Archive for Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New task force to study retail in downtown Lawrence

June 22, 2011


City commissioners on Tuesday agreed to form a new task force that will study ways to attract more retailers to downtown Lawrence.

Commissioners at their weekly meeting agreed to create a task force that will look at:

• Retail vacancies and how a city-sponsored retail incubator could help reduce vacancies;

• The mix of retail versus bar and restaurant businesses;

• Opportunities for more events with Kansas University and the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau;

• Greater support of the arts in downtown.

Commissioners did not appoint any members to the task force Tuesday. Instead, they asked staff to create a resolution for future consideration that would formally create the new group. The idea for the task force came about as commissioners discussed comments they heard at a recent downtown Lawrence listening session.


Tex 6 years, 11 months ago

The single most important thing for encouraging new businesses to move in downtown and to remain viable is lowering rental rates. Every landlord needs to realize that they can not demand the rates they did ten years ago. It's a harsh reality, but so is the number of empty retail spaces downtown. I owned a successful business downtown for 15+ years. The building was sold, the new landlord kept raising the rent, the business had to move, and now the old space has been vacant for more than a year.

Clovis Sangrail 6 years, 11 months ago

Thank god someone is finally doing something about the vacant storefronts in downtown Lawrence.

We need more antique stores and places to buy t-shirts with trite sayings printed on them, not to mention more places for sorority girls to buy shiny sorority-girl crap.

Other than hitting the farmer's market when it is in season, I go downtown for only two things -- Wensleydale cheese and grab-and-go curry. Both of these I can dash in, grab, and dash back out. The lack of clean and readily accessible restroom facilities that I or my kids can use without having the staff flip me a ration of "these are for employees only" crap precludes strolling about and browsing.

Sorry, downtown Lawrence, but you will not be getting my impulse-purchase dollars until you provide me a clean place to pee.

JustNoticed 6 years, 11 months ago

Very reasonable. But, consider the Stadium Pal.

somebodynew 6 years, 11 months ago

And just why do we need ANOTHER task force for the same thing that other task forces have studied and the DLI get paid a lot of tax $$$$ to figure out.

I agree with two of the above posters - reasonable rent and a clean place to pee would go a long way. Now, can I charge as a "consultant" and collect a large fee????

somebodynew 6 years, 11 months ago

Oh, I forgot - - you better get rid of all the panhandlers also. (I'll throw that one in for free.)

rolo2383 6 years, 11 months ago

Lower rent and and lower city sales tax. Poor people like me would be able to spend a little money from time to time.

Getaroom 6 years, 11 months ago

Hey you downtown grumps. So you want the city to put in public restrooms so your kids can relieve themselves and do that along with fixing all the side walks, potholes, parking space maintenance, trash pickup all without raising taxes? How about you begin by spending your money downtown with local merchants and restaurants and stop your griping. All of us need to go to the bathroom so maybe you should drop a quarter at the cash register on your way out. Did you ever stop to think about it from the merchants point of view? Ever try to pee while shopping on the Plaza? It isn't that convenient either but it works. If you listen to the Tea Party Patriots and Republicans there was a time that they all long for when all Americans lived in nice homes with white picket fences, a car in every driveway, food in the fridge aplenty and a free place to pee in every store. Don't you just long for those slow easy days of that delusional past fantasy. Use your downtown and stop all the belly aching. Panhandlers are a part of this world and the numbers are going to grow and you could as easily be one of them at the drop of a hat. Count your blessings and move along.

Clovis Sangrail 6 years, 11 months ago

No, I do not expect the city to put in public restrooms. That is the responsibility of the merchants. Nor do I expect to be able to just wander in anywhere and take a free pee.

But I do expect a merchant to allow my five-year-old kid to use their bathroom, especially when I am standing there with an armload of merchandise ready to check out when I ask. That merchandise, which would have been about a $30 sale, was then left on the counter, and I have never patronized that store again.

As for peeing at the plaza: A good idea in concept, but they probably expect you to do it indoors.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 11 months ago

Lawrence is so good at creating task forces that perhaps it should start a downtown task force incubator designed to attract task force headquarters downtown.

bornon7 6 years, 11 months ago

Last time I was downtown, I went in Spectators looking for a dress. An older, mature saleswomen wouldn't stop talking about her grandkids to see if I needed any help. I did need help. I waited patiently, continued to be ignored, and finally left. Guess they sell enough expensive clothes that they didn't need my money. Downtown is not totally user friendly.

pizzapete 6 years, 11 months ago

You might have said someting like, excuse me, does this dress make my butt look big?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 11 months ago

Here we go again. Many, many past psuedo-'commissions" have spent money trying to determine what to do about the fantasy "beautiful downtown Lawrence" (not!) problem. They might try reading some of these posts here.

