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Archive for Monday, August 3, 2009

Rethinking downtown: Commissioner’s ideas for Mass. Street go well beyond business as usual

Lawrence city commissioner Lance Johnson is pictured near the corner of Eighth and Massachusetts streets. Johnson would like to see a broad community discussion about the future of downtown and ways to enhance its vitality in a 21st century retail environment.

Lawrence city commissioner Lance Johnson is pictured near the corner of Eighth and Massachusetts streets. Johnson would like to see a broad community discussion about the future of downtown and ways to enhance its vitality in a 21st century retail environment.

August 3, 2009

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Commissioner calls for downtown change

City Commissioner Lance Johnson wants to discuss the idea of closing a downtown street to create a pedestrian mall. Enlarge video

Imagine a tall slippery-slide in downtown Lawrence. Maybe it is flanked by some fun water fountains for the kids, a sculpture garden for the adults, and a mini-amphitheater for live music.

Now, imagine it all smack-dab in the middle of Massachusetts Street — not along Massachusetts Street but actually in the street.

Yeah, we’re talking about a pedestrian mall — replacing asphalt and parking with outdoor dining, street vendors and new types of attractions.

Those are the kind of imaginative juices City Commissioner Lance Johnson wants Lawrence residents to generate about downtown.

“I really want to challenge the status quo of downtown,” he said.

Johnson — who began his first term on the commission in April — admits that he’s not entirely sure that a pedestrian mall is the right recipe for downtown. But as more high profile vacancies emerge on Massachusetts Street and as shoppers continue to do more buying online, Johnson is sure that downtown can’t afford to insulate itself in some artificial comfort zone.

“I still believe Lawrence has something unique here,” Johnson said of downtown. “But I’m saying, let’s try to think bold and big about how we can make this a lot better. I’m 100 percent confident in saying that now is the time we need to be challenging ourselves.”

A pedestrian mall

Johnson thinks the idea of a pedestrian mall — a controversial subject in Lawrence in the 1980s — may be just the thing to get a serious conversation started.

After making multiple trips to Boulder, Colo. — the hometown of his wife — Johnson has seen how a pedestrian mall can work. In Boulder, the Pearl Street Mall — a four-block stretch of street closed to vehicles — has become one of the better known outdoor malls in the country.

For Lawrence, Johnson isn’t yet offering any specifics on how a pedestrian mall might work. Maybe it would be on Massachusetts Street. Or maybe it would be on one of downtown’s side streets. But he thinks the idea of devoting an area entirely to people instead of cars could accentuate one of downtown’s strengths.

“You hear people all the time talking about when they were thinking about whether to move to Lawrence,” Johnson said. “Invariably, they tell you that downtown is what sold them on the idea. Why? Did they buy a great pair of pants?

“I don’t think that is it. I think people come downtown for the experience. Lawrence is a very unique place, and downtown is the place where you can see it all.”

Johnson — who owns an engineering firm that has its offices in downtown — said a pedestrian mall could be the type of idea to spur a major change in thinking about downtown’s development. He said community leaders too often try to figure out what type of new stores and businesses need to locate in downtown. Instead, he said community leaders should spend more time figuring out how to enhance the “downtown experience.”

That may mean a park in the middle of downtown so mothers could bring their children to the area while they eat lunch at an adjacent outdoor dining area. It may mean a permanent area for outdoor music. It may mean elaborate rain gardens or outdoor art galleries, or just a larger stage for what may be downtown’s most popular pastime — people watching.

Johnson thinks all of it would draw more people downtown, and that in turn would make it easier for businesses to make a living in downtown.

“The key is you drive all this with people, not stores,” said Johnson. “What downtown needs most is a critical mass of people.”

‘Terrible to business’

But there’s a reason Downtown Lawrence doesn’t already have a pedestrian mall. The concept was one of many floated in the 1980s, and ultimately rejected amid a storm of contentious debate.

Many of the same concerns expressed then, remain today. Top among the list is the loss of parking spaces on Massachusetts Street, and forcing shoppers to walk longer distances to stores.

“The short answer is, I don’t think that is a great idea,” said Dan Hughes, an owner of Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, who is president of Downtown Lawrence Inc. “I think you have to have an über retail mix before you can start making people walk to it.”

City Commissioner Mike Amyx — who owns a downtown barber shop — is a veteran of the debates in the 1980s. He believes the parking issue is too great to overcome.

“I have a lot of respect for Commissioner Johnson’s ideas, but I don’t believe this is a good one. The cost of removing that parking on Mass Street is terrible to business owners downtown.”

Hughes said he would like the city to focus on some fundamental issues, such as more police patrols in downtown, greater enforcement of anti-panhandling laws, and more emphasis on keeping public areas of downtown clean.

He also said Downtown Lawrence Inc. probably needs to do more to help retailers understand how to survive in a world where online shopping has become more prevalent, and help new retailers understand what does and doesn’t work in downtown.

Holding on

But some downtown stakeholders said they do like that Johnson is trying to spur a conversation about downtown. George Paley, a longtime owner of several buildings in downtown, said he’s not sure that converting Mass Street to an outdoor mall will ever work. But he thinks the community might want to consider closing the street for one night each month to do something special.

“I do agree (with Johnson) that we either change and prosper or else we go backwards,” Paley said.

Hughes said he also thinks there is room for discussion. He said maybe talking about turning Eighth Street into a pedestrian mall would be a more palatable place to begin a conversation.

“That may have a lot of hurdles too, but I don’t want to just start quelling people’s grand ideas about how to make things better.”

Johnson said he’s open to other ideas — even ones that don’t have anything to do with a pedestrian mall.

“I’ve just thrown my idea at the white board,” Johnson said. “I want other people to throw theirs up there too.”

Mayor Rob Chestnut said he may work to facilitate that. He said perhaps some sort of meeting of downtown stakeholders would be appropriate.

Johnson said the discussions probably will be difficult. He said they may involve some business owners assessing whether downtown continues to be the best place for their businesses. It likely will involve broader questions about what role downtown plays in Lawrence’s overall retail market too.

“I just feel like maybe this is a moment in time where we have to challenge ourselves about what downtown is and what it really means,” Johnson said. “Are we trying to make it something or hold onto something that is just not anymore in 2009?”

Comments

ToriFreak13 4 years, 8 months ago

Why compete against it? lol Because we want to keep the money H.E.R.E. Douglas County as a whole easily meets any demographic you can think of to fill any event at such a venue. Everything from an indoor circus, to job fairs, home shows (instead of using the Expocenter in Topeka), and yes shows like B.B.King (who just played the Uptown Theater). Your only arguments are that there are other places offering this already. But that is the exact issue that Lawrence faces. It is time to COMPETE! We could even make it a GREEN venue. Build it before a private investor does.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

how about cars & vehicles that get over 35mpg park for free?

they could have a sticker like a K-tag which would validate their high mpg discount on parking.

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bluedawg79 4 years, 8 months ago

Tori - No I'm not on the board, but I do know that they are not pulling in the acts and revenue that they used to. We'll leave it at that. People drive to KC, Omaha, etc for big shows. The Monster Truck shows that you seem so interested in do well in cities like Salina and even Wichita because you have a higher demographic interested in such events. Lawrence does have similar events out at the fairgrounds that do well already. Also, we're not going to be stealing acts such as Tina Turner or the Hannah Montana from the Sprint Center anytime soon, nor should we. Power and Light and the Sprint Center need to succeed for the survival of their downtown. Why are you so interested in wanting to compete against it?

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Seamus 4 years, 8 months ago

Downtown Lawrence works just fine and is attractive to people largely because there is so much "hustle and bustle." I don't personally care for cars but they are well-disciplined by the street itself, which limits the speed of traffic thus ensuring that people will still wish to walk down there. Pedestrian "malls" might work in a place like Beale St simply because there are so many tourists, otherwise districts like downtown Lawrence are usually hurt more by these sorts of schemes.

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RuralWanderer 4 years, 8 months ago

I would take my family shopping on Mass if there were a pedestrian mall. The traffic keeps me away from shopping on Mass with my family these days. When we visit Lawrence, we stick to Borders and the Farmers Market and then get the hell out of downtown.

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hipgrrrrl 4 years, 8 months ago

There is absolutely no way anyone could pay me enough to go stroll through ANY outdoor mall on a below-freezing windy day in Kansas. In fact, there would have to be an amazing attraction there to get me to wander around outside during any Kansas winter.

