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Archive for Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Town Talk: Multi-story hotel project gaining steam at Ninth and N.H.; neighborhood debate beginning to take shape on Lowe’s; Obama program may help build SLT interchange

September 7, 2011

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News and notes from around town:

• Keep an eye open for another multi-story building to go up near the center of downtown. Sources tell me that a development group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton is close to filing plans at City Hall for a multi-story, extended stay hotel for the vacant lot on the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire. What I hear is that the group — which includes Lawrence architect Mike Treanor — is in the process of meeting with East Lawrence Neighborhood Association board members and plans to have a larger neighborhood meeting in the future. I haven’t seen the plans myself, but I’ve heard from others who say the building — which would be on the lot just north of the Lawrence Arts Center — would include its own underground parking. No word yet on whether one of the big franchise hotel companies, like a Hilton, have signed on to be a part of the development. I hear that in addition to offering hotel suites, the development also may have some condos for sale — much like how The Oread near KU offers units for sale. But the most interesting thing I’ve heard is that one version of the plans shows a swimming pool on the building’s roof. As I said, I haven’t seen the plans, so who knows whether that makes the final cut. But rooftop development in Downtown Lawrence would be something new. We obviously don’t have the mountain views like Boulder, but I’ve long wondered why the idea of rooftop patios haven’t taken off to some degree in downtown. I know of at least one bar owner who has shown an interest in it, but wasn’t able to get the idea through the city’s historic regulation review process. Perhaps this development opens the door to a new conversation on the subject. So many things to keep an eye out for, including whether the large project will seek any incentives. I’ve talked briefly with a representative of the development group — which includes many of the same people who are building the seven-story apartment/retail/office project across the street. The development group has been hesitant to say anything publicly until it has another meeting with neighbors, but I hope to get more details soon.

• Speaking of neighbors who may have something to say about a project, there are more signs that the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods is really going to fight the proposed Lowe’s development near the Wal-Mart at Sixth and Wakarusa. As I previously told you, LAN has voted to oppose the project, but it started to make some of those feelings more publicly known at Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting. (Remember, LAN is a group of many neighborhood associations. But, as far as I know, the West Lawrence Neighborhood Association — which is adjacent to the proposed site — hasn't yet taken a formal position on the project.) City commissioners agreed to start the process of creating a new zoning category that would accommodate the project. City commissioners unanimously agreed to send the zoning category idea to the Planning Commission for further debate. That will be in October, and possibly, the project could come back to the City Commission in November. The zoning category would be called CC600, meaning that an area could have 600,000 square feet of retail space. City planners believe a new zoning category is needed in order for the Lowe’s project to be in conformance with the city’s planning documents. Currently, the city’s planning documents call for most commercial centers — except for downtown and South Iowa Street — to have 400,000 square feet or less of retail space. But the Lowe’s development would push the Sixth and Wakarusa area over that limit. LAN president Gwen Klingenberg cautioned commissioners against even opening the door to such a zoning change. She said the proposed Lowe’s site is “inappropriate” for the development, but she also said the new zoning category would tempt other existing commercial centers in the city to expand.

LAN has taken a position that such expansion could be bad because of the amount of traffic such development could create through neighborhoods. But some LAN members simply believe the city can’t support more retail development. That school of thought is led by KU urban planning professor Kirk McClure. McClure submitted written testimony to commissioners saying the city “should stop the development of any significant new retail space.” He wasn’t just talking about the Lowe’s project. He was talking about city-wide.

According to his letter, he says the numbers show that retail space has grown much faster than retail spending over the last 15 years or so, which has led to a “large surplus of unused and underutilized retail space, blighting large sections of Lawrence.”

I’m not sure the current City Commission is going to spend much time debating the subject of whether a Lowe’s is needed in the city. I believe most commissioners already have said they support the idea of a Lowe’s, but now the question will be: Is the proposed site right? But this idea of the city not being able to support new retailers comes up frequently. I’ve heard some people say that the city needs to come to some resolution about whether McClure and others have a point or whether they are perpetrating a myth. It seems one of the questions hanging out there is what “large sections” of Lawrence are considered blighted? What’s the longest a big box store space in Lawrence has ever sat vacant? How does Lawrence’s growth in retail space vs. its growth in retail spending compare to other successful communities? And finally, how much should the city try to predict the future of retail? I have heard people point out that there have been major arguments in the past that have predicted Target would kill downtown’s lone department store, that Borders would kill The Raven bookstore, and most recently that the Sixth and Wakarusa Wal-Mart and its grocery department would kill the nearby Dillon’s store. People have pointed out that none of that has happened.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not bringing up any of this to suggest that McClure doesn’t have a point. There are a lot of questions that would take a lot of research. I bring it up because these issues keep getting brought up. It will be interesting to see whether there will ever be an effort to try to settle any of them or whether such a debate is just part of Lawrence’s DNA.

