct in some situations), but there are many businesses in Lawrence that seem to feel they can charge more simply because we are in Lawrence. I would love to see a Lowes, Toys R Us, and many other box stores come to Lawrence so that I can keep my tax dollars in Lawrence while being financially responsible to my family.

jafs 11 years, 10 months ago

I think Lawrence is losing its way, and will turn into a very different (worse, imho) place to live than it has been for 10-15 years. Has anyone else noticed that new developments (retail and commercial) benefit the developers most? The new housing is overpriced and underbuilt, and serves to inflate the already inflated housing market. The new commercial development, especially when dominated by big box stores, provides few decent-paying full-time jobs. Apart from making shopping a little bit easier, what does all of this new development provide of value to our city? And why are existing property owners and residents paying ANY of the costs involved?

Confrontation 11 years, 10 months ago

Oddly enough, I agree with Conservative. For large purchases or several small purchases, I almost always have to look outside of Lawrence. Even with the horrible gas prices, I often save a ton of money by heading to another city. Other than the restaurants, Mass Street merchants tend to be extremely overpriced.

Pro_Lawrence 11 years, 10 months ago

This is leapfrog development. The lifestyles of the rich and ugly people get their way again.

average 11 years, 10 months ago

Maybe it's because I don't watch TV, so am not appropriately cultured to spend, but what in the hell is it that y'all are needing to buy that isn't perfectly well available in Lawrence already? For specialized things, I can't easily find what I'm looking for (and never at the best prices) in Kansas City or New York City for that matter. There's an internet for that! Moreover, what new product is likely to be sold at 6th and SLT? Another Subway, another liquor store, a dollar store, a chain clothing store? What new?

princess 11 years, 10 months ago

Typical. Right Wingers on here talking about how this as if it is a huge victory. Pull your head out of the sand. You have won nothing. The taxpayers of Lawrence have won nothing. (aside from more traffic in that area that will need calming measures which the developers will never have to pay for) This is a small handful of good ole boy developers that have won here. That is it. Somehow you see fit to claim victory though? When will you learn? These people could care less about you or me or any other person in Lawrence besides themselves and their money. Go ahead though. Do your victory march. Yay, look at me I am middle class fighting for a millionaire who could care less about me! Ha-zah!

princess 11 years, 10 months ago

Doh! Should read: "about this as if it is a huge victory."

Slow it down turbo.

unite2revolt 11 years, 10 months ago

Supply vs demand.

If supply of retail space is higher than demand for retail space, rent for retail space should go down which would benefit everyone in Lawrence.

Likewise more houses, lower prices. the reason I dont shop downtown hardly at all anymore is because the places I used to shop/eat have been driven out of business by higher rents,

I relocated to west Lawrence because rent was cheaper. My employers relocated their office to the west side because rent was cheaper. I go to school in Topeka because it's cheaper. I try to buy gas in Topeka because it's cheaper.

So agian,

More development = Lower rent = lower prices=increased demand for goods and services=vital downtown economy

No development=higher rent=higher prices=decreased demand=elitist downtown economy for rich people

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 11 years, 10 months ago

With development like this we will look like Topeka soon. A series of disconnected strip mall areas that are only partly filled. In 10 years they will be run down, and the shoppers will want new ones 5 miles down the road. I seldom have to spend a lot of gas to leave town to shop. I don't know what people are wanting to buy that they can't find here. Of course I buy most of my clothes at Lasting Impressions, and if I need shampoo I'd rather go the 2 blocks to Checkers or Dillons. I may pay .20 more, but I would spend that much in gas going to WalMart, not to mention the extra pollution I would add to the air. I'm not a massive consumer I guess. I hate SUV's and haven't been to a mall in 5 years. Mall Rats should move to Overland Park or Topeka. They move to Lawrence, because of the quality of life, then they try to turn Lawrence into what they left behind. If shopping is so important to you, move to the cities. Everyone says it's cheaper to live there anyway. As for downtown being more expensive, 5 years ago my husband and I bought all our Christmas presents downtown. We spent less money, and our presents were unique, not the same old things. Of course that's changed in the last few years since the rent has gone up, and the cloned corporations have invaded.

lunacydetector 11 years, 10 months ago

here's an online poll question suggestion:

do you think downtown shoppers are eccentric?

my answer is......yes

cowboy 11 years, 10 months ago

I see all the people who dont have jobs made it out of the coffee shops and over to the library to post about no growth.

bmw 11 years, 10 months ago

I don't get the anti-development groupies around here. If you don't like development I could refer you to hundreds of small little towns in Kansas where development never has and never will happen. All you "progressive" people would be very happy there! You would never have to worry about development!

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 11 years, 10 months ago

People I know who live in suburbia don't know their neighbors. If there is a neighborhood association, it's one that tells them what they can or cannot plant in their yards. They don't have concerts in the park. There are no parades. Lawrence is growing, but most of us want to maintain a community. That's why we voted for the commissioners that we have now. If you don't like it, move. Or just go to the many shopping places that are opening up under this so called no growth commission. Isn't it funny that there is still a lot of growth going on?

Hoots 11 years, 10 months ago

Many like to complain about growth here. There are many towns in western Kansas that would love to have the problems we do. You either grow or you die. A steady state is almost impossible to achieve. Do I miss the Lawrence I grew up in back in the 70's? Yes, I do in some ways. Could we have locked Lawrence in a time bubble? No way. Anyone who has moved here is growth and anyone who is born here is growth. So therefore we are all guilty. You want to know the difference between a developer and and environmentalist. The developer wants to build a house in the woods and the environmentalist already has a house in the woods.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 10 months ago

Have any "pro-growthers" looked at your property taxes recently? In the past 15 years how many times has your property tax bill inceased more than 3%-4%? If it's more than once where's the economic growth?

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