Frankly, the rents are far too high downtown and don't reflect the downturn in our economy. Vendors cannot compete with the big box stores on the outskirts of town and my dollar simply doesn't stretch enough to support local vendors as much as I would like.

Additionally, I have had a few pretty nerve-wracking experiences with some of our more "eccentric" (read off their meds) homeless locals while with my kids and that has really turned me off wandering up and down the streets of Mass. with my kids. That only leaves nightime for grown up drinks and dinner. The blossoming panhandling population doesn't make it more attractive.

Festivals? Block parties? Special events? All to the good. I would suggest the landlords get more realistic in their rents and watch the diversity downtown unfold even further.

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 8 months ago

headdoctor (Anonymous) says…

tolawdjk (Anonymous) says… The fact is that downtown Lawrence retail can't compete. It's not the parking, its not the beggers, the businesses just can't compete with what is offered elsewhere. And taking someone else's business model isn't going to solve it.


Thank goodness, another person hits the nail on the head. These smaller stores do not have the buying power to offer things in competition with the box stores or other locations where the population is much more concentrated.

The costs of doing business downtown does not help the cause either. It is a good thing the Douglas County Appraiser doesn't seem to value property downtown like other property. Of course there is a reason for some of that because of the way property changes hands they do not get to use sales amounts in a pattern acceptable to the State taxing rules and they keep the prices of the land underneath downtown inflated but if the Appraiser ever changes their approach to valuations it will put most of the downtown businesses out of business in a real short period of time."

Marion writes:

Yeah.

What you both said.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

Boulder median home price $366,000.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

Boulder County per capita income $28,976
Boulder County average household income $55,861

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

references to Boulder as Merrill points out likewise do not closely apply to Lawrence/Douglas County.

check the per capita income of Boulder, County residents for example, and the fact that there are more than 300,000 of them.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

multi is correct about references to Denver Mall.

Denver metro area 3 million people, hello!

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Multidisciplinary 4 years, 8 months ago

People really need to stop thinking of this as anything like Downtown Denver's mall. This has been done on many threads, not just this one. This is not a major downtown city.

Denver already had streets full of tall skyscrapers full of people doing business downtown in a thriving business district. The downtown was surrounded by smaller suburbs full of people.

Lawrence doesn't have the skyscrapers full of employees, apartments and businesses to support the Main Street businesses. On a previous thread I posted a time lapse of Denver during I think it was a few hour during mid day. I didn't watch it, but I used to work down there everyday. We're talking thousands of people. It often looked like what you see on tv of around Times Square.

And believe me, we got to know the regular homeless crazy characters too. This one fast walking woman about 35, tall, foul mouthed and yelling as she walked, long auburn hair. We just knew to get the heck out of her path. I never saw her ask for anything, she just cussed at everyone. Denver had a lot of them. A lot, and this was 25 years ago.

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ToriFreak13 4 years, 8 months ago

bluedog....are you on the board @ the Bicenter? how is it not doing good exactly?? and then how would it not do well here? if by not well you are judging its books in general....no ones books are doing well. The big bonus Lawrence has is the college population and surrounding major cities. With the right bookings we may even steal events from Topeka and KC. As far as the The Lied Center and the Fieldhouse, they are not owned by the city of Lawrence, and those venues can not hold major concerts let alone a monster truck show. Plus the fact they are nowhere near downtown. The question that can be asked, is "How many families drive to KC to see these events already?" They could save that $15-$20 in gas and tolls when and go right here downtown. We have high schools taking a big step at being competitive in sports. Why wait for them to ask and OK more millions to upgrade their basketball facilities, when we can build this general use auditorium and host tournies and big games, and put money BACK into the town that supports them....and hey have a good time watching the event in a decent venue.

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ralphralph 4 years, 8 months ago

As a fairly regular visitor to downtown Lawrence, I love the "hustle and bustle" of the traffic on Mass ... cars, bikes, skaters, walkers, stumblers, etc. If I am trying to get past downtown, I don't take Mass, I go around on either side, VT or NH, or use TN or KY to avoid the whole thing. If I'm looking to park, I don't look very seriously on Mass, though we might cruise through on a slow day just in hopes of a spot. Mostly, we head straight for the lots across the alley one way or the other, and hike it from there. It's no farther than the width of a WallyWorld parking lot, and the walk is part of the reason for the trip, really. We mostly go downtown for dining and drinks, but we almost always hit some of the stores ... Sunflower is downtown Lawrence at its best, Brits is a must, maybe the Dusty Bookshelf, ... you get the picture. We don't, and probably wouldn't ever, head downtown for a 24-pack of Charmin or a family pack of short ribs or whatever Mart staples you can think of, and we don't really see the two being in competition ... except maybe for shoe stores, which the marts have killed, mostly. I wouldn't take the cars off Mass on a permanent basis, but would do it for special events. Whoever mention a map had a great thought ... a directory map would really be big help in finding out what's new, especially for first-time or infrequent visitors, and especially for the side-street stores, which can be hard to find .... ask Brits how much their traffic increased when they moved around the corner onto Mass. Maybe even post a directory at the entrances from the lots, or in an alcove here or there, so it isn't too much "out there" like or mall kiosk or something. People are used to the convenience of that information, and it might be a real help. Whatever you do, or don't do, you shouldn't try to make Lawrence into some other place. People come for what is there, and it can be made accessible and visitor-friendly without being "Disney-fied".

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

This idea sounds like Legends. They have it nailed down.

There is one million more square feet of retail space than Lawrence can support. Turning downtown into a carnival is not likely to fix the economic displacement that is the monkey on the back. And Lawrence is not big enough to support a Legends.

We do not need more bad planning. Lawrence taxpayers do not need to give more corporate welfare. Taxpayers are still waiting for the payback on previous corporate welfare failures. Face it Mr. Johnson represents west side development.... it is not a secret.

People in Boulder,Colorado spend their money differently than people in Kansas. Boulder has several natural food stores ...... Lawrence has one. A perfect example.

Boulder has the rocky mountains,U of Colorado,Red Rocks Amphitheatre, more art by far and skiing. Surrounded by green space. Boulder and Lawrence are two different animals. Boulder also has Pay As You Throw(PAYT).

Try bringing an Apple Store, Sony Style, A Lego Store(awesome),Banana Republic, Old Navy and a ROCKIN second Friday to downtown = more art. Let's talk serious economics.

Additionally lets have: * two sidewalk sales in April and October when schools are in session = far more potential revenue. And on game days.

*to accompany the side walk sale fill up the street with local farmers, nursery people and tons of art.

  • bands and local food vendors in the street

*much of the above should happen on all game days = more enjoyment for fans. Why? Because our community loses so much much money due to outsourcing of home games.

  • AGAIN Every home game day should a bazaar atmosphere = fun for fans. The resources are available = no need for multimillion dollar taxpayer bailouts.

  • Hats off to the bike competition... a success story. The more the merrier

Now we're talking serious economic dollars and sense.

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thelonious 4 years, 8 months ago

kmat -

sorry, but when I was in Cville in 2006, it was already a ped mall, and it was as I described - not too exciting. You quoted from a marketing brochure - makes it sound good, but the reality is different, sorry to say. Pretty pie-in-the-sky descriptions in a marketing brochure do not make it so.

logarithmic -

actually the ONLY thing Boulder and Lawrence have in common is that they are college towns. Other than that, they couldn't be more different. A large part of what makes Boulder Boulder sits just to its west - the Flatirons. Lawrence doesn't have those, nor any other attraction that makes us anywhere near something called a "tourist destination". That is not a smear on Lawrence - we have a lot of great stuff. I just don't think superficial comparisons make the case. If I danced this morning and it rained, that does not mean it will rain every time I dance. Likewise, what works in one "college town" may or may not work in another because all "college towns" are simply NOT the same, perhaps considerably different.

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alm77 4 years, 8 months ago

and I just noticed, to make my point, check out that filthy awning in the background of the picture. When NYC cleaned up the sidewalks and storefronts of Times Square crime dropped and beggars went elsewhere. I'm just sayin'.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

State street in Santa Barbara is very much like Massachusetts - vehicular, and very successful.

don't fool us with a panacea approach to the problem.

a mall is not a cure for sprawl that undermined the retail core.

