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Archive for Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hotel on the Hill plan gains support

September 18, 2007

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Proposal to build hotel atop Mount Oread winning approval

Both neighborhood and KU leaders express support the for project 0 once dubbed Eldridge on the Hill - now tentatively called the Oread Inn. Enlarge video

Oread on the Hill

Journal-World reporter Chad Lawhorn describes issues at play in the 12th and Oread development proposal. Enlarge video

Related document

Letters regarding proposed hotel project ( .PDF )

A proposal to build a hotel atop Mount Oread is winning approval from both neighbors and Kansas University leaders, but soon it will face key votes inside City Hall.

"This is a pretty good example of how the neighbors don't complain about everything, if it is fair and takes into account our needs, like parking and design," said Candice Davis, a member of the Oread Neighborhood Association.

Both neighborhood and KU leaders have expressed support for the project - once dubbed Eldridge on the Hill but now tentatively called The Oread Inn. The project - proposed by a development team led by members of the Fritzel family - would include 74 upscale hotel rooms and a mix of condominiums as part of a seven-story building at 12th Street and Oread Avenue.

The 0.75-acre site has been the longtime home of Yello Sub, the college bar The Crossing, a burrito shop, a bookstore, a four-plex rental unit at 1142 Ind. and a nine-plex apartment building at 1140 Ind. All the buildings would be demolished to make way for the project.

That is, if city leaders approve the proposal.

The city's Historic Resources Commission is scheduled to debate the plans at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission is then scheduled to review the plan for the project at its 6:30 p.m. meeting Monday, also at City Hall. City commissioners ultimately will decide whether to give the project final approval.

The city's planning staff previously has recommended that the project be denied because the size of the building is too large to fit the historic character of the neighborhood. But historic resources commissioners were unable to reach consensus on the project when they met in August. Now city planners are saying they need until October to issue a recommendation on the project because of its size and complexity.

But the size issue hasn't been a deal-killer for the neighborhood. Davis - who in addition to being part of the neighborhood association also is part of a subcommittee formed by the association to review the project - said there's no question the building is tall. But she said the designers have worked hard to make the building "architecturally interesting." Plus, she said, some neighbors think a hotel - which will have most of its parking in an underground garage - will be a more neighborhood-friendly use.

"Right now, we have a bar there," Davis said.

KU leaders also are touting the project as a better use for the corner. KU Provost Richard Lariviere and Kevin Corbett, president of the KU Alumni Association, both have written letters of support for the project.

Lariviere calls the project "extremely desirable" because it would provide a needed venue close to campus to host visitors, faculty recruits and university donors.

Corbett wrote that he also likes the non-hotel portions of the development. The hotel is planned to occupy the first five floors of the building, while the top two floors would house a mix of condominiums and extended-stay suites. He said the condos on the edge of campus likely would attract alumni members to return to Lawrence to live.

Developers think the new hotel would help the city become more of a major player for state and regional conferences, as well.

"We're seeing a tremendous amount of leakage in terms of meeting business, especially to Overland Park," said Nancy Longhurst, general manager of the Eldridge Hotel downtown. Longhurst is part of the development team because owners of the Eldridge are among those proposing the new Mount Oread hotel.

The proposed hotel would have 6,000 to 8,000 square feet of meeting space, but would be within walking distance of the large banquet rooms at the Kansas Union.

Developers are saying they're confident that the project will fit in well with the neighborhood. The development team recently released a photo illustration showing how the KU skyline would look from Massachusetts Street, if the project were built. The illustration shows Fraser Hall would continue to be the dominant structure in the skyline.

"There isn't anybody who thinks it is not going to be seen," said Paul Werner, one of the architects on the project. "But the worry was that it would be imposing, and we certainly don't think it will be."

But Lynne Braddock Zollner, the city planner reviewing the project, previously has said the building would significantly change the skyline. She said it would be visible from both Interstate 70 and Kansas Highway 10.

Comments

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

It's a done deal across the board without opposition from the Oread Neighborhood Association.

Can the city support another hotel or will Lawrence see one go under? So long as no tax dollars are spent on this project.... life could be worse. The current business owners at that location are laughing all the way to the bank.

