Archive for Monday, December 5, 2011

Residential strategy

Multi-story apartment buildings are about the only way to increase the number of people who live downtown, but it’s worth the time and effort to ensure those developments are compatible.

December 5, 2011


Tuesday night, Lawrence city commissioners will consider whether to override the city’s Historic Resources Commission and allow plans for another tall apartment and commercial building at the corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets to move forward.

The plan submitted for the southeast corner of the intersection has many positive aspects. However, there may be ways to lessen the impact the six-story building would have on neighboring structures to the east. It’s reasonable to be concerned about nearby structures, including some that are listed on various historical registers. The structure is shorter than the new seven-story building nearing completion across the street to the west, but it also is located directly adjacent to a district of historic homes in the 900 block of Rhode Island, including some of the oldest residences in the city.

The challenge of this proposal and others like it is to allow downtown Lawrence to change in ways designed to strengthen its vitality and economic viability without encroaching on the area’s historical character. Many development experts contend that one of the best ways to preserve a vital downtown district is to increase the number of people who live in that district. Having a concentration of residents in the area helps support a variety of retail businesses in addition to the restaurants and entertainment-related uses that have grown significantly in Lawrence in recent years.

The only practical way to build new residences in downtown is to go up. There isn’t enough real estate downtown to add significant residential units in one- or two-story apartment buildings; six- or seven-story buildings are much more to the point. Such buildings also provide a density that many people think is desirable to counteract urban sprawl.

Tall buildings in downtown are a significant change, but even some strong historical preservation supporters see the value of such developments. They also, however, see the need to take a broad look at where taller developments should be situated. A number of vacant properties downtown should be considered, along with the possibility of redeveloping some of the large city-owned surface parking lots on New Hampshire and Vermont streets to accommodate both parking and other uses.

Most local residents would agree that downtown Lawrence still is the heart of the city, but it’s no longer the commercial center it was a few decades ago. Attracting more residents will help encourage additional businesses that serve those residents like drug stores, a deli or even a grocery store. Projects like the one proposed on the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire can be a step in the right direction for downtown, but it also makes sense to work with neighbors and city officials to get the best possible structure to enhance and strengthen the downtown area.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

" A number of vacant properties downtown should be considered, along with the possibility of redeveloping some of the large city-owned surface parking lots on New Hampshire and Vermont streets to accommodate both parking and other uses."

Yes, develop a plan for the various properties downtown. There are somewhere between a half dozen and a dozen that could accommodate up to 5-story buildings-- the Hobbs-Taylor building really should be an example of the maximum height of downtown buildings.

But the site immediately north of the Arts Center isn't appropriate for anything more than 2 stories at the alley, and no more the 4 stories along NH St.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

What's appropriate is what respects the neighborhood that already exists right across the alley. And a six-story building, whether built by Doug Compton or anybody else, fails to do that.

budman 6 years, 3 months ago

bozo the resident city planner, protecting lawrence from unruly lengthy shadows

overthemoon 6 years, 3 months ago

A major component of 'urban living' is walk-ability and the reduced need for a car. With no basic services like a grocery store within walking distance the 'urban' quality of these developments is really nothing more than apartments downtown...not really lofts, not really urban, not really a neighborhood, not really a strong economic boost to downtown. How many coffee shops and restaurants do these residents really support? Most all of the other businesses are so specialized as to not be 'everyday need' sort of retail.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

Excellent points. And without these basic services, the increased traffic downtown would just make traversing through there a nightmare for the residents of surrounding neighborhoods in Old East and Old West Lawrence, Far East Lawrence, Barker, Pinkney and N. Lawrence.

budman 6 years, 3 months ago

The only ways to get everyday retail is more people living downtown

beaujackson 6 years, 3 months ago

The one thing that makes living "downtown" attractive will never happen - a supermarket.

budman 6 years, 3 months ago

what about dillons on mass, or jayhawk food mart on ninth and indiana, those are close enough

Richard Heckler 6 years, 3 months ago

Is there a market for all of this new real estate? Prove it.

There is a repeat performance taking place over on the levy?

Where is the market?

How will these projects pay back the taxpayers? Tax incentives make all taxpayers stake holders in these projects?

How much will the city cookie jars lose on the TIF? (Tax Increment Financing)

deec 6 years, 3 months ago

Clearly there isn't a definite market for this, or else it wouldn't need to be subsidized by taxpayers. Tax money funneled to benefit a project is tax money that is not available for public uses, like schools and fixing damaged roads. If it is a viable project, then the developer ought to invest his own funds, not the taxpayers'.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 3 months ago

"Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)"

How government subsidies and new regulations have quietly funneled money from the poor and the middle class to the rich and politically connected.

But here’s what happens. And this is a good example of where the news media hasn’t done a good job.

I have tons of news clips that say, oh, this new shopping mall is coming or a new Wal-Mart or a new Cabela’s store, and thanks to tax increment financing, this store is going to be built.

Well, what is tax increment financing? I’ll tell you what it is. You go to the store with your goods, you pay for it at Wal-Mart, and there’s a very good chance that that store has made a deal with the government that the sales taxes you are required to pay, that government requires you to pay, never go to the government.

Instead, those sales taxes are kept by Wal-Mart and used to pay the cost of the store. And typically in those deals, the store is tax exempt, just like a church.

Now, there are two ways that it’s important to think about this. One is, that means your kid’s schools, your police department, your library, your parks are not getting that money. And you’ll notice we keep saying we’re starved for money.

We’re twice as wealthy as we were in 1980, but we’ve got to close hospitals, and we’ve got to close schools, and we don’t have money for all sorts of things like after-school programs, even though we’re twice as wealthy. The second thing to think about is, imagine that you own Amy Goodman’s or Juan’s department store across the street.

You suddenly have to compete with people whom the government is giving a huge leg up on. You think you would go broke after a while? Well, in fact, you will.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 3 months ago

I'd swear that this post is a regifting of something that wasn't really wanted in the first place.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 3 months ago

If they build it, how much money will go to carpenters, to plumbers, to electricians? Are they local and will they likely spend that money here?
How many millions will be pumped into the local economy and then spent here, again and again? How many jobs will be created?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

The jobs are hardly irrelevant, but they aren't the only consideration. Building an appropriate structure would still create jobs, while not creating a behemoth that towers over and essentially destroys the residential nature of the already existing (historic) neighborhood.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 3 months ago

The choice isn't between an "appropriate structure" and the one being proposed. The choice is between no structure and the one being proposed. The choice is between all those jobs, with all that money being pumped into the local economy or no jobs and no money.
Unless you can convince the developers to build an appropriate structure. But as we've seen with the Masonic Temple (just one example, there are too many to list), doing the right thing, the good thing, the best thing for downtown and the community doesn't happen unless it makes financial sense for the developer.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

"The claim that the building is too tall is complete bunk."

To you, maybe. But I bet you don't live in one of the historic houses right across the alley, either.

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