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gccs14r 4 years, 8 months ago

The other thing to put in to make a ped mall successful is public restrooms. Either make them well-lit and patrolled or coin-op and timed to keep people from using them for sleeping or sex, and keep them clean and stocked. That would keep the late-night impromptu bush watering to a minimum. Oh, and make sure it's legal to carry a beer outside. It's dumb to be confined to a little fenced-in area just for having a beer in your hand.

Don't clutter up the area with lots of elevation changes, landscaping, or fountains. Clear sightlines will make it safer. Don't give the riffraff opportunities to abuse the patrons.

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none2 4 years, 8 months ago

I would have to agree that closing off Mass doesn't sound like a good idea. I wasn't thinking of KCK, nor ski resort towns in Colorado, nor a town in Virginia. I was thinking of Atchison, KS. Have any of you been there? Years ago they had a big flood, and thus had to redo their downtown anyway. They chose to close it off. The result is people just don't go there. There is one antique store that is popular with outsiders, but all they do is bring up a bus to shop at that one place. If you look at the vacancy rate, it is HIGH. Also keep in mind as someone pointed out, there are older people who aren't wheel chair bound, but neither are they able to walk long distances. Either you have to make sure Lawrence keeps it's alley parking, or you are going to have to allow some vehicles to drive up near the businesses. I personally have nothing against limited traffic, but I haven't seen any that were that successful

If the concern is car traffic, then start simple. Make left turns illegal downtown during busy hours. That may keep traffic flowing a bit more.

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Mark Kostner 4 years, 8 months ago

I used to live in Boulder. I've seen four malls that worked, Pearl Street in Boulder, 3rd Street in Santa Monica, Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and Fremont Street here in Las Vegas. Then there were others that failed, like Las Cruces, NM, also a college town, Atchison, KS, and KCK. Atchison's mall was pretty lifeless and I never got around to checking KCK out, but I don't think I was alone--you never saw it billed alongside Westport or the Plaza as an area attraction! Mass Street might make a good mall, but the difference between it and the successful malls are the length of the blocks. Downtown Las Vegas, Boulder and Santa Monica have short blocks, and as I rediscovered on my last visit, those are long blocks on Mass and it's quite a haul from one end to the other. But downtown Lawrence does has a lot going for it and it's always on my itinerary anytime I'm back there.

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logrithmic 4 years, 8 months ago

A pedestrian mall would be great. Don't buy the argument that we would need to close east west streets. Santa Monica has more pedestrians and more traffic and yet it keeps the streets open.

Saying Lawrence isn't like a lot of towns that have pedestrian malls is bogus. Lawrence has a lot in common with Boulder (college towns and older downtown).

Permanent beer gardens, dining, art, music, retail would make Lawrence even more of a destination that it is now. I can't tell you how many times I've heard Kansas City metro residents (including JoCo) comment on how great Lawrence is.

God bless one and all!

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bluedawg79 4 years, 8 months ago

Correction: The Wichita does have the new Hartman Arena that opened in March. My bad.

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loosecaboose 4 years, 8 months ago

Hey dotteboy, do you suppose that if they do this, KCK could finally sell those pylons?

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kmat 4 years, 8 months ago

theloniess - You were in Cville before they redid downtown. You should visit the links I provided before commenting. Because of what they did, downtown is now busy and vibrant. Two hours free parking, concerts every Friday, tons of stuff planned throughout the year. It's really cool. And Cville is a tiny town compared to Lawrence.

This is about making our downtown better. The entire downtown doesn't need to be transformed into a ped mall, but doing a portion of it and holding more activities to get people down there would make a ton of difference. And our downtown is more of an entertainment district, which would do well with more ped areas.

Check out the info on Cville now and open your mind a little.

"Enjoy dining at a number of fine restaurants, shop the unique boutiques, screen a new movie, take in a play or show, take the family ice skating at the indoor arena, or simply relax and enjoy the flowers with a beverage from one of the specialty wine, coffee or tea shops. Ample garage parking is available with most merchants offering free two hour parking validation. Children and families that visit the Downtown Mall can also stop by the Virginia Discovery Museum on the East End. The Museum is interactive and encourages hands on participation in learning with many exhibits that change during the year.

The Downtown Mall is also home to some of the best entertainment venues in Central Virginia. The newly opened Charlottesville Pavilion hosts a number of outside concerts from Spring to Fall featuring nationally known musical talent. The Paramount is a renovated historic theater that brings in comedy acts, musical theater, and some of the country's best singers. Live Arts is a community theater providing full season productions, several special series, and extensive education programs."

And in a little town of only 40K people.

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bluedawg79 4 years, 8 months ago

P.S. alm77's idea about the map. GREAT idea! A relatively inexpensive and unobtrusive way to inform pedestrians. Has a lot of potential in moving people off of Mass and onto the adjacent streets. Wayfinding graphics are a too-often ignored means of communication.

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bluedawg79 4 years, 8 months ago

Tori-freak. I hope you were being sarcastic. Salina's Bi-Center is not doing well and Wichita doesn't even have a modern venue for such events anymore. The cost of such an undertaking with Sprint Center being so close would be very poor planning. We have the Field House, we have the Lied Center, and many downtown establishments for indoor concerts. I think a mini-amphitheater is a great idea though for an outdoor venue, one day.

While I think making downtown more pedestrian-friendly and economically viable is a MUST, I do agree with comments made by Mike Amyx that there would be serious implications losing parking on Mass St. For instance metered parking rates are being increased to generate much-needed income for the City.

I definitely see steps towards a better downtown. The outdoor seating areas, when clean, are pleasant and the 'Get Downtown' events are popular. And, though the City is feeling the effects of an economic downturn we must not end the discussion of ways to improve our city, both socially, environmentally, and economically. Boosting Downtown Lawrence's viability is essential for the future of the community.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

Sigmund was right on with his earlier comment on public funding to 'repair the Wal-Mart damage'.

Sigmund (Anonymous) says…

Another Chad Lawhorn article touting more taxpayer funded corporate welfare for rich downtown landlords? Ever notice that when times are bad and they need some help it is “our downtown” but when times are good and it is time to borrow the equity out of their investments we never see a dime of their profits? So when the money is spent can we have another in a series of Chad Lawhorn articles touting new taxes because once again we are suddenly out of money for fire, police, sidewalks, and roads? The political scam comes full circle and is never ending, only the faces change.

So is Lance really interested in “new ideas” or just support for his old idea? I thought the $2.5 million we spend on the empTy every year, year after year, to deliver shoppers downtown was suppose to help save “our downtown,” relieve parking, and bring new employers with new paychecks for workers? No problem just keep signing the checks that taxpayers have to cover.

You want to spur retail sales in Lawrence, try cutting retail sales taxes and the property tax rate citywide. Otherwise most people I know are saving their money to pay the higher taxes for Universal Health Care, corporate bailouts for Wall Street, and the UAW big Detroit automakers. The economics are really pretty simple, every dollar the government takes from the local economy in taxes is one less dollar we have to spend downtown or anywhere else for that matter.

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Sigmund 4 years, 8 months ago

ToriFreak13 (Anonymous) says… "if Salina can do it…." ...it isn't likely anything that Lawrence wants to do. --Sigmund

Seriously, if it isn't Boulder, Seattle, Santa Fe , or Portland Lawrence won't be interested. This is the same old tired recycled idea of the past by a Commissioner, who as far as I can tell, never ran a retail store, successful or not. Exactly who are those with any retail experience who think it is a good idea? Are they the same ones who thought that a grocery store down town would be a smashing success? Still the "I really wish I lived in Boulder that would be so totally cool" and the "I really wish I had toxic waste dump I could clean up" crowd will not let it die.

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thelonious 4 years, 8 months ago

kmat -

"isn't as busy at night as downtown Lawrence". You got that right - isn't as busy as downtown Lawrence during the day either.

Once again, Charlottesville, VA is NOT Lawrence. It's a college town, yes, but also a fairly large TOURIST destination, like Boulder and Aspen. Last time I checked, Lawrence would not be described by anyone as a "tourist destination", outside of KU-related activities.

Also, I was in Charlottesville VA on vacation in 2006, and while their downtown pedestrian mall was nice enough, at the time it looked like as many as 1/3 of the buildings were empty, the parking was difficult, and many of the vendors were complaining about the level of sales. Can't imagine it is better now. My wife and I did not really see any advantage to having their street closed to traffic - compared to Pearl Street in Boulder, the place was practically deserted.

