Archive for Friday, May 20, 2011

City hears ideas for improving downtown Lawrence

‘Flash stores,’ bringing back athletic events among issues raised at listening session

May 20, 2011


Residents turned out Thursday evening for a listening session downtown.

Residents turned out Thursday evening for a listening session downtown.

It was like Massachusetts Street on a sunny Saturday — there was a little bit of everything to be had.

City Commissioners Hugh Carter and Bob Schumm on Thursday hosted a listening session about downtown issues. Among some of the topics brought up:

• A retail incubator. Several merchants said they wanted more information about how the city could create a plan to help new, small-scale retailers get started downtown. Some even suggested encouraging “flash stores” that would allow new businesses to have short four- or five-month leases to allow them to test new business ideas. Schumm asked the Downtown Lawrence Inc. association to provide the city with a list of cities that have operated successful incubators.

• Pedestrian malls. Commissioners heard from people both in support and in opposition to closing a portion of Massachusetts Street for a pedestrian mall. Several merchants said they have concerns that anytime Massachusetts Street is closed to traffic that business suffers.

But commissioners also heard an idea to consider closing a side street — Eighth and 10th streets were mentioned — as an alternative to a Massachusetts mall.

“It would give us something we don’t have, which is a central square,” said Jane Pennington, a downtown arts promoter. “It could become a place for events. It could become a venue for a number of things.”

• Downtown appearance. Several merchants expressed concern that graffiti and transients were creating a poor perception of downtown, especially to tourists. Walt Houk, a downtown property owner and operator of Travellers Inc., said downtown has great potential to be a tour bus stop, but he believes some of the downtown appearance issues would cause those buses to bypass the city. Other retailers said the city needs to do more to crack down on people asking for money on city streets, perhaps requiring a city license to conduct such solicitation.

• Some retailers urged the city — and the general public — to lobby federal legislators to pass legislation that would require all Internet retailers to collect sales tax.

• There was broad support from the crowd of about 50 for the city to again ask the university not to move athletic events to Kansas City.

“That costs us millions of dollars a year,” said Peter Zacharias, a downtown jewelry shop owner.

“Hear, hear,” said Schumm, who owns a downtown restaurant and bar.

Schumm said he plans to present a summary of the items discussed to the full City Commission.

“I think there are some issues we’ll want to have more discussion on,” Schumm said. “There were some good ideas presented.”


gccs14r 6 years, 11 months ago

A ped mall can work, but not if it's just a big sidewalk. There needs to be a trolley on a short schedule that connects to nearby parking. At a minimum there needs to be one that runs from 7th to 11th, and even better would be if it ran from 6th to 11th and looped back up New Hampshire. If an agreement could be worked out with the LJW, the north end of the loop could run down the existing RR ROW between 6th and the JW building.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 11 months ago

I've made that same suggestion in the past. Several people responding told tales of how it worked in one place and was a disaster in another. It might be worth looking into. I like the idea.

d_prowess 6 years, 11 months ago

That is only 4-5 blocks! Why would that be necessary?!

jhawkinsf 6 years, 11 months ago

Because it would be a neat attraction. Bring the kids to ride the choo-choo. Let the kids ring the bell. Make it special to Lawrence, or to Kansas or to K.U. Have a giant Jayhawk as a faux conductor. Santa could be the conductor during the holidays, giving candy canes to the kids.

gccs14r 6 years, 11 months ago

Because they're long blocks. 6th to 11th is 5/8 of a mile, so a mile and a quarter for the round trip. That's a long way to tote shopping bags. It's also a good hike if you've parked in the lot north of the JW, had dinner at Free State, then want Sylas and Maddy's for dessert. You're either in for that whole walk, or you go back to the car and drive to the other end of downtown for ice cream. Then if you decided to go back to one of the bookstores on the other end, you're hoofing it or back in the car again. Being able to hop an enclosed trolley to run up and down Mass would be fabulous. It'd be great if DLI would pay for it so it'd be free for shoppers, but the bums would try to set up camp in it, so there'd have to be some kind of nominal fee and a rule about no more than one round trip per fare. There would definitely have to be a no soliciting rule in the trolley.

