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Archive for Friday, September 2, 2011

Town Talk: Theatre Lawrence seeking $100,000 in city funding; neighborhood group to oppose Lowe’s; a pending ‘bank robbery’ in Downtown Lawrence

September 2, 2011

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News and notes from around town:

• They can debate public funding for the arts up at the Statehouse, so why not at Lawrence City Hall? Commissioners will get the chance on Tuesday. Theatre Lawrence — previously known as the Lawrence Community Theatre — is asking the city to make a $100,000 donation to the group’s fundraising campaign to build a new theater in West Lawrence. The $100,000 would be spread out over the next five years, meaning the city would have to come up with $20,000 for 2012. The theater group is in the final stages of raising $6.2 million for the 300-seat theater, which is slated for the Bauer Farm development northeast of Sixth and Wakarusa. The group also is facing a curtain call, of sorts. If the campaign doesn’t reach its $6.2 million goal by the end of September it is slated to lose $1.5 million in out-of-state “challenge grants” that were issued with the caveat that the project would meet its funding goals.

I have no idea how city commissioners will react to the funding request. One the one hand, the city has been in the business of funding the arts for quite awhile. In fact, this $20,000 per year donation wouldn’t even be their largest venture into arts funding. The city in 2012 is budgeted to provide Van Go Mobile Arts $79,000 in funding. The city has been providing that level of funding to Van Go — which helps disadvantaged youth — for several years. (Think how much they would get if they spelled van Gogh right.) I’m sure that Theatre Lawrence will point out it also runs a theater program for youth, and it, too, serves low-income families. But Van Go is still not the biggest arts recipient of public money. That title goes to the Lawrence Arts Center. It receives $90,000 in general fund tax dollars, plus another $25,000 in liquor tax revenues to support a scholarship fund. In addition, the city is budgeted to provide $23,000 to the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission, a city-appointed advisory board that hosts the downtown outdoor sculpture exhibition and other events. I have not seen where that group has made a recommendation on Theatre Lawrence’s request.

On the other hand, the request does present some difficulty for commissioners because they have told all outside agencies — that includes lots of social service agencies that provide everything from food to counseling — that there will be no increases in city funding for social service groups. In fact, some social service providers — like The Salvation Army — received a budget cut from the city in 2012. Among the groups that receive social service funding from the city is the Lawrence Community Shelter. It also has a fundraising campaign underway. It will be interesting to see if the community theater’s request for public funding creates a precedent for other campaigns to make a trip to City Hall.

We’ll see what script the city reads from on Tuesday. One possibility, it would seem, is that the city could make the donation but perhaps require the community theater to add a surcharge to their ticket prices, which could be used to repay the city over time. Or maybe city commissioners could negotiate a deal that would allow them to have their own production out at the theater. I don’t even like musicals, but I would pay to see the City Hall version of Westside Story. Maybe the Planning Department vs. Public Works. Ooh, maybe not. If it helps, I would sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame at intermission.

• Speaking of drama, speaking of planning, speaking of events that steal hours from my life, it looks like the debate over whether to allow a Lowe’s to build a store just west of Sixth and Wakarusa Drive will have a new character. Gwen Klingenberg, president of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods, told me that group’s board has voted to formally oppose Lowe’s request for rezoning. The rezoning is tentatively scheduled to come up at the Planning Commission’s October meeting. Klingenberg said the group feels that adding about 150,000 square feet of retail to the intersection will just be too much when it comes to traffic in the future. Klingenberg conceded that traffic from the nearby Wal-Mart development has not produced major problems, but she also noted that the area is not yet fully developed. She said that is when neighbors fear the traffic will become a problem. She also said LAN is concerned that if Lowe’s is allowed to build on the site that it would open the door for commercial development at every intersection between Wakarusa and the South Lawrence Trafficway. That, she said, would create major traffic problems in the future. Developers for the Lowe’s project, of course, disagree. They argue that the road and intersection is built to handle the additional traffic Lowe’s will bring. Plus, Lawrence architect Paul Werner told me he hopes city commissioners keep LAN’s comments in perspective. He said he has heard from “quite a few” neighbors near the site that support the idea of a Lowe’s at the location. It will be interesting to see if the West Lawrence Neighborhood Association takes a vote on the project, and if so, how many people show up to vote. That neighborhood, it seems, has an interesting choice to make. The proposed Lowe’s site already is zoned for a large-scale apartment complex. Would the neighbors prefer apartments or retail?

