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Archive for Saturday, September 2, 2006

Simons: Strengthening downtown more vital than ‘protecting’ it

September 2, 2006

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"Protecting downtown" has been the motto and rallying cry for people in Lawrence who oppose major retail development outside or inside the limited downtown, the so-called central business district, of the city.

This opposition to major retail facilities located on the edges of the city blossomed years ago when one of the nation's most successful shopping center developers wanted to build a center on the east side of Iowa Street, between 31st and 35th streets.

Such development would severely damage downtown Lawrence, opponents claimed. When plans for the south Lawrence development were scuttled by city officials, the developers suggested placing two major retailers in the downtown area as anchors for a shopping center that would extend along the east side of Massachusetts Street between Seventh and Ninth streets.

Opponents then said such a plan would destroy the historical ambiance of the stores fronting Massachusetts Street. Next, the developers suggested moving the development farther east in the same area to preserve the historic facades. Critics then complained the plan would add too much traffic in East Lawrence.

Another tool used to oppose development was seeking designation downtown of national historic sites to restrict anything in the surrounding area that would impact negatively on those buildings.

The message was clear: Nothing should be allowed that, in the minds of some, would weaken the downtown area. Or was it to protect downtown businesses from added competition?

Somehow or another, even with this kind of thinking, there now is more retail development on and near South Iowa Street than would have been included in a so-called "cornfield mall" project.

In the meantime, with all the efforts to "protect" the area, what has happened to downtown Lawrence? According to some surveys, it has the highest vacancy rate of any commercial area in the city.

According to other surveys, Lawrence is capturing far fewer retail dollars than a city its size should: 59 percent, the lowest rate among 13 Midwestern university communities.

Lawrence does, indeed, have an attractive downtown with pretty flowers and plantings at intersections, a tree-lined main street and some pieces of sculpture that are art in the eyes of some.

It's certainly the entertainment area of the city, but it is wrong to suggest it is the business center. Bars and restaurants dominate the downtown landscape, with smaller boutique-type stores filling in between the drinking establishments and eateries. There are only a few sizable retailers, most of which, over the years, have been able to ride out the business challenges.

Now, some in the city want to have another restriction on retail development in Lawrence. They want to force any company or developer who proposes a facility larger than 50,000 square feet to undergo a retail analysis to see whether Lawrence's economy and real estate market can support the new development. The analysis also would determine whether the city already has enough of a certain category of stores or services and whether additional stores in those categories are needed.

If this attitude continues to grow in Lawrence, one has to wonder what the downtown will look like 5, 10 or 20 years from now. It is almost impossible for a store of any significant size to move into the downtown area. Consequently there will be more restaurants and more specialty shops but fewer and fewer stores that draw major retail traffic downtown and generate significant tax dollars for the city.

City officials seem consumed with trying to limit the size of retail development, fighting Wal-mart with every possible argument and worrying about the height of proposed buildings.

A handsome condominium project has been built at the northeast corner of Eighth and New Hampshire streets, and other developers are talking about condo projects in the downtown area. There is much to be said for such living units, and one of the nicest is that stores and services are supposed to be within walking distance. However, where is a grocery store, a full-service delicatessen or many other stores that provide the merchandise normally desired by those living in the pricey condominiums? There certainly are a sufficient number of bars to quench the thirst of those who are being urged to live downtown, and enough restaurants.

Rather than spending so much time trying to figure out ways to deny or discourage retail stores of 50,000 square feet or more, why not spend an equal amount of time trying to figure out how to make downtown Lawrence a stronger, better, more attractive, more convenient place? How about extending the boundaries of downtown so sizable retail stores could move into the area, thereby attracting more customer traffic for other businesses?

Lawrence enjoyed many highly successful years of growth, but, according to numerous yardsticks, this growth has slowed, or maybe even declined. Just because Lawrence has a proud history is no guarantee this always will be the case.

There is no justification for a sense of cockiness among Lawrence residents. The competition is getting tougher every year.

"Protecting downtown" or "defending downtown" may sound good, but it is far more important to strengthen downtown. Whether in sports, business or any other competitive endeavor, it is far better and far more productive to operate with a positive offensive strategy than to sit back in a defensive mode.

