Archive for Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hotel’s design spurs comment

December 27, 2007


The current Oread Hotel design represents a huge loss of opportunity for the community, the university, the neighborhood and, ultimately, the developer and the architect. It does not measure up to Lawrence's signature buildings: The Eldridge Hotel, Liberty Hall, Watkins National Bank, the Douglas County Courthouse, or the English Lutheran Church. Nor does it complement or enrich KU's renowned campus, especially not the towers of Dyche Hall and the Campanile to which the design's tower will always be compared. The design lacks an inspiring idea befitting a progressive city and university.

In a "city of the arts," that may contribute about $11 million to the proposed project through tax increment financing, the design is unacceptable. Ironically, even the architects and developers are disappointed. For them, the design is the unfortunate result of a constrained bureaucratic process. For us, it is a collective failure of the imagination that will remind us of our inadequacy for the next 150 years.

Given its magnificent and historic site, the Oread Hotel could symbolize the community and university working together, lending the best that each has to offer. This close relationship could be the signature of gracious hospitality to visitors who come to participate in the university's academic, cultural, and sports activities. Why not an architecture that manifests the long-term, essential partnership between the community and university? This new hotel should be a worthy representation of us to future generations but it must make an inspiring statement in the skyline about who we are and who we aspire to be.

The current design, perhaps influenced by nearby Corbin Hall designed in 1923 in the "English colonial style," has had mixed reviews. The Historic Resources Commission and the Lawrence Preservation Alliance turned down the design because they considered it too tall (95 feet) and too massive (west façade 238 feet) for the historic neighborhood. They believed the hotel would diminish the historic value of the Snow House, and the Hancock and Oread neighborhoods, all on the National Register of Historic Places.

A prominent preservationist argued, however, that the neighborhood had lost its historic character anyway through slow fragmentation, so the design should be permitted.

Fragmentation on and around Mount Oread has occurred inevitably for a long time, but not by plan. The hotel is another piecemeal step at the north end of KU, and is more than simply a preservation issue.

An inspiring, living, symbolic architecture in the form of the Oread Hotel would not diminish any historic building or neighborhood. It would only enhance them and set a standard for the new buildings in this dynamic part of town. The best and most recent example of such enhancement is Steven Holl's brilliant addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. Though contemporary, it sustains the historic beaux arts museum and the Rockhill Neighborhood, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Holl's addition is also bringing unending international attention to Kansas City for its contemporary design.

Opinion about the hotel design among architects in Lawrence varies remarkably but all agree that we need an outstanding project. Most support a hotel on this site and most also believe that the design should be progressive, forward- not backward-looking. Whatever the design, many architects also believe that it should be a "green" building that is sustainable and accountable for its environmental impact. KU recently declared a campus sustainability day to draw attention to our environmental responsibilities, and this building should do the same. There are ideas about different sites, too, and questions about nearby new developments on the KU campus.

Unfortunately, there has been little public discussion which might inspire a progressive hotel design. A public exchange at this point should be understood in the context of a larger need for a regular public dialogue about architectural design and city planning in Lawrence. Now is time for all good architects, planners, developers, business and university leaders, landscape architects, engineers, contractors, artists, bankers, barbers, bakers, candlestick makers, lawyers, politicians, preservationists, and others to speak up in a professional manner about creating an enduring architecture in Lawrence.

A panel discussion on this topic is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Lawrence Public Library. The dean of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at Kansas University and I will moderate a panel of distinguished professionals and citizens. The architects and developers will participate because the design process cannot be over yet. The architectural discussion must begin.

- Dennis Domer, a Lawrence resident, is a retired distinguished professor of historic preservation.


Michael Capra 10 years, 5 months ago

oh this will be a event with lots of cheese with the wine

Boston_Charley 10 years, 5 months ago

Whatever message that last comment is supposed to convey, it fails miserably.

But, laying aside pointless cynicism---It's a great idea to invite the interested public for their input on this. Sounds like a potentially very exciting program to me. Hurray for Mr. Domer and all others who are trying to deal with this issue in a constructive and imaginative manner.

