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.