Archive for Thursday, May 5, 2011

Town Talk: Some developers wanting to use artificial turf for Lawrence landscapes; remake of former Boardwalk Apartment site nearly complete; city likely to win 23rd Street signal funding

May 5, 2011


News and notes from around town:

• Here’s a new twist on the concept of being green: Artificial turf. The school district has taken to the idea of replacing grass with artificial turf on sports fields, but now some are asking why should the idea stop there. Lawrence architect Paul Werner is proposing a rule change at City Hall that would allow artificial turf to be used as part of the landscaping of commercial and multi-family apartment developments. In fact, he’s already used it. The new apartment complex that was built to replace the former Boardwalk Apartments off West Sixth Street is using a synthetic turf instead of grass. Many of the same reasons we heard from the school district are being offered up for why artificial turf should be used in commercial projects: No water, no mowing, no fertilizer, and no herbicides or pesticides.

Although the apartment project is in the process of using the synthetic turf, it is not supposed to be. City inspectors noticed the turf on an occupancy inspection of the project and called foul. So, Werner has filed for a wording change (a text amendment, if you want to sound cool in planning circles) to the city’s development code to allow for synthetic turf. Werner told me he mistakenly thought it already was allowed because the city approved its use on a limited scale at the Oread Hotel, which is another project he helped design. (The small amount of grass between the sidewalk and the street in front of the Oread is artificial turf.)

Artificial turf recently installed at the Tuckaway Apartments at Frontier in West Lawrence.

Artificial turf recently installed at the Tuckaway Apartments at Frontier in West Lawrence.

Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel is a developer of both the Oread and the apartment project. Werner said Fritzel really has become sold on the artificial turf product, and wanted it to be used in the apartment complex.

“Unfortunately, when our development code was being written, nobody had much of a clue about it,” Werner said. “And I’m sure the idea does scare some people.”

Werner said it would take some getting used to the idea of having a landscape that remains green even throughout the dead of winter. He also said some people may be concerned about what will happen as the product begins to wear out, but he said that should be no larger of a concern than the current problem of people installing a landscape and then not properly caring for it.

Werner estimates that the artificial turf should easily last 15 years (the warranty is 13 years for the particular brand he’s using.) That’s an important number in making all this pencil out. And yes, Werner says this pencils out. He said the artificial turf does have an upfront cost that is more than three times as expensive as laying down sod. But, when you start subtracting the expense of mowing, watering and other such grass chores, the product pays for itself in five years, he said. That’s basically 10 years of a relatively cost-free landscape. That’s the type of green that gets a lot of attention.

Whether the idea will take hold in the yards of single-family homes, Werner is unsure. He think the initial cost will scare many homeowners off. I’m not sure. Costs will likely come down as more people use the product, and there are lots of shady neighborhoods (I’m talking trees here) in Lawrence where growing grass is difficult. It might be tempting for some frustrated homeowners who have always wanted that golf course-type lawn but haven’t figured out how to do it. I’m not sure whether the proposed text amendment will allow for the synthentic turf in single-family yards (or maybe it already allowed today and just not known). I’ll check with folks in the city’s planning department on that. I’ll also call some landscaper who I respect to get their thoughts.

Ultimately, the text amendment will go to the Lawrence City Commission for debate.

The new Tuckaway at Froniter Apartments that have replaced the former Boardwalk Apartments in West Lawrence.

The new Tuckaway at Froniter Apartments that have replaced the former Boardwalk Apartments in West Lawrence.

• The artifical turf issue caused me to go out to the new apartment complex that is replacing Boardwalk. The Boardwalk Apartments were — I don’t think I’ll set off any alarm bells by saying this — generally considered some of the ugliest in town. As you would expect, the new complex is a dramatic change. First, the name has changed to Tuckaway Apartments at Frontier (that’s the street they’re on.) The pictures show you that the new buildings use a lot of stone facades instead of the old lap board siding of Boardwalk. But the biggest change is on the inside. The three-story apartment buildings all have elevators, which developers hope will open the complex up to people with accessibility issues. The apartment units are all Energy Star rated as well, which should cut down on utility bills. In fact, the developers are so confident that electric and water usage will be low that the monthly rents include all utilities. The project has a mix of 96 one- and two-bedroom units. The project also is approved for another 96 units in the future. Leasing of the units has begun.

• I don’t have all the details yet, but it is my understanding that the city has been awarded about $150,000 in state/federal funding that will allow the traffic signals on 23rd Street (from Iowa to East Hills) to be syncrhonized. The city previously has been awarded money to connect the traffic signals on parts of Sixth Street and Iowa Street to fiber optic cables. That’s the same type of system that would be used on 23rd Street. Technically, it is called Intelligent Transportation Systems, and the fiber will allow the signals to be programmed from a remote location. It also will allow the timing of the signals to be more easily changed for special events such as graduation or football games. When I get more details, I will pass them along.