Keith 10 years, 5 months ago

You just have to learn to ignore the plumber's comments, he's another of those who don't live in Lawrence, but love to tell us how we should run our town.

not_dolph 10 years, 5 months ago

cool - come out, come out, wherever you are...

BigPrune 10 years, 5 months ago

I agree with Mr. Domer. A Steven Holl Architectural design just like he did at the Nelson-Atkins museum would be fitting for Lawrence.

If you don't know what that looks like, here is a photo:

If you notice, it's completely lit up at night, but looks stark during the day. It could make Lawrence a City that NEVER sleeps let alone the hotel guests. I wonder what George Catt would say about it?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 5 months ago

I wouldn't be so much against this project, but why does ikt need welfare to get started? If it's such a wonderful business investment, why aren't the investors spending their own money?

BigPrune 10 years, 5 months ago

If you look at the addition to the Nelson-Atkins, it looks just like a Butler building except it becomes special at night and turns into a beacon of light.

blackwalnut 10 years, 5 months ago

The Nelson addition is a lovely space inside during the day. As for the exterior design, it has received national attention and praise from other museums. It was not easy to come up with something that would offer the space needed without destroying the look of the old building. It graces the old building without overpowering it. Almost no other design could have done that. It's brilliant.

Michael Sizemore 10 years, 5 months ago

Where will the visitors to this hotel eat? Where will they shop? Where will they drink?

The hotel is NOT the destination, the city is. So why is it located away from the core entertainment/commercial district? Never fear, with the appropriate annexations and rezoning, those old moldy homes, will give way to shiny "new urban" development, and the entertainment district will come to the hotel.

Won't it be beautiful?! A real Mecca:as long as the football team can keep winning, this destination should be profitable at least 7, er 6 (thanks Lou) weekends a year! Oh wait, there's the masonry conference:and er, I'm sure many, many other KU events that can keep a 100-room hotel near full occupancy 365 days/year.

When (not if) the hotel fails, we can turn it into Condos I hear that's hot or student housing. Or maybe, just maybe, the developer can unload this albatross onto a second or third tier hotel chain (ala springhill suites) what a lovely addition the green neon Holiday Inn sign will make to our skyline.

I'm really excited about this folks! Please tell me where I can send my tax dollars! And please make it a little taller, I want to see this architectural gem in my rear-view mirror as I leave town.

Michael Sizemore 10 years, 5 months ago

blackwalnut (Anonymous) says:

Concerning the Nelson addition: "It graces the old building without overpowering it."

That pretty much sums-up why this project should not be built. This hotel will overpower and destroy the historic environs of the adjacent districts. It does not "grace" it's environment, it consumes it.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

"Anonymous user cool (Anonymous) says: do Fritzel's own any Deciphera stock ?"

Yes. Like the mayor they are DCDI board members and own Dicephera stock so the story goes.

I hope they do leave the exterior of that 3 story apartment building on the corner pretty much as is including the landscaping. New energy efficient windows would also be a nice touch.

An upscale cafe and pub,"green roof"parking above the cafe and pub followed up with the same landscaping theme would present a very nice picture for campus visitors and students.

smot 10 years, 5 months ago

I am all for progressive hotel designs but remain unconvinced that any broad agreement can be achieved to satisfy the varied interests of the people of Lawrence. As with any building proposal of this size and significance, the arguments are bound to be substantial. I remain convinced that this project will never be completed and will join the South Lawrence Trafficway as a lightening rod for special interest groups and naysayers in general.

Michael Sizemore 10 years, 5 months ago

smot (Anonymous) says: "I remain convinced that this project will never be completed."

I agree - I can't fathom this thing will ever get financed. My guess is that the condos will be "pre-sold" to finance some of the construction, but even with the City's tax incentives, I can't believe the business case for this monster is valid. Maybe it's just a tax write-off?

BunE 10 years, 5 months ago

Build it with 150 Rooms, 150' tall please.

not_dolph 10 years, 5 months ago

Wow - 22 posts by cool. About 50%, not too bad. Glad no one reads them.