Folks, repeat after me - Lawrence is NOT Charlottesville, NOT Boulder, NOT Aspen, NOT Paris - let's not try to be something we are not. What we are is Lawrence, Kansas - midwest college town, home of KU, a prairie town, an agricultural town. We can certainly have a desirable and unique downtown (WE ALREADY DO!), but we can (AND DO!) have that without converting it to a pedestrian mall. Let's drop this idea and move on to improvements to downtown that make sense for US.

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ToriFreak13 4 years, 8 months ago

skip this "mini-amphitheater for live music"

look to Salina and their Bicentennial Center.. State basketball, volleyball tournies, wrestling....etc a semi-pro basketball team (keep some of our favored Jayhaks here!) concerts sesame street on ice monster trucks maybe even make it such an attraction that you can charge the KU Athletic department to host games there hint hint...

if Salina can do it.....

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kmat 4 years, 8 months ago

http://www.charlottesville.org/index.aspx?page=177

http://www.mydowntownmall.com/

Was recently in Charlottesville, VA and they have a wonderful pedestrian mall. Unlike downtown Lawrence, it is more shops than restaurants and bars and isn't as busy at night as downtown Lawrence is. But, this is a good example of how it can be done. This is a very old downtown that thrives (in a city with only half the population of Lawrence). They have an ampitheatre, lots of vendors on the mall and throw lots of events that insure people come out and enjoy the downtown. It's allowed restaurants to add nice seating outside and makes the downtown look very clean and nice.

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thelonious 4 years, 8 months ago

Wow, a pedestrian mall, what a HORRIBLE idea. It's a good idea if you want to KILL downtown, but not a good idea if you actually want to HELP it.

Lawrence is NOT Boulder and certainly NOT Aspen (!). With the exception of expensive, resort/vacation communities, pedestrian malls have failed consistently, miserably. I've been to Boulder - yes, Pearl Street is nice, but there are a LOT of differences between Boulder and Lawrence and a LOT of reasons why this would be a bad idea here, most of them already discussed.

A dedicated area for music concerts - good idea - check! Occasional street closings for special events like the bicycle races - good idea - check! Permanent pedestrian mall - not even worth a $30,000 study. Let's not waste our time and money on this.

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Reality_Check 4 years, 8 months ago

Let's do a 1-year pilot project...close ONE SIDE of the street and the parking on that side, for 2 blocks. Don't pave it over or anything; make it one way for drivers, and but put in some portable landscaping. Let the existing restaurants offer service out there. See what happens.

It's important to note that many of our peer college towns tried pedestrian malls and they failed miserably...Las Cruces, NM and Eugene, OR are two that I'm familiar with.

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headdoctor 4 years, 8 months ago

Marion (Marion Lynn) says… First, that should read “advice”, not “advise”. Yes, I pay taxes in Douglas county but you'll never know on what. The only truly successful businesses located Downtown are the bars and now what with excessive and punitive controls established by the City, some of those are in trouble. And…. ..well, I wouldn't want the post to get disappearded, so I'll sign off now on this one.


What is the proper response for this. Oh, I remember. It isn't a miss spelling or in correct word, it is a TYPO. Is that the best come back you have for legitimate comments or questions?

There are several successful businesses downtown that are not bars.

Even if you are paying some taxes here which I doubt. You still do not reside here.

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headdoctor 4 years, 8 months ago

tolawdjk (Anonymous) says… The fact is that downtown Lawrence retail can't compete. It's not the parking, its not the beggers, the businesses just can't compete with what is offered elsewhere. And taking someone else's business model isn't going to solve it.


Thank goodness, another person hits the nail on the head. These smaller stores do not have the buying power to offer things in competition with the box stores or other locations where the population is much more concentrated.

The costs of doing business downtown does not help the cause either. It is a good thing the Douglas County Appraiser doesn't seem to value property downtown like other property. Of course there is a reason for some of that because of the way property changes hands they do not get to use sales amounts in a pattern acceptable to the State taxing rules and they keep the prices of the land underneath downtown inflated but if the Appraiser ever changes their approach to valuations it will put most of the downtown businesses out of business in a real short period of time.

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boxturtle 4 years, 8 months ago

More info about the farmer's market in San Rafael I think we should model ours on: Photos: http://www.sanrafaelmarket.org/pictures.htm

People's response : http://www.yelp.com/biz/marin-civic-center-farmers-market-san-rafael

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puddleglum 4 years, 8 months ago

I park on the side streets (especially 8th & mass) all the time! I would hate to see these spots go! If I can't park on mass in the block I am wanting to spend my money in, I either park on the side street next to it, or just go home. No, not really lazy-just almost always in a hurry, and don't feel like strolling my kids down 3 blocks and back.

Pedestrian mall is a token 80's idea that will never happen here. Pearl street is not that cool at all, panhandlers all over the place, cicarette butts and plastic trash all over too. add all the bars lawrence downtown has and you get quite a recipe for disaster. Not to mention the constantly empty retail spaces available in boulder might tell you something...(uh, not enough retail dollars to support the rent) I go there once a year, and other than stupid chain stores like Old Chigago Pizza-almost nothing unique can handle it.

A really cool antique downtown that does work is fort collins colorado. plenty of parking and clean with bike lanes and no excuses....very cool

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blindrabbit 4 years, 8 months ago

Credit to Commissioner Johnson; the first to do something other than lip service. Downers: Hack, Highberger, Shauner, Amyx, Dever, Chestnut, Kennedy, etc, etc, etc just to name a few.

Keep the dialog going and let's make some progress!

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boxturtle 4 years, 8 months ago

I think we should give these ideas a trial run before presuming we know whether they are bad or good for the character of downtown. I think we should model our farmers market after the farmer's market I see at San Rafael, CA. Every other thursday night they block off a lot of the main street downtown and fill it up with vendors selling produce and food stalls. The businesses on the street sell things outdoors like at our sidewalk sale. It really brings out a lot of people and makes going downtown an event. Right now downtown is an event only during the yearly sidewalk sale and when jayhawks win a championship. A more regular event would do downtown good.

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jayhawklawrence 4 years, 8 months ago

Seems that the problem is lack of people with money coming to Lawrence.

I think we need to identify all the causes before we let some pied piper lead us off into goofy land.

The SLT debacle has to be at the center of that discussion but there is a long list.

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 8 months ago

headdoctor (Anonymous) says…

Marion (Marion Lynn) says… I know what will work. Two words: Entertainment District.


Notice I shortened up your double spaced sprawl. What is in it for you, Marion? You may spend a little money here at the bars but you do not live here, you do not pay taxes here. You were not able to make any of your businesses work here. Why should anyone listen or even care what you think? You have yet to set the world on fire in a way that would cause someone to want to emulate you or consider taking your advise. "

Marion writes:

First, that should read "advice", not "advise".

Yes, I pay taxes in Douglas county but you'll never know on what.

The only truly successful businesses located Downtown are the bars and now what with excessive and punitive controls established by the City, some of those are in trouble.

And....

..well, I wouldn't want the post to get disappearded, so I'll sign off now on this one.

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alm77 4 years, 8 months ago

Oo. I have another idea! A map!! I mean like the ones you find on the Country Club Plaza (you are here!). A directory like in the mall. That would be awesome. It would also encourage people to walk beyond Mass.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

thanks bluedawg79

you are right about a trolley!

great idea --- see Lisbon, Portugal.

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bluedawg79 4 years, 8 months ago

This article has produced so much good discussion. This is exactly what this city needs is more active public discussion on topics such as this! Kudos to Mr. Johnson for stirring up the pot and get people thinking outside the box! Downtown Lawrence will probably never truly die out, but there is so much potential, utilize it! I would be on a committee to discuss ideas like this anytime!

And one last thing. For all the people who talk about not wanting to walk any farther than Mass St. to the storefronts, GIVE ME A BREAK. If you can walk up one side of Mass and down the other, your body can take walking from New Hampshire or Vermont. Such an excuse is due to pure laziness. For those who truly have mobility issues, I think an idea such as the trolly idea is great. My mother loves to shop downtown but has health issues that limit her ability to get very far by walking. Assistance for special populations needs to be better considered in downtown.