Lawrence's downtown is nice, but the vacancy rate and retail sales figures should send a message. Currently, city officials are preparing to hire a new city manager. What kind of person are they looking for? Will he or she be allowed to show vision and leadership or is this person to be a "yes man" for the "protect downtown" fraternity?

This is a critical time for Lawrence, and the city is sure to fall far short of its potential if the defensive, "protect downtown" mentality prevails and permeates the thinking concerning retail needs, roads, city services, job opportunities, housing, the excellence of public schools and our quality of life.

Lawrence currently is lacking in aggressive leadership, with too many residents unwilling or hesitant to get involved in important city matters. A small minority has been able to impose its ideas due to the majority of citizens being afraid to speak up and make their thoughts known.

Comments

offtotheright 7 years, 7 months ago

tuschkahouma....WHO CARES that you are ancient! I don't!

people-phobic westies? lmao...That must be me.......

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Mike Ford 7 years, 7 months ago

Actually, I cover 1200 miles a month on my Lawrence -based job, entirely in Lawrence. I see everything. I see the ancient small homes along Connecticut street and I see the obscenely homogenous homes between Kasold and beyond. I am a townie because I remember when that area was open country. I remember when Wakarusa street wasn't built yet. I remember my trips to the Outhouse to see bands like White Zombie, Helmet, and others before they were famous. Why is Lawrence on the cultural map? because they are people who stand up to people who attack them as a messinger like I'm being done right now. My observations are correct. I've driven over 200,000 miles on my Lawrence-based job just in Lawrence. I don't chose to be people-phobic like some of these westies. Communication makes the world go around. Unfortunately, cul-de-sacs don't promote communication, they promote isolation. Which is what the people-phobic people want. They also want their homogenous stores and ugly suburban stripmalls. They are devoid of understanding. Everything must conform to them. They are important in their own minds and this importance brings on the ego of superiority-entitlement. When either reality or people standing up to them checks them, they don't observe themselves, they attack the messinger. This doens't fix any issues or create societal understanding, it's allows them to avoid the arguement and uphold the uniquely American concept of might-makes-right development without any logic. In closing, Tuschkahouma is a Choctaw word. My ancestors have seen this business go on for some time on this continent. I hold onto the Lawrence I remember where I purchased numerous guitars at Richardson's on Ninth Street and I ate at Hideaway Pizza. I I remember these places because they had personality, which is more than can be said for the prostrip mall devotees of Herr Dolph.

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lunacydetector 7 years, 7 months ago

tuschy, i remember a chrysler dealer being in the building of M & M Office supply on massachusetts. the dealership at 9th & mississippi didn't sell fords, they were a lincoln/mercury dealership.

as a "townie" who has lived on earth longer than yourself, what of the premise of splitting lawrence into two different cities. you can keep the downtown, and the rest of us can have everything west of naismith or better for you -everything west of iowa street. do you realize how much money you would cut off from the downtown if lawrence were split into two cities? as it stands today, the west side of lawrence subsidizes the downtown and east lawrence.

so you tell anyone who has a different opinion who doesn't like our commissions protectionist ignorance to 'just move,' why not put your money where your mouth is, and let west lawrence separate from east lawrence as our own entity. i would love to see the devastating 'study' on that idea. perhaps you and your fringe minority would realize that you wouldn't be able to protect the precious downtown if you didn't have the west side of lawrence filling the east side's coffers.

if you don't like the west side growing, then don't go to the west side. it sounds like you don't go there anyway, so should you stop considering yourself a townie?

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Pilgrim 7 years, 7 months ago

Posted by tuschkahouma (anonymous) on September 2, 2006 at 11:09 p.m.

Lawrence is a town of sincere and thinking people who like Lawrence for it's character and originality as a community.


And that's the flawed premise you and others work from, because Lawrence does not have a unique character nor originality except for those things that would be here anyway because of KU. The rest is all just leftovers from the 1950s and '60s. It's just that Lawrence is a little slower in catching up with the rest of the world.

So if you think it's "progressive" to be dragged into the 21st Century kicking and screaming, knock yourself out. But the basic premise of the kicking and screaming is still flawed.

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its_obvious 7 years, 7 months ago

Yes Tuschkahouma, I remember with a tear in my eye. A "townie" is a genius like us who has a strong mind who can withstand Wallystore's hypnosis and keep our town a town, regardless of "influence". It's getting harder and harder. Dolph has no idea how sad that could become, sitting proud in his cocoon now.

