Archive for Monday, September 12, 2011

Theatre Lawrence seeking another $100,000, this time from Douglas County Commission

Artist rendering of Theatre Lawrence’s planned 300-seat theater. The organization has received donations from the Beach Foundation, Tensie Oldfather, The Sunderland Family Foundation and Bobby and Eleanor Patton.

Artist rendering of Theatre Lawrence’s planned 300-seat theater. The organization has received donations from the Beach Foundation, Tensie Oldfather, The Sunderland Family Foundation and Bobby and Eleanor Patton.

September 12, 2011


Reader poll
Should both the city and Douglas County governments give $100,000 each to support Theatre Lawrence's drive to build a new theater in West Lawrence?

or See the results without voting


Douglas County commissioners are being asked to pump money into two projects angling for community support: one for entertainment and another for traffic.

Wednesday afternoon, commissioners will consider two such items during their regular weekly meeting:

• A request from Theatre Lawrence for $100,000 — $20,000 a year for five years — to help finance construction of a new theater and education center in northwest Lawrence. Lawrence city commissioners last Tuesday night approved giving the organization $100,000.

• A partnership agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation and the city of Lawrence on a grant application to finance construction of an interchange along the South Lawrence Trafficway at Bob Billings Parkway, at the western edge of Lawrence. The state is asking the county to contribute $100,000, the same amount asked from the city.

Janis Bunker, co-chairwoman of Theatre Lawrence’s fundraising campaign, said that the county’s money would help the organization “secure a $1 million out-of-state challenge grant that will be lost if we do not reach our campaign goal by the end of September.” She described the organization as being in the “final stages” of its $6.2 million campaign.

The plan: Build a 300-seat theater in the Bauer Farms development, northeast of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive, south of Free State High School. The project would include classroom and office spaces and be considered “a great asset to Lawrence and the 400-plus volunteers who annually participate in our programs,” Bunker said, in a letter to commissioners.

The project would allow the 35-year-old organization to move out of its existing site, a former church at 1501 N.H.

The commission meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.


larrydog 6 years, 8 months ago

Why does a community theater have to be so big and so expensive?

Godot 6 years, 8 months ago

Mary, I am so sorry to end my relationship with Theatre Lawrence. I was so proud to be a part of a theater group that did not take from non-fans to fund its functions. Now, after what you have decided to do with the city and the county, I can no longer participate. Good luck to you in the future.

Godot 6 years, 8 months ago

Once LCT became Theatre Lawrence, everything changed. It isn't what it used to be. too bad.

Terry Sexton 6 years, 8 months ago

Oh, for cryin' out loud, Godot. These theater folks are the most fiscally responsible citizens we have. They've done a marvelous job in raising the overwhelming bulk of the funding needed. This project is good for our community & I see no reason the county & the city should not participate at bargain basement investment prices. This will bring economic & cultural vitality to our city.

William McCauley 6 years, 8 months ago

Leave the politics out it there burger boy! I'm a dem and I find the whole idea of of the city and county handing out money these twits a such a huge wate of public funding we should start thing about recall elections and getting some people in office with some brain cells!

The stupid waste of our money is not marked in dem or repub colors nor dose each bill get stamped with a party sticker, waste is waste, leave the politics out of these talks. We all know there are larger then normal pool of flakes in Lawrence..... on both sides of the political fence!

Don Whiteley 6 years, 8 months ago

Yep, it's fiscally responsible to leave our children wanting for educational needs while diverting county and city funds to the theater. In better financial times, it might make sense, but for heaven's sake; not now!

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

This falls under "quality of life" when companies look at Lawrence for investment.

Investing in quality of life improvements is the same as investing in jobs. It will make it easier to attract companies to the community.

This is the BEST way to do economic development.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 8 months ago

Exactly, tax the snarf out of people to fund something that will be used by less than 1% of the population. Add to the list the empT, library, and other feels good programs and you finally figure out why there are so many houses for sale in this town.

jafs 6 years, 8 months ago

Funding for the T and the library were put to a vote.

