Archive for Friday, December 2, 2011

City commissioners to act on proposed hotel/apartment development at 9th and New Hampshire

City commissioners are considering a proposed hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire streets. This is a rendering of the project, viewed from the northwest.

City commissioners are considering a proposed hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire streets. This is a rendering of the project, viewed from the northwest.

December 2, 2011


It will be a tall order for Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday night.

Commissioners at their weekly meeting will consider plans for a six-story hotel/apartment building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

Commissioners are expected to get pushed from both sides on the issue.

Neighbors who live in an adjacent historic district along Rhode Island Street have expressed concerns about the building’s design, and particularly its proposed height and the shadows it will create. But developers are arguing that they’re bringing forward a project that does what city planners long have called for: increase the number of people living in downtown.

“I think what we’re dealing with is there are two different visions for downtown,” said Mayor Aron Cromwell. “One is more urban than the other.”

The project, proposed by a group led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor, previously has been rejected by the city’s Historic Resources Commission. But the project can continue to move forward if city commissioners give it a positive vote on Tuesday night.

On Friday, commissioners said they still were wading through several issues on the project, but a trio of commissioners expressed openness to the idea.

City Commissioner Mike Dever said he can see how the project — which would include an 81-room TownePlace by Marriott hotel, 36 apartments, and 120 underground parking spaces — could benefit downtown.

“But the big question is whether we will be setting a precedent for this type of development to occur on the edge of residential development,” Dever said. “That is pretty common in more urban areas, but it is less common in smaller towns and cities.

“It basically boils down to how much impact do we want to have on adjacent landowners when we create urban development downtown? Once we do this, I think others will want to do it too. It is important that we create a positive trend.”

The project is proposed for a vacant lot just north of the Lawrence Arts Center. Developers have argued that the lot’s location near the center of downtown dictates that it is going to house a fairly urban and dense development.

Neighbors have said they aren’t opposed to the lot developing, but instead think the site is more appropriate for a three- or four-story building. Developers have said making the building shorter ruins its financial feasibility.

Cromwell said he still needs more information before he can reach a decision on this project, but he said he thinks increasing the density of downtown and adding living units to the area is important for downtown’s future. He also said adding density will be difficult to do on Massachusetts Street.

“We have a plan of leaving Massachusetts Street as historic and intact — and that is absolutely the right plan,” Cromwell said. “But I think ultimately it will lead to New Hampshire and Vermont streets having taller and more dense structures along them.”

City Commissioner Hugh Carter said he also supports the idea of more density in downtown, but wants to hear more information about why this particular site is the right location for a major project.

“It is going to be a challenge,” Carter said. “It probably won’t produce a win-win situation. But the bottomline is that I do think that the historic area of downtown is better preserved by ensuring that it will be healthy and vibrant in the future.

“Sometimes we try to make things a win-win, and we still don’t make either side happy, and we end up with a project that doesn’t have the impact we’re hoping for. I don’t want to do that here.”

In addition to neighbors, the project is expected to draw concern from historic preservationists. Preservationists are expected to remind commissioners that they are required to judge the project using different criteria from that used for many development projects.

Technically, the city will be conducting a quasi-judicial appeal hearing of the Historic Resources Commission’s rejection of the project. The appeal standards call for commissioners to uphold the HRC’s decision, unless there is not a “feasible and prudent” alternative to the project.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.


irvan moore 6 years, 4 months ago

why do they bother to discuss it? i think cromwells vision for downtown is pretty much the same as comptons. we obviously don't care about preserving historic downtown except as a growth area so why don't we kill 2 birds with one stone and build the hotel/apartment building on top of the masonic temple?

blindrabbit 6 years, 4 months ago

The same people who will be griping about more infill and building downtown are the same ones that gripe about the City expanding out into the rural parts of the county. Afternoon shadows of the Rhode Island Street properties from the new buildings will in the summertime have a cooling effect and also decrease exposure to UV radiation and the risk of skin cancer.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

A 3-story building is considerably denser than anything that has ever existed on that lot. If Compton, et al, can't make that work, they can sell the lots to somebody who can.

It's certainly considerably denser than the soldiers killed by Quantrill who may be buried on that lot.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

The trouble with elected officials they go to the CEO"s of any industry and developers for advice!!!! too often!!!! Then the elected officials walk away still uninformed.

One answer to our political problems : CUT OFF special interest financing of elections! YES even at the local level.

Our government is always claiming the USA is about democracy. In that case allow the citizens to practice democracy by allowing citizens to vote on these issues in 2012 in Lawrence,Kansas:

Let's demand a new system and vote in Fair Vote America : Demand a change on the next ballot.

Let's have public financing of campaigns. Citizens cannot afford special interest money campaigns for it is the citizens that get left out. Let citizens vote on this issue.

Bribery of elected officials and bribed officials = the most stinky of all bribery!

independent_rebel 6 years, 4 months ago

So, by your logic, the citizens should have an opportunity to vote for the completion of the SLT, correct?

Oh wait, we did, almost a generation ago!

The people have spoken. Build the damn road!

Sunny Parker 6 years, 4 months ago

Do you have any proof of Bribery?