• West Lawrence motorists should beware on Clinton Parkway. The city has closed the right-hand turn lane and one eastbound lane of Clinton Parkway at its intersection with Kasold Drive. Southbound turns onto Kasold still will be allowed, but the closings likely will create more congestion. The section of Kasold Drive south of Clinton Parkway is being completely rebuilt, although the road remains open to traffic. Work on the Kasold project is expected to be completed by late fall 2011.


hildirid 7 years, 1 month ago

One hopes any future turf will be better quality than that around the Oread Hotel, which looks awful.

kathryndmyers 7 years, 1 month ago

The use of artificial turf that is of high quality should be encouraged at all commercial and residential properties. I have a very shady backyard and grass is difficult to grow plus I have dogs. Artificial turf would solve my problems plus a little green in the winter around here would be a welcome sight. It is environmentally sound.

pizzapete 7 years, 1 month ago

Lets hope the city commision keeps artificial turf out of commercial developments in Lawrence for the same reason that draining water from your roof directly into the sewer system should be discouraged. Excess water needs to be absorbed by grass, plants, trees, and soil before overflowing our sewers and rivers.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

There's no mention of the effect that an impervious surface like artificial turf would have on storm water runoff-- not to mention how much hotter it is on such surfaces in the summer than real grass is.

speak_up 7 years, 1 month ago

But even if it is pervious, it still won't absorb excess water the way natural plants do. Also, plant respiration contributes heavily to cleaning and cooling the air.

Chad Lawhorn 7 years, 1 month ago

This particular product — Majestic Pro Turf — is pervious. According to a spec. sheet, it drains 28 inches of rain per hour, per square yard. There is too much math there for me to know whether that is a lot or a little. Sounds like a lot. Chad Lawhorn Journal-World

brew_crew122 7 years, 1 month ago

Can anyone actually afford the new "Tuckaway apartments on Frontier?" Prices seem awfully steep.

Bob Forer 7 years, 1 month ago

How much? Just curious. They sure look nice on the outside. Very tastefully done with lots of stonework.

Kathryn Toyne 7 years, 1 month ago

1 BR's start at $1100 with all utilities paid and 2 BR's start at $1300 all utilties paid. I called them yesterday to find out.

JustNoticed 7 years, 1 month ago

YOU scare me, Paul Werner. Artificial turf from an artificial architect.

somedude20 7 years, 1 month ago

Faux dog poop on faux grass made by faux people in a faux world created by a faux god....we are sprits in the material world

speak_up 7 years, 1 month ago

Insisting on a perfectly manicured lawn is ridiculous and environmentally unsound. Replacing natural elements with artificial ones is outright dangerous. This is a terrible idea.

boxers_or_briefs 7 years, 1 month ago

Just how many times can Paul Werner/Thomas Fritzel build/install something without getting the ciy's approval first? They have done it for years (Hutton Farms fountains and buildings too close together, Eldridge Flag Pole on Roof, Cell phone towers on Oread and now artificial turf instead of grass.)

Say no city! Make them rip it out until they have gotten approval from the city. Enough is enough.

Paul Werner should be ashamed. He says he was mistaken? He knew exactly what they were installing and did nothing about it until the city said something.

Boston_Corbett 7 years, 1 month ago

I say test out the concept by using artificial turf on a new indoors Putt-N-Putt in the Masonic Lodge. That would 1) generate traffic higher than a weddings chapel, 2) provide badly needed air conditioned indoor recreation opportunity for our youth, 3) Would allow the building to actually pay taxes to the city, 4)be a novel location which would generate publicity for the city.

And if Werner were hired for he job, a flag pole, fountain, and cell phone towers apparently would get thrown into the deal, and his holes would be installed at 4x the density used by other courses.


jafs 7 years, 1 month ago

I've wondered for years why the city doesn't synchronize the lights on 23rd St. If it only costs $150,000 now, it would have probably been cheaper before, and that amount of money is peanuts in our city budget.

It would greatly improve the quality of life for those who regularly travel on 23rd St.

Boston_Corbett 7 years, 1 month ago

I say test out the concept by using artificial turf on a new indoors Putt-N-Putt in the Masonic Lodge. That would 1) generate traffic higher than a weddings chapel, 2) provide badly needed air conditioned indoor recreation opportunity for our youth, 3) Would allow the building to actually pay taxes to the city, 4)be a novel location which would generate publicity for the city.

And if Werner were hired for he job, a flag pole, fountain, and cell phone towers apparently would get thrown into the deal, and his holes would be installed at 4x the density used by other courses.


