City manager, downtown group discuss mix of offerings

Lawrence city leaders are working to determine the future look and feel of downtown.

May 13, 2009


City Manager David Corliss said he’s heard the alarm about the number of restaurants beginning to far outpace the number of retailers in downtown.

He’s just not sure if the alarm means the city is supposed to spring to action.

At a meeting Wednesday morning with leaders of Downtown Lawrence Inc., Corliss said he thought there needed to be a public discussion about whether the city should take new actions to regulate the types of uses downtown.

“We know the mix is important, but we don’t know what — if anything — the city should do about it,” Corliss said. “To say that there are only going to be ‘X’ number of restaurants per block seems kind of blunt, and I don’t think would be wise.

“But we also know that we need reasons for people to come downtown other than to fill their bellies.”

The approximately one dozen members of Downtown Lawrence Inc. who attended Wednesday’s event weren’t sure either.

“What I know is that you have to have the right mix of retail and restaurants to make everything work,” said George Paley, a longtime downtown property owner. “We have to be very aware of that mix.”

David Longhurst, a former city commissioner who now is an executive with the downtown-based Gene Fritzel Construction Co., said he wanted the city to come up with ways to provide incentives for people to open retail shops downtown. But he said he didn’t know what those incentives should be, and he said the city shouldn’t take steps to place formal limits on restaurants.

Corliss said he expects the subject to be discussed at the City Commission’s upcoming goal setting session, scheduled for 3 p.m. May 26 at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

In other downtown news:

• Corliss told the crowd he expects to propose some type of parking fee or fine increase as part of his 2010 recommended budget.

A Downtown Lawrence Inc. group previously had put forward a proposal that would increase the fine for overtime parking from $2 to $3; basically double parking rates on Massachusetts Street to 25 cents per half-hour; reduce the time limit on Massachusetts Street meters from two hours to 90 minutes; require motorists to feed the meters on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and change the weekday parking meter hours in an effort to capture more evening parkers.

Parts of that proposal drew concern on Wednesday.

“I would be completely opposed to charging people to park on Sundays,” said Joe Flannery, president of Weavers Department Store. “I think that would be a big deterrent.”

Concern also was expressed about raising the overtime parking fine to any more than $3. There has been some discussion of a $5 fine.

Corliss is expected to announce his recommendations on the parking fines and fees in early July. City commissioners ultimately will be responsible for deciding the issue.


kuhusker 8 years, 8 months ago

I'd shop downtown more if the retailers there stayed open past 6 PM. Only a few of the national chains do (yah for them!).

How about some pressure on retail to stay open later?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

I say open at 11 AM close at 8:30

Have two side walk sales when KU is in session... April and October.

Do two art shows a year on Mass street in addition to Art in Park. Lawrence is still noted for Art nationally why not capitalize on it?

And now that electricity is available why not do a Home Energy Conservation Fair/Home and Garden show at the same time on Mass Street. Both are related.

I'd suggest scheduling all new Mass Street events on game days = big time sales and tax dollar revenues.

How about a massive Brew Day Festival on Mass Street. Invite from around the country and home brewers too. Don't for the food.

Do it on Mass Street - that's where the money is

d_prowess 8 years, 8 months ago

Would having the feed the meter on a Sunday really be that much of a deterrent?! Is there any population out in Lawrence that schedules their visits downtown to only occur on a Sunday because that will save them from having to pay the meters or walk a small amount more due to parking in the free lots? This seems crazy to me!

oliveoyl 8 years, 8 months ago

Merrill-totally agree with you. The downside is that i've actually thrown ideas like this out to the DLI...the old standing business owners aren't willing to do anything new...yet they bitch about business being bad. We need a change. I'm disappointed to see that most of the young business owners aren't getting involved...maybe they will now. Horse and buggys don't exsist anymore people!

BigPrune 8 years, 8 months ago

The parking fee increase will only HURT retailers downtown. It will keep away shoppers and be a deterrent to future retailers wanting to locate downtown. The majority of restaurant business is in the evening when you don't have to pay to park.

Come on City leaders. Use some common sense. Gee.

tir 8 years, 8 months ago

Merrill, why do you think businesses shouldn't open until 11 am? If they want to open at 8 or 9 or 10 am, that's fine with me--I sure don't want to have to wait until 11 am to shop downtown, and if some places want to open early I'm all for it. I think it would be great if more places stayed open past 5:30 on other days besides just Thursday, though.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

All those ideas would bring people downtown who might not come otherwise. Some of these people will drop in to other stores and do a little impulse shopping.

These activities must work. Brookside,The Plaza and Westport do other activities to draw people to their shops.

Downtown Lawrence Inc needs to see the advantage to supporting downtown. It's better to have people activity on Mass Street than parked cars.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

Parking downtown at the meters cost 25-50 cents maybe 75 cents. That is not a deal breaker. The free parking garage is rarely full.

igby 8 years, 8 months ago

May be that the blind and dumb leading the blind and dumb, will by accident figure out that commercial cost of space in downtown Lawrence, will soon be their ticket to bankruptcy court.

The price will come tumbling down!

Businesses will scramble to the cheaper rents!

However, it's harder to move eating establishments but retail shops are on the move.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

Retail shopping is dead until around 11:00 AM or later.