Build it!

Flap Doodle 6 years, 4 months ago

I'd swear that I saw that same post on another thread of this award-winning website just this morning.

seriouscat 6 years, 4 months ago

I would like to ask all the developers for this structure how they would like it if someone built a hotel fifteen feet away from their back door. If they or one of their buddies lived in the single family housing right across the alley my guess is that something like this would never even be considered. I have been to one of the meetings and these guys are seriously arrogant and don't really seem to care about how all the other people who live right there will be affected by such a huge and imposing change. They act like they are there simply to win a debate, instead of the ostensible purpose of these work with people because they are truly concerned about how people's live's will be affected by the way they do business.

We need to stop supporting this kind of attitude in business. Working with the community to ensure a fair outcome for all is not rocket science. When done properly, everyone wins.

Elaine Elliott 6 years, 4 months ago

I hate how tall the new buildings are downtown. It's nice to be able to look up and see the sky when you walk around. I've lived in several other towns and it was always something I thought was unique about downtown Lawrence. But who cares about that when someone can make money. Why would they approve a new apartment building when something like 8-10% of the homes in Lawrence are empty anyway? Let's keep downtown distinct from every other mid-western shopping center.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

5-story buildings in some locations might be fine. But on these lots, 2 stories at the alley, and 4 stories along NH should be the max.

What's needed is a comprehensive plan-- not piecemeal development.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

No one is saying that there can't be growth downtown. All they're saying is that it can be done while giving due consideration to how it will affect the immediate neighbors-- something that a six-story apartment building on these lots does not do.

Mark Currie 6 years, 4 months ago

I am kind of new to these boards, but have lived in Lawrence, or the Lawrence area for 30 years. So I expect to get my head chewed off and flamed to death here, but what does everyone seem to have against Doug Compton? Just asking. He seems to employ a lot of people. Also I guess I don't see what a 3-4 story building would hurt? I was in LA this summer, and despite of the buildings, I seemed to get plenty of sun. Same with Pittsburgh. I agree Lawrence is a unique town, but isn't change inevitable? It seems like anytime one wants to do something here, people raise holy hell. I am sorry if I offended anyone.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

"Also I guess I don't see what a 3-4 story building would hurt?"

That's not what they're proposing-- they want to build a 6-story building, and use the alley as their driveway.

Mark Currie 6 years, 4 months ago

Ok, so I made a mistake about the stories. We are still not talking skyscrapers here.....

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

Anything more than two stories at the alley is too tall in this location.

deec 6 years, 4 months ago

Compton rarely if ever has built a project without taxpayer subsidies. His company is a predatory landlord. He had an unoccupied house that was within the environs of a historic structure that he didn't want to build around mysteriously burn to the ground. He buys up buildings and lets them deteriorate for years, then asks for taxpayer funds to fix them up. A zebra he owned attacked an employee. That's for starters.

Janet FitzGerald 6 years, 4 months ago

My husband supplies and services accounts all over Lawrence and Kansas. He told me that the hotels are largely empty, barring game weekends, in this town. So, is this really what Lawrence needs? How is it going to affect the financial solvency of the Eldridge, a Lawrence historical hotel with a history of financial instability (exorbitant rates may play into that)?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

It's not going to be a hotel. It's for apartments and office space, regardless of what they may call it now.

Ward 6 years, 4 months ago

This shows everyone that HRC and city planners may easily be disregarded and ignored by going straight to the City Commission after an unfavorable review by HRC. The development team should be encouraged to acquire a lot to develop at this height that is not across an alley from two story residential lots. The west side of the block to the north is a great candidate for this development. I'd encourage the development team to cite specific successful and similar developments where there are happy neighbors adjacent to new projects that are added to neighboring lots. Show the neighborhood and City that precedent projects have worked. The developer's permanent structure and financial gain/risk should not become a liability for the community and its neighbors.

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

No wonder the mom and pop stores are leaving, who can afford to pay Doug's ego? Hopefully with more tax breaks for the rich and further deregulation of business enough money will trickle down that we can all pay Doug rent.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 4 months ago

I guess if you don't like the proposal you should have bought the lot.

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

That's the problem, over inflated rents have driven the price of buying commercial property out of reach for all but the very rich and the rich keep demanding more tax breaks and other subsidies to increase their wealth at an increased cost to local and small business people.

Clark Coan 6 years, 4 months ago

The previous front-page article had two good ideas from architects:

  1. Prepare a downtown plan which places height limits for each piece of property based on a sound analysis.

  2. Lease some of the existing public parking lots to developers who are willing to put in underground parking and build three-story buildings.

Most developers (and their families and employees) give the maximum amount of campaign contributions to candidate for commission. This gives them access to the commissioners who will pay very close attention to their comments.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

Kansas City is known as the City of Fountains.

It is famed for its rich art scene, including the Plaza Art Fair, which is in the top five ranked art fairs in the nation, and the thriving Crossroads Arts District.

Also convenient are numerous great museums, galleries and performing arts centers.

Think Art and Design School next to the Art Center. The art center director is quite capable of taking such a concept into the world of success.

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