Again. THANK YOU Mr. Johnson for sparking such a well-needed discussion!

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

our 'leadership' helped to endanger Downtown Lawrence with approval of the second Wal-Mart.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

number of Wal-Mart's in Boulder, Colorado ?

Z E R O

there is one in Longmont, Colorado which straddles Boulder County & Weld County border.

there is one in Superior, Colorado toward Denver metro which straddles Boulder County & Jefferson County line.

both of these are suburban/ ex-urban to Boulder itself, hence a better Boulder Mall that Lance refers to. in other words their 'leadership' kept Wal-Mart out of Boulder.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

gee, aim77 - you have a point.

Boulder, Colorado = 300 days of sunshine, semi-arid climate above 5000 ft.

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tolawdjk 4 years, 8 months ago

Downtown lawrence as an entertainment district? That's f'n hillarious.

The people already bitch about zero parking, you want to create an area that would require large sections of short term parking. Smart one there Captn Unnerpants.

The fact is that downtown Lawrence retail can't compete. It's not the parking, its not the beggers, the businesses just can't compete with what is offered elsewhere. And taking someone else's business model isn't going to solve it.

The people working in Lawrence can't afford to pay Mass. Street prices if they are making WalMart wages. KC has no reason to come to Lawrence because they can get what Lawrence offers closer to home.

Pearl Street works in Boulder, but there is no proof it would work in Lawrence. The parking garage is a perfect example of why Pearl won't work in Lawrence...people in Lawrence refuse to walk. Climate is also a factor...I would rather walk in 88 degree Boulder on an August day over a 103 degree back dripping sweat on a Lawrence August day.

Lawrence needs a downtown environment supportive of attracting and -keeping- customers. that means forcing businesses to clean up after themselves, getting the city to get off its rear and attract some jobs to the area that will allow locals to shop rather than counting on attracting out of town dollars or college trust fund kids. Create events that will pull people downtown, not to shop as a destination, but to bring them there with the idea of taking time after to shop.

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alm77 4 years, 8 months ago

This just occurred to me: A pedestrian mall in the winter in Kansas??? I don't think so!!

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blindrabbit 4 years, 8 months ago

How people can relate Minnesota Street in KCK to Mass. St. in Lawrence (other than they both start with the letter "m") is beyond logic. KCK has been blighted area for the last 60 years, the only thing saving it has been the Federal and State offices there. The demographics could not be more dissimiliar if you tried.

The salvation for KCK was when Maronovich (sp) successfully combined Wyandotte County with KCK. Western Wyandotte County has become the "Golden Goose".

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farfle 4 years, 8 months ago

I remember when this was an issue more than 30 years ago. It would have been a good idea then, but nowadays most people are incapable of walking more than a hundred yards or so.

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gccs14r 4 years, 8 months ago

There is plenty of parking in the garage and in the existing lots on Vermont. There is no need to knock down buildings to make up for the handful of parking spots on Mass. There is no need to keep the cross streets open, either. In fact, leaving the cross streets open makes the whole mall concept dangerous to the pedestrians. They'll still have to watch for traffic, but won't be in the proper mindset to do so. Also, leaving the streets open would penalize the shops along the cross streets, keeping them from having outdoor seating.

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alm77 4 years, 8 months ago

I'm going to have to agree with those who said the following:

Clean up the sidewalks and storefronts. - We love being downtown and shop there a lot. But the sidewalks should be washed and swept every day as well as the windows, etc. We sat at a patio yesterday that sure could have used it.

Shut down Mass for the sidewalk sale (and other streets for special occasions) - Why make a permanent pedestrian mall?? Just make it into one for special occasions. Street parties in the past have been a great success. You do it permanently and the appeal may wear off.

Also, I just want to throw this out there and I'm not trying to be rude or mean, but helpful, so here it goes: Handwritten signs in your window make you look unprofessional (I'm looking at you hardware store and Round Corner) Also, leaving up the same window display (for the five years I've lived here!!) doesn't make me want to do business with you either. Businesses should put those windows into their weekly routine to be changed out and dusted; some of them look GROSS. The successful businesses (Hobbs, ATC, Wild Man Vintage, Third Planet, Sunflower, Game Nut) all regularly clean and change out their displays.

Just my two cents.

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headdoctor 4 years, 8 months ago

Marion (Marion Lynn) says… I know what will work. Two words: Entertainment District.


Notice I shortened up your double spaced sprawl. What is in it for you, Marion? You may spend a little money here at the bars but you do not live here, you do not pay taxes here. You were not able to make any of your businesses work here. Why should anyone listen or even care what you think? You have yet to set the world on fire in a way that would cause someone to want to emulate you or consider taking your advise.

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overthemoon 4 years, 8 months ago

It would be more fruitful to develop walkable/public transit paths to and from downtown with nodes for services, entertainment, play etc. Take what we have and build on it incrementally, don't go all out for the 'planned' (theme) park approach. They rarely work. Several posters have reminded us of the KCK debacle, which is well documented in urban planning literature. What is a novelty at first wears thin and becomes a ghost town. (think outlet mall).

This is a cute idea. Cute doesn't stay that way for long.

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 8 months ago

And if this phantasmagorical idea is implemented and businesses shutter, left, right and center, what will you suggest then?

What will you say to the business owners?

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OldEnuf2BYurDad 4 years, 8 months ago

We'd have to demolish buildings along NH and VT to make room for the parking losses, but other than making some parking and traffic changes, I think this would be wonderful. And, I disagree that we have to have the businesses first. I think when the traffic numbers increase and the existing businessess see their profits rise, the rest will show up within a year.

Cost is a big issue. How to pay for it? Does Obama have any stimulus money to give us? This is a pure stimulous idea.

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 8 months ago

I know what will work.

Two words:

Entertainment District.

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robbackus 4 years, 8 months ago

I think a downtown pedestrian mall could work really well. I lived in Burlington, Vermont for 16 years and it has a thriving downtown centered aroung a pedestrian mall. There are, of course, many challenges. Traffic patterns would necessarily change and flow through New Hampshire and Vermont Streets and how would this look. Police and Fire access are not a problem since such a mall can be kept open enought to create the necessary room. One good thing is that the mall can start small, as Burlington's did, and slowly expand, one block at a time. I think it is really important to keep the cross streets (10th, 9th, 8th, and 7th, say) open as it vastly improves traffic flow and access to the mall. People will park and walk.

Burlington's downtown is a destination for people from miles around. Shopping is easy because you can walk so easily from store to store. Restaurants thrive with the outdoor seating while musicians play music for coins in a hat (the musicians are controlled in Burlington by limiting their hours and banning amplified music and also controlling spots where they can play), kids play on kid friendly statues while venders with carts sell hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream, earrings and other things. It is a wonderful and fun place to be. Lawrence could do this. Now, if there were only a way to link it all to the Riverfront.

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Steven Gaudreau 4 years, 8 months ago

Locals already complain about the lack of parking. People are fat and lazy and would not walk from a parking garage to a new ped. mall.

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headdoctor 4 years, 8 months ago

blindrabbit (Anonymous) says… Give up on closing Mass. St. for a pedestrian mall!! The street is too narrow to allow emergency vehicles to move if closed. The Fire Department has already discussed this in the past. This is especially important because of the age of the buildings, lack of firewalls and sprinkler systems. Think back to the Sunflower fire in the 1980's and what might have happened had the fire spread further than it had.


You may be using to much truth and logic for some to handle about this subject. Lawrence was lucky when the Sunflower fire happened otherwise they could have lost a whole block or more.

Another issue is we have the City building on the North end of Massachusetts street that already has limited access then we have the white elephant along with the Judicial Center in the the 1100 block and Municipal Court just North of there on New Hampshire. Shutting down the main streets would create a nightmare for those public buildings.

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gccs14r 4 years, 8 months ago

Leaving the cross streets open won't work. Close Mass from 7th to 11th and close 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th from Vermont to New Hampshire. Convert the angle parking in the 600 block to parallel parking so there's room to turn around and get back out. Run a trolley on a loop from 7th and Mass down to 10th, over to New Hampshire, back up to 7th, and back to Mass. Run a second trolley in the opposite direction. Have the trolleys stop every half-block so they stay synchronized, which means that there need be only two short sections of parallel track for them to pass each other. Have the New Hampshire street track run along the west curbline so the trolleys don't interfere with auto traffic and ADA compliance is easier to accomplish. Having the trolleys pass the parking garage means that no one needs to walk more than half a block if they're so inclined. Folks in a hurry can park in one of the lots on Vermont and walk over.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

Please shift the focus of this LJW article to the Farmer's Market ....reinforcing those ties in the community through the interaction that occurs at the market will help downtown more than a 'mall approach'.