Most of the beautiful downtown Lawrence is composed of bars and Joe College shops. And empty store fronts. Why would anyone who is not into the drunken stupor crowd or a student even want to go there? I have not seen a store there that would inerest me. The south Iowa mall has far more selection and convienience than the panhandler jungle on Mass street. Face it, the city "commission" trying to force people to shop in Aggieville East spending tax money that they are considering raising on the employed and property owning citizens is a big bust and downright disgusting.

bornon7 6 years, 11 months ago

I sadly agree. My friends from Olathe wanted to come and shop downtown. I had to tell them that most of the stores are closed up. I suggested we go to the Free State anyway and enjoy one of the few best things remaining on Mass.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

The July 14 editorial asks, “What’s downtown going to look like five, 10 or 15 years from now?” The answer can be known, and the picture is not pretty.

Basic findings:

  1. Lawrence is overbuilt in housing: Homes were built faster than popualtion growth supporting these homes. Excessive subdivisions caused an outmigration from older neighborhoods causing a severe loss of value, a loss of dwelling units, and a variety of other problems such as school closings.

  2. Lawerence is overbuilt in retail: Stores were built faster than retail spending growth supporting these stores. This excessive growth has hurt the public and private investment in downtown redevelopment (e.g.: the empty $8 million parking garage, the empty Hobbs-Taylor space, etc.) and has caused deterioration and blight in existing shopping centers (e.g.: Tanger Mall, Food-for-Less, etc.)

  3. Douglas County is overbuilt in manufacturing and warehousing; employment in these sectors is declining, not growing. Yet, the Chamber calls for more and more space in the false belief that more supply creates more demand.

  4. Office space in Douglas County is relatively well balanced, but the market for office space is severely crippled by the excessive supply of unused retail space which is competing for office tenants.

Basic strategy:

Lawrence should adopt a policy of "cooling off" the pace of development. Note: This is not a moratoriam; it is a consicous effort to redirect growth to existing neighborhoods and districts where it can be beneficial.

Housing: The city should stop approving new subdivisions until the existing supply of surplus homes is eliminated. It should direct housing investment back into older neighborhoods so as to preserve and protect the existing public and private investment there.

Commercial space: The city should stop approving plans for new commercial space until the existing surplus is eliminated. It should direct investment into the preseration of the downtown and other existing commercial districts so as to preserve and protect the existing publid and private investment there.

Kirk McClure – Lawrence,Kansas

Education Ph. D., City Planning, University of California, Berkeley, Department of City and Regional Planning, 1985. Concentrations in Housing Economics and Public Finance.

Master in City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 1978. Specialization in Housing Policy Analysis.

Bachelor of Arts, University of Kansas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1974. Special Major in Urban Studies.

Bachelor of Architecture, Graduated With Distinction University of Kansas, School of Architecture and Urban Design, 1973.

littlexav 6 years, 11 months ago

This is actually brilliant.

But I'm afraid they won't stop building out west until there's a solid line of Smash Burgers and Walmarts stretching through LeCompton all the way to Topeka :-(

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

What is confusing we're coming up short in the cookie jars yet the commission still considers "big government tax breaks" to local and regional developers. This has been going on for 25 years which is NOT producing the projected/speculated and necessary tax revenue.

And yes user fees/rates will be increased as well to fund the $100 million sewage treatment plant for the local real estate/development community. THIS SHOULD BE put to the voters as was the funding request for the library and the T.

The new infrastructure sales tax money will be spent on items other than improving existing sidewalks,curbs and streets. The word infrastructure is quite a large umbrella.

The question that comes to mind is who IS NOT paying their property taxes and why?

Are there any developers,real estate agencies,property managers or landlords delinquent or have some "unwritten authority" that allows them to NOT PAY property taxes on any of their properties?

monkeywrench1969 6 years, 11 months ago

THe key to downtown's success has been hit on multiple times without a task force.

  1. Better customer service
  2. affordable rent
  3. the ability of chain stores to enter the Lawrence downtown elite in offering goods and services.
  4. Being able to walk from store to store without someone asking you for money "to buy a sandwich" while their fat dog lies lazily next to them.

I have experienced both good and bad service in stores downtown. The places with good service continue to get my business, those that do not have good service don't.

A tip to stores downtown. Known your inventory and the pros and cons of the itmes. If you don't know get some one who does that can answer questions. EMployees-show more fire for the is more than minumium wage. I don't know how many times I hear about a Living wage...bad service does not deserve minimum wage let alone a living wage. Employers hire employees who like to work and fire those who don't promptly they are costing you money. Stores...have enough inventory for a person to walk in and purchase the item at that moment...if I wanted to hear "we don't have it but we can order it" I woul dhave just bought it online in the first place...part of the reason why I walked into the store was so I could physically look at the object to sell myself onthe product. Most people research their buys in the current economic climate.

THe lower rent is a problem since you can't lower a lease and still pay a bank loan so you are stuck there, but you can let the chain stores come in who can afford the rent. The downtown businesses can't rest on their laurels of being the "trendy cool people" anymore. In a way you have created this issue yourselves by keeping out the chain stores, charging more for your products than average and offering poor service becasue you are too cool for school.