• I still believe that the Lowe’s project has solid support from city commissioners as it stands right now. I think a bigger hurdle than any LAN objections will be whether Lowe’s asks for any incentives for the project. As I previously mentioned, the company informally inquired about a small, special taxing district for the store. I’m told that idea got a chilly reception from some city leaders. I’m sure Lowe’s picked up on that, but I’ve heard no official word on whether Lowe’s has made a decision about whether to formally ask for incentives.

• Hold on to your fedoras folks, I’m getting word of a pending bank robbery in Downtown Lawrence. The Eldridge Hotel and Teller’s restaurant are planning an event this month to re-enact the 1932 robbery of the First National Bank. Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde fame led the stick-up, and of course, Teller’s occupies the building that used to house First National Bank. Several accounts tell that Barrow and two of his buddies stayed at The Eldridge Hotel for three days to stake out the First National Bank Building. So, The Eldridge and Tellers are teaming up to re-tell the story. The Eldridge will host a cocktail party before the event. (I do find a good drink helps a story.) Then the re-enactment will begin. Actors with fake guns will walk from The Eldridge to Teller’s, enter the building, give the crowd the what-for, take the fake loot, and get into a 1930s vehicle and make their escape. Police will stop traffic in all directions to allow the car to pull out and leave, but the car will obey all traffic laws after that point. (Now, that’s the way to work together on a heist.) If you haven’t heard much about this heist, apparently it isn’t a real well-known part of Lawrence history. According to folks who have researched it for The Eldridge, the police were never called to the scene because the bank was embarrassed about the robbery and it was never mentioned in the media either. But The Eldridge folks say the robbery is mentioned in a couple of books — "Running with Bonnie and Clyde" by John Neal Phillips and "My Life with Bonnie & Clyde" by Blanche Caldwell Barrow. In today’s terms (I guess that means adjusted for inflation), about $550,000 was stolen.

City commissioners have to approve a permit for the re-enactment. Commissioners are scheduled to do so at their Tuesday meeting. If successful, The Eldridge hopes the re-enactment will become an annual event. The event is scheduled for about 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 30. (Which is my wife’s birthday, meaning regardless of whether Clyde is in town or not I suspect my bank account will be swept clean.) Information about tickets and pricing will be announced after city approval for the event is gained.

Comments

sunny 2 years, 7 months ago

Gwen needs to get a job and stop living off the tax payers!

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sunflower97 2 years, 7 months ago

Amen jafs. The only way the city commission will know your opinion is if you contact them and express it. Everyone is free to contact the city commission or the planning commission. If you want to be involved in your neighborhood association, then seek it out. Not rocket science.

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lawrencechick 2 years, 7 months ago

I have lived in this neighborhood for years and have never heard of Gwen or have been asked to vote on this issue. Me and most of the people I know would love to have a Lowes nearby. I hope the city commission realizes that they do not speak for West Lawrence residents.

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FlintlockRifle 2 years, 7 months ago

Do you know the date and time of the "Big Bank Robbery"??

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jhawk1998 2 years, 7 months ago

I don't understand moving everything out west at great expense. The theater is something that would appeal to tourists as well as locals. A common complaint is that all there is downtown are bars and restaurants. How about the empty Masonic Temple building for the community arts theater? Great visibility, add some additional culture to downtown and remove an eyesore from Mass street.

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rockchalker52 2 years, 7 months ago

Sheesh, about to post a comment when the construction crew destroyed the cable. Knology got it fixed pdq. Props to them. Anyway...

The Art Center would stimulate the local economy with sponsorships, sales of supplies, ticket sales, concerts, ancillary restaurant and bar sales & heck, maybe even put a few butts in the local hotels. It is an investment in our community. It is not mooching. Along with locals, it attracts interest from others not familiar with our city. They might be inclined to contribute to our economic pot.