Step up and enhance the Farmer's Market. you will be surprised at the results.

Leave Massachusetts alone.

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blindrabbit 4 years, 8 months ago

Give up on closing Mass. St. for a pedestrian mall!! The street is too narrow to allow emergency vehicles to move if closed. The Fire Department has already discussed this in the past. This is especially important because of the age of the buildings, lack of firewalls and sprinkler systems. Think back to the Sunflower fire in the 1980's and what might have happened had the fire spread further than it had.

More logical to close some side streets.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

McKibben continues, "None of this even touches the question about what Wal-Mart has done to transfer America jobs abroad, or to sponsor sweatshops around the world. Suffice it to say, our communities suffer.

now we have a plan to repair Wal-Mart damage to Downtown Lawrence?

Why was the second Wal-Mart approved?

the same Chambercrat leadership, don't forget which City Commissioners voted for the second Wal-Mart and please go back and check who their financial supporters were.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

Bill McKibben in his book, 'Deep Economy, the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future' needs to be required reading for the City Commission (2007) book.

regarding Wal-Mart, page 106 excerpt,

"The jobs offered by the new Supercenters don't make up the difference, a new Wal-Mart eliminates a job and a half for every job it creates. And, not only are those jobs ill paid, providing minimal benefits, and often abusive, they also drive down everyone else's wages and benefits as employers try to compete across an array of retail categories, but also range from airline tickets to flower arrangements and insurance. Meanwhile taxpayers are covering the health care costs of uninsured Wal-Mart workers and buying school lunches for their children.

A University of Pennsylvania study concluded that counties with Wal-Marts have grown poorer than surrounding counties, and the more Wal-Marts they had, the faster they grew poor. (2007). page 107.

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bobberboy 4 years, 8 months ago

Sounds real lame. Maybe we should just move downtown Manhattan to Lawrence. Get real Commis or just get out of town. Leave downtown Lawrence just the way it is. It's a cool town for college kids. Not an amusment park for kids. O yea and bring back the festival.

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Christine Pennewell Davis 4 years, 8 months ago

Freemont st. think about it big screen over head game time.

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bronze 4 years, 8 months ago

A Farmer's Market structure and improvements on New Hampshire and the east side of downtown to emphasize the community networking activities of the Farmer's Market will spin off into helping the retail downtown.

Where was Mr. Johnson on the issue of a second Wal-Mart?

WAL-MART more than anything else hurts local & community businesses -- but pro-developer types approved the second Wal-Mart knowing full well that it would hurt downtown and 23rd street retail areas.

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oneeye_wilbur 4 years, 8 months ago

do what Johnson wants and kill it for good,

scotsdale arizona isn't closed off to traffic, glendale az isn't, in fact thet still have a small library centered around a park, the country club plaza isn't closed off, what the Lawrence commissoners need tto do, is to stop thinking, the past "thinking" has gotten the town to where it is, not much as boulder, who cares

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irnmadn88 4 years, 8 months ago

Sidewalk Sale. Hello? How about using that as a litmus test for a Pedestrian Mall?

Lord knows it is already cumbersome during the Sale to navigate the sidewalk with all the dining areas and tree planters and parking meters and baby strollers not to mention the stores putting their wares outside. Allow the pedestrians to walk in the street for a day...

Combine that with a Music festival in the evening...

Heck if Eudora and Baldwin can have festivals, why not Lawrence?

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headdoctor 4 years, 8 months ago

blindrabbit (Anonymous) says… More workable, would be a permanent closing of 8th St. between Mass. and New Hampshire and perhaps Mass. and Vermont. Traffic flow would be maintained and 7th and 9th Steets as cross connectors (maybe as one ways, one East, one West). This would free-up 8th for the concepts discussed in the lead story, music, art, display venues, fountains, play area etc, etc, etc. The recent Sandbar event is a good indication of what could be done. Maybe a temporary or trial testing of this would be worthwhile and at a minimal expense. If this were to proove successful maybe the same could be done on 10th St., suppling a needed boost to the South end of the downtown footprint.


That could be an interesting possibility. It is very interesting that you recognize there is more to downtown than the 600 through 900 block of Massachusetts street. Normally anything on New Hampshire, Vermont or Massachusetts street south of the 900 block is viewed as just the red headed step child of downtown. I am pretty sure that if it involves effort or money from the City, once they tried 8th street, even if it were very successful, it would still be a case of 10 hundred block who, what, oh, you mean we have to include them. It would be nice if they could put together some ideas but what downtown doesn't need is another BID like what was attempted some years back.

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dotteboy 4 years, 8 months ago

Anyone who grew up in Kansas City, Kansas that can remember shopping on Minnesota Ave. before and after they put in a pedestrian mall will tell you this is a very stupid idea.

Leave it alone.

But, think of the economic boost this could be to downtown engineering firms.

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Phil Minkin 4 years, 8 months ago

I get it. Our downtown is vibrant, unique and people from all over love to come and shop,eat, and stroll so let's completely change it's character and charm.
Does anyone remember when downtown KCK closed steets and tried the pedestrian mall? Disaster that was torn out some years later.
Find a way to incentivise local retail and maintain the retail/food-bar mix.

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Kat Christian 4 years, 8 months ago

NO - NO - NO - NO - NO. Mass Street is the charm of Lawrence. I love riding down it It gives you the feel of Lawrence. Walking down it would not do the same it would change the demographics of Lawrence totally. It will make it feel just like any other place. I hope they don't do this if they do I'll probably moved out of Lawrence.

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laika 4 years, 8 months ago

I have to agree with the comments about the lack of usefulness of parking on Mass, especially north of 10th or 9th.

Perhaps it could just be a pedestrian mall from the 8, 7 and 600 blocks of mass allowing 9th to continue serving it's major traffic needs and providing bus service, allowing some parking on street, but still creating a new downtown experience.

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Stuart Evans 4 years, 8 months ago

Lets get a Monorail! it worked for Ogdenville & North Haverbrook.
nah, this isn't really for Lawrence people.. this is more of a SHELBYVILLE plan.

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blindrabbit 4 years, 8 months ago

Lots of good postings here! As a former (recent) downtown business owner, I feel something needs to be done to revitalize the downtown area. Comments about the everchanging mix of businesses are correct, but the overall trend is not encouraging.

The concept of turning Mass. St. into a pedestrian mall is interesting but fraught with problems; especially when traffic flow and parking issues are considered as well as fire and police protection. The thought of an occasional block closing for Special Events however should be explored.

More workable, would be a permanent closing of 8th St. between Mass. and New Hampshire and perhaps Mass. and Vermont. Traffic flow would be maintained and 7th and 9th Steets as cross connectors (maybe as one ways, one East, one West). This would free-up 8th for the concepts discussed in the lead story, music, art, display venues, fountains, play area etc, etc, etc. The recent Sandbar event is a good indication of what could be done. Maybe a temporary or trial testing of this would be worthwhile and at a minimal expense. If this were to proove successful maybe the same could be done on 10th St., suppling a needed boost to the South end of the downtown footprint.

The side street closing would have minimal impact on traffic flow and parking issues.

My main concern is the negative inertia that accompanies any issue toward addressing "Downtown Issues"; special interest groups, naysayers and anti-progressives and mindless posters are quick to slam any concept. Commissioner Johnson should be encouraged to move this discussion forward, utilizing the thoughtful comments and suggestions for a progressive resolution.

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headdoctor 4 years, 8 months ago

appleaday (Anonymous) says… You're probably right, head doctor. I'm just saying it might be nice to leave Mass Street as is and add things on the surrounding streets. I agree with the earlier poster who suggested the amphitheater next to the arts center. I've seen too many closed street malls that have killed retail. I'm all for thinking outside the box and all for preserving the Lawrence city center.


