Letters to the Editor

City’s loss

March 31, 2009


To the editor:

City commissioners, Dillons and my landlord decided last Tuesday that the beautiful old building north of Dillons on Massachusetts Street, where I live, will be destroyed and a parking lot put in its place. According to the commissioners, changing the zoning from residential to commercial is excellent analysis and planning by the planning department.

Dillons is currently “out of compliance” with the number of parking spaces the city thinks it should have. Many people walk and bike to the store. The parking lot is rarely, if ever, full. Should we not encourage sustainability in this age of dwindling resources, green space being one of them? Not to mention the fact that the apartment building has a great amount of historical character and is solidly built.

The city will also not recoup the tax revenue lost by destroying a building upon which property tax is paid. This is not a smart decision in a time when all municipalities need money. It will possibly cost the city more in increased toxic runoff, which goes directly to the river. The river from which you and I get our water supply.

This decision is symptomatic of a City Commission that has allowed environmentally unfriendly, unsightly and seemingly unfettered growth to the west of town. I’m not just talking about Wal-Mart. Lawrence’s character and charm have been in decline for many years.

Nothing personal, commissioners, but you won’t get my vote next time around.

Britta Ernst,


Mark Zwahl 8 years, 11 months ago


Your reasoning is sound about this. The parking lot code is outdated, and the city makes many exemptions when stores want to add something to their parking lots (e.g. gas stations). Good for you for making a rationale argument w/o it being sour grapes.

vhawk 8 years, 11 months ago

I agree Britta, especially when old west Lawrence and downtown are among the city's most charming attractions. I am 20 and was born and raised here, but I still enjoy driving on the state streets looking at all of the gorgeous houses. I don't think I have ever seen the parking lot full either, thank you for speaking up.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 11 months ago

I agree-- Dillion's on Mass is the closest remaining example we have of a neighborhood store, but it doesn't fit the model of a "superstore" that can supply the profits that Kroger's/Dillion's expects. But that doesn't mean the city is required to allow this store to be expanded beyond what fits in the existing neighborhood.

Chris Ogle 8 years, 11 months ago

Dillons is currently “out of compliance”

and the city is out of line.

mom_of_three 8 years, 11 months ago

I shop there every once in a while, but I have never seen the lot full. don't know why its a problem now.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 11 months ago

"don't know why its a problem now."

I think that Dillion's plans to remodel/expand the store.

Poon 8 years, 11 months ago

"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'till its gone. They paved paradise to put up a parking lot."

Mary Darst 8 years, 11 months ago

I agree. I understand upgrading and progress, but we are losing so much of our history. So much is nothing but old memories. No more tradition.

d_prowess 8 years, 11 months ago

Can someone describe the building that is being discussed here? My memory, which is often wrong, tells me it is the multi-story retirement building. Is that what is being torn down?

madameX 8 years, 11 months ago

I think it's the brick apartment building just north of the store that faces New Hampshire.

I also think that if that parking lot was re-paved and the lines marking spaces were re-painted we'd find that more cars can fit in the lot simply because people would actually know where to park instead of having to guess and park over two spaces at a time. I've never seen the lot completely full either, and that includes at times when the store is pretty packed and there are lines at all the checkouts.

Tyson Travis 8 years, 11 months ago

You're unfortunately 45+ years too late! I grew up in Lawrence and have long been a fan of historic preservation, I have always regretted the decision to bulldoze one of the most beautiful Bracketed-Italianate Steamboat-style white frame houses, with cupola, that stood on the Dillon's lot facing Mass., along with a nice Queen Anne-style 2½ story house next to it, where I used to go to Cub Scout meetings as a kid. They went away in the early '60s with barely a passing notice in order to build Dillon's, how many of you remember them? The pre-Quantrill Towne house in OWL is the only similar one I can think of, nothing else with a cupola that I can think of. Back then, they were just old houses. Hope we are now aware and can save more significant structures like these in the future, I'm sorry but I can't picture from memory the structure the writer is referring to....T. Travis, Ark..

HermioneElliott 8 years, 11 months ago

Babcock Place is the first building directly north of Dillons on Mass. New Hampshire is east. The woman should have given an address. My guess is that it will be torn down. There will be the usual responses and life will go on. My concern would be the question of the current residents finding new places to stay.

Chris Ogle 8 years, 11 months ago

I grew up about a block from Dillons on Mass. I think it was the first Dillons in Lawrence. When it was first built, my Dad wouldn't shop at the "new" Dillons on Mass because he insisted on "buying from the home town folks" . We bought from Service Grocery (near 9th and Conn.), until my sister got a job at Dillons....then Dad decided that was local enough....

Chris Ogle 8 years, 11 months ago

Waka--- Irf theey guve you any livers, plese fax som 2me

thefactsare 8 years, 11 months ago

The City Commission was not the body that reviewed this proposal it was the Planning Commission. This plan has not yet been heard by the City Commission.

bernst 8 years, 11 months ago

Thanks to all for your comments. I got the Commissions mixed up, but either way, the city leaders are willing to tear down the building.

While the building is pretty non-descript on the outside, it is great on the inside with beautiful wood floors and arched doorways. There is a retired professor, in his 80s I believe, who has lived there for 18 years. The property owners are helping him to move, but I feel that is poor consolation.

Perhaps if we get enough people to complain about it, we can change it. Or maybe someone with a better understanding of how buildings and their history actually affect a city's attractiveness should run for commissioner. Anyone?

hawkofku 8 years, 11 months ago

Well said, Britta. The interior of the building is gorgeous, not to mention it is extremely well built.

If Lawrence were smart they would be encouraging more walkers and bicyclers rather than more drivers to fill more parking spaces (not to mention they wouldn't be filled anyway).

Let's get to the grocery store- our local Dillion's with our one-bag-at-a-time-bag, and two-wheels not four.

Walking and biking promotes better health for the individual anyway, and the more healthy people we have...the more Lawrence is Lawrence and not some other city.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 8 years, 11 months ago

I strongly agree! Putting all the people that live there on the street looking for a new home, for a parking lot! That is insane, no wonder all the liberals on the city komission need to be voted out, and replaced with people with some common sense! Thank you, Lynn

bryanmcc 8 years, 11 months ago

Going to college in a beautiful city like Lawrence, some of the best aspects were the small-town feel, the sense of community, and the feeling of history conveyed through its unique architecture.

Now every time I come back, it has become a little bit more of an ugly, anonymous Midwestern city. Perhaps soon they can bulldoze the Natural History Museum and put in more parking for the football stadium!

Kirk Larson 8 years, 11 months ago

I live near and frequent the Mass (or "blue collar" as I sometimes hear it called) DIllons. I complimented the management when they put in the extra bike rack since I am usually on my bike when I go there. I agree the parking lot is sufficient as is. I don't think I've ever seen it full except maybe around 5:00 to 5:30 when people are on their way home.

Aileen Dingus 8 years, 10 months ago

I agree with MadameX- fix the current parking lot! It's like driving through some DMZ.

People just don't want to walk from the south end of the lot to the doors at the north end of the store. I bet if the store switched to the "other" front door as the main door, there wouldn't be nearly as much fuss for a new parking lot on the north end.

WilburM 8 years, 10 months ago

I shop at this Dillon's all the time -- the parking lot -- in 30 years of visits -- has NEVER been full. Resurface it, for sure, but stop the formulaic application of rules. The City Commission should make a reasoned decision here -- that's why planning rulings go the the commission. This one is a no-brainer.

Left_handed 8 years, 10 months ago

Dillons is a subsidiary of the Evil Kroger Corporation. They don't care about the environment and they kill puppies in their back rooms.

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