Archive for Friday, February 20, 2009

Cooperative spirit

Lawrence should offer a helping hand, not additional roadblocks, to worthy efforts like Family Promise.

February 20, 2009


Why is it that the city of Lawrence seems to go out of its way to make it difficult for individuals, or companies, who have been welcomed with open arms in other cities, to become a part of this community?

For years, Lawrence has been known in the retail community as one of the nation’s most difficult cities in which to locate a new facility. Lawrence residents have a reputation for behaving as if they live in an elite community and thinking it is a rare privilege for any company to locate here.

Currently, officials of the nationally recognized Family Promise program are engaged in a tussle with city officials, some residents and/or neighborhood groups who want to force Family Promise to jump through various regulatory hoops and perhaps make major changes in the program before being authorized to operate in Lawrence.

The program, which has been operating successfully in 140 first-class cities across the country, recruits churches to provide housing on a rotating basis for homeless families who are interviewed and prescreened. So far, 12 Lawrence churches have volunteered to provide housing for families for a week at a time as part of the program.

Church members help with various needs such as food and transportation. Adults are assisted in seeking jobs and have agreed, after finding employment, to save 80 percent of their earnings for the family to use after completing its rotation among participating churches.

It is understandable that city officials want to be careful not to open the door to unintended problems by approving certain programs. At the same time, why not have the starting point be “Let’s see how we can help you with this worthy effort.” Unfortunately, there seems to be far too many cases in which Lawrence takes exactly the opposite approach.

Family Promise has been highly successful in other cities. Its goal is laudable, and those organizing the program here should be thanked and congratulated.

Let’s hope the Family Promise effort in Lawrence turns out to be a big success, one that is used as a model for other cities in a collective effort to do something positive and concrete to attack the issue of homeless families in this country.


Richard Heckler 9 years, 4 months ago

The most important point that the retail industry realizes is that small town Lawrence,Kansas has a limited supply of available retail dollars as do most communities.

The other important point the retail industry realizes is Lawrence,Kansas is retail heavy aka over built considering the number of retail dollars available. Our market is over saturated. This is business unfriendly for both new and existing retail.

Over built retail produces economic displacement which in essence means the few available retail dollars are spread thinner and thinner thus many retailers are not getting the desired number of retail dollars a community requires to meet tax dollar revenue expectations.

This is one aspect of growth not paying for itself thus residents/taxpayers get billed for the short fall.

Placemakers,consultants city commisioners hired,warned our commissioners not too long ago of this situation. Placemakers was ignored. So I hear Lawrence,Kansas is demonstrated as a role model of how NOT to grow a city.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 4 months ago

Placemakers is not alone in their findings that Lawrence was over built by 30%. Retail expansion continues under the false assumption that new retail magically increases the availability retail dollars.

Basic findings:

  1. Lawrence is overbuilt in housing: Homes were built faster than popualtion growth supporting these homes. Excessive subdivisions caused an outmigration from older neighborhoods causing a severe loss of value, a loss of dwelling units, and a variety of other problems such as school closings.

  2. Lawerence is overbuilt in retail: Stores were built faster than retail spending growth supporting these stores. This excessive growth has hurt the public and private investment in downtown redevelopment (e.g.: the empty $8 million parking garage, the empty Hobbs-Taylor space, etc.) and has caused deterioration and blight in existing shopping centers (e.g.: Tanger Mall, Food-for-Less, etc.)

  3. Douglas County is overbuilt in manufacturing and warehousing; employment in these sectors is declining, not growing. Yet, the Chamber calls for more and more space in the false belief that more supply creates more demand.

  4. Office space in Douglas County is relatively well balanced, but the market for office space is severely crippled by the excessive supply of unused retail space which is competing for office tenants.

Basic strategy:

Lawrence should adopt a policy of "cooling off" the pace of development. Note: This is not a moratoriam; it is a consicous effort to redirect growth to existing neighborhoods and districts where it can be beneficial.

Housing: The city should stop approving new subdivisions until the existing supply of surplus homes is eliminated. It should direct housing investment back into older neighborhoods so as to preserve and protect the existing public and private investment there.

Commercial space: The city should stop approving plans for new commercial space until the existing surplus is eliminated. It should direct investment into the preseration of the downtown and other existing commercial districts so as to preserve and protect the existing publid and private investment there.

We need to support candidates who will support this strategy.

Kirk McClure

Education Ph. D., City Planning, University of California, Berkeley, Department of City and Regional Planning, 1985. Concentrations in Housing Economics and Public Finance.

Master in City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 1978. Specialization in Housing Policy Analysis.

Bachelor of Arts, University of Kansas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1974. Special Major in Urban Studies.

Bachelor of Architecture, Graduated With Distinction

Richard Heckler 9 years, 4 months ago

City Hall is creating a fantasyland. Tanger Mall is no longer a retail center but magically is now light industrial. This move artificially reduces the number of vacant retail square footage. It also substantially increases the number of vacant light industrial square footage. In reality North Lawrence does NOT need more light industrial space.

Over built communities are simply NOT business friendly. Both new and existing business struggle. This is one of the reasons Lawrence,Kansas is the most expensive Kansas community to live in and do business.

