Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2007

Not cool

Trying to freeze Lawrence in time isn’t a hot strategy for the future.

September 6, 2007


Staying the same just isn't an option. Over the last several decades, growth has been a controversial topic in Lawrence. While some people celebrated the expansion of the town, others wanted to keep Lawrence just as it was: charming, friendly, convenient.

The only problem is that maintaining the status quo doesn't work. We can try to keep Lawrence the same, but we can't control the change that is occurring in other cities. If other cities grow and prosper, we lose stature and vibrancy. By staying the same, we become something less.

That's why city officials are concerned about Lawrence's future. It's partly a numbers game, but that's not the whole story.

One number officials are looking at is a small decline in population. Then there is the slippage in sales tax receipts and the decline in the local construction market. All of these are indications that Lawrence may be becoming a less desirable place to live and work.

In addition to the numbers, however, is the community's mindset. We are a great town, but we can't continue to be a great town simply by maintaining what we have. Even to maintain our current population and vitality, Lawrence must show some vision and innovation.

Lawrence's downtown is a good example. Local residents have resisted major changes to downtown, but that hasn't kept downtown from changing. Forty years ago, downtown was the center of Lawrence commerce. There were grocery stores and car dealerships downtown along with most of the city's retail businesses. That's not the case today.

Many people still think it was a good move to keep an enclosed mall from developing downtown, but that didn't keep many of the stores that might have been housed by such a mall from building other stores in Lawrence, many outside downtown. We controlled, to an extent, what happened downtown, but that didn't control what happened elsewhere. Downtown Lawrence still is a desirable spot, but vacant storefronts and business turnover are signs it is struggling.

News that Lawrence's population growth has leveled off has been applauded by residents who say Lawrence is big enough, but the only alternative to growth is decline.

There's more than one kind of growth. In addition to looking at the growth of population or jobs in Lawrence, we also need to grow some innovative ideas and strategies to maintain the city's vibrant residential and business atmosphere. As City Manager David Corliss recently told the Journal-World, "Lawrence does not have a monopoly on coolness." Sitting on our laurels while other cities reach for a dynamic future just isn't cool.


Ragingbear 10 years, 9 months ago

A city can evolve, but should not always grow. We have enough population wise. We don't want to see Lawrence turn into New York. There are many things we can do to have Lawrence progress and grow without the population going nuts the way it is. In a few years, Lawrence will be a suburb of KC. We need to tell our commissioners once and for all that this is not what we want.

average 10 years, 9 months ago

"If other cities grow and prosper, we lose stature and vibrancy."

And I should care about the stature of Lawrence why exactly? So more people want to move here, the developers can make some coin, and my taxes can keep going up?

"the only alternative to growth is decline"

Topeka, averaging less than 1/4-percent-per-annum growth over the last 35 years appears to still exist.

Hoots 10 years, 9 months ago

The funny thing is many of the people that don't want growth have lived here a short period of time and are themselves part of our growth. When you have a kid you have made growth as well. I don't hear much complaining about growth from old Douglas County families but the newbees love to complain. My family came here in around 1874 and I've seen so much change in my lifetime here. Things will change folks.

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 9 months ago

This whole editorial is based on your self interested, capitalistic hunger to increase circulation, generate higher ad rates, and sell more cable connections. It has nothing to do with the quality of life for residents.

My suspicion: The generic sameness of the sprawl of the past 20 years has made the city less unique, thus less desirable. The monopolistic media mogul's fever dream of endless growth may be a nice fantasy for those projecting LJW's future earnings, but it is unsustainable in reality.

grimpeur 10 years, 9 months ago

Give the stain a cigar!

What else isn't cool? Complaining about relatively minor traffic problems while discouraging alternatives and encouraging more traffic. Grinding our streets to dust with recreational, lazy, unnecessary driving while complaining about the condition of our streets. You want to grow? You better damn well figure out how to move people instead of cars.

What else isn't cool? Continuing to avoid meaningful impact fees ($15/sf to start) as a revenue source while owners of existing housing are priced out of their homes. You want to grow? You better damn well figure out how to make some money from growth. Period. Current residents won't support more residential development if it means higher tax burdens for the sake of saving $5K on a $300K+ home (so don't start with the "affordable housing" bit).

Very uncool.

lunacydetector 10 years, 9 months ago

why doesn't lawrence try to recruit Legoland to its outskirts? they've run into trouble in lee's summit. that would be huge to lawrence. what a coup.

i wonder how the wackos would respond?

as for the lawrence is business unfriendly comment above, what is business friendly about a living wage law? what is business friendly about running away american eagle outfitters?

actions speak louder than words, stain. your people have hurt lawrence's economy and future.

lunacydetector 10 years, 9 months ago

...and one more thing stain, i have no financial interests at all in any projects turned down by the city. i only point out the obvious. don't rewrite history here. lawrence is business unfriendly, period. ask anyone.

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