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Mike Ford 7 years, 7 months ago

dear obvious,

do you remember Malott's toy store adjoining the hardware store? I do. Do you remember Woolworth's and Ben Franklin, not to mention the Town Crier magazine store? I do. Did you ever buy gas at the Phillips station that's now a Pottery shop, I did. Did you ever take a Greyhound bus to the station that's now Free State Brewery, I did. I actually saw the Goonies movie at the Granada and an Aliens movie at the theatre across the street. I also remember a Ford dealership near Ninth and Mississippi. I shop downtown and I remember downtown as it was 25 years ago. I am a townie, genius?

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its_obvious 7 years, 7 months ago

If you and yours don't shop downtown, you're not a "townie".

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Mike Ford 7 years, 7 months ago

For the Herr Dolph supporters, I have this to say; Lawrence is a town of sincere and thinking people who like Lawrence for it's character and originality as a community. If you're advocating unchecked growth and destruction of what makes Lawrence the unique place that it is, you're the problem. I bet a lot of you have always been someone else's problem and no one's ever told you. Guess what, I'm telling you that unchecked national chain development is the problem, not the solution. If you like miles and miles of homogenous homes and buildings, move there! (It must be Johnson County? right?) Don't advocate bringing this 800 pound gorilla of development to Lawrence as a solution . It's not. Don't attack commissioners who care simply because you don't care and you feel like being one of Dolph's minion bullies. Might doesn't make right. Implying that commissioners are communists simply because they proceed with caution isn't a logical statement to make. Then again, look at who's commenting against Mr. Shauner and Mr. Highberger, a bunch of people who think calling names justifies attacking intelligence. PLEASE!!!!!!!

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lunacydetector 7 years, 7 months ago

i am a "townie" and i know a lot of other "townies" who have lived here their whole lives. they do not shop downtown except on occasion, because of the parking, and the lack of selection, the high prices, and the element that likes to hang out down there. they do not like how our commission is trying to micromanage everything in our city. they want growth and jobs. they think the chamber of commerce USED to be something until the infiltration by the fringe of our community. the fringe of our community is running the show because the majority didn't vote.

the key to the next election is for everyone to get out and vote. this is the only way lawrence will have normalcy. the current commission is definitely NOT looking for common ground and they definitely do NOT represent the majority.

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davisnin 7 years, 7 months ago

"Handsome condominium project"

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Pilgrim 7 years, 7 months ago

Posted by merrill (anonymous) on September 2, 2006 at 3:57 p.m.

A south-of-the-river route would join County Road 1057 and Kansas Highway 10 to carry traffic north to Interstate 70 by way of I-70 connectors meeting a Tonganoxie turnpike interchange.

This concept accomplishes many things. It services:

¢ Johnson and Douglas counties' traffic going to northwest Lawrence or Topeka.

¢ the Eudora Business Park east of 1057.

¢ East Hills Business Park and the southeast Lawrence industrial park.


And yada, yada, yada. Richard, you are nothing if not repetitive.

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its_obvious 7 years, 7 months ago

Sigmund--"It is hard to think of a single business in Downtown Lawrence that will be harmed by the new Walmart (except in general they will pay higher wages and offer more benefits to workers, raising the wages for good employees). Music venues, coffee shops, antique dealers, bars, restaurants, barber shops, speciality toys, candles and bicycles; which of these will Walmart compete with? None of them."

It is only "hard to think" of these things if you don't try. Walmart hurts every single store downtown except the bars & restaurants, and maybe even those. Walmart sells music, toys, candles, bicycles, photography, kitchen goods, clothing, sewing goods, furniture, everything. The name of their game is underselling no matter what. Do you want a Walmart world? That's where we're heading. The feeling of being nowhere in particular. That's what experts blame for kids growing up feeling disconnected and starting to shoot people. There's no value in that world for anything an individual creates or cares about. Sameness. No personal connections. Anonymity. Do we want to create that? To strengthen downtown, you have to give non-megalith stores a strong chance for a decent foothold. You can't have huge rents designed primarily for landlord profitmaking, with no hope that the tenant will get enough business to pay that rent! With the odds against them, HOW could they possibly pay employees higher wages and benefits than WalMart when everyone's shopping at WalMart?????????? Think about that when you're tempted to hop over to Wally World for something, people!!! Cheap at what cost???

