Archive for Sunday, November 27, 2011

Creative thinking

Many details remain to be worked out, but it’s nice to see developers thinking creatively in a plan that would establish a new retail and entertainment center north of the Kansas River.

November 27, 2011


It’s great to see a local group creatively exploring ways to develop property at the north end of the downtown Kansas River bridge. The details of the plan will be the focus of much discussion and perhaps a number of changes as they are fleshed out, but the group deserves credit for having a creative vision of how the property can be redeveloped into an attractive focal point north of the river.

The group first started looking at the possibility of a commercial development between Johnny’s Tavern and the river in 2008, but there had been little activity on the idea until developers filed plans at City Hall last week for a project that would include about 200,000 square feet of space for shops, restaurants, apartments, condominiums and perhaps a hotel or movie theater.

One of the main attractions for the development is the same thing that attracted early settlers to Lawrence: the Kansas River. The “concept plan” for the development includes a 1,800-foot long boardwalk running alongside the existing Kansas River levee. Multi-story buildings would rise up beside the boardwalk to give visitors a view of the river as they dine or shop. Office and residential structures also would take advantage of the riverfront view.

As with any large, creative project, the North Lawrence development likely will face a number of obstacles. First is a zoning request that would designate the area as part of Lawrence’s downtown, which would allow for taller buildings, fewer setback requirements and different parking regulations. Next, will be the economy. The developers don’t currently have any commitments from potential tenants, and, until the economy turns around, it will be hard to attract investors willing to locate stores or a hotel or movie theater at the site.

The developers aren’t thinking small. They say the site would accommodate a 66,000-square-foot hotel, a 50,000-square-foot movie theater or a 27,000-square-foot retail tenant —a space big enough to attract a chain retailer, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods. Attracting a retail chain that usually locates in a more suburban location close to other chain stores seems like a stretch, but, again, there’s nothing wrong with thinking outside the box.

It’s also unlikely this project could be pursued, without a certain amount of dissent from local sources. Retailers in the Downtown Lawrence might balk at extending their footprint over the bridge. North Lawrence residents may have concerns about the impact of this project on nearby businesses and residents, including those living in a trailer park that would be eliminated in the plan.

However, there are many potential positives to this plan. If it is successful, it could create a signature retail and entertainment district on the north side of the river that could attract many local residents and visitors to the community.

The Kansas River has been a focal point for Lawrence since the city’s founding, and it’s nice to see some creative thinkers looking to the river as a focus of new development.


lunacydetector 6 years, 6 months ago

i'd hope these folks have a proven track record, which probably doesn't matter in that regards...the struggling bauer farms comes to mind, but so do the empty for years buildings in front of home depot....the hard sell will be north lawrence. most people don't think to shop in north lawrence. the rent will need to be low.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

This article represents more reckless thinking. Is the world company an investor? Think Tanger Mall,Baur Farms and The Riverfront Plaza. In general the entire local retail plan that has zero continuity.

Lawrence,Kansas has no need nor the retail dollar ability to support such nonsense. Think big eh? How about reckless? More secret sales taxes on the horizon? The Legends is not coming through for local tax dollar cookie jars. In fact some local politicians are seeing this monster as a failure.... so I read. The secret sales tax is failing the taxpayers.

Forget anything like Dick's or any other big box. There are simply not enough retail dollars in Lawrence to support this extravagant thinking. Another movie theatre will not have enough customers = go broke.

Why build anything that will sit empty for any length of time? This is not smart economics.

Why participate in the destruction of downtown Lawrence? This is unfriendly to business.

I say eliminate from the plan 200,000 square feet of restaurants, shops, a hotel, and a movie theater.

Lawrence is going to need to push the art district and bicycle events to make all of these new hotels a success. Otherwise all of this becomes a drag on the economy,money losers for the owners and big tax returns for the for the owners as a reward for developing money losing real estate projects.

The economy will not bounce back anytime soon. Think in terms of 10 years according to what I hear and read daily. The middle class is being destroyed as we speak. They are losing homes due to loss of long time employment. It's happened to many that live in Lawrence,Kansas. The job market sucks big time. 25 million need long term full time jobs for the economy to come back with any substance.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

"Why build anything that will sit empty for any length of time? This is not smart economics."

Wrong answer, merrill. That is an excellent business model for any company that constructs the buildings with city assistance, sells them to some unwitting buyer, and then leaves town.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

Think practical based on the needs of North Lawrence. Build a beautifully landscaped super Johnny's with riverfront patio's we know this will work. Now bring in the grocery store,small hardware store and a laundromat. Now you're making money and helping North Lawrence.

Beautifully landscaping all of the above which will attract shoppers because all of the above are shops that people use daily.

BTW if Lawrence wants to attract senior citizens Douglas County and City Commissioners will need to erase personal property taxes across the board for those 65 and over.