DRsmith 6 years, 11 months ago

Get rid of all the bums and improve parking.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 11 months ago

Here's an idea. Let's make it illegal to give money to panhandlers! $100 fine for contributing to the problem. places the ball in another court but just wishing them away or waiting for the gubment to fix things for you isnt working or doesnt give you the results you want. Soo, maybe the panhandlers aren;t the problem but the people who contribute to the problem are.

timeforachange 6 years, 11 months ago

Right! And let's fine the shopper who's walking around with cash in their pocket enticing the muggers! The guy driving his car downtown should get jail time for enticing the car thief.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 11 months ago

Your ideas are preposterous. You prefer to blame the victim when a crime occurs, and that's fine--you have every right to believe that, this is AMerica after all.. Backin the real world... People who give to panhandlers are the problem. They are NOT victims in any way shape or form. They are not getting mugged or having their stuff stolen. They succumb to an internal voice and feed into the problem. If they quit giving, the bums would go away. They have every right to carry cash and every right to drive. Let's not use your idea and remove those rights but let's place blame where it is due, with those who feed the bears, so to speak.

funkdog1 6 years, 11 months ago

I have the right to give my money to whomever I damn well please. And why do you care if you live in Topeka?

geekin_topekan 6 years, 11 months ago

Exactly. And as long as there are people like you supporting the panhandlers, there will always be panhandlers. So my point is-- the blame lies on both parties. Give the bums a break, they are only HALF of the equation.

I don't live in Topeka. Its an inside joke so never you mind . I lived as a panhandling drunkard here for many many years which sort of makes me knowledgeable on the subject (I don't care if you know, as long as i never forget).

My idea is 100% guaranteed. If it doesn't work; we can have all the panhandlers back, no questions asked. It has never been tried so what's the harm?

funkdog1 6 years, 11 months ago

Just out of curiosity, how'd you kick your drinking habit and get back on your feet?

geekin_topekan 6 years, 11 months ago

No one event really. My recovery is a culmination of many, many factors. The process has been too complicated to decipher so I just keep it simple--don't drink for the rest of today (tomorrow will be fine), pray to the God of MY understanding, make myself available to anyone who seeks recovery and never forget that last morning after. I am no saint; sainthood is not my goal. I can only try to be a better person than I was yesterday. and realize that I may fail, which is fine. I don't mistake peace for boredom. I understand that self respect,like any other, must be earned.

And so on...

DRsmith 6 years, 11 months ago

it is the bum obstacle course you have to get through that sucks, not the 5 blocks.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 11 months ago

You're right - bring 'em all back. Along with Litwin's, The Grinder Man, Haye's House of Music, the heating and cooling building that had a robot made out of duct work, the bus station, My Father's Daughter, Pennylane, Pendragon, Sweet Grass, Maupintour, the older, scary Harbour Lights, Waymire's, Everything But Ice, Junior's Farm, Raney's, The End, Exile Records, John's Novelty, Adventure a Bookstore, Terra Nova, Spinster's, Ben Franklin.

How did it happen that Mass Street Deli closed and The Smokehouse is still kickin' around?

Nikki May 6 years, 11 months ago

Actually, I do wish some of those would come back. I loved Everything But Ice, especially.

Loretta James 6 years, 11 months ago

The Deluxe Cafe, Ediths Bar, family style bar no guns or knifes, Shortys Cafe. When i was a kid my mom would go on thursday night to watch the people stores stayed open late that night.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

Keeping people/events on Mass Street keeps potential sales on Mass street. Taking people away from Mass Street effectively removes maximum sales potential.

Why not move the Farmers Market to the 800 block of Mass Street on Saturday mornings?

Downtown retailers should give up their paranoia about having events on Mass Street. Times have changed.

I concur that sending KU home games to KCMO effectively helps KCMO. National radio and television know where Lawrence,ks is. They can set up in Lawrence,Kansas!!! Perkins ripped off Lawrence,Kansas and so did the KU athletic department.

