This past Sunday’s Journal-World story that gave a thorough report on the ownership of business properties along the downtown section of Massachusetts Street sends a clear signal that these property owners and Lawrence city commissioners should be able to plan and develop a superior and visionary business district.
The report showed approximately 70 to 75 percent of the businesses are owned by local residents. In past years, a greater percentage had been owned by individuals or businesses located outside of Lawrence.
Local owners and local lawmakers should be able to figure out what is in the best interests of the property-business owners and the city. In past years, when out-of-town ownership was more prevalent, it was more difficult for all parties to agree on projects to enhance the business district, whether it was for the development of off-street parking lots, diagonal parking, benefit districts or other improvements.
Lawrence has an attractive downtown business district with tolerable numbers of vacant storefronts. Over the years, city commissioners have dug in their heels in protecting the city’s “central business district” and perhaps this has helped regional markets such as The Legends in Wyandotte County attract businesses that otherwise would have considered Lawrence as a location for one of their stores.
This is past tense, but hopefully serves as a lesson as to what Lawrence must do to be competitive with other shopping areas in the region and keep as many sales as possible in Lawrence rather than losing them to other cities.
One of the major questions is whether the central business district will be able to attract high-volume retail stores that require easy access, convenient parking and preferably one-level shopping areas. The Sixth to 11th Mass. Street business district is landlocked and it is doubtful if it will be expanded east or west. Therefore, will this area continue to serve as a concentration of small specialty shops, restaurants and bars with large retail stores located in outlying areas along South Iowa Street, 23rd Street and Sixth Street and, to a lesser degree, along Wakarusa Street?
Competition for Lawrence retail dollars will become more intense in the years to come and how local merchants and city officials handle this challenge is critical to Lawrence in many ways.
Nothing is guaranteed.