RC1977 I'm am not offering any definitions of art, just reasons why a modest investment in a Performing Arts Center makes good sense.

Y'all are right to expect judicious use of your tax dollars. You work hard. Enjoy the holiday. I salute you.

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chuggy23 2 years, 7 months ago

I live at harvard and wakarusa. please put in a lowes and not another apartment complex. The traffic is not bad at all. quit with the bs excuses and add a lowes to this town. West lawrence people, and others, will thank you.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 7 months ago

In case you're interested in more Bonny & Clyde history, the town of Gibsland, LA does a B&C festival each year near May 23. May 23 1934 is when the careers of B&C came to sudden halt.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 7 months ago

If some in town want the city to give away a $100, 000 to the Theatre project, then let them pay. Have a box on the water bill, like the Chickadee Checkoff donation. Give that way.

After all, it is really sad that the commissioners could throw a $100,000 away at a for profit group but could not manage to throw a $100,000 toward establishing branch libraries. It doesn' take much mone to create some branches, but it does take some brains and gumption to garner private donations.

I thought this theatre group had well heeled donors and patrons of the Arts. Goes to show that even Lawrence, the center of the European community of culture does not have a plan.

Why can't the theatre group raise that money themselves. How about some bake sales, how about garage sales, how about some creative, theatrical productions and charge a bit more for the tickets. AFter all, the whole idea of moving west was to create an ambience of wealth and class . Anything like a Community Theatre around downtown is so low class.

Why doesn't the Theatre board of directors start door knocking at the businesses around the project to gather donations from them. Wouldn't one think that they will prosper from the theatre patrons who want to dine at Smash Burger and shop at Walmart and have a drink in the neighborhood. And all of those retirees just dying to go to a play will chip in. Face it, the theatre group is like most every other group in town, they don't have any money, they are like the local developers likewise who have some money but not enough to do a first class project.

The city commission will give the money to the group, the city commission will give the money to the homeless shelter and Loring Henderson and within two years both groups will be back for more. Just sit back and wait.

Waiting for Godot should be re written and titled "Waiting for the Check" a play about the fledgling groups in Lawrence.

Just imagine what $100,000 might do in the area where you live? Will the city budget that money to your "neighborhood"? NO!

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gl0ck0wn3r 2 years, 7 months ago

Klingenberg. Where have I heard that name before? Oh right, she was the woman with the bankruptcy who ran for city commission and lost rather badly. She is also the woman who would like to add a fee to your water bill. Cool.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 7 months ago

The Theatre Lawrence project is so misplaced anyway, go ahead and throw some money at what will become a struggling enterprise. Remeber that Hereford House went west because they thought there was money on that side of town. Didn't work so well.

As for Lowe's , go ahead and rezone it. If the city commissioners don't have the guts, then build the apartment complex and turn it over to Lawrence Housing Authority. Wreck the west side of town as the east side already is.

Lawrence is desperate for something to happen but can only focus on a bronze jayhawk and football.

Planning needs to be revamped and the stupid 2020 plan is worthless.2020 is just around the corner and the plan is outdated by 25 years.

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BrianR 2 years, 7 months ago

Who cares what Gwen thinks and as far as I'm concerned, let there be commercial development at every intersection between Wakarusa and the South Lawrence Trafficway, sounds like commerce.

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dogsandcats 2 years, 7 months ago

Theatre Lawrence is such a joke. Do they think that building this fancy new building is going to suddenly attract people with actual talent to work on their shows, which is what they need in order to make this building worth it. What are they going to do when their audience dies off? Every production I've had the misfortune of seeing, 98% of their audience is over 65. They would have been better off going for fewer donations and just building an auditorium onto one of the senior centers.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 7 months ago

Is there a market for two large home improvement stores in Lawrence,Kansas? Where's the hard evidence?

Can Lawrence afford to put people OUT OF WORK from Home Depot? Show me how Lawrence can afford to lose these jobs.

How can Lawrence afford to have the Home Depot location not providing jobs and not producing tax dollar revenue? These are the items that can create higher tax demands from city hall. Can we say shooting ourselves in the foot?

When Lowe's discovers that the market is not here in spite of what they have been told can Lowe's sue the city,the developers and the Chamber of Commerce for fraud?