If the majority of people who live here don't want those, and vote against them, they will not pass.

But, they did pass, which means either the majority wants them, or too many people aren't voting.

optimist 6 years, 8 months ago

While companies do appreciate quality of life when selecting sites for their businesses they look at much more. If this were a driving factor Lawrence would have a whole lot more businesses knocking down our doors. A city and county commission using public dollars to fund these amenities would likely give companies pause. Companies are looking for low cost to do business (i.e. competitive salaries, skilled workers, quality workforce, predictable government and more). They are competing in a global economy and to do that they need to focus on the economics of doing business. Until we become an economically advantageous place to do business companies won't look close enough at Lawrence to see the quality of life.

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

Lawrence does have a lot of businesses compared to Dodge City, Newton, Topeka, Etc.

It isn't Silicone Valley, but it has a healthy economy.

Get rid of all of the quality of life items (downtown, the Lied center, the indoor pool, the outdoor pool, etc, etc.) either by choice or (more likely) by neglect and you'll see just how fast companies can move out of town.

The community theater is just one brick in the pavement of artistic life. At $20K/Year we should support it.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

I'd settle for $10,000 a year for the next 5 years to keep the lemurs from busking on Mass Street.

ThatGirl2 6 years, 8 months ago

Busking implies something more than harassment. At least buskers have a talent.

cowboy 6 years, 8 months ago

Why is this organization running their requests different from all the other programs who submit requests and are weighed as part of the whole group based on merit and need.

They should be summarily rejected

somebodynew 6 years, 8 months ago

It is simple cowboy - they knew if they were lumped in with the rest (as they should have been) then they wouldn't be 'special' and might not get what they want. They also wanted to wait until the last minute so it sounds more 'has to be done, or else' kind of thing.

Basically they are trying to go around the normal system and you are correct - they should be rejected, but don't hold your breath.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 8 months ago

Something here doesn't pass the smell test. Millions promised, millions, as in piles of 20K bundles.

Yet, with all this promised moolah, this groups comes hat in hand for our money.

Must be some kind of high folks get spending tax money around here. Or, spending taxes is not equated with real dollars.

Me thinks some fibs have been told and the artzy givers can't pony up.

Don Whiteley 6 years, 8 months ago

We can't afford to keep teachers in our schools, but our city and county are looking at this? With at least a dozen buildings in the city that could house Theater Lawrence, why do these people think that in a time of global recession and difficult financial struggles, that they deserve to get money when so many other, far more worthy causes, are going wanting?

William McCauley 6 years, 8 months ago

What, you didn't get the memo? That memo about paying back those who funded and help win/get out the vote for the current seats on the city commission and county commission... Got keep the special interest happy in this town if you want win votes and be part of the "in crowd".

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

The teachers will eat as much money as you give them. Give them more and they will want more.

This is a small expense to improve our quality of life and contribute to local arts. Fund it.

usnsnp 6 years, 8 months ago

Find it intresting the comment about liberals and democrats. Bet if you looked into the make up of the theatre group you would find just as many Republicans as Democrats, or all residents of Lawrence liberals and democrats, dont think so.

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

This is economic development folks. Improving our quality of life makes it easier to attract good companies to the community.

I'd much rather they invest the $100K in the theater than give the same money away to some greedy real estate developer.

Want to attract great companies? Make your community a great place to live. Make it walkable. Pay for great schools. Put in wide sidewalks. Keep it safe and clean. Put in great parks. Sponsor great community activities.

None of these by themselves will attract outside investment, but put them all together and you have a powerful magnet to attract new companies.

Would you rather live in Lawrence or Dodge City? Better yet, Lawrence, KS or Lewisville, TX?

What makes Lawrence special? The arts (Langston Hughes, William Burroughs) or our TIF program?

William McCauley 6 years, 8 months ago

You care to meet me in a public setting a learn about the economic development folks down at city hall and what an outstanding job their doing..... NOT! The economic development folks don't have a clue in this town and it seems our fearless city commissioners also can't read or understand things written at the 8th grade level.

