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.