Bitterfalls 10 years, 5 months ago

The first problem to my mind was only lightly breached here. The roads and traffic. That neighborhood is not conducive for the kind of traffic that it already has. The steep grades of the roads, and the T intersection are already minor problems in that neighborhood, but will become exponentially worse with this hotel there. I ask: WHY THAT particular spot? Why THAT block? Why THERE?

I think that the architecture could and should match the existing brick apartment building directly south and west of the hotel, across the street.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

Simply put this high risk development does not deserve the city as tool to help finance this monster. Go to the bank. The rather rosy economic projections were done in house... with all due respect calls for at least two other opinions.

I say build a high end stainless steel diner as a dinner club and bring on Tony Bennett.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

What would be acceptable to the neighborhood?

What other types of business would interested parties suggest to the property owners?

How about something similar to the Compton 3 story apartment building across from ICM and the Crossing only a bit more upscale? That 3 story structure has some charm to it. Over night suites?

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

Then I would strongly suggest a very nice cafe and pub instead of a hotel to service all of the extended stay facilities that the Fritzel dynansty have in mind. Lordy mercy!

not_dolph 10 years, 5 months ago


The user cool sent the following message to you via


it's getting ready to SLEET on top of OREAD !

not_dolph 10 years, 5 months ago

He sent it twice...for effect I assume.


The user cool sent the following message to you via


it's getting ready to SLEET on top of OREAD !

sounds like a threat to me. Hope the authorities are paying attention.

Bitterfalls 10 years, 5 months ago

Are you serious? Or am I missing the joke? Pointing out that it is starting to sleet is a threat?

canttakeitanymore 10 years, 5 months ago

cool - why do you keep posting the same comments over and over. Are you worried your followers cant understand it the first time, or the third, or the fourth? I hope your employer doesnt know what you do with your time.

Jayhawker1 10 years, 5 months ago

I really love how people that will have no real ties to the project i.e. will not be even remotely affected by it, are the one that are so negatively vocal about it. I don't know who put SVEN in charge of being the "voice of the people" but they chose a real turd.

SVEN do you need something to do? Is business so slow that you have time to endlessly ramble on something that will have absolutely no impact on your daily life and/or property value?

Who really gives a crap if the Oread is 7 stories? The property is owned by people that want to make the area better. The Neighborhood association gets it:so why don't you? From what I've seen in the LJW they are NOT trying to dwarf any of the buildings on campus:so what's the problem? Historical preservation? Okay:what about the huge concrete parking garage a block away? That adds so much to the environs!

I should think that the people investing the 30 million in the hotel should have at least 51% of the total vote on what the building looks like and how TALL it is!

You're an outsider with a bullhorn voice and an annoyingly arrogant personality. Your only weak attempt at credibility is to speak for someone that USED to live in the Snow house? Why don't you pick a social cause that matters to be vocal about?

I'm also surprised that you're not trying further YOUR financial interests by supporting this project so you can sell the Fritzels on of the many Oread domain name variations you've purchased!

You're such a fraud!

BTW I have a domain name you might be interested in: Get it while it's HOT! I hope they change the name of the project so that the Oread domain names you bought were a waste of your money.

Get a life a hobby or something to occupy your obviously EXCESSIVE free time.

Jayhawker1 10 years, 5 months ago

Dear Friends,

If you would have paid attention to what I wrote you would have seen my opinion.

"Who really gives a crap if the Oread is 7 stories? The property is owned by people that want to make the area better. The Neighborhood association gets it:so why don't you? From what I've seen in the LJW they are NOT trying to dwarf any of the buildings on campus:so what's the problem? Historical preservation? Okay:what about the huge concrete parking garage a block away? That adds so much to the environs!"

I hope Mayor Sue Hack tells you to sit down earlier at the next public open forum.

canttakeitanymore 10 years, 5 months ago

once again... Ditto. Heard it once - i mean 4 times. the hourse is DEAD!