• Speaking of issues that take a long time to get settled, here’s some news on the South Lawrence Trafficway. The city and the state are applying for federal stimulus dollars to build an interchange on the completed portion of the SLT at Bob Billings Parkway. Commissioners last night agreed to send off an application asking for $10 million in federal stimulus funds — through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program. The interchange project is expected to cost about $20 million. The state says it will provide about $9.8 million in funding, leaving the city and possibly the county to come up with the remaining $200,000. Kansas Department of Transportation officials have urged the city to apply for the grant. KDOT says design work on the interchange is more than half done, making it truly a project that could be “shovel-ready” by the 2014 deadline. The state will ask for letters of support from KU — which could benefit by having Bob Billings Parkway become more of a true western gateway for the university — from the chamber of commerce and from the governor. Given the political climate, it will be interesting to see if the governor signs a letter of support for a project that is tied directly to President Obama’s stimulus program. Grant winners should be announced by the end of the year.

Comments

LogicMan 3 years, 3 months ago

"Lowe’s, but now the question will be: Is the proposed site right?"

It's the perfect site. Build it (without any special sales taxes, etc.) and we will come spend! Let's help get our economy going again.

3 years, 3 months ago

It's fine with me if "one of the big franchise hotel companies, like a Hilton," is built "on the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire."

With one condition: As long as Paris is not part of it!

Bob Forer 3 years, 3 months ago

By opposing Lowes, LAN is opposing competition. in retail home improvement. Competition tends to lower prices and improve cusotmer service. LAN are idiots to oppose this.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

I don't think LAN has any expectation of stopping this Lowe's. Lawrence city commissions are historically very friendly to developers' wishes (now that's an understatement) and they already said no to Lowe's once. It's highly unlikely they'll say no twice.

But I think they do hope to generate some discussion on how much and where development is taking place, and maybe even a clear policy that actually gets followed.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm OK with the hotel-- as long as they do it on their dimes.

somedude20 3 years, 3 months ago

Soon enough the city will change their name from Lawrence to Compton.

johnnycash 3 years, 3 months ago

LAN really speaking on behalf of Lawrence residents or their own benefit?

I think Lowes is better than Home Depot!

1southernjayhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

Kirk McClure's opinion is simply that. I have no faith in his conclusions and do not think he has a good understanding of how growth happens. I believe his personal biases cloud his conclusions to the point that the report is an entirely useless document.

George_Braziller 3 years, 3 months ago

I don't think the hotel stands a chance of ever being built. A five or six story building towering over a residential neighborhood (and a National Historic District) will never make it off the drawing board.

WilburM 3 years, 3 months ago

Is this ironic? Wishful thinking? What about the 7-story building right across the street?

Plus, on the name front, maybe Lawrence could be called East LeCompton.

George_Braziller 3 years, 3 months ago

The building across the street is outside the environs of the historic residential district and not abutting a residential neighborhood.

It's comparing apples and oranges. The building requirements and issues are completely different.

Boston_Corbett 3 years, 3 months ago

It is kinda funny that Obama's jobs initiative may be responsible for funding completion of the SLT.

I hope Bozo and Tuschie write their thank yous to him.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years, 3 months ago

Maybe we can get Tuschie to be the guest speaker at the ribbon cutting. What an honor that would be for all of us!

MarcoPogo 3 years, 3 months ago

He would never honor you with such an event, you racist dimwit!

geekin_topekan 3 years, 3 months ago

That would be in extreme west Lawrence near Clinton lake. Where 15th would be if it ran all the way from Iowa through the west side.

mr_right_wing 3 years, 3 months ago

"Thank you Mr. Obama"

.....might I really be saying that?!??

Yikes.