Businesses don't want to locate here due to the backwards thinking people running the show around here, this type of handout and favort of one, all while hassling people who wish to open new businesses & who are not seeking any public funding hand out to do it.... in fact my new businesses has more of a chance to get people from the 9 counties around here and western MO to come here and spend money, then some local play group taking money from the tax payers to fund their pet project, you want it so much then you fund it with your own money then, we have much bigger problems that need public funding & addressed then this joke!

dogsandcats 6 years, 8 months ago

There is no way "Theatre Lawrence" is anywhere near the league of Langston Hughes or William Burroughs.

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

I didn't say that the City's Economic Development folks are doing a good job. They aren't.

They are re-active and not pro-active.

What I am saying is that this type of project is where they should be focusing their effort and their funding.

They should also be heavily promoting Lawrence specialty activities like the Busker Fest, Zombie Walk, Victor Continental show, Kansas Relays, Band Day, Sidewalk Sale, Etc. Etc.

They should also be very vocal about infrastructure. There is no excuse for not putting in sidewalks every time we do a re-pave in an area without them. The new Kasold project north of 6th St. is a classic example. Our ED folks should have made a bunch of noise to get sidewalks put in. It improves the walkability of our community and makes it a more desirable place for companies to open/move to.

What they shouldn't be doing is giving tax breaks to projects. Tax breaks are simply spending through the tax code.

Would the public have supported the City spending $5,000,000 on the Oread Inn? No, however, when we gave them $5M in tax breaks, no one said a word. We then re-elected the officials who did it.

I much prefer this straight forward method of pursuing funding than some sort of underhanded tax break scheme that no one can understand.

no_thanks 6 years, 8 months ago

What makes Lawrence special is the University of Kansas. Our quaint downtown, our liberal leanings, our supposed fostering of the arts are all side shows that adds to the community, but without the University of Kansas, Lawrence would be like Tonganoxie, Ottawa, or other small, but nice, Northeast town.

Bassetlover 6 years, 8 months ago

Amen! You hit the nail on the head. Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

So? Is KU going anywhere? Thought not.

Lets make improvements where we can.

irvan moore 6 years, 8 months ago

if they get the 100K i hope they remember bathrooms so they don't have to come back to the taxpayers for more money.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

As much as we support theatre and other arts programs this is more about attracting home buyers to west Lawrence. Many projects are not going well for that over built community.

Notice the New Urbanism project is one more large failure. No doubt other retail in that area is suffering as well.

Laissez Faire government = reckless planning at the taxpayers expense.

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

Why not attract buyers? Otherwise the real-estate sits and rots.

If you want me to live in East Lawrence, you are going to need:

  1. Sidewalks
  2. Solve the homeless issue
  3. Reduce the crime rate
  4. Slow down the traffic
  5. Provide reasonably priced housing with decent energy efficiency
  6. Sidewalks
  7. Sidewalks

Oh, and did I mention sidewalks?

no_thanks 6 years, 8 months ago

Don't blame the Chamber of Commerce or Realtors about the lack of a satellite library in East Lawrence. That was a City Commission driven decision supported by the few, but organized voters who chose to "unwisely spend our tax dollars". I don't recall who floated the idea of multiple satellite branches, but given how it would utilize existing structures, I was disappointed it didn't receive more attention.

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

I too would like to see some satellite library branches. We could even use the "T" to facilitate rapid transfers from one library to the others (2 hours or less).

The library is 20 min from my home, unless it is between 7:45-8:45 or 16:30-17:30 when it is more like 35 min away.