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not_dolph 7 years, 7 months ago

oldgoof - remind me again where your business is located???

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not_dolph 7 years, 7 months ago

I wish I were dolph - but I am not. However, for once I agree with him.

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Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

If thousands of upper level income jobs began to surface to curb commuting and employ our commuters we might need a bypass not a trafficway.

Here is what I would propose:

Why not agree on a south-of-the-river bypass and forget the obsolete trafficway concept? Spend tax dollars on a more practical application. Introduce appropriate plans designed to meet future needs, a plan that could bring Johnson, Douglas and Leavenworth counties together as partners. This requires bridges across the river. All three counties would benefit, thus would assist funding the project. Then, turn the entire road project over to the Kansas Turnpike Authority.

A south-of-the-river route would join County Road 1057 and Kansas Highway 10 to carry traffic north to Interstate 70 by way of I-70 connectors meeting a Tonganoxie turnpike interchange.

This concept accomplishes many things. It services:

¢ Johnson and Douglas counties' traffic going to northwest Lawrence or Topeka.

¢ the Eudora Business Park east of 1057.

¢ East Hills Business Park and the southeast Lawrence industrial park.

¢ the Lawrence airport.

And it:

¢ diverts traffic around the city.

¢ keeps the SLT out of the wetlands.

¢ reduces congestion for morning and afternoon commuters.

¢ might save Douglas County taxpayers millions of dollars.

¢ is a practical and prudent use of tax dollars.

¢ eliminates the need for an eastern bypass.

¢ eliminates much large truck traffic on 23rd Street.

¢ allows KTA fees to pay for the highway and the maintenance.

Building a road through the wetlands at any cost at this point in time is simply not prudent use of Douglas County tax dollars.

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A_Guy 7 years, 7 months ago

truthlawrence: "DOWNTOWN DOSENT PAY FOR TRASH AND SEWER ON ANY OF THERE WATER BILLS THATS HUGE"

Where did you get that idea? I get billed for trash and sewer....its expensive. Not only that, but lots of individual people put their own trash in the trash bins:.and we get charged for that too.

oldgoof: "I presume you acknowledge that street parking and downtown parking lots are significant indirect city support of downtown businesses."

Did you know that the city funded the intersection improvements and street improvements for Home Depot and Best Buy. That kind of project would easily top the million dollar price tag. The parking lots are nice, but some of that is paid for with fines, tickets, and meters. I couldn't say how much of the cost is covered.

moneyhawk:

The city also mows all the public right of way and plants trees and other vegetation in the medians along Clinton Parkway and elsewhere. If I remember right, there is also a "Welcome to Lawrence" sign out by Wal-Mart. With the sprinklers, its my understanding that they are reducing their fee to connect to the water mane. It still a $3,000 connection fee. As for advertisement, most of that is paid by association fees charged to me.

I like being downtown...it is a fun place to operate a business. But things aren't just given to us without us giving something in return. I guarantee through sales tax and property tax....I give far more to the city than I take. Supporting downtown makes sense. That's why so many other communities are trying to re-establish their old business districts.

I would agree that downtown does not need protected, but strengthening downtown is a wise investment for the city.

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Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Excellent paying jobs increase new economic growth. If we did not build another retail center or another house thousands of excellent paying new jobs would provide a substantial economic impact to our local economy. Lawrence would be maximizing its' existing resources. As of now Lawrence is home to 15,000 commuters.

At the moment stem cell research is the big prize which translates into major competition. Why not be looking elsewhere Let's not wait for every other community on the planet to corral the green industry and new jobs. Why not be part of the initial few with foresight?

http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2006/7/25/10747/8964

http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=Green+jobs&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

"It wouldn't matter anyway because, like Dolph C. Simons Jr. says: "the majority of citizens [are] afraid to speak up and make their thoughts known.""

While there is some truth to the statement, over the years Dolph's newspaper has been instrumental in suppressing the views he didn't agree with. His intent with that statement is more of the same-- to paint the current commission as unrepresentative of views that are widely held.

Certainly nobody agrees with the commission on everything, including myself, but I think it's much more representative of community views and values than past commissions have been.