Bring the games back home.

I would be against "bricking in" any street. It is simply not worth the money. Just keep existing streets clean. THEN consider using giant planters that can be moved with a fork lift of front loader to block off streets??? These same size planters can be set in the middle of the streets or wherever. Beautiful landscaping with planters is the key not bricks. Add benches and picnic tables. I say this concept has tons of potential with flexibility built in and is a fiscal responsible approach.

Retail hours 11 - 8 PM Of course eating establishments do their own thing.

Gedanken 6 years, 11 months ago

KU doesn't have an obligation to play every game in Lawrence.

However, KU does have an obligation to the citizens of Kansas and playing games consistently OUTSIDE the state means we lose significant tax revenue. Thus, if it was fair - play a neutral site in MO and then a neutal site in KS - repeat. As it stands, we got the short end of the stick.

ezbreezy 6 years, 11 months ago

I think the trolley idea is classic and appealing to the eye for tourists. To the people who think that its only for lazy people, think about the older population who may want to visit the downtown but have real parking issues and give up before they even try. I think parents with children would love it too.

xclusive85 6 years, 11 months ago

Older population can't get around? My 88 year old grandmother just came to town on Wednesday and we spent time downtown. She and I walked up and down Mass street twice. If she can do it, almost anyone can.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 11 months ago

What took you so long Wilber, to get a firm grasp of the clearly obvious. The Lawrence City Commission has been a non-entity for as long as I can remember. They do nothing but rubber stamp the instructions of the city manager who they should have fired years ago. It is always the same merry-go-round when it comes to city elections, 15 - 20 people vote at best at every precinct, and the same old worn out, inefficient, uselsess candidates get picked to do nothing but meet and draw city money and dream about roundabouts and sister cities in Bangladesh and Tazmania. This "new" commission, which is a mirror image of most all past commissions, is no different, same old mantra, same old age worn ideas, same old inaction and ineffectiveness. I have not wasted my ime to vote for any of these slugs in the last few elections, mainly because most polling places do not have any handicap accomodation. Yes, I know about mail in voting, but why bother??

MarcoPogo 6 years, 11 months ago

Nah, Andini got it in his/her first three.

pizzapete 6 years, 11 months ago

I like the idea of "flash stores". I have this great idea for a gourmet peanut butter and jelly gastro pub.

dogsandcats 6 years, 11 months ago

I love the idea of closing Mass for a pedestrian mall from 6th to 11th. Build a parking garage or two where the lots are now on Vermont and New Hampshire. Build the trolley to go up and down Mass for the elderly, families with small kids, and/or lazy people. It'd be great!

I like the idea of the flash stores too.

Too bad it'll never happen.

irvan moore 6 years, 11 months ago

i kinda like reading wilbur, he's like the rest of us, some ideas are good. some maybe not but at least he has opinions. this community has a chamber of commerce and a commission that place a very high value on downtown, they also seem to have a financial interest in it. we need to have a commission that represents different areas of town, not the at large commission we have now. the problem with getting that change is that it would be the commission that would vote on it.

Liberty275 6 years, 11 months ago

"Pedestrian malls."

No. It's too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. If I want to browse stores. I'll go to a real mall. Since Lawrence doesn't have a real mall, I'll be spending that money in Topeka and Olathe.

"Downtown appearance."

Nothing you can do about bums. Too bad.

"Some retailers urged... require all Internet retailers to collect sales tax"

I avoided downtown before. I'll avoid it more now.

"Peter Zacharias, a downtown jewelry shop owner. Hear, hear,” said Schumm"

Top of the list of places to avoid.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

Pedestrian malls seem to work well in some places, and badly in others. I have no way of knowing which would be the case here, so I'd be reluctant to try it.