Jayhawker1 10 years, 5 months ago

Don't bother sending me any more personal messages I'm not interested in who likes or dislikes what I have to say... I have freedom of speech. I pay my taxes for that right.

Found a hobby yet?

Jayhawker1 10 years, 5 months ago

I hear there's a great model airplane club here in town!

canttakeitanymore 10 years, 5 months ago

Would all teh critics of the TIF please stop and take aminute to at least try to understand it. I would actually try and explain how it works if i thought the critics would listen. Sven has more information than about anyone, and its obvious he doesnt understand a TIF at all. 10M in his bank account - whatever - doenst work that way.

hornhunter 10 years, 5 months ago

not_dolph (Anonymous) says:

cool - come out, come out, wherever you are:

I bet you wish you would not have posted this now?

cool, is a washed up architect. Triing to live out his fantasy by triing to make people think he knows all.

what will COOL do ? what will SID do ?

Jayhawker1 10 years, 5 months ago

WHAT HISTORICAL CHARACTER? Crappy apartments and crappy businesses...and a new CONCRETE PARKING GARAGE!!

There IS NO CHARACTER!! Get over it!!
Build something NICE there and MOVE ON!!

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

Doing this on a TIF is setting a questionable precedent.

Joe is going to come along and say you did it for Jane so why not not me?

Go to the bank!

hornhunter 10 years, 5 months ago

cool (Anonymous) says:

show up at the library at 2pm on SAT folks and try to encourage Tom Fritzel to make a better building !

cool, will be in the childrens section, reading the 3 little pigs getting new ideas on straw home construction.

BTW, kewl, your hands will never be washed clean

blackwalnut 10 years, 5 months ago

It is too big and too ugly. And if Fritzel builds it, we know it will be crumbling in a few years. The whole thing is a bad idea.

No way should the taxpayers subsidize this bad idea. Why should they?

Bitterfalls 10 years, 5 months ago

Can they put an ice hockey rink inside it?

blackwalnut 10 years, 5 months ago

There hasn't been much public discussion because the public has figured out the commission, mayor and their developer friends don't give a rat's ass about what the public thinks. We're just the taxpayers, after all. In the past all this commission has ever done is pretend to listen to the public, then do whatever they had already decided to do anyway.

not_dolph 10 years, 5 months ago

Jayhawker1 and canttakeitanymore...this is Sven's real motive right here ---

cool (Anonymous) says:

jayhawker - don't worry be happy !

by your own posts you have helped to keep the topic in the most discussed box on the website !

thanks bud.

I love the - fantastic. I think that one will stick. BTW, just post all the crap he sends to your email back-channel through the LJW account...he does it all the time. Further demonstrate what an idiot he is. Or, we just continue to ignore him like everyone else does. Either way, his real motive is to keep the article high up on the post listing.

not_dolph 10 years, 5 months ago

horn-dog...not sorry I taunted Sven out...just couldnt' believe he wasn't already puking all over this thread by the time I got around to posting.

It's too bad Menningers moved to is a perfectly good example of why we need to "re-institute" long-term mental care facilities. ;-)

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

IF the project owners and the architect could see fit to compromise and address stake holder concerns this matter could end on a positive note. Also the city should not be used as a tool to finance high risk projects. Go to the bank.

Considering the site location to KU replacing the retail seems like a no brainer.

Reducing the size, meeting LEED codes and neighborhood concerns might make this a Smart Growth project. No one is necessarily against rehab of the area.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

I believe this COULD be a type of Smart Growth IF the concept is adjusted accordingly.

We define smart growth according to its outcomes -outcomes that mirror the basic values of most Americans. Smart growth is growth that helps to achieve these six goals:

How is Smart Growth Achieved

It is NOT the duty of the taxpayer or local government to maximize profits for speculators regardless of close business or personal relationships.

New rehab development should create NEW ADDITIONAL revenue and NEW ADDITIONAL employment for a community . Certainly it is not merely to replace existing retail for nothing new as in revenue is realized. Otherwise taxpayers realize TAX INCREASES to cover the cost of additional demand on community services which is what appears with this project.

