A proposed six-story hotel in downtown Lawrence will face its first hurdle at City Hall today.
The city’s Historic Resources Commission is scheduled to discuss a proposal to build a multi-story hotel, apartment and retail building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
The city’s historic resources staff has raised concerns about the proposed design of the building and how it would affect the historic elements of downtown Lawrence and the Rhode Island Historic District that is immediately east of the property. But staff members also said they believe the project is ripe for a compromise.
“From our perspective, there is an opportunity to work on the design elements,” said Scott McCullough, the city’s director of planning and development services. “The proposed use is fully appropriate for the site. There are just some design issues that we are hopeful everybody will want to work together on to resolve. We think it could be a great project for downtown.”
Specifically, the city’s analysis raises concerns with:
• The height of the building and how it relates to the much shorter, more residential buildings that are in the neighborhood to the east.
• The signs associated with the building, particularly a large lighted sign at the top of the six-story building that advertises the property as a TownePlace by Marriott hotel.
• Exterior construction materials, such as ceramic tile, that have not traditionally been used in the downtown.
The city-appointed Historic Resource Commission also will likely hear from east Lawrence neighbors. The neighborhood association sent a letter to the commission listing 15 concerns that neighbors had raised. The proposed height of the building was near the top of the list.
Bill Fleming, representative for the development group seeking to build the project, said the group’s members were willing to listen to possible compromises. But he said some changes could derail the project.
“We’ll have a difficult time compromising on the issue of building height,” Fleming said. “We have to make our numbers work, and it makes it more difficult when the building gets shorter.”
Fleming said the development team, which is led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton and architect Mike Treanor, have tried to design the building to be sensitive to the adjacent neighborhood. The building becomes shorter as it moves away from New Hampshire street and approaches the alley.
McCullough, though, said staff members wanted to have more discussion with the development team about whether the height could be reduced.
As currently proposed the project would include:
• An 81-room TownePlace by Marriott on the top three floors of the building. The hotel would be geared toward “extended-stay” visitors.
• A total of 36 apartments on the second and third floor of the building. The apartments would be a mix of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.
• A restaurant and wine bar on the ground floor, plus the hotel lobby, which would be on the south end of the building near the Lawrence Arts Center.
• Two levels of underground parking that would provide about 120 spaces for the hotel and other uses.
The Historic Resources Commission meets at 7:30 p.m. today at City Hall. If HRC members choose to deny the project, the developer can request a hearing before the Lawrence City Commission.