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afred 7 years, 7 months ago

Its also important to consider perspective. There is a group of people in this town who spend quite a bit of time downtown. Whether they are working, buying stuff, or if that's where they live, downtown is an integral part of thier everyday lives. Townies if you will (that's not meant as an insult).

If your experience of downtown is limited to a few hours a week or less, then downtown probably means something different to you than it does to us.

It seems to me that some people on the city commision are sympathetic with the townies, and it seems like measures designed to restrict retail businesses from coming in, are in earnest awareness of a need to protect the town's culture.

And it would be difficult to enforce a city ordinance that prevents perfectly legitimate business like Applebees or WalMart from setting up shop just because they might dilute the the town's culture.

But let's face it. Businesses like Applebees and WalMart do exactly that, they dilute a town's culture.

So what can you do, except make it harder for big retail to get a foothold?

The only other thing would be to put more issues on ballots and have people vote on them. Then, if Walgreens wants to put up shop a block away from Round Courner Drugstore, and the people have no problem with that, then by god, let there be Walgreens.

But that would require the people who are currently in power actually relinquishing some of it to the common citizen, which, if memory serves me correctly, has never happened in the history of the human civilization.

It wouldn't matter anyway because, like Dolph C. Simons Jr. says: "the majority of citizens [are] afraid to speak up and make their thoughts known."

I suppose that explains why hardly anybody ever posts responses to these articles (heavy sarcasm).

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solsken66 7 years, 7 months ago

The City of Manhattan built a mall adjacent to their downtown. Does anyone know if that venture worked out well? I would think that would actually increase the volume of pedistrian traffic since there would be more choices and usually malls have a parking garage or ample space for parking. The downtown area could of closed some sections of streets for pedistrian traffic only with nice benches, waterfountains, and outdoor eating areas. My cousin went to Califorinia and visited an outdoor mall type concept. The space was beautifully designed with landscaped areas, benches, waterfountains, and walking paths just to enjoy the outdoors. Parking must have been built behind so that it would not interfer with the space between the buildings as a park like setting for the stores.

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afred 7 years, 7 months ago

When I hear about the "protection" of downtown, I think of protecting the elements that contribute to it being a social hub that's a fun place to hang out AND do business; the elements that make it a UNIQUE retail center. In short, "protection" to me, implies the protection of the town's CULTURE.

My main concern with introducing larger, corporate retail stores, no matter how convenient they are, or how much of a gold mine they might be for some investors, only contributes to this growing trend of SUBURBIFICATION that we see sterilizing business districts right and left.

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truthlawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

DOWNTOWN DOSENT PAY FOR TRASH AND SEWER ON ANY OF THERE WATER BILLS THATS HUGE

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dviper 7 years, 7 months ago

I would love to see the old downtown transform into a more appealing business, retail and entertainment destination similar in concept to the Plaza area of KC. However, the demographics and economic reality of Lawrence and especially the old downtown don't support a revitalization of downtown Lawrence. There is at least one exception, under current conditions new developments and transformations downtown will be heavily dependant upon tax subsidizes from local, state and federal levels to make the projects viable. Without these subsidizes most, if not all, prospective developments and transformations in downtown Lawrence would require the business owners a very long ROI (Return On Investment), which most prudent business people would walk away from quickly.

One only has to look at the K-10 corridor to see the growth and promise that will deprive Lawrence of any significant new business employers with salaries in high, medium and unskilled compensation levels. K-10 will in a few years be a 6 lane highway. Olathe and Lenexa are growing westward, and attracting more of the population that may have preferred Lawrence as their home.

I agree with your assertion, that this is a critical time for Lawrence. I only hope it is not too late for Lawrence. If the views of the minority are allowed to continue to shape the future of Lawrence, it will be.

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dviper 7 years, 7 months ago

Dolph

Thank you for writing such a good article. Every now and then you hit one out of the park.

I agree with your opinion about strengthening the old downtown area of Lawrence instead of protecting it. Protecting the old downtown area is a big mistake as well as trying to view it as the character of Lawrence. It may well have been the character of Lawrence before the University of Kansas grew to the prominence it now enjoys nationally, however today Lawrence is a city dominated by the university and is significantly identified as such.