Yup. There are many great ideas that could happen without closing Massachusetts street. I think that gilly (Anonymous) says… May be on to something but the bottom line is the bottom line. If it there isn't money to be generated from the activity it will not work. Besides bad management the biggest reason small businesses fail downtown is because of the failure to generate enough revenue per square foot to keep operating and make a profit. Having a nice place for people to gather and enjoy the activity doesn't always generate money. The Farmers Market is a prime example. It is a wonderful place to spend time at and yes there are people who spend money there but if you watch the activity there are a lot more people just hanging out and not spending anything or just a couple of dollars for something to drink or munch. A brick and mortar store cannot survive the way the Farmers Market does.

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Christine Pennewell Davis 4 years, 8 months ago

Freemont street of lawrence sounds like fun.

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appleaday 4 years, 8 months ago

You're probably right, head doctor. I'm just saying it might be nice to leave Mass Street as is and add things on the surrounding streets. I agree with the earlier poster who suggested the amphitheater next to the arts center. I've seen too many closed street malls that have killed retail. I'm all for thinking outside the box and all for preserving the Lawrence city center.

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person184 4 years, 8 months ago

I think a pedestrian mall sounds like fun! We do need to evolve.

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headdoctor 4 years, 8 months ago

appleaday (Anonymous) says… Turn New Hampshire into the closed street mall and put all the fountains and disney-esque stuff there. It would be a good excuse to close the hideous bars in the 700 block. I've been to Boulder and Pearl Street isn't that vibrant from a retail standpoint.


You would make more than a few people cranky if you shut down the Bottle Neck.

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RoeDapple 4 years, 8 months ago

Sam's club, Lowe's, Cabela's and Nebraska Furniture Mart all surrounding an enclosed mall with a theme park. Fill in with varying small shops that go in and out of business every three to six months. Touchy Feelly out the door! Jobs, jobs, jobs!! Glass, concrete and landscaped berms!

Thank you for allowing me to vent!

What was the question?

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gilly 4 years, 8 months ago

I don't see the discussion here focusing on what really makes a public space work for attracting a good mix of people. If it's just retail incentive--and it seems that most of the business and property owners in Lawrence think so--then Downtown Lawrence will not be be anything other than a shopping zone with visitors trying to engage in public life in an inappropriate arena. And they try in Downtown Lawrence because it's the closest thing we have to a public arena.

A public life based solely on retail fails because it makes no provision for other social needs. There's no safe and comfortable place for enough people to sit, mingle, meet, and greet unless an empty lot or parking lot is reengineered temporarily for the purpose, like the Farmers Market and the outdoor movie festivals. Downtown parks, which should be great arenas for such activities, are not Downtown--they are away from the public life that forms on Mass Street. If some retail and restaurants had formed around South Park, more of a public life would be there. Same for the train park, which is more drainage ditch than usable park. Instead, nearly everything surrounding those parks are private and turn away from the parks. Nothing public surrounds and faces those parks and engages them as part of the public sphere.

If you're going to change Downtown Lawrence, be clear about the reasons people come to Downtown Lawrence. I don't think it's just about the shopping.

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headdoctor 4 years, 8 months ago

Sigmund (Anonymous) says… So close the street and get rid of the parking and replace it with what?


DIng, ding, ding. We have a winner. None of the streets West or East of Massachusetts street can handle the traffic from downtown along with the normal traffic trying to get around the area to the bridge nor is there that much room for parking garages without some major bulldozing of what is now residential/historical property. Even if you used the existing parking lots for garages you would still have to lose a large area to street improvement. This would be one of those projects that couldn't be done without sacrificing somethings else.

Lawrence is not a travel destination like some of the towns that have closed off their main street. We aren't even like the Legends area. Nothing like doing something to drive even more people to the box stores or out of town where the parking and travel is less of a headache. This couldn't possible work out with out some real re-inventing of downtown and the relaxing of a lot of the current regulations.

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Orwell 4 years, 8 months ago

Whenever I visit Boulder – at least yearly – I always notice there are a number of Pearl Street storefronts in mid-conversion to new businesses. Parking on the periphery there is fairly inconvenient and expensive. I still like to visit there as a special event, but it wouldn't be too attractive as a day in & day out destination. Also, if you think Lawrence has panhandler issues now, Pearl Street is a crash course in what a pedestrian Mass Mall would do.

One instructive difference is in the scale of retail uses. Pearl Street has a healthy number of individually larger businesses: bookstore, gourmet/kitchen store and art galleries come to mind, all offering much broader selections. Here, anyplace that's big enough seems to become a bar.

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lynnlouise 4 years, 8 months ago

This is a bad idea! Downtown will loose its charm, we don't want a Boulder/ kc atmosphere. People come to Lawrence for the way it is now! We need that money put into the roads here and schools. Just bad. DON'T CHANGE THE DOWNTOWN!

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appleaday 4 years, 8 months ago

Turn New Hampshire into the closed street mall and put all the fountains and disney-esque stuff there. It would be a good excuse to close the hideous bars in the 700 block. I've been to Boulder and Pearl Street isn't that vibrant from a retail standpoint.

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logrithmic 4 years, 8 months ago

Violet,

The garage could go in the ground.

But quite frankly, a view of an asphalt parking lot is not that scenic either.

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Sigmund 4 years, 8 months ago

bwright928 (Anonymous) says… "I want to meet the person that has EVER been able to find a parking spot right in front of the store they are trying to visit!"

So close the street and get rid of the parking and replace it with what? Exactly what is going to draw people to the empTy parking spaces in front of the store they wanted to park in front of? The only time I have trouble finding a spot is on the weekends during the afternoon, especially on game days. During those times I simply postpone my trips downtown and let the tourist have their run of the place. Otherwise there is plenty of parking and walking a blocked off street isn't really that much of a draw.

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Violet 4 years, 8 months ago

I have been able to park directly in front of where I was wanting to go downtown many, many times! Not that I need to now, as I live 2 blocks from downtown. As for the "we need a parking garage behind Borders" argument...um, there are single family homes and loft bldg. on either side of Borders, so where exactly would such a garage go?

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headdoctor 4 years, 8 months ago

I find it interesting that many of the people who have these brain storms that would cost millions in todays values to accomplish have no money invested in downtown. They have fought to get everything declared historical. I don't even want to think what it would cost to make Massachusetts street look like Aspen or Boulder and still maintain the historical aspect of it.

Even with the economy being what it is, Downtown property still maintains desire. Yes there are some big building that have set vacant but most of the smaller spaces get rented pretty quickly. There has always been a certain amount of turn over in occupancy. The City could do wonders with downtown if they would just back off of some of their silly regulations.

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bwright928 4 years, 8 months ago

I want to meet the person that has EVER been able to find a parking spot right in front of the store they are trying to visit! That is such a tired argument. It's like hitting the lottery if you can find a parking spot in the same block as your intended destination.

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macon47 4 years, 8 months ago

i would think if the city or investors would put money in downtown attactions, they would want to appeal to folks with money in their pockets, not a bunch of rag tag loafers wandering around looking for all the free stuff i am not sure how rich the downtown landlords are when they are charged 30 grand a year in property taxes

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logrithmic 4 years, 8 months ago

This argument about parking is bogus. There are a handful of parking spots on Mass and most have to walk to their destination anyway - even if they park on Mass Street. We do not need parking on Mass Street. One parking garage behind Borders and another on the lot behind Papa Kenos would provide MORE parking and your "walk" would be limited to a one block area.

But surely, many of us can tolerate a multi-block walk. When I visit downtown, I almost always walk up Mass one way and down the other way just to see what's going on. Those that actually go to one store and want to pack directly in front of it are an extreme minority.

God bless!

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RibMan 4 years, 8 months ago

The city needs to attract/bring in a retailer like Target adjacent to downtown. Someone to bring thousands of people. Big parking, open long hours-- 24 hours would be ideal-- and offering all the necessities of life--- food for sure.

This is what people want and what they need. Don't fight it. Get them to build a store that fits an urban setting and let downtown feed off the traffic. We have a small and picturesque downtown. If we want to leave it that way, then bring in a tenant off the main drag and let them draw the crowds. They can walk to the downtown shops before or after they do their other shopping.

Don't swim upstream on this deal. Take business from Target and Walmart by bringing one of them in. The city should buy some land on the New Hampshire side of downtown and pump up the traffic.