The Topeka library is closer in terms of time.

optimist 6 years, 8 months ago

You're wrong. All of this reckless construction you refer to boils down to overly controlling central government not the free market. What inflated the value of homes was the ready availability of cheap money (the Federal Reserve) and government mandates to banks to lower standards for credit worthiness (Community Reinvestment Act). In the mid 90's the Clinton administration mandated that banks lend over 1 trillion to low income borrowers or risk investigation by the Justice Department for discriminatory lending. These are now what we refer to as "sub-prime mortgages". This created a demand for new housing that I don't think has been seen since post World War II. Banks responded the only way that they could and did so within the law I might add. Even when the federal government realized what the banks were doing they ignored it because they were getting elected. Home builders simply reacted by building the homes people were buying. So yes the private sector housing market finally burst but it was a bubble created by government regulation and interference. The free market simply adjusted to the new rules. While I will give the politicians that drove these policies the benefit of the doubt as well intentioned the consequence is just the same.

dogsandcats 6 years, 8 months ago

"Theatre Lawrence" is just a bunch of amateur locals who don't have the talent for professional theater, or just do it as a hobby. And they don't even do it well.

Here is their 2011-12 season: Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits White Christmas Bloody Murder Becky's New Car Steel Magnolias Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Who wants to see this schlock? Other than the folks from Brandonwoods?

I go to Kansas City to see world class theater.

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

It is fun for them. It provides them with something to do in a community setting. It isn't TV. It is a positive discriminator for our community.

It is going to cost us about $0.20/year each to support this.

Seriously people, you spend $2.50/year each subsidizing the private investors of the Oread Inn.

dogsandcats 6 years, 8 months ago

At least the Oread brings people into the city and generates revenue. No one is going to come into the city to see mom and pop acting their little hearts out because "it's fun for them"

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

They don't come for the Oread. They come for KU.

They would come with or without the Oread.

And think twice before you say they generate revenue. Thanks to the tax breaks, sales tax break and TIF, they don't contribute near as much to the economy as the old "Crossing" and Yellow Sub did.

In 20 years they might, but right now it is a wash.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 8 months ago

Let's see, 2011-2012 KC theater choices include such "world class theater" as:

"9 to 5: The Musical" "The Outsiders" "Little Shop of Horrors" "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" "Xanadu" "Beer for Breakfast" "Yo Gabba Gabba"

dogsandcats 6 years, 8 months ago

I don't know where you're looking, but try KC Repertory Theatre, Actors Theatre of KC, and Unicorn Theatre, for starters.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 8 months ago

KC Repertory Theatre - "Little Shop of Horrors" April 20 - May 20, 2012

Does Unicorn ever do mainstream shows or are they more "underground" focused? (This isn't meant as a facetious question.)

rumor_man 6 years, 8 months ago

I won't have a problem with this theater as long as there is a pole center stage.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

"If you want me to live in East Lawrence, you are going to need:"

  1. Sidewalks = have these
  2. Solve the homeless issue = a community issue
  3. Reduce the crime rate = no better or worse than any other neighborhood as crime grows with city growth aka hidden costs.
  4. Slow down the traffic = traffic travels fast throughout Lawrence,Kansas

  5. Provide reasonably priced housing with decent energy efficiency = you don't know east Lawrence very well I see. East Lawrence has plenty of decent priced quite energy efficient homes and many energy star homes with more on the way.

  6. Sidewalks = same as number one

  7. Sidewalks = same as number one

Oh, and did I mention sidewalks? = same as number one

BTW you have to want to live in East Lawrence thank you...

Notice also the new Kaufman center is located in the already culture rich downtown KCMO community. And down the street from what I believe is the oldest neighborhood in KCMO which BTW is being can we say revitalized.

Maybe the Community Theatre could consider using their money rehabilitating the masonic building downtown? It might be the most excellent bang for their bucks or rehabilitate the Granada?

Converting to wider sidewalks on some streets would be nice. Also like it or not most of Lawrence arts culture is located between KU and downtown which is more than ever East Lawrence. Thanks for your interest.

Haiku_Cuckoo 6 years, 8 months ago

I like East Lawrence except for the time when I found a bum sleeping in my son's treehouse. Then there was that time I saw a homeless lady doing the ol' squat & squirt in the alley behind my house. Also, the time somebody broke into the garage and stole my bike and extension ladder. Other than that, it's a nice place.

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

Agreed. Too many homeless and riff-raff floating around. I have small kids.

In West Lawrence the streets have sidewalks. The traffic is mostly calm (compared to Tennessee