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Letters to the Editor

Retail space

July 24, 2009

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To the editor:

The July 14 editorial asks, “What’s downtown going to look like five, 10 or 15 years from now?” The answer can be known, and the picture is not pretty.

Lawrence has enough spending to support about 4.1 million square feet of retail space, but the City Commission permitted developers to expand the supply to over 5.5 million square feet.

Lawrence has too much retail space chasing too few vendors, which means that many stores go empty, especially in the older shopping centers like downtown.

The surplus development has stalled redevelopment plans downtown and has pushed the vacancy rates so high that disinvestment and blight now threaten. Investment, both public and private, is wasted. The taxpayers’ $8 million parking garage stands largely empty. The Hobbs-Taylor building and the 600 block of Massachusetts should be the top performing spaces in the community, but they have significant vacancies.

The recession has contributed to the problem, but had we properly managed our growth we would be much better off.

The developers’ short-term gain is now our long-term loss. Managed growth would have prevented much of the problem and would have protected and enhanced our downtown.

It will take many, many years to absorb this surplus space and, until this happens, it will be hard for downtown to compete. We can only look forward to many years of high vacancy and disinvestment. We need a City Commission that knows how to pace the growth of supply so as to protect our unique downtown.

McClure is from Lawrence

Comments

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

If Lawrence loses downtown it loses its charm to outsiders who love to visit Lawrence simply for its' charm. Without visitors spending money in Lawrence,Kansas locals will see incredible user fees(taxes) and other tax increases in order to maintain.

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.

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 University of Kansas, School of Architecture and Urban Design, 1973.

BigPrune 5 years, 5 months ago

I suggest the letter to the editor writer try to open a business in Lawrence, Kansas. The vacancies are false vacancies because the City and the people the letter writer supported passed a development code that makes it virtually impossible to rent a vacant space due to ridiculous expense, time and too many unknowns to compete with other communities the size of Lawrence. The vacancies are caused by governmental red tape. If you want to rent a space you might as well be asking to change the zoning. Wasn't the letter writer involved in the rewrite of the code since he is a self proclaimed expert and teaches at KU and his commissioners passed the code? That's why Lawrence is known nationally as one of the worst cities to do business in the entire United States of America and we have vacancies.

BigPrune 5 years, 5 months ago

Oh, I must correct myself. I guess the letter to the editor writer wasn't involved in the rewrite of the development code, I was looking at Merrill's cut and paste. Any familial relation between the letter to the editor writer and the cut and paste propaganda from merrill, I notice they have the same last name?

rtwngr 5 years, 5 months ago

University of California, Berkeley...

Well, that explains a lot of your posts right there.

monkeyhawk 5 years, 5 months ago

Isn't that funny... the problems(s) are complaining about the problem (that would be Mc & mer). They act as if they don't even know how their progressive theories have had a drastic effect on Lawrence. Just like Fluffy Frank and Chris Dodd - point the finger at everyone else. Maybe someone will believe them.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

It's the developers and the city commissions creating the problems. It is the city commissioners who have created the red tape you all talk about. The city commissioner election campaigns have largely been financed by the real estate/developer/builder/banking community.

Are most of you saying these folks do not know what they are doing?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

The real estate,developers,builders and The Chamber have had had control of development and local government for at least 25 years. Remember the Chamber is paid by city hall to guide development and economic growth.

So who makes up the power base of the local Chamber of Commerce? Real estate ,developer,builders and banking executives and their legal counsel.

Local government = city,county and planning commissions all who have ignored concerns about this situation for several years. This info and concern is NOT new not by any stretch of the imagination.

Why Do You Think Lawrence Is Lagging? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/sep/why_do_you_think_lawrence_growth_lagging/

Voters cannot change the power elite of the Chamber of Commerce and their narrow vision BUT voters could STOP electing those financed with special interest campaign money.

And Voters could demand a vote to direct city policy that would protect OUR tax dollars to include tools for making growth decisions which should be applied in a detailed fashion to a each specific applicant:

Retail Impact Study Economic Impact Study Environmental Impact Study( examines economic,traffic,air quality,impact on existing business etc etc? Traffic Impact Study *Cost of Community Services Study which could help determine which growth is or in not paying back thus providing direction and maintaining continuity thus preventing tax increases.

Failing to use these tools creates anxiety, tax revenue problems and inflated tax bills to property owners. Whether or not one can afford whatever tax bills are submitted is not the issue.

I would rather see growth churning along in a slow methodical manner instead of increasing taxes taxes to cover the cost of growth. New growth should be covering the cost of new growth not we the taxpayers.

How about annual normal cost of living increases of about the normal 4% in addition to healthy economic growth taxes picking up the rest of the tab without tax and mill levy increases? How about this for the next 20 years?

There are only so many retails dollars available in any community. Lawrence,Kansas is certainly not the exception to that rule.

BigPrune 5 years, 5 months ago

Your so called "Progressive" commission passed the code when they were in power. Your people either did not know what they were doing, or they knew perfectly well what they were doing and knew what problems it would create.

Rent a space merrill and open a business. I give you a year to get it all put together and approved and remodeled. Of course you will be paying rent for the majority of this time. Then you will be able to open your doors to the buying public. Or would you rather go to another town and spend 3 months to get it all put together and at a much cheaper cost and remodeled and open for the buying public? Three months in another town or 1 year in Lawrence plus paying rent on a space you cannot open? That is the difference.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

What exactly did the so called progressive commission do that created huge problems in a short a period of time?

It is not unusual for new projects to garner final approval in less than a year to 18 months if all is done correctly. Broad economic impact studies take time and are quite important if a city government wants to avoid over loading markets and bringing on economic displacement.

BigPrune 5 years, 5 months ago

merrill, The Progressive commission passed the new development code. I'm not talking some huge new project. I'm talking 1500 square feet of space.

Give it a go and see how much fun you have in Lawrence.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Bump for further study. Over loading markets do not pay back taxpayers and simply put is bad for business. If retail business cannot make money due to flooded markets taxpayers are the only source when those business people cannot generate sales taxes or employees must be let go.

WE taxpayers need to keep a close eye on city and planning commissioners for they are rendering irresponsible decisions at a cost to WE the taxpayer. Grab your wallets.

jogger 3 years, 5 months ago

Lets say I wanted to open a 1500 sf retail on mass selling locally made goods- clothing and other....who would invest and how bad is the red tape? What spaces are available right now? What are my real costs beyond rent, deposit and stock?

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