One of the reasons Wal-Mart traffic is light is simply because the market demand is not here. Just like Lowe's will discover. This is known as economic displacement instead of economic growth.

What could happen is that both Lowe's and Home Depot will close down due to no market demand = neither store will be generating enough revenue to justify the locations.

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RonBurgundy 2 years, 7 months ago

I'm not sure why they are worried about traffic. If anywhere in Lawrence could handle an increased amount of traffic, I would say this is the ideal location. Maybe they haven't driven anywhere else in town lately, but I'm pretty sure Lawrence is not the posterchild for how traffic should flow.

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sundowner 2 years, 7 months ago

Gwen & your band of groupies - GET A JOB & quit causing trouble.

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Boston_Corbett 2 years, 7 months ago

Since the new theater is going to be in Bauer Farms, and presuming there is a sales tax on ticket sales, doesn't that mean we are going to have a Smash Burger-like sales tax surcharge which doesn't go to the city but to the developer? (for the "TID")

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Boston_Corbett 2 years, 7 months ago

Since the new theater is going to be in Bauer Farms, and presuming there is a sales tax on ticket sales, doesn't that mean we are going to have a Smash Burger-like sales tax surcharge which doesn't go to the city but to the developer? (for the "TID")

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consumer1 2 years, 7 months ago

Very Cool article thanks for sharing it.

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rockchalker52 2 years, 7 months ago

I submit to you, pianoman, that a $100k investment in an Arts Center is a pro-active opportunity at a bargain rate. When people get out and do stuff, there is a positive economic impact. This is good for us all.

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Sarah St. John 2 years, 7 months ago

From the Tellers website! http://www.746mass.com/about.php?page=building

"In February, 2011, Owner and General Manager Tom Wilson uncovered a bit of unpublished history to this illustrious old building...

"In April of 1932, a young man named Clyde Barrow (Bonnie and Clyde) and two other men, Ralph Fults and Ray Hamilton, carved out their niche in American History. After checking into the historic Eldridge Hotel, the three bandits observed the First National Bank on the corner of Eighth and Massachusetts. In 1932, bank robbery was on the rise and many banks began stationing armed security guards in the lobby. However, on that particular day, the men could see just a lone guard leaning placidly against the front door.

"The following morning at 8:45am the three men noticed the bank president stroll quietly up the street and let himself into the building. For nearly ten minutes he was alone inside the bank. The next morning the men witnessed the same thing. On the third day, the bank president came strolling up the sidewalk, just as he had done the previous two mornings. They put their plan in action and as Hamilton waited in the car, Barrows and Fults adjusted the sawed-off shotguns beneath their coats.

"'This is a stick up,' said Clyde.''Don’t raise your hands and don't try nothing funny. We ain't going to hurt nobody, we just want the money.'

"Fults, .45 in one hand and shotgun in the other, stood guard while Clyde accompanied the man into the main vault. The outlaw soon reappeared carrying two large sacks of money. Fults stepped over to the window and motioned for Hamilton to bring the car around. Jumping into the get-away car the three men sped away.

"'How much?' asked Hamilton

"'Thirty-Three thousand dollars' Fults said.

"'I can't believe we got so much!' remarked Clyde.

"'Let's take another bank right away!' exclaimed Fults.

"The successful bank robbery at the First National Bank in Lawrence cemented their place in history. The newly formed gang would become known as the Lake Dallas Gang. A few days later they would add another member to the gang, a young woman named Bonnie Parker.

"The robbery of The First National Bank was the first in a string of robberies carried out by the gang that would be later known as the Bonnie and Clyde Gang."

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thepianoman 2 years, 7 months ago

WHAT??!!!

Theatre Lawrence wants to use $100,000 worth of taxpayer dollars to fund the new theatre?
Our economy's in the toilet, the housing market remains in critical condition, the city/county is pitching in money to keep the SRS office open to maintain social services...SURE! No problem, getting the new theatre constructed is top priority!!! UH --- NO. You raise your own funds. Give me a break. This is unbeliveable!! It's not the government's responsiblity to fund arts projects.

Maybe I should ask the them to donate funds to build me a new piano studio, as well as buy me a brand new steinway concert grand.