Aren't there loitering ordinances anymore that can be enforced, as far as bums?

irvan moore 6 years, 11 months ago

the city has had several chances to buy the old riverfront mall but don't, why? room for a lot of government offices, possible police department location, homeless services, would have made a great library and it had parking but that would have kept the commissioners from building the parking garage. the list of uses is endless. best real estate in town and the commission won't ok it. it will be interesting to see how the citizens get screwed out of it again.

timeforachange 6 years, 11 months ago

All of you, including the shop owners, can't see the forest thru the trees. You look at trolleys, side-walk cafes, and biking paths to be your answer, but you fail to recognize the problem. The problem is running your business like it's a hobby. You open late and close early. You fail to meet the needs of your customers. I haven't shopped downtown for years because I couldn't work your hours into my schedule. You expected me to change my behavior to accommodate you. Well guess what? I simply choose to shop elsewhere with retailers who were conducive to my needs. South Iowa or at times the Internet get my business. Downtown has become a place for me to visit when guests are in town.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 11 months ago

A little customer service would be appreciated in a big way. Sorry that I dont look like a Joco with daddy's credit card, but if the merchants didnt look at me as though I wandered in to steal, I might be inclined spend some money. As a very manly man, testosterone and muscle bound, I dont shop. I know what I want when I get there and bag it and leave. But when I need just a little bit of assistance, the downtown merchants treat really treat me like crap. That's my downtown experience and yours may vary.

blondejuan 6 years, 11 months ago

Atchison, Ks built a pedestrian mall in their downtown. I heard they are considering taking it out. It reduced parking. Less people came down their. People are about convience.

Andrew Reeves 6 years, 11 months ago

What I don't get is, why hasn't anyone thought of adding more pan flute?

Clovis Sangrail 6 years, 11 months ago

Restrooms -- clean, accessible, public restrooms that aren't hidden in the basement behind a stack of inventory and an "Employees Only" sign..

I don't like Walmart all that much, but they at least have public and marginally clean restrooms, and you don't have to have bought something to use them. When I have to go to three stores to find a restroom for a five-year-old, being told in the first two that the restroom was for staff only, Walmart starts looking good.

jaketh 6 years, 11 months ago

There are12+ vacancies in Downtown. This is very high & unusual. Usually there used to be 2-3 vacancies that were easily filled up in the past. There are quite a few retailers going out of business. Downtown is now becoming an entertainment zone rather than a mixed (office, retail & entertainment) commercial use.

Downtown retailers are failing may be due to internet sales competition or not accommodating to customer service by being open late etc. However, one of the main reasons, business is failing in Downtown is due to high rent charged by landlords. Even though the housing market crashed, commercial rent in Downtown has not adjusted to that reality. Rent, taxes & insurance keeps in going up when sales are flat or less. One does not have to be a genius to know, one's eventual demise.

Downtown needs a comprehensive study of how many & types of retailers, officess, apartments, restaurants, bars etc can be accomodated, e.g, when a developer develops a strip mall, they know how many types of retailers/entertainment business that strip mall will support. If there is a Bar & Grill in that strip mall, they will not allow another Bar & Grill to open in that strip mall keeping all businesses healthy. Downtown property are mostly owned by individual owners (there are a few landlords/developers that do own quite a few). Each invidual landlord is only interested in pocketing their rent & not looking at the big picture of keeping the whole of Downtown healthy. This varied landlord interest is a big impediment to the long term viability of Downtown.

Some people say its free market concept which should rule. No one is against free-market principles. However, no more bars can open up in Downtown so the City has protected a class of business. The City, Downtown landlords, businesses, Chamber etc need to do a comprehensive study to find out how many & types of businesses can Downtown handle to make it viable place, eg, how many Bar & Grills can Downtown handle 5, 10, 15, 20? This Comprehensive study should be a guideline. Lets think of Zona Rosa in KC. They know how many Bar & Grillss that shopping district can handle, or how many retail, or how many office etc. That is what we need.

BigPrune 6 years, 11 months ago

The rents are too high downtown. Downtown used to be the lowest rent district in Lawrence, and most of all those businesses Andini listed above could survive because the rent was cheap.

This retail incubator idea is totally unrealistic and quite naive. Gimme a break. Of course it will be paid for from our taxes. Lawrence has never met a tax they didn't love.

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