How real are the rosy projections?

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

No doubt marci and Candace feel it will benefit the neighborhood and they live in the hood. Also a bank letter of credit is being require to back the TIF, so I understand, to prevent any impact on the taxpayer.

However no studies have been performed so far as I know as to whether or not the city can absorb another hotel without negatively impacting the market. Also IF the hotel/condo fails what good is a big empty building if all it does is generate property taxes.... taxpayers need more than that from any operation to keep taxpayer taxes in check.

Riverfront Plaza,New Hampshire parking garage(TIF) and Tanger Mall are still NOT fulfilling their expectations. Taxpayer bailouts are partially paying leases on these structures.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

Luxury residential receiving TIF financing? Seems like that should prevent any TIF financing!!!

The questions are appropriate if anyone wants to know why.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

TIF is a tool to use future gains in taxes to finance the current improvements that will create those gains. When a public project such as a road, school, or hazardous waste cleanup is carried out, there is an increase in the value of surrounding real estate, and often new investment (new or rehabilitated buildings, for example). This increased site value and investment creates more taxable property, which increases tax revenues. The increased tax revenues are the "tax increment." Tax Increment Financing dedicates that increased revenue to finance debt issued to pay for the project. TIF is designed to channel funding toward improvements in distressed or underdeveloped areas where development would not otherwise occur. TIF creates funding for public projects that may otherwise be unaffordable to localities.

TIF districts are not without criticism. Although tax increment financing is one mechanism for local governments that does not rely on federal funds or an overall increase in municipal taxes, many question whether TIF districts actually serve their resident populations. TIF districts are often implemented in blighted, lower-rent, areas. As investment in an area increases, it is not uncommon for real-estate values to rise and for gentrification to occur.

Cities use TIF to finance public infrastructure, land acquisition, demolition, utilities and planning costs, and other improvements including:

* Sewer expansion and repair
* Curb and sidewalk work
* Storm drainage
* Traffic control
* Street construction & expansion
* Street lighting
* Water supply
* Landscaping
* Park improvements
* Environmental remediation
* Bridge construction & repair
* Parking structures
* Land Acquisition

not_dolph 10 years, 5 months ago

hawkperched's 4:08 pm post on 12/29/07 nails this entire thread.

This part is particularly accurate (and funny) "...the only thing in Lawrence that is truly 'historic' is the fact that the town is full of meeting goers and no one with money to build anything on their own. those who do have money are not liked and constantly nagged at for wanting to do something. if only Lawrence could have a Greensburg tornado!!"

Now re-read Sven's post about the meeting goers at 9:49 am on 12/30 - classic!

not_dolph 10 years, 4 months ago

In case you missed it, Sven re-posted it like the moron he is. Still doesn't get it.

monkeyhawk 10 years, 4 months ago

The cool, merrill, Max bunch seem to think that the CC should be responsive to them, just as the former bankrupt, grouchy, "smart" growthers were. They tasted a little success in blocking the already permitted Wal Mart (until they crashed). Now they believe they have the current commission under their thumbs, and think the CC is afraid to make any decisions due to the Deciphera debacle.

It is time for the CC to get on with running the city and stop being intimidated by the people who would never think about voting for them. Remember how the previous CC was quite adept at killing our city? We voted for a change away from those tactics, so just do it.

canttakeitanymore 10 years, 4 months ago

Does Cool just type his own comments or does he bother to read any of the actual informaiton? Please tell me you didnt get all of your degrees, whatever they are from KU? I am assuming you missed the classes on economics. Once again, Cool keeps re-posting 'quotes' from conversations with the developers and ignores any of the actual information. Maybe that's what Sven, I mean Cool, (sorry) heard, but the guys behind this wouldnt have said most of what Cool posts.

canttakeitanymore 10 years, 4 months ago

cool seems to be running out of gas --- maybe thomas should just pull the plug, then everyone will be happy. Another 3 story lap sided apartment building with a big sign that says something like..... "All lawrence can handle apartments". happy new year.

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