PNUZ 7 years, 3 months ago

I think it is a great project and would love to see it constructed

Doug Fisher 7 years, 3 months ago

this building proposal is an ugly eyesore. don't build it. keep lawrence unique. this town is already being ruined of it's character with all the development out west.

warthog 7 years, 3 months ago

I think it should be a Motel 6; or Motel 8, if they really want to go upscale. I really can't believe they want to build a hotel there. Why not just convert the chancellor's residence to a hotel? He could even live in one of the rooms at a reduced rate. Building a hotel; one that most of Lawrence couldn't afford to stay in, most llikely, is just a stupid, aristocratic idea and... Oh, well, it is KU and Lawrence we're talking about. Nevermind.

Sean Livingstone 7 years, 3 months ago

I think it's time for KU to get an affiliated hotel, but please clean up some of the mess facing research first!

terrapin2 7 years, 3 months ago

How exactly are the KU buses going to pass through that area with the traffic calming devices and all the additional traffic? I'm VERY disappointed that LaRiviere and Corbett have endorsed the proposal, but I can't say I'm surprised. As if the existing hotels that are within minutes of campus aren't sufficient to handle out-of-town visitors to KU. I hope the City Commission votes this down. Contrary to what has been reported, it is not a good fit for the North end of campus!

pace 7 years, 3 months ago

Of course a tall building will change the skyline, i would like it.

Boston_Charley 7 years, 3 months ago

It is not news that there are some people in favor of the project. So why the front-page headline saying "support grows"? The folks who have expressed support all along are still expressing support. No change there, thus no news value.

The "news" content of this story is that the project will be reviewed in the near future by the HRC and the Planning Commission. It is also news, apparently, that the developers recently issued a graphic showing the projected skyline including the proposed hotel. So why wasn't this graphic included with the article?

This article, as printed, is either bad reporting or prejudicial reporting. Subscribers pay for this?

hawkbygod 7 years, 3 months ago

"Building a hotel; one that most of Lawrence couldn't afford to stay in, most llikely, is just a stupid, aristocratic idea "

You are right, because it is a smart idea to build new hotels for Lawrence residents. No! you build expensive hotels so rich people come to your city, spend money at your stores, use your services, and increase tax income. Who cares if Lawrence residents can afford it. As long as the City is not subsidizing the place and those living around the hotel support it, why does it really matter. Its a private investment, it increases the tax base, and its not dumpy student housing. This is what every other city in america would call a win-win situation.

imagainstit 7 years, 3 months ago

hell, why not. it just gives the ghost of quantrill something new to burn down. think progress, this is the wheel of suffering. this is the way of karma. perhaps it will become a refuge for pigeons. p.s.- i don't advocate arson, only comment on ghostly past. thankyou.

Bud Stagg 7 years, 3 months ago

Lawrence cannot stay the same forever people. I wonder if people bitched when the built Allen fieldhouse. "What's wrong with Hoch?" You anti growth, anti-change people have no imagination and want to strangle the rest of us, you are killing this town. I'd rather change it than kill it.

cowboy 7 years, 3 months ago

Some day if the "no's" have their way we'll all be living in ruins with half walls and no roofs. This will be a nice addition to campus.

The LPA is a non entity with no official standing on the project , just another of the " busy body" contingent.

While were at it why not change the requirement for historical designation to properties that have in fact been restored instead of the current process which basicly just validates that its old.

KU_Dude 7 years, 3 months ago

"There isn't anybody who thinks it is not going to be seen," said Paul Werner


I think Paul's an exhibitionist.

shockchalk 7 years, 3 months ago

The neighborhood association is probably in favor of this because it's a great idea that is long overdue! Thank goodness the current City Commission isn't anti-development and wants to improve Lawrence! I'm sure the students will find plenty of other run-down watering holes to drink at.

Bottom line, there are some that are so selfish and narrowminded, that they can't handle any change at all in their pathetic little worlds!

Michael Sizemore 7 years, 3 months ago

Hawkbygod mentions, "...and its not dumpy student housing. "

If the building fails to make it as a hotel, that would be the logical outcome of a building this size, in this location.

shockchalk 7 years, 3 months ago

Cool, A shorter building might be a better "fit" for some but you have to admit, the design of the new building is very nice indeed!