Now with all the bashing I will give kudos to a couple of stores I do go into because they are characteristic of what I want in t a speciality store with good service- White Chocolate, Gary Gribbles, Etc Shop, Sunflower. In most cases I do have to pay a little more but I am happy to becasue they treated me and my family with courtesy and knew their products. If they did not have it they told me where to get it.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

As for bring in more military style weapons and other equipment is say wait a minute or two!!!

This community deserves a long in depth and quite detailed explanation as to WHY this level of gear is necessary for Lawrence,Kansas. The word "terrorism" has become a buzz word for spending OUR tax dollars recklessly.

Is LPD on line to become a para military operation?

Flap Doodle 6 years, 11 months ago

Reckless copy/pasting disappointed progressives could riot at any moment. The forces of justice have to be ready.

Gedanken 6 years, 11 months ago

I think they should start adding numbers behind the title of "Task Force". This way we know what iteration of task force we are on. Isn't this like the 60th task force on down town? Don't they all say the same thing? Maybe we should form a group that listens to the task force and tries to implement their suggestions ... if only we could elect people to do that ...

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

It's time for taxpayers to crack down on tax and user fee increases by demanding the right to vote on these reckless endeavors.

Why do commissioners think we property owners have money laying around to support their pet projects aka pork barrel spending for uncontrolled development and tax dollar hand outs?

Where is the money? Show me please.

bevy 6 years, 11 months ago

I worked downtown for most of the last 15 years, so I can be a one-woman task force, and they can pay me the money. Here are my recommendations: 1. Parking! It is needed for employees as well as customers. It's hard for a staffer to give good service when he or she has to keep looking at his/her watch to make sure the parking Gestapo don't write an expensive ticket when the meter runs out. 2. Stay open later! I get off work at five. Sometimes not until 5:30. Why are you closed at 4:30? 3. Teach your staff some customer service. You know, smile, greet the customer, KNOW what you are selling. I shouldn't have to wait for your cashier to finish her cell phone call. 4. The stuff you are selling is not worth more because you are selling it downtown. If I need a pack of gum, I can get one at Wal-Mart. Unless I'm desperate, I'm not going to plunk down a buck and a half for the "convenience" of buying it from you. 5. Do not treat all your customers like potential shoplifters. I'm sure shoplifting happens - perhaps more in a college town. I am a 40+ year old mother of four who has never stolen anything. Please stop glaring at me. 6. When I bring my kids into your shop or restaurant - treat them like human beings! They can eat a lot - you can make big money! But not if you ignore my children or give them the Evil Eye. (See #5 above.) 7. Not everyone who shops downtown is a size 5, 20 year old sorority girl in need of a Saturday night skimpy outfit, or a semi-wealthy JoCo transplant, or a SAHM who can afford to spend $20 on a board book for her toddler. How about some shops that have something affordable that I want to buy? Sorry, I owned bell bottoms when I was in grade school in the 70s. They were ugly then. They still are. Mom and Grandma used to bring us downtown to shop. They bought household items, linens, clothing, at JC Penney, Sears, Woolworths, Weavers. It was a treat to come downtown, walk around and shop. Merchants were mostly local, knew their customers and were glad to see us. Not so today. 8. Clean up the puke after Saturday night, for God's sake. Can't tell you the number of Monday mornings I had to step over/around something nasty in the doorway to get into work.

I could go on, but I've spent more than enough time already. I would love to love Downtown Lawrence again, but I don't see it happening any time soon.

bornon7 6 years, 11 months ago

Do you think that the new Downtown Lawrence Director (Cathy Hamilton) reads this?

gkerr 6 years, 11 months ago

Lawrence is a very Blue city. It has elite sensibilities, demeans children and their sky gods, caters to spoiled adolescents of all ages, has relatively high taxes but the citizens unfortunately do not have elite incomes. Hollywood tastes and Wichita pocketbooks can't support both high taxes and snark. gkerr

Sigmund 6 years, 11 months ago

merrill (anonymous) says… "Commercial space: The city should stop approving plans for new commercial space until the existing surplus is eliminated. It should direct investment into the preseration of the downtown and other existing commercial districts so as to preserve and protect the existing publid and private investment there."

So can I assume your downtown investment is still upside down?

Sigmund 6 years, 11 months ago

If the downtown landlords want lower vacancy rates, they can lower their rents like landlords all over the country. If the city wants to help, they can lower sales taxes.

Do not spend another dime of taxpayer dollars protecting the rich downtown landlords with corporate welfare and free lunches, no matter how much they contributed to you campaign.

Sigmund 6 years, 11 months ago

"City commissioners on Tuesday agreed to form a new task force that will study ways to attract more retailers to downtown Lawrence."

How about including several taxpaying consumers with NO vested interest in Downtown or retail as a part of the the tax force, I mean "task force?"

BigPrune 6 years, 10 months ago

Downtown and Lawrence as a whole needs a regional draw. The Legends does $1 billion a year in retail sales. The City of Lawrence does $1 billion a year in retail sales.

We need to be competitive. Sleepy old stuff doesn't cut it.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 10 months ago

Tip o hat BigPrune, the Legends is biting us in the rear.

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