By studying Lawrence's demographics, many facts can be uncovered that point to its positive and negative aspects. Most noteworthy is the fact that a significant portion of the population is employed by companies in Topeka and the KC metro area, thereby making Lawrence a bedroom community. Another fact is that Lawrence loses a significant amount of business and sales tax revenue to Topeka and the KC Metro area thereby depriving the city of much needed revenue to maintain, expand and improve city infrastructure. I'd like to see the LJW publish an article or a series that focuses on these and many other facts so that the general public can be better informed and make better decisions during the upcoming local elections.

Of course, we'll always have a small minority of people (sometimes very vocal) who will appose anything, for just about any reason well thought out or not. This has become increasingly evident during the last six years.

If the general public was aware of many of the real facts, they would perhaps begin to understand the impacts of many business, economic and political decisions. There have been many past key decisions as you point out in your article that have shaped Lawrence's business environment to the situation that we have today. Many decisions under consideration and those that have already been made by our current city commissioners is slowing strangling the growth of our great city.

continued....

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Sigmund 7 years, 7 months ago

Farmboy-

Excellent idea, but the LJW "reporters" simply can't be bothered. They are too busy covering the case of the dead bunny (hey, "if it bleeds it leads"). You might create your own map ....

http://old.hometown.lawrence.com/valuation/valuation.cgi

Don't be too suprised to find that the property is held in a trust or LLC, LLP or some other corporate structure. Even local home town merchants understand the value of corporate structures.

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oldgoof 7 years, 7 months ago

A Guy: "I do operate a downtown business. I've never recieved any direct benefit from the City..."

I presume you acknowledge that street parking and downtown parking lots are significant indirect city support of downtown businesses.

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Farmboy 7 years, 7 months ago

I understand downtown real estate is owned by just a few persons. How about LJW publishing a map showing who owns what?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

"Seems we have reached the opposite end of that spectrum."

That's the myth that you and others wish to spread.

"The average citizen wants normal and efficient city government. Just something that resembles the middle, please."

Actually, that is precisely what this commission has tried to achieve, but trying to correct both the bad and corrupt government of the previous several decades is a tall order, especially when they have to overcome the hysteria that is all too well represented on this forum (and by the writer of this JW editorial.)

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Sigmund 7 years, 7 months ago

I agree, any attempt by the Business Czar's to centally plan what new business shall be allowed or prevented from competing in Lawrence makes no sense.

It is hard to think of a single business in Downtown Lawrence that will be harmed by the new Walmart (except in general they will pay higher wages and offer more benefits to workers, raising the wages for good employees). Music venues, coffee shops, antique dealers, bars, restaurants, barber shops, speciality toys, candles and bicycles; which of these will Walmart compete with? None of them.

Honestly, the new Walmart will compete with the old Walmart, Target, Office Depot, Home Depot, World Market, Bed Bath and Beyond, Dillons, Hy-Vee, and the Merc. They all do big numbers in sales, especially when compared to Downtown merchants, and offer near identical items. They will compete on price (and somewhat on service) between themselves.

Isn't this what we want? Small locally owned business that offer superior service and speciality goods in Downtown Lawrence and the big box stores competing between themselves keeping the price for commodity type goods low? And for the privilege they get to pay our high real estate taxes and contribute our sales tax revenues.

Lawrence doesn't need a fundraiser and contributor to the PLC to be annointed Business Czar to protect the Merc. Lawrence deserves better leadership.

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monkeyhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

A_Guy- By virtue of merely owning a downtown business, you are in a protected class, and always have been. That is a direct benefit. Specific downtown advertising, while other retail areas receive none, tax payer funded flora, and perhaps being a recipient of tax payer funded water sprinklers constitute direct benefit. City sponsorship of a downtown homecoming party is a direct benefit.

I am afraid that because you are a downtown business owner, you do not have an objective view when compared to an ordinary, tax paying citizen. That is called an agenda.

You, bozo, merrill, etc. are so fond of recalling the "bad old days" when developers ran amuck. Seems we have reached the opposite end of that spectrum. The average citizen wants normal and efficient city government. Just something that resembles the middle, please.

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Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Combine a music,art and food fair twice a year downtown accompanied with a bike race as the grand finale. This in addition to to already scheduled events. Wild thinking but it is an idea. Perhaps Downown Lawrence, the Art Guild and other stake holders could work together as coordinating partners.

