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Archive for Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Town Talk: Downtown Lawrence hires director; Barnes & Noble to Borders?; Pink Box bakery looking at changes; downtown lighting overhaul

February 22, 2011

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News and notes from around town:

• Downtown Lawrence Inc. has a new director. Longtime Lawrence writer and TV host Cathy Hamilton has been hired to take over the top spot for the organization.

Hamilton previously worked for The World Company, the parent company of LJWorld.com, in several positions, including as the host of the "Home & Away" television program, a columnist and marketing manager and director of BoomerGirl.com.

Hamilton fills a position that has been vacant since early January, when the DLI board and director Jane Pennington parted ways.

Check back later to hear some thoughts from Hamilton on her new job.

• No, I haven’t heard any serious rumors about what may go into the soon-to-be-vacated Borders bookstore at Seventh and New Hampshire. But Barnes & Noble executives have sparked speculation that they make take over some of the locations that Borders is closing as part of its bankruptcy. In a conference call Tuesday, Barnes & Noble’s CEO said that a “minority” of Borders' closed stores “appear attractive to us,” according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. In a sign that they may be serious about moving into some of the locations, Barnes & Noble suspended its stock dividend on Tuesday to take advantage of “market opportunities,” according to the Journal. Who knows if Barnes & Noble is actually interested in Lawrence. But one interesting statistic is that about 75 percent of the 200 stores Borders is closing are in direct competition with a Barnes & Noble store. Lawrence, of course, falls into the 25 percent category that doesn’t directly compete with a Barnes & Noble. Maybe that increases Lawrence’s chances. Maybe it doesn’t.

• A sign showed up on the door of downtown Lawrence’s Pink Box Bakery, 727 Mass., announcing that the sweet shop was set to close on Feb. 27. But store owner Michele Kaminski told me today that is no longer the case. Instead, the store will stay open until at least March 15 to allow for a potential sale of the business to be completed. Kaminski said she’s recently had four people express an interest in buying the business and recipes. Kaminski said she wants to give such a deal every chance to happen. She said the business has struggled some like start-ups do, but that the business model is still good. She said she’s leaving the business because it has become more difficult for her to devote the necessary amount of time to the baking.

“The quality of my baking needs a lot of attention,” Kaminski said. “I’ve realized I can’t keep working 20 hours a day because I’m not as young as I used to be. But this is a great opportunity for a couple of young bakers.

Kaminski opened Pink Box in 2009 after leaving a long career in marketing. She said she now plans to get back into the marketing business.

• Bicyclists in Lawrence may have fewer rules to abide by in the near future. City commissioners at their meeting tonight are scheduled to tweak two rules on how bicyclists must ride in the city. The first is a change regarding when bicyclists can ride on sidewalks. Technically, the city law says bikers can’t ride on any sidewalk within 100 feet of a store or business. The city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee recently determined that when the code was written in 1979, city leaders probably were just trying to stop bikers from riding on downtown sidewalks. So, the BAC is asking city commissioners to change the code to make it clear that the sidewalk prohibition is just for downtown. If you’re like me, you might have already thought that was the case. I’m not sure many people were getting tickets for riding on other sidewalks.

The second change involves when bicyclists can ride two abreast on city streets. Currently, a 1997 ordinance prohibits bikers from riding two-abreast on any city “street, alley or sidewalk.” That’s more restrictive than the state law. State law allows riders to ride up to two-abreast. The BAC is recommending that the city revert back to state law.

• It sure appears downtown Lawrence will start showing up in a different light. City commissioners at their meeting tonight are expected to set aside about $170,000 in federal grant money to replace about 100 street lights in downtown. The new lights will be higher-efficiency LED lights. The funding comes from $858,000 in stimulus funding that the city received in 2009. The bulk of that money was used to hire a sustainability coordinator and for HVAC and lighting upgrades to the Lawrence Public Library. But city leaders said at the time that they expected there would be money left over to use for downtown lighting. No word yet on whether the lights will look much different than what’s in place today. The city is still settling on a specific light to buy. Those details will be finalized in March. Installation would begin in May.

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

Comments

wineguy 3 years, 1 month ago

Cathy Hamilton is a great choice for downtown Lawrence.

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richfree 3 years, 1 month ago

Anyone know if the city has a speed limit for bicycles on city sidewalks ? Also, who would be liable when a bicyclist hits a pedestrian on city sidewalks? These accidents have happened in the past, will happen again.

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hawkstate 3 years, 1 month ago

A Borders employee told us that they would be closing sometime in April.

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GUMnNUTS 3 years, 1 month ago

No way a Trader Joes moves to Lawrence. Miss them from my days in San Diego just like IKEA, but this is to small of a market for them.

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blindrabbit 3 years, 1 month ago

Has anybody heard when Borders is actually closing!

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average 3 years, 1 month ago

I'm calling zero odds on b+n at that location. Square footage problem. It was one of the smallest stores in the entire Borders chain, and b+n prefers larger locations than Borders did.

TJ makes sense in terms of square footage and preferring downtown locations. Make it so.

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jackpot 3 years, 1 month ago

Hey Chad:"News and notes from around tow" Ok you got me hooked.

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hildirid 3 years, 1 month ago

The reason I thought B&N might be a possibility is that Lawrence is just about the only university town in this part of the country without one. They are a major player in the college textbook market.

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whats_going_on 3 years, 1 month ago

I thought that you could ride on the sidewalks already. I've never been told not to. Depending on the sidewalk I don't always like to because they tend to be crappy, but clinton parkway is so nice. No way in h*ll I'm going to ride down that road on the street. The turn on Kasold and 31st scares me enough.

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jhawkinsf 3 years, 1 month ago

Any business in Borders would be better than an empty building. I hope the city helps any prospective tenant.

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Violet 3 years, 1 month ago

I will miss the pink box - enjoyed visiting them after long bike rides last summer! However, the hours are what did that place in. They were always changing and were often (usually) closed. Recently they started opening at 10am on weekends, which is WAY past bakery breakfast time for most of us. Hope something works out for the space that is as tasty!

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Clark Coan 3 years, 1 month ago

Does it make sense to allow bicyclists to ride two abreast on streets such as 23rd? Absolutely, not! It's too dangerous. All it takes is one inattentive driver and squish.

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northtowngrl 3 years, 1 month ago

I think the cookie delivery kids should check into the Pinkbox space. Maybe there's a way for them to work out a deal for a storefront space.

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bocktar 3 years, 1 month ago

Two-abreast cycling on streets that don't allow passing sounds like a really bad idea. Almost as bad as adding cycling lanes without widening affected roads, and abruptly terminating them at roundabouts and other horizontal speed inhibitors.

Getting rid of the sidewalk ban except for downtown sounds like a good idea.

I like cycling, but I don't trust cars when I'm doing it, and we shouldn't promote a false sense of safety or security when it comes to this matter.

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lawrencechick 3 years, 1 month ago

What were the hours of the pink box? I stopped there on 3 separate occasions, in the middle of the day, and it was closed every time. Bizarre business model...

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pace 3 years, 1 month ago

Congratulations Downtown Inc. I applaud.

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Richard Andrade 3 years, 1 month ago

I know this has been bandied about for the Borders building, but a Trader Joes sure would go nicely in there, plus feed the need for a downtown grocery store. Just sayin'...

Also, just noticed that Teapouro on Mass Ave seems to be closed now as well...

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