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rockchalker52 2 years, 7 months ago

Build the Lowe's but they should do it on their own dime. Fund the Arts Center because an investment in culture is a good thing. It will pay dividends.

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kshiker 2 years, 7 months ago

Completely agree. Should there not be some type of threshold in place before you can claim to represent an entire neighborhood. I live about a block to the north of the proposed location and no one has called me to ask my position. I love Lowe's and think they will be a great addition to the neighborhood. How would one go about getting a neighborhood organization decertified?

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 7 months ago

I am not at all against the arts, I do have a problem with the taxpayer funding it.

If you are a farmer, you hang your shingle out. Your survival should be on your ability to generate income, using your product or service. It is not up to the taxpayer to "Cover your back". You make it or break it on your ability, not the safety net of the taxpayer.

The Arts are the same way. You hang your shingle out, provide a product or service that generates income. It is not up to the taxpayer to "Cover your back" either.

I'll bet the majority of those demanding funding for the Arts, are also demanding that farm subsidies be repealed. The guy that started Weavers or Marks Jewelers downtown gets no special "Funding" from the taxpayer. They hung their shingle out and make it on their ability to generate the revenue required to stay in business. If the Arts center and those associated with it get taxpayer funding, then every store front in this town should get the funding.

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Keith Richards 2 years, 7 months ago

The city can afford a $20,000,000 library, is looking at a $15,000,000 west side rec center and yet can't pony up a measly $100,000 for a state of the art performing arts center?

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Keith Richards 2 years, 7 months ago

Gwen is okay with a 1000 unit apartment complex at that site with traffic at all hours, plus lots of college students. But not okay with a Lowe's who would be closed by 8pm and have no traffic between then and 7 in the morning?

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Bud Stagg 2 years, 7 months ago

What else does the Lawrence ASS. of Neighbors have to do but to oppose stuff that other people want? It makes them feel good to have a purpose.

It is zoned commercial, always has been. If you don't like it, move. If it creates traffic, then it was needed and people are using it. That is a good thing. Good for the economy. What do they want Lowes to do? Move it down the road? Then it creates sprawl and they would be against that too.

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optimist 2 years, 7 months ago

I'm equal opportunity here. I would prefer that neither Lowe's or the Community Theater receive public funds or other financial incentives to build. Let the free market drive this. If Lowe's thinks it worth building then they should pay for it. If they need special incentives to make it work then it would seem to me that it isn't profitable enough to build. Otherwise there is no legitimate reason not to allow them to put a store in that location. As for the community theater my family very much enjoys attending performances there as well as the summer activities and I welcome a new facility but if they can't raise the needed funds to support building the new facility it would seem as though this is either not the time to do it due to the economy or there simply isn't enough support for it. Either way the city should refrain from wasting tax dollars on things that are not essential functions of government and by all accounts are losing ventures if government funding is necessary.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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jaychalk 2 years, 7 months ago

Chad, can you look into what they are doing along the Douglas County portion of K-10? From the edge of town to the Douglas County line, they have put orange sticks every 50 - 100 ft in the middle of the median.

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consumer1 2 years, 7 months ago

We’ll see what script the city reads from on Tuesday. One possibility, it would seem, is that the city could make the donation but perhaps require the community theater to add a surcharge to their ticket prices, which could be used to repay the city over time

Does the art center pay back the city? does Van Gogh?

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50YearResident 2 years, 7 months ago

$550,000 stolen in 1932 and the bank was too embarrested to call the police? That seems like a highly inflated story with wages in those days less than 50 cents an hour. That much money would have been a fortune many times over.

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Getaroom 2 years, 7 months ago

I think Lowe's should be allowed to build, but not with any incentives included. If they know they want to come in and compete with existing business they must know they can do it without a tax benefit, but of course others have gotten it so why not give it a try and ask. They have realized that the new location offers them easy access to the Interstate and moves them away from the bottle neck of 6th and Wakarusa. It seems however that no matter where they chose to build someone in this town is going to complain. We need to jobs here, high paying or not, they will be employing people who need work badly and it is not fast food thankfully. Like we need more mega apartment complexes.

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