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loosecaboose 4 years, 8 months ago

Every town I have ever seen that did this, died. We live in Baldwin, my wife has to walk with a cane, and not able to walk very far. If Lawrence does this, we will not shop there, sorry Brits.

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Sigmund 4 years, 8 months ago

Another Chad Lawhorn article touting more taxpayer funded corporate welfare for rich downtown landlords? Ever notice that when times are bad and they need some help it is "our downtown" but when times are good and it is time to borrow the equity out of their investments we never see a dime of their profits? So when the money is spent can we have another in a series of Chad Lawhorn articles touting new taxes because once again we are suddenly out of money for fire, police, sidewalks, and roads? The political scam comes full circle and is never ending, only the faces change.

So is Lance really interested in "new ideas" or just support for his old idea? I thought the $2.5 million we spend on the empTy every year, year after year, to deliver shoppers downtown was suppose to help save "our downtown," relieve parking, and bring new employers with new paychecks for workers? No problem just keep signing the checks that taxpayers have to cover.

You want to spur retail sales in Lawrence, try cutting retail sales taxes and the property tax rate citywide. Otherwise most people I know are saving their money to pay the higher taxes for Universal Health Care, corporate bailouts for Wall Street, and the UAW big Detroit automakers. The economics are really pretty simple, every dollar the government takes from the local economy in taxes is one less dollar we have to spend downtown or anywhere else for that matter.

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BigPrune 4 years, 8 months ago

Would a couple of million visitors a year help the downtown?

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BigPrune 4 years, 8 months ago

I don't think eminent domain would be necessary.

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slang4d 4 years, 8 months ago

the 16th Street Mall in Denver is another good example of this. However, there are parking garages and lots available in surrounding areas (though expensive) and a free shuttle. They also have a Virgin Megastore, Nike superstore and a Hard Rock Cafe. Can't say I want any of those store littering Mass street.

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cowboy 4 years, 8 months ago

nice idea, but requires some invasive procedures to pull off such as eminent domain processes to clear the necessary land for parking , expansion for truck access , migration to the east for new business , availability of large retail space for anchors. IMHO Lawrence has neither the leadership or the cajones to pull it off.

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macon47 4 years, 8 months ago

why is it so many lawrencians feel the need to jump in and spend everyone elses money to make their own lives more enjoyable?

as far as thje downtown clousure i think the commissioner has spend too much time at the sandbar

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BigPrune 4 years, 8 months ago

They need to leave Massachusetts Street alone. People want to park in front of or near the store they are visiting. This is why the parking garage has been unsuccessful - Nobody wants to walk! I do like Paley's idea of closing a block once a month. That is something they can do right away - but please make it so someone can buy a beer and walk in the street!

No, they need to be thinking bolder, not Boulder. Lawrence, and specifically downtown needs to become a regional draw. It needs to have something additional that is special and unique, other than it's an old downtown that still looks great. It needs to take business from the Legends, and go head to head. We need to get with the times. Some people make things happen, some watch things happen, while others sit around and wonder what happened?

Back to the drawing board Lance. It's okay, engineers aren't great idea people, they just put great ideas together.

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snitty 4 years, 8 months ago

How about creating more venues for street vendors? The city parking lots could be used creatively in this context, as the vibrant Farmers Market has proven. There are many in Lawrence who make or provide interesting items that would like a chance to sell them in public. In fact, the lots used by the Farmers Market on Saturday morning might also be employed as a "city market" for non-food items at other times during the week. Street vending could provide the spice to make downtown perpetually interesting. This is a change that could be done cheaply and immediately, and which would have wide popular support.

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logrithmic 4 years, 8 months ago

BTW, this does not mean that cross streets would be closed. 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th would all remain open for street traffic.

God bless your family!

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logrithmic 4 years, 8 months ago

I have long aruged for a pedestrian mall downtown and my recent experience at the Sandbar party reinforced that. Imagine live music concerts, beer gardens, street art and entertainment, etc. Evenings, especially weekends, become one live party. It would simply blow that sterile rightwing environment known as the "Legends" away. After all, we have a beautiful and antique downtown, something that can't be created with a "Disney-style" makeover.

Go for it downtown...

God bless!

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usesomesense 4 years, 8 months ago

Part of the issue with 'pedestrian malls' here is weather. When it's hot or cold I don't want to go to the Legends. I'd rather take my chances on finding a closer place to park downtown.

Although it would take away from parking it might be nice to give up a few spaces for larger, better outdoor dining areas - if the business is willing to pay for it. The changes they're making around the trees will help I suppose, but it's a pain when there are a lot of people downtown and the sidewalk gets very narrow in front of restaurant.

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KS 4 years, 8 months ago

Build a streetcar system (not light rail) that looks and acts like a trolley from one end of Mass to the other. Power it with the electricity generated from Bowersock dam, Make it free. How about that for a nice liberal idea?

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average 4 years, 8 months ago

The traffic on Mass is part of its vitality. I've seen a lot more eerily quiet ghost-town pedestrian malls in this country than I've seen thriving lively ones. Hell, even Pearl Street three quarters of the time.

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Bowhunter99 4 years, 8 months ago

Monthly events (or more frequent in warmer weather) ought to spur the traffic he envisions, and provide with a joyful atmosphere and outdoorish experience Mr Johnson is thinking about.

Crowds for outdoor events such as 4th of July, St Patrick's, and even commercial events such as the sandbar birthday party bring a lot of people downtown. Because they're SPECIAL events. I do not believe people would 'flock' to walk down the middle of Mass St on a daily basis.

Full time? bad idea.. as weather turns cold, noone is going to go out and 'play outside on Mass St'... therefore hurting businesses.

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Kookamooka 4 years, 8 months ago

Back in the 80's there wasn't a parking garage on NH or a city wide bus system.

There is no reason why Downtown can't have an ampitheater and fountain but just not in the middle of the road.

How about the ampitheater go in next door to the art center and the fountain next to the bank (where they watch movies)

Blocking off the street for festivals and such is fine but I'm not for a permanent block. It would mess up parades and those are great for creating critical people mass.

Ironically, when the most people are downtown, the businesses close their doors. (Halloween-KU game celebrations-after 5)

What we really could use is another breakfast restaurant. People wait hours to get into Miltons on Sunday. Maceli is fine but I miss the old Drakes with their greasy eggs...and daylight donuts. It was affordable and you could roll out of bed and eat.

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Violet 4 years, 8 months ago

I think that the pedestrian mall is a terrible idea. I think it would literally make downtown go the way of the "Riverfront Mall" (another terrible idea). I have lived my entire life in Lawrence, and currently live downtown, and from my perspective, there is nothing broken! Downtown is as vital as ever.

People are freaking out because of the recent closings of a few prominent businesses, however one only has to look at fairly recent history to see that this is a pattern that happens every couple of years, yet downtown continues to prosper...whatever happened to Woolworth's, Raney Drugs, Litwins, Natural Way, Uptown Bagel, The Bluebird Diner, Jennings Donuts, Fields, Jr's Farm, The Drake Diner, Penny Lane Records, Adventure Bookstore, Town Crier, Varsity/Granada movie theaters, Zigfields, etc, etc.? Oh, they closed and other successful businesses took their place! Downtown is self sustaining and will be fine. Leave it alone!

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moveforward 4 years, 8 months ago

this is simple, and long overdue. remove all traffic from downtown mass street and make vermont and new hampshire one way... with multi story parking lots every other block.

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appleaday 4 years, 8 months ago

And one quick, easy, and cheap thing you can do is pick up the trash and make restaurants and bars with outdoor seating sweep up the cigarette butts their patrons toss on the sidewalk. Ask the city to empty the dumpsters in the alley more often so that the garbage smell isn't so overwhelming on a hot day.

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KS 4 years, 8 months ago

The only thing Bolder, CO and Lawrence, KS have in common is that they are both college towns. Beyond that, this is a terrible idea. Who is going to pay for the cost of doing the project and who is going to pay for the cost of police protection, etc.? When one compares the downtown of Lawrence with other towns in Kansas, Lawrence is the envy. It is not so badly broken that a better economy could not fix. Reduce some taxes and give the folks more money to spend. I don't see this as a "build it and they will come" project. Later when everyone finally agrees that it should be back to a street, you gotta spend more taxpayer money to replace it. Resolve the parking issue.

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Michael Capra 4 years, 8 months ago

bold is good make it a place that people will tell everyone to come experiance

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