Jayhawks football and basketball do a good job. Let's not take home games to Kansas City.

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A_Guy 7 years, 7 months ago

I do operate a downtown business. I've never recieved any direct benefit from the City, though. Wal Mart will pull in lots of taxes, but those taxes come from the local people, thus recycling what's already here. Tourism is important because it draws money from outside of the city into the city creating a net gain.

Sigmond, do you think the City commission was less corrupt when it was led by developers and their friends? I also realized that you were trying to compare central planning to local planning. It just didn't make any sense.

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monkeyhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Obviously, downtown draws more people from outside the area than inside. It would be interesting to do comparison between downtown tax generation and the other retail areas. My bet is that downtown is dwarfed. I would also venture to guess that say, WalMart alone, draws more people in one day, and produces more tax revenue than downtown would in one week.

Besides, A_Guy, don't you operate a business downtown?

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Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

The most important item Lawrence is missing is thousands of excellent paying jobs.

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Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

I've always wondered what is Lawrence missing? More of what is already here? Convenience?

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Sigmund 7 years, 7 months ago

I thought it would be obvious to people of reasonable intellignece that when made reference to "central government planning", I was discussing the micro economic environment that we call Lawrence, Kansas not the macro economic environment of the United States. What an idiot.

The problem I have with the Current Kommissioners and their appointees is the back room dealing that favors one small part of Lawrence to the detriment of the rest. Only a small part of Lawrence benefits from protecting the Merc and Downtown Lawrence. It is the rest of Lawrence that is supposed to pay the costs for that favoritism.

In the next democratic election here in Lawrence, I hope the voters come to their senses. Lawrence deserves better.

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A_Guy 7 years, 7 months ago

The benefit of supporting downtown is that it draws in LOTS of people from out of town. This means that the City pulls money from outside of Lawrence into Lawrence. This is an overall City benefit. Strengthening downtown is a good investment.

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monkeyhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

The "big divide" in this community may have a lot to do with downtown itself. I am just an ordinary, big tax paying individual in this town. I do not have any vested interests in development, and no agenda to push. However, I am forced to financially support an area in which I never go, pay for Compton's water sprinklers, flowers and advertising. Because I, like many of us on the west side, do not go there, we are accused of not wanting to protect downtown. We are dwellers in the "Other Lawrence", and we are to be scorned because we love sprawl and some even commute.

Speaking for myself, no, I do not feel that ANY private businesses should be subsidized. Downtown, and those who are a part of the "Real Lawrence" are very apparent in their feelings for those of us who are "on the outside". But, most of you fail to realize we are not "looking in".

"too many residents unwilling or hesitant to get involved in important city matters." I think it is more likely that many people are too involved in just trying to get through life and took for granted that their elected officials were doing what was in the best interest of ALL of us. While we were sleepwalking, the wolves broke into the chicken coop. Now I think most of us have awakened and can see how truly damaging the stealthy attack has been. We have a number of people pushing policy in this town who pay little to nothing in the form of property taxes, and view the city coffers as pin money for foolish folly.

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Sigmund 7 years, 7 months ago

Merrill- Of all the post I have read of yours, that was perhaps the most incoherent piece of rambling nonsense I think I have ever read. Just how is Lawrence supposed to spend big bucks to get the "right" kind of business here? As far as I remember we don't have enough money to cover current street repairs! Shall we build more roundabouts, or put more M-T buses on the street? The PLC City Kommissioners, and their appointees (yourself included) are either incompetent and/or corrupt. I just can't decide which.

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A_Guy 7 years, 7 months ago

Newspapers benefit from any kind of growth, even growth that does not benefit the city as a whole. More people mean more subscriptions which means that they can charge more for advertising.

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A_Guy 7 years, 7 months ago

Sigmund,

Central planning refers to planning at the national level. If Bush came to Lawrence and tried to tell us how to zone our land, then you would have a comparison to the USSR. As it is, LOCAL planning is about providing a voice to local citizens and allowing the local population to make choices about their community. This is done by electing local officials. Its OK not to agree with what your locally elected officials are doing, but arguing against local planning is arguing against local democracy. That sounds pretty Anti-American to me.