Weavers opens at 9:30 AM. There is an early shopping opportunity.

Cottins 7:30 AM - 8PM Monday-Friday

Ernst Hardware opens early I would think.

It likely doesn't pay to open at 10AM.

Open later - close later to service the retail shoppers.

Practicality 8 years, 8 months ago

Hmmmmm. Too many Bars and Restaurants. Sounds like an entertainment district and not a retail district to me.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

Entertainment district will increase the LPD budget greatly and shoppers will go to KCMO or Topeka due to the vast quantity of choices and lower prices.

Lawrence can support only so many bar and grills thus will cost Lawrence property owners even more money due to higher than usual turnover rates.

Practicality 8 years, 8 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says…

"Entertainment district will increase the LPD budget greatly and shoppers will go to KCMO or Topeka due to the vast quantity of choices and lower prices."

Agreed Merrill, but I view downtown more as an entertainment district already, and that I believe is creating a lot of the problems.

bearded_gnome 8 years, 8 months ago

The approximately one dozen members of Downtown Lawrence Inc. who attended Wednesday’s event weren’t sure either.

"a dozen" isn't that a rather tepid turnout?

downtown used to have an early morning doughnut shop/coffeeshop, Jenning's. if you want more traffic downtown in the morning, get a simple old fashioned doughnut shop! yes, that's a restaurant, but it did bring a lot of people downtown first thing in the morning.

funny, Merrill thinks all his ideas are so golden, but he hasn't franchised his lawnmowing business. he's such a business titan.

jafs 8 years, 8 months ago

Instead of the city providing incentives for businesses to locate downtown, why don't the property owners simply lower the rents?

Problem solved.

Steve Jacob 8 years, 8 months ago

Retail is dead, I say over and over. If they can't get any retail at the KC Power and Light District, they will not get any downtown.

Bud Stagg 8 years, 8 months ago

Heaven forbid these stores should be open when the customers can actually come to their store. Why that would just be anti-american.

headdoctor 8 years, 8 months ago

jafs (Anonymous) says…

Instead of the city providing incentives for businesses to locate downtown, why don't the property owners simply lower the rents?

Problem solved.

Not that simple. First you would need to lower the cost of buying real estate downtown along with property tax and insurance. These property owners and businesses are not in this to lose money. Personally I don't believe the parking meters are doing the downtown any favors.

There have been businesses that have tried staying open later. It doesn't seem to work. It is revenue per square foot. You can't stay open just to provide people with places to goof off in. After 6 PM the number of buyers drops off and the number of loomers and dufers increase 10 fold. Some days after 3 PM sales drop off and a lot of the stores end up being baby sitters to the junior high and high school crowds that make messes and really do not buy much.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 8 months ago

Nick yakking about how to run a business in Lawrence makes me LOL.

gccs14r 8 years, 8 months ago

Instead of increasing the meter cost and days of collection, the meters and street should be torn out and replaced with an electric trolley that runs a loop from 7th and Mass down to 10th, over to New Hampshire, up to 7th, and back to Mass. It'd be nice to get it all the way up to Free State, but a loop will be much easier to build and schedule. Getting it down to 11th would be nice, too, but 11th would still have vehicle traffic, causing problems for a trolley. There should be a trolley that runs in the opposite direction, too, so that it's not necessary to ride the whole loop to go two blocks. They could run on the same track, with a small area of parallel tracks on both NH and Mass so the trolleys could pass each other. The trolley would be free for anyone holding a parking pass from the garage, otherwise it would be 25 cents to board, with a maximum of two loops around downtown. That would help keep the trolley from becoming a bum haven.

jafs 8 years, 8 months ago


How are they making money with vacant storefronts?

The entire (almost) Tanger mall has vacancies - if the owners want to make money (or minimize their losses) why aren't they trying to rent them out?

When supply is priced too high, demand will be lowered. Reduce prices, and demand will increase.

honestone 8 years, 8 months ago

It's all about the rents. Someone pointed out that the landlords need to make their money too and that is very correct. It just seems Downtown has overpriced itself...right out of business. Kinda sounds like lawrence real estate in general...

George_Braziller 8 years, 8 months ago

I live one block from downtown and rarely go. The shift to mainly restaurants, bars, and music venues has turned it into primarily an entertainment district. There are very few businesses remaining that provided goods and services needed for everyday life.

Stanley Rasmussen 8 years, 8 months ago

Why limit the meters to 90 minutes? I don't have a problem with a fee increase, but extend the time so that a person can shop and get something to eat without having to run out to the meter every 89 minutes. How is this business or consumer friendly?

George_Braziller 8 years, 8 months ago

People keep focusing on parking meters as if that's the problem. Parking meters and parking meter costs aren't really an issue if there isn't a reason to go downtown other than to grab a bite or have a beer. Other than that, how many times a year do you actually shop for art, an article of clothing, or a piece of jewelry? Those are pretty much the only other options.

If you want to stay longer than 90 minutes then park in one of the free two-hour lots or one of the underused parking garages.

Sigmund 8 years, 8 months ago

Increase the sales taxes for dxowntown and keep repeating until business pick up. Sales taxes and a new library will have downtown thriving in no time!

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