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Archive for Saturday, November 4, 2006

Downtown, diversity need work, experts say

Outsiders looking in praise Lawrence but say it could do better

November 4, 2006

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A pair of Lawrence's jewels - downtown and the community's diversity - could use a little polishing, according to a group of outside planning experts who spent three days studying the city.

A six-member team from the American Institute of Architects praised Lawrence as a progressive community that has most of what it needs to be among the better cities in the country, as it delivered its findings to a crowd of about 100 people Friday at the Lawrence Arts Center.

"You have almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to assets," said William Gilchrist, the group's leader and the director of planning, engineering and permits for Birmingham, Ala.

But there is some work to do. Reaching out to the city's minority and ethnic groups should be among the top items the city seeks to do in the future.

"We have not seen the breadth of inclusion that we thought we might have seen at some of our sessions," Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist said that was surprising given the large role that different races and ethnic groups - such as African Americans and American Indians - have played in the city's history.

"There was a real question in our mind about who is missing at this table," Gilchrist said. "There has to be a strong effort for inclusion in the future."

The team was in town as part of a program designed to help cities evaluate how sustainable their practices are. Team members said that meant they looked at whether the community was promoting growth and development "not just for today, but for your grandchildren's children."

The group said it was clear that downtown Lawrence received a great deal of attention from city leaders, but they said it could benefit from even more activity.

"The world is changing, and the way people meet their needs are changing," said Karina Ricks, a planner for Washington, D.C. "You have to adapt to the times and build a downtown for the future that also respects your history."

Ricks said planners should look for ways to reconnect the downtown to the Kansas River, calling the Kaw a "huge asset."

The community also needs to focus on adding more residential living opportunities to the downtown, which also would mean a change in the downtown's retail mix.

"You don't have to look at retail uses as destination or entertainment uses," Ricks said. "Look at retail uses that fulfill daily needs. It's OK to have a pharmacy, a grocery store, a dry cleaner. It is not just about antique shops."

Parking issues also need to be discussed, she said. Ricks said she heard often about a shortage of downtown parking but said that "may be more of a perception than a reality."

Other thoughts from the group included:

¢ Lawrence does have potential to be a player in the biosciences arena, especially if it works to capitalize off the reputation of Kansas University's School of Pharmacy.

¢ Creating denser neighborhoods that have a mix of uses in them may be one way to create more affordable housing options. But the community also may want to start exploring "employer-assisted" housing programs through KU or other major employers.

¢ City planners should focus on ensuring that there are multiple modes of transportation for people. Building more sidewalks and bike paths, for example, will create more walkers and bicyclists, team members said. The city may want to change some of its policies as well, such as the one that states the city is responsible for street maintenance but property owners are responsible for sidewalk maintenance.

"It sets up an impression that roads are more important than sidewalks," Ricks said.

¢ The community needs a better one-stop shop for people to find out about all the culturally and historically significant aspects of the community. The team said working to capitalize on the city's history was a sound strategy.

¢ Work needs to continue to make the city's planning and permitting process more consistent and predictable. The team also said the city's permit department was understaffed for the amount work it is asked to do.

¢ Get past win-or-lose arguments such as growth or no-growth debates. Ricks said her impression was that the majority of the community was not interested in a no-growth philosophy.

"I don't think you want to close the doors to anything new coming in, but what does come in has to be consistent with what Lawrence's character is," Ricks said.

City Commissioner Boog Highberger said he was pleased to hear the comments, and hopes that the group's visit spurs the beginning of a process to create a broad vision for the community. He said he hoped that vision process could begin in the first half of 2007.

The team of architects will be presenting a formal written report to city commissioners in 45 to 60 days.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

You represent the racist history of this city towards Haskell quite well, kujeeper. Haskell has historically been seen as a repository of available land for use by the city movers and shakers anytime they need to tap into it.

The general alienation that this has produced probably explains why there was little representation by Native Americans at the meetings with these architects.

Despite its abolitionist history, Lawrence was also historically racist towards its black population. That has obviously improved greatly over the last 30 or 40 years, but the black community here is still not well represented among the movers and shakers.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"Which means the PLC crowd is going to have to stop whining about density. Bo Harris has been trying to take parts of the community in that direction, but is met with heavy resistance at every turn."

Then how do you explain the existence of the Hobbs-Taylor lofts, and the ongoing work on the E. Lawrence development that both Harris and the E. Lawrence neighborhood have apparently reached agreement on?

planetwax 8 years, 1 month ago

Reading comments lamenting the lack of the Gap, Hot Topic, and other homogenized businesses, brings me great sorrow. Downtown does not need any of those businesses. Stores like that bore me, and anyone who appreciates diversity, to tears.

"I now have to drive 35 miles to get to: Hot Topic (for the teens), reasonably-priced women's (yep, we're a minority) clothing stores (non-used) are sadly lacking downtown ( no Express, NY & Company, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor LOFT, who all have great sales through the year, et al."

Perhaps you will find it amazing that I don't travel to any of the stores you mentioned, nor have I been to any of them, and clothe this 39 year old body quite nicely and inexpensively. Every purchase made to a big retailer takes money out of Lawrence and away from LOCAL businesses. The price is bigger than you think.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 1 month ago

bozo, I'd like to hear swan_driver explain how his/er method of stereotyping me is different than those used by individuals that hate blacks, jews, etc.