I say, start the bulldozers and get rid of the eyesore that is there now!

shockchalk 7 years, 3 months ago

The burrito shop was open last year as well. The owner is aware of the plans and wants to stay in business as long as possible.

shockchalk 7 years, 3 months ago

BTW...........they have great burrito's!

Michael Sizemore 7 years, 3 months ago

max - It would be very interesting to see the business plan - I'd be amazed if a hotel of this size can survive on a handfull of sporting events and special events. Not every visitor to Lawrence is in town for an event on campus - and location is only part of the equation - what about cost or convenient access to the highway? Many business travelers are limited to what they can pay for hotel stays. Viva Holiday Inn! I'm not a business major, but it seems to me this proposal is on shaky ground - if someone wants to throw a lot of money at it and can make it work great!, but what happens if it fails? Capitalism will ensure that the use of this building equates to it's greatest revenue potential - If a hotel fails, maybe the greatest revenue potential is selling it off as condos for priveledged students (or football fans), maybe it's yearly rental contracts. Heck, maybe it's selling it to the Holiday Inn chain...

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

That's distinct possibility, notnowdear. I was speaking to someone who has a house directly across the alley from the new Arts Center. She said their garage, which is directly on the alley, settled rathered noticeably after it was built. They complained to the city, but the city said they either couldn't or wouldn't doing anything about it.

Bud Stagg 7 years, 3 months ago

notnow, Shortsighted? I'm trying to think for the future of this town. It's dying and you fools can't see it. You will continue to drive away any project that requires change. Our tax base is dwindling and so is the population. Lawrence is becoming a cool place to visit but not as cool to live in. Look at the number of houses for sale? It has to be higher than normal. People are now downsizing or are moving away.

I'm just tired of everyone shooting down every single idea unless it's a homeless shelter or an arts center. Heaven forbid someone build anything in this town that might make some money.

not_dolph 7 years, 3 months ago

cool - aren't you on the HRC? You can have your say on Thursday. Hopefully no one will listen to you there...sorta like they don't listen to you here.

PNUZ 7 years, 3 months ago

wow, it is amazing anything ever gets done in this town.

Michael Capra 7 years, 3 months ago

lynne zollner its not your decision and a city planner should find ways to make a project work not look for ways to say no as sandy and paul do all the time,scott cant you see that you need to clean house

PNUZ 7 years, 3 months ago

Spywell - "If this Hotels' built they'll rent to anyone with a buck for a night. It will be the draw of all the lowlifes of society, ie. inbetween game days. They'll lower their rates to keep them rented nightly. Crack smokers drugdealers pimps form the city, with their stable of whores. A hotel is a trash pit reguardless of where its located. The same uniquness of this hotel will be a magnet for all the criminals with change in their pocket."

  • If this isn't a joke, it should be.

Michael Sizemore 7 years, 3 months ago

cool is not a current member of the HRC - however every HRC meeting is open to the public, and public comment is required on every agenda item. If any here have the nerve to speak without the cloak of anonymity - please attend. It's obvoius reading the posts that very few here understand what the HRC does, and fewer still understand much about the preservation of Lawrence's historic buildings and neighborhoods - which by the way - is the only thing the HRC has jurisdiction over. The HRC does not weigh aesthetics, or business plans, or the need for a hotel by campus - any of that - put simply, the HRC is charged with determining whether or not this particular building will cause damage to the listed historic properties and adjacent neighborhoods.

Michael Sizemore 7 years, 3 months ago

Spywell - I hope it's true when you say "homeowners in the surrounding blocks will oppose the plan"...because as of yet there has been no opposition from ANYONE in the neighborhood. In fact Marci and Carol have been very supportive of the plan, and this is being presented (or represented) as neighborhood APPROVAL.

I'm with you - I wouldn't want anyone peering down in my back yard - would this project fly if it were built next to the Old West Lawrence Neighborhood? Not a chance.

I appreciate all the opinions expressed here, but if no one shows up to protest in person, the silence is interpreted as approval. Here, our opinions are 'disposable'. Show up and voice your opinions at a public meeting, and the decision makers are forced to listen. Sorry, it's the way the system works.

Michael Sizemore 7 years, 3 months ago

and frasier...we should outlaw stairs completely, and live in underground bunkers...that somehow don't require stairs...

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