Lisa Rasor 7 years, 1 month ago

Let's think beyond traditional grass lawns. Instead of artificial turf, how about planting something real that does not require mowing? Ground cover such as sedum, creeping buttercup or creeping jenny is attractive, stays flat on the ground, and requires little to no maintenance once it's established. Seriously, you don't even have to water it, ever. Creeping jenny also doesn't mind being walked on, so it can be planted in areas where folks are likely to cut across a planted area.

Bob Forer 7 years, 1 month ago

The artificial turf at Tuckaway doesn't look too bad at all. I think the upfront cost will be prohibitive for many projects, so I don't see a problem with major proliferation of the faux stuff. A little here and there doesn't really bother me.

Betty Bartholomew 7 years, 1 month ago

I want artificial turn on my front lawn. Hose it down for dog messes, and not have to walk through a giant mud lake after it rains? Sign me up! (Though what I want to do is find the people who built the house and sue their butts for planning the lot with such poor drainage... among other issues.)

In lieu of turf, I'd also consider a giant sand garden.

cowboy 7 years, 1 month ago

Artificial turf with a robot dog that lays artificial tur... ,throw in some plastic flowers and shrubs , walk outside on a sunny day and instead of smelling the fresh mowed grass you can smell the over heating petroleum by products . How lovely

LogicMan 7 years, 1 month ago

Will it burn?

Or contribute to an even bigger fire if something nearby goes up in flames?

boxers_or_briefs 7 years, 1 month ago

So what happens when someone throws out a cigarette, grills out or lights fireworks on it?

Come on city commissioners. Nip this in the bud.

blindrabbit 7 years, 1 month ago

bethlang: Giant sand garden; are you willing to trade dog messes for a giant cat litter box! Can imagine the smell, let alone all the caterwauling from the amorous toms.

gccs14r 7 years, 1 month ago

Presumably this turf is some kind of polymer that breaks down over time. Eventually those bits of plastic will end up in the Atlantic, contributing to the pile of plastic trash that's already out there. That sounds like a bad idea.

Laura House Blanchard 7 years, 1 month ago

Definition of "Green Space" per the Oxford Dictionaries - "an area of grass, trees, or other vegetation set apart for recreational or aesthetic purposes in an otherwise urban environment."

Hum not sure that fake grass meets that definition... Will the City stand up to these guys?

Laura House Blanchard 7 years, 1 month ago

grass reference as turf grass in this article:

Captures Water Runoff and Dust

· Turfgrass does an excellent job of capturing water runoff and lessening dust and particulate matter pollution, versus alternatives such as hard surfaces, mulched areas and impervious or bare surfaces.

According to a Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) 2006 Publication, turfgrass decreases dust emissions and for controlling soil erosion, a live, functioning grass cover, including urban lawns, is a cost-effective option, since a grass root system is one of the most effective in soil stabilization because of the fibrous, dense character of its roots. Lessens Heat Island Effect

· Turfgrass lessens the “heat island” effect, especially in urban areas. Urban areas generally have higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas, well known as the urban "heat island" effect. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that “the annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C).”

Captures, Stores Carbon in Roots

· Properly managed turf areas are significant carbon sinks. When kept in a growing state, carbon sequestration in turf areas can range anywhere from four to seven times the carbon emissions, according to a report, Technical Assessment of the Carbon Sequestration Potential of Managed Turfgrass in the United States by Dr. Ranajit (Ron) Sahu. See study at: Captures, Stores Carbon in RootsBoosts the Oxygen Footprint

· Turfgrass can boost your oxygen footprint. Compared to bare ground, non-green areas, and lawn substitutes, such as painted concrete or even artificial turf, actual grass and green areas generate oxygen. For example, a turf area 50' x 50' produces enough oxygen to meet the everyday needs of a family of four and each acre of grass produces enough oxygen for 64 people a day. (Source:

Terry Rossiter 7 years, 1 month ago

What ever happened to the plans to reconstruct Kasold from by 6th street to Peterson??? Traffic has indreased dramatically here and the condition of the road is getting worse by the week!

pace 7 years, 1 month ago

I wish I could AstroTurf my lawn, I hate mowing, I hate watering, I have a largish yard. I would cut out holes for flower beds, trees and bushes. I wouldn't mow no more.

pace 7 years, 1 month ago

well are we still grumpy and making up stories about other people. I plan to save the world and write with the free time from mowing. I am unlikely to go astro turf but for you to make assumptions about me based on my hatred of mowing is not exactly impressive thought process. Even if I don't like mowing or spending a lot of time in the sun, I am still a better person than you. I, like you aren't basing this on information, just on my feelings. I like the remarks that pointed out a permeable astro turf might be a better erosion control than mud. It might be nice in small shady lawns.

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