The fact is, lib/socialists think that if they call everyone racists, bigots, sexists, etc, first, that somehow their beating everyone to the punch innoculates them from falling into the same error of stereotyping they accuse everyone else of committing. I fundamentally reject that assumption. Maybe you could descend from your high plain of intellectual-elitism and shed some enlightment great one.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 1 month ago

I see "white only" signs all over downtown. That explains it.

Yo, what is the black population of Lawrence? Was there any objective criteria cited as a basis for the conclusion downtown is lacking in diversity. The consultant was probably trying to say we need more conservative people downtown to dilute the ratio of hemp-clad dreadlocked hippies to normal people.

lunacydetector 8 years, 1 month ago

blacks make up 5.6% of the lawrence population while american indians make up 2.2%. asians on the other hand make up 4.6% of the population and hispanics make up 4.4%, respectively. i wonder what role asians and hispanics play ?

lawrencechick 8 years, 1 month ago

There really is nothing downtown to draw anyone but students or young people. How many antique/used clothing stores do you need? There is almost no family draw and they missing out on a lot of money. The Toy Store is great but that's it. Get some national children's clothing store that's cheaper than the Gap, (The Childrens Place). You need those anchor stores to bring people down there.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 1 month ago

well said LC. The dowtown area looks like one big flea market pandering to the homeless demographic. Most folks in Lawrence aren't drawn to the downtown area b/c it does not appeal to the majority demographic.

lawrencechick 8 years, 1 month ago

Newsflash planetwax: this town is not about you and your special clique that "appreciate diversity". When people drive to KC to go to those stores it DOES take money out of Lawrence. If what people want isn't here, that doesn't mean they are going to change their taste and buy local. Have we not learned that from the Home Depot debate which has paid off tremendously for the city? Downtown has plenty of room for ALL types of retail. Expensive, hippie, and middle class America. You may have prejudice against people who don't dress like you, but there is no reason to hurt downtown with those views.

Jeff Barclay 8 years, 1 month ago

Pastor Dulin, Pastor Barbee, MLK Educational Steering Committee, and the entire Ministerial Alliance would enjoy the priviledge of helping bring blacks into visible and significant leadership and entreprenuer positions in Lawrence.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"¢ Get past win-or-lose arguments such as growth or no-growth debates. Ricks said her impression was that the majority of the community was not interested in a no-growth philosophy."

I doubt that the Worshippers of the Great God, Growth will hear this statement. They will instead continue to contend that anyone who takes a critical approach to growth must be against growth of any sort.

"I don't think you want to close the doors to anything new coming in, but what does come in has to be consistent with what Lawrence's character is," Ricks said.

Precisely the philosophy that has always guided the PLC. But that is sacrilege to the Worshippers of Uncontrolled, Cancerous Growth.

davisnin 8 years, 1 month ago

It's baffling to me how little people appreciate that Lawrence really is special and different from other cities. The fact that people beg to become a homogeneous chain store Lenexa annex is a sad thing indeed. BTW I'm no hippie. I vote R.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 1 month ago

swan_diver. I love it when folks like yourself stereotype me. Its a method identical to that used by bigots who hate blacks, jews, and other groups of varying demographic. If I was male you'd probably add that I am sexist. If I was female you'd probably add I am incapable of math and science. All without knowing me personally, right?

LawSW 8 years, 1 month ago

I agree with your comments "lunacy detector" regarding hispanics, Indigenous People, etc. One idea that I'd like to see occur, since we won't be getting a mall any time soon is to see an expansion a little bit into including a few places I now have to drive 35 miles to get to: Hot Topic (for the teens), reasonably-priced women's (yep, we're a minority) clothing stores (non-used) are sadly lacking downtown ( no Express, NY & Company, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor LOFT, who all have great sales through the year, et al.). Also, there's no place around to buy a pack of cigarettes, breath mints, etc./a news stand. There is no deli--we non-New Yorkers, non-Middle-Easterners want one. How about a swank little "Russian Tea" room--avid coffee drinker, but hey we're over-run.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

Why don't you just answer swan-diver's questions, RA?

Roadkill_Rob 8 years, 1 month ago

Most people East of Iowa street ARE drawn to downtown. It is the best part of this town. It's interesting and different. Let's NOT bring in big stores that will make these specialized shops go out of business. Downtown is thriving and keeps us from being just a run of the mill boring kansas town. What downtown DOES need is a small market/grocery store. I know there used to be one on Vermont st..... :)

tir 8 years, 1 month ago

I especially agree with this bit:

"The city may want to change some of its policies as well, such as the one that states the city is responsible for street maintenance but property owners are responsible for sidewalk maintenance."

IMO, the sidewalks ought to be treated as part of the city infrastructure, just like the streets. The sidewalks are PUBLIC, just like streets, and should be maintained by the city.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"Oh, they're happening, but not without misguided, unnecessary impediments."

Pilgrim would be happy if the city commission were abolished in favor of a 19-year-old clerical worker highly trained in the art of rubberstamping.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"What downtown DOES need is a small market/grocery store."

How about those empty storefronts in the Hobbs-Taylor building. Or the empty south half of the Pachamama's building-- perfect tie-in possibilities with the Farmer's Market.

kujeeper 8 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"represents nothing more paranoid sour grapes of unknown origin."

If that's really the case, it's just your cup of soup, Pil.

nbnozzy 8 years, 1 month ago

Hey Marion.................. Naughty but Nice is STILL open.

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