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Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

"In the meantime, with all the efforts to "protect" the area, what has happened to downtown Lawrence? According to some surveys, it has the highest vacancy rate of any commercial area in the city."

How about rents imposed by owners? High property taxes due to the probability that light industrial professional occupations were not among priorities of our city government/Chamber of Commerce from about 1987 -2002.

Smart business communities apply economic impact studies in an effort to avoid our situation rather than rely on the real estate and building industries to plan out their cities. Lawrence tried that approach from 1987-2002 thus the present situation. Laissezfaire government does not pay as we know now. Residential and retail sprawl is expensive and requires many more tax dollars to support.

As Boog noted we're doing the same things everyone else has done or is doing which will not bring in outside business and is not capitalizing on existing resources.

So let's save downtown now instead of doing what so many other cities are doing including our neighbors KCMO and Topeka. Many many other cities are spending big bucks bringing back downtowns therefore no reason to destroy our warm and unique downtown. Expanding downtown can be acceptable but not at a reckless pace in support of developers.

As as been stated before our family does not consider a shopping trip to KCMO metro from time to time an inconvienence. We combine shopping with pleasure such as doing first Friday in the KCMO "art district". Finding most everything locally is still within our grasp.

There are plenty of opportunities to spend money in Lawrence. With 15,000 educated and/or skilled commuters why not focus on great paying jobs. Then again if Lawrence shrinks a bit so be it.

Sometimes it seems Dolph Simon Jr. and The World Company are part of the development community.

The LJW's constant barrage of Lawrence is unfriendly attacks may in fact be scaring off light industrial high salaried positions. Newspapers are a great source of info when new residents or employers are considering new locations.

Uncontrolled growth friendly city and planning commissioners who had majority control were screaming Lawrence is unfriendly to business long before the PLC came into existence.

The Kansas State Board of Education and our legislature cannot be doing a lot for any area of Kansas. Both do still come up on chatboards elsewhere. It will require time to put this matter to sleep.

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Sigmund 7 years, 7 months ago

Only allowing new competing retail space will lower rents downtown and the new PLC Business Czar, Dave Burress, will do his best to to keep that from happening (along with protecting the Merc for two of the PLC Kommissioners). I still do not understand why this conflict of interest in the Walmart case has not caused these two to recuse themselves. I so want Walmart to fire up their legal machine and restart the lawsuit.

The good news is that protectionism (ie anti-competitive policies of the PLC under the guise of central government planning) can't and won't last. The only real question is how long businesses downtown will have to pay, and pass on to consumers, the incredibly high rents they have to pay to a handfull of greedy landlords? The increasing vacancy rate downtown suggests to me it won't be much longer. Once rents decrease locally owned businesses will come back downtown.

The PLC Kommissioners and their new installed Business Czar may be able to protect the Merc's monopoly on organic free range free trade radishes for a while. but not forever. The only real question is how long Lawrence will tolerate their lack of choice imposed upon them by two greedy PLC Kommissioners?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

While that is certainly true, bulldawgs, even as high as property taxes are becoming, they make up a relatively small part of that rent increase.

The greatest part of that rent increase is going into the pockets of the owners of those buildings (or their mortgage holders if the property has recently changed hands.)

Aside from implementing some form of rent control, what can the city government do about it?

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bulldawgs 7 years, 7 months ago

You wonder why downtown lawrence has vacant store fronts? Rents are 10-15 times more than they were just a few years ago...there is no way I can open my business there at current rates...Mom and Pop are being forced out.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

"Lawrence currently is lacking in aggressive leadership, with too many residents unwilling or hesitant to get involved in important city matters. A small minority has been able to impose its ideas due to the majority of citizens being afraid to speak up and make their thoughts known."

Translation-- "My buds don't control the city commission any more, and I wish these uppity folks would just go away and let us movers and shakers get back to moving and shaking, cause only we can use city resources to line our pockets the way we are accustomed to."

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lunacydetector 7 years, 7 months ago

THANK YOU DOLPH FOR SPEAKING THE TRUTH!

Do we want Lawrence to wither and die on the vine, or be fruitful and multiply?

A shrinking community is a dying community. Unfortunately, Lawrence is shrinking.

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truthlawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

AMEN AMEN AMEN,PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT,RUNDLE,BOOG,AND SCHAUNER,HE IS RIGHT AND YOU KNOW IT

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