Supporting a new retail incubator, organizing an advertising campaign and providing merchants with a ream of data are among the final recommendations of the city’s Retail Task Force.
The city-appointed task force on Tuesday completed work on a special report that is aimed to spur new retail activity in Lawrence. City commissioners now will receive the report in the coming weeks.
“I think this report is the beginning of setting the right tone for the community,” said Earl Reineman, an executive with Weaver’s department store. “That might be the biggest outcome of this.”
Among the recommendations made by the task force:
• Encourage the private sector to create a retail incubator in Lawrence. The report also recommends that the city commission be open to providing a subsidy or an incentive for an incubator, which would be designed to help small retailers get off the ground. The report also said that while a retail incubator may be appropriate for downtown, the city also should be open to the incubator being located in a commercial district outside of downtown.
• Organize a group of stakeholders — possibly including merchants, Kansas University, the Lied Center, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and others — to pool their money to create a joint advertising campaign to attract shoppers and visitors from Kansas City and elsewhere.
• Review the building and development code to ensure that is understandable to retailers, especially small retailers that do not have extensive development experience.
• Promote downtown as a place for living units and offices, which will increase the number of potential shoppers downtown on a daily basis.
• Create a database of statistics regarding consumer buying and spending patterns. The report suggests creating a new position at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce to oversee the database and to work with retailers on using information to improve their businesses.
A previous version of the report had suggested that a new chamber position also be involved in recruiting new retailers to the area. But task force members took that language out after questions were raised about whether that was an appropriate role for government.
City Commissioner Rob Chestnut, who chaired the task force, said he thought the report would help put Lawrence in a good position once the economy improves.
“This environment we’re in will change over time,” Chestnut said. “As the economy picks up and consumer sales get better, we need to be in a position to capitalize on it.”