Letters to the Editor

Shared issue

October 12, 2007


To the editor:

A colleague, Professor Jan Wirrer, at the University of Bielefeld, Germany, recently shared with me a letter he wrote in September to the editor of his local newspaper. His letter criticizes the city government and the citizens of his home community, Spenge, for neglecting to stop large shopping centers on the outskirts of town from ruining the old downtown and heart of the city. I thought the last two paragraphs of his letter, in my translation, might be of local interest:

"There is no basis for the contention that we are confronted here with a worldwide phenomenon that cannot be stopped. The university town of Lawrence, Kansas, is a vigorous example of the opposite kind of development policy, even though Lawrence is situated in the middle of the U.S., a country in which such bad city planning as described above (in his letter) is even more advanced.

"There the citizens have successfully defended themselves against the destruction of the inner city by such projects as large shopping centers in the cornfields and industrial districts. The result is a lively downtown with numerous specialty shops, cafes, restaurants, several galleries and much more. In other words, it has a vibrant downtown where people like to be."

Jan Wirrer and his wife spent two weeks in Lawrence last April in conjunction with a conference held at Kansas University.

Bill Keel,



Ragingbear 8 years, 1 month ago

Yeah. Because we all know that there are tons of places downtown where I can buy dishes, sweats, office supplies, groceries and cat litter for a price comparable to a "big box" store.

I went to a downtown hardware store. After tripping over boxes in the aisles, not finding any rhyme or reason to the layout, and a sales clerk seeming more interested in having me leave than helping me, I finally found the item I was looking for. A simple combination padlock. The price given to me was almost $20. This same lock would have cost me $6 elsewhere. Since money is tight anyways, we don't have much choice in that matter. So keep downtown full of candy shops, smoothie stations, coffee shops and the like, but stop expecting people to revert to going to their stores for all of their grocery needs. Man cannot live by coffee and home made candles alone.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence does not need complete shopping such as downtowns scattered about for they cannot be adequately supported thus higher taxes. The only folks who make out on the deal is the real estate/development community while the rest pay increased taxes aka subsidized growth. Yes grocery stores, a florist,a nursery,gas stations and a hardware store here and there.

The letter writer is absolutely correct.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 1 month ago

It's because downtown Lawrence is populated almost exclusively by "specialty shops, cafes, restaurants, (and) several galleries" that families desperately need practical shopping destinations on the outskirts of town.

pace 8 years, 1 month ago

The letter writer was correct. If you are planning to have a Walmart experience, don't go downtown, go down the road to Walmart. I love Ernst. hardware. Their service has been great, I do have to wait my turn. duh. Downtown has been saved by it's citizens and there has been many special interest ready to sell us out for short term gains for them and long term losses for us. Raging bear, Walmart is out on Iowa, and if your level of behavoir was the same as you pull here on the comments, the "a sales clerk seeming more interested in having me leave than helping me" if you were acting the baby, maybe he was thinking about the other costumers. It is slower at many of the stores because the clerks are waiting on people. Of course the check out is a breeze compared to Dillons, where check out has become the battle of the day.

Terry Jacobsen 8 years, 1 month ago

I won't complain about the "selection" of shops and such downtown. Our downtown is just that, our downtown. No one who lives here goes there for day-to-day needs or volume purchases. In fact I never go there to shop for anything. I do get a haircut there and enjoy the ambiance of the area during the day... However, evenings and nights I wouldn't even consider going down there without a bodyguard. We drove through the downtown about 6:30 p.m. once this summer and the loitering folks there inspired me to leave by the fastest way possible. Call it what you will, but crime doesn't just happen, it grows like bacteria in a petri dish and our downtown at night is prime breeding ground.

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