More new NOT necessary retail will be vacant over and over and over and over.... If I were a retailer in Lawrence never would I sign a long term contract. Renewable every 30 days only..... or forget it. The Chamber is too busy putting small business people out of business = they cannot be trusted!

AGAIN Be Practical: Build a beautifully landscaped super Johnny's with riverfront patio's we know this will work accompanied by a grocery store,small hardware store and a laundromat. Now you're making money and helping North Lawrence.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 6 months ago

"...And there is another type of Caps Lock user who doesn’t capitalize whole sentences but INSTEAD capitalizes a few SPECIFIC words for EMPHASIS. Now read a sentence like that aloud, shouting every time you come to a capitalized word, and tell me you do not sound like an absolute freakin’ lunatic. This method can turn even basic known facts into crazy-sounding gibberish (“The SQUARE of the HYPOTENUSE of a RIGHT triangle equals the SUM of the squares of the OTHER two sides”)..."

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Does anyone remember what happened in 1903, 1904, l905, 1908, 1910, 1912, l915, 1951 and again in 1993?

I'm sure the insurance companies will when they consider what the flood insurance rates will need to be in order to assume the risk of flood damage.

Clipped from: North Lawrence, Kansas, A Brief History

"West of Bridge Street the north-south bound streets were: Massachusetts, Vermont, Kentucky, and Front or River Street. Some sixty years later, Bridge Street was renamed "North Second Street"; Rhode Island Street became North Third Street; New York Street became North Fourth Street; Pennsylvania Street became North Fifth Street, etc. The east-west bound streets still bear their original names; but prior to the 1903 flood most of them extended from the east city limits to the west city limits on Front Street."

"Before the 1903 flood, north of Locust Street, North Lawrence included four blocks west of what is now North Second Street. Only a little more than one block was left. The river channel was about one-half of its present width. The flood carried away and left as a part of the river basin all of the east-west bound streets south of Locust Street and west of North Second Street. It also widened the channel east of the present bridge by adding the area occupied by Mill, Walnut, and Ash Streets from the bridge as far east as North Fifth Street. Thus, approximately one-third of North Lawrence was added to the channel of the Kaw River by the disastrous flood of 1903."

"Although floods of lesser proportions than the big flood occurred in 1904, l905, 1908, 1910, 1912, and l915, the property damage was relatively minor compared to the flood of 1903. However, their frequent recurrence was of sufficient significance and inconvenience to retard the development of that part of the City."

"Present generations can little appreciate the radical changes and the devastating effects of two major catastrophies upon this part of the City in 1903 and again in l95l. But with the threat of disastrous floods definitely behind us, we are pushing forward again to occupy a place in our City which rightfully we should assume."

"Present generations can little appreciate the radical changes and the devastating effects of two major catastrophies upon this part of the City in 1903 and again in l95l."

The flood of 1993 was a bit of a concern also, but the damage was very limited that time.

flyin_squirrel 6 years, 6 months ago

Build it, I think it is a great idea. Doubt big boxes will come, but that doesn't mean they should stop thinking big. The devil is in the details but done right, this could be a huge win for downtown, North Lawrence, the city and the community.

Naysayers will always be naysayers.

BigAl 6 years, 6 months ago

I agree. Build it. This Riverfront project is a great idea.

"Naysayers will always be naysayers"

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

America is Over Stored = Demand was never there

America Is Over Stored ( Do Lawrence,Kansas planners,Chamber of Commerce and city government not realize this?)

The Wall Street bankers boom town economics building frenzy produced a bumper crop of new retail space. But the occupants haven't/never materialized.

The carnage in retail hasn't been this bad since an anarchist bombed Chicago's Haymarket Square in 1886. In January, Liz Claiborne said it would shutter 54 Sigrid Olsen stores by mid-2008; Ann Taylor announced that 117 of its 921 stores would be closed over the next three years, and Talbots axed the Talbots Men's and Talbots Kids concepts and 22 Talbots stores. Even Starbucks has scaled back its yearlong saturation-bombing campaign.

But back out inflation and sales of gasoline, and retail sales fell in real terms in the past year. Clearly, demand is down.

And supply is up. This decade's building frenzy produced a bumper crop of new retail space—from McStrip malls built near new McMansions, to hip new boutiques in the ground floors of hip new Miami condo buildings. But as is the case with those McMansions and condos, the occupants for new retail space haven't materialized.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, the national retail-vacancy rate rose for the 11th straight quarter to 7.5 percent—the highest level since 1996, according to research firm Reis, Inc.

With new projects coming online—34 million square feet of retail space will be completed in 2008—the rate is expected to spike further to 8 percent. In the parlance of the trade, many chains are simply over-stored.


flyin_squirrel 6 years, 6 months ago

Naysayers will always be naysayers. That is why Merrill spends more time on message boards telling people what not to do, than doing something himself.

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