(The two impossible tasks; Bin Lauden & the SLT!)

waka3 3 years, 3 months ago

dude just say no to slt animals diserve better

Hudson Luce 3 years, 3 months ago

Examples of "large blighted areas" in Lawrence include the I-70 mall area and the Tanger Mall area and the area on the west side of North 2nd Street in North Lawrence near the 24-40 junction. I've got no objection to Compton building whatever he wants on his own property, "historical district" or not, as long as he does it on his own and doesn't suck off the taxpayers to do it. As for "historical districts" Lawrence should abandon this notion, this pretense. Lawrence has no historical districts with any sort of architectural integrity and commonality left, there's no real attempt at researching the local history of buildings and neighborhoods, not like Potwin Place in Topeka or in the old part of Lexington, Missouri where each house has its own historical record (and in the case of Lexington, appropriate signage giving history and date of construction).

WilburM 3 years, 3 months ago

KU professor Dennis Domer has largely completed an extensive cataloging of Old West Lawrence historic buildings, which compose the first historic district in the state. The chamber and the Visitors' Bureau seem to agree that OWL is a significant economic resource. But hey, let's just whack away.

Steve Jacob 3 years, 3 months ago

The rooftop pool is becoming trending. All that's about is drinking and being cool.

kef104 3 years, 3 months ago

I say we hire a consultant to determine the new name. My guess is our $100k results in LaCompton so it complements Lecompton, yet adds a distinct air that the French manage so well. We need to keep our pride after all.

bornherelongago 3 years, 3 months ago

I doubt it...Otherwise our town's name would have been Billingstown a long time ago. Compton is doing what he does best, make money for himself and lots of other folks in Lawrence. He's creating construction jobs, retail jobs, tax dollars, etc. Don't hate on him just because you are jealous of him.

jtop 3 years, 3 months ago

I guess completing the connection between 15th Street and the SLT in 1996 at a cost of $5MM made too much sense. We can do it now for $20MM.

ladybug1 3 years, 3 months ago

If the west Lawrence people don't want a Lowes then send it to east K10 by Tractor Supply. We'll take it.

LogicMan 3 years, 3 months ago

That would kill TSC. NW Lawrence is where the growth will occur, once that starts again. Y'all are already bumping up against the flood plain. But you will get some good employers on that old Co-op site someday.

kshiker 3 years, 3 months ago

Northwest Lawrence is where all the growth is occurring.

irvan moore 3 years, 3 months ago

i like doug but i wish he would get out of downtown so we could drive on the streets without his construction mess in the way. do you notice how the city commission keeps talking about the need for more parking downtown while they got rid of all those spaces on 9th street and new hampshire street.

LHS56 3 years, 3 months ago

Doug Compton came from the same roots as many of us. Small town boy (Wellington) that didn't have any special advantages. Perhaps one advantage is someone taught him how to work hard and make friends. People seem to be critical of Compton, Billings and the Fritzel family. Sometime check the tax rolls and just see the amount of real estate taxes generated by these individuals. If not of these individuals and others....Bob Stevens...John McGrew...Bob Moore..Joe Stroop...we would be living in a town like Manhatten. Me.....I kinda like Lawrence better.

Take_a_letter_Maria 3 years, 3 months ago

I wouldn't be so quick to lump Doug in with some of those others. What Doug started out doing right was marrying into money. Since then, he has done a good job of making that money multiply though.

Take_a_letter_Maria 3 years, 3 months ago

I wouldn't be so quick to lump Doug in with some of those others. What Doug started out doing right was marrying into money. Since then, he has done a good job of making that money multiply though.

Mike Ford 3 years, 3 months ago

john wilkes booth killer and can't say anything smart....the interchange is to the west... not that dimwits would know directions....

irvan moore 3 years, 3 months ago

doug was making a lot of money before he got married, he owned several local bars and had some other business interests and he worked harder than most of us ever think of doing. it may be easy to dislike him because he is a success but he made a lot of money the old fashioned way, he earned it. i still wish he would leave downtown alone though, i hate new buildings and the mess they cause.

George_Braziller 3 years, 3 months ago

I believe some of his "gaming" activities in the basement would be frowned upon today.

pizzapete 3 years, 3 months ago

It's not a matter of if they will ask for tax incentives but how much will they'll be asking for this time around? This dude must have a really small driver he's trying to make up for.

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