The more residential that is built the less existing residential is worth in real dollars and sense no matter what the inflated county value says. Inflated values artificially generate revenues to pay our increasing cost of living in Lawrence,Kansas. Tighter markets maintain a solid higher value.

Radio news frequently mentions the dilemma of property owners owing more than they can sell for....

Chris Ogle 9 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence was a tough town to build in, even back in the Price Banks era. Some things never change.

WilburM 9 years, 4 months ago

What world are you people living in? The commission as a bunch of elitist Democrats? (Chestnut? Dever? Hack? and Amyx and Boog? elitists?)

And powerful neighborhood groups holding back investment? Show me some evidence.

Still, things should be more efficient and bottom-line oriented, with stronger, more public set of priorities. And getting back to the editorial, roadblocks should not hinder this worthwhile (and voluntary) project.

bstoppel 9 years, 4 months ago

If companies have to jump through hoops, the goal should be to improve our community.

For instance, by parents were in town this past weekend and they commented on how much nicer our Wal-marts are than the other Wal-marts. As business locate and especially build here, it is our responsibility to make them build healthy, sustainable, and architectural pleasing buildings. This is a hoop that benefits our community. Cities are know for their "feel." I am afraid that the average American city's "feel" is water down by cheaply built corporate buildings. That is not something I want for Lawrence.

das 9 years, 4 months ago

Back to the actual subject of this editorial as it currently stands.....

The implications are lessening of fire code standards for churches and the potential of some churches to become equivalent to "drop-in" shelters without the need of "family" status for any occupants. This is contrary to the Family Promise agreement as originally put forth and which had me at ease. It also puts forth double standards in regards to hotel/motel fire standards and those of a religious institution fulfilling basically the same role (length of stay and occupants relationship). Freedom of religious expression does not provide for freedom of manifestation of said beliefs...If I was a modern day Druid...would I be allowed to build a big bonfire in the yard and dance around? Standards are not "standards" if they continually change to suit whims or special interest groups (OF ANY KIND) or apply differently or not all to certain subsets. Policy-Procedures-Standards-Guidelines look into what these mean.

alm77 9 years, 4 months ago

bstop, agreed. There are some scary Walmarts in KC, especially along 435.

When we have out of town visitors they also complement our city. They love downtown and the parks. We usually take our visitors (usually family members) on the T for a day on Mass. Then to the skatepark so my son can show off for them. Anytime they need to go to south Iowa for something, they are impressed there as well.

das 9 years, 4 months ago


"...State Rep. Don Myers, R-Derby, said he supported the “In God We Trust” plate, but that it wasn’t fair to exempt it from the fee while making other groups pay..." point already supported.....ah double "standards" the name of the (majority?) religion and cheap meaningless slogans.

cthulhu_4_president 9 years, 4 months ago


das 9 years, 4 months ago

hawkperchedatriverfront (Anonymous) says… "...Let the churches do whatever they are doing. After the places get robbed, the program falls apart, then they will figure out what may have been a good idea wasn't...." <<<<

hawkperchedatriverfront -

Now you don't have only a slim property line dividing YOU from a future drop-in shelter (church) and your so eloquent scenario.....NOW DO YOU? Show your mercy and compassion and open a shelter in your home...maybe some "Weekend Christians" fill follow suit. Problem solved.

Your analogy to "hiding" the homeless was humorous and I think you should consider yourself Godwin'd.

basil 9 years, 4 months ago

What's with this about the downtown parking lots being empty? Are you going on Sunday at midnight?

I'd also like to hear some support for the idea that "tons of retail dollars are leaving for Topeka and KC". ??

And what are these "dead" neighborhoods? I think I live in one of them, and my property values have doubled in the last 9 years, v. those in the new-built land out West.

Really. I don't mean to be dense or argumentative, but I get the feeling I'm living in a different town.

honestone 9 years, 4 months ago

Now back to the point... IF it were just going to be a couple of very limited homeless family stays we might not be so opposed but...the way things usually go first a few homeless mom's, dad's and kids but then...just mom and dad (they're a family) then maybe a mom, dad and an uncle. Finally we can envision another drop-in center where drunks come and go in my neighborhood.
Maybe I am reaching but in this tiown it isn't much of a reach

das 9 years, 4 months ago

honestone said- "...Finally we can envision another drop-in center where drunks come and go in my neighborhood..."

THIS IS what will be debated and passed if no one comments otherwise. See my first post. Tuesday at 6:35pm City Commission Meeting. We will see the city bending to the whims of a special interest group, fire code exemptions made, and all churches re-categorized as being able to be Type A Homeless Shelters. So let's just be like "hawk" and complain about our neighborhoods and hasten the deterioration from within. Real productive. A true "neighborhood" is made up of people who know and care about each other as a small community. At least Family Promise introduced a social unit within the community (homeless families). In the meantime, the "real Christians" can step up and open their own homes to these people. It's fine and dandy to be outspoken when the consequences don't affect you personally. The church members really don't care about the neighborhoods -- just a warm fuzzy feeling from a token gesture to ensure their ticket on the heaven train. As a final note... I am just a tax-paying citizen that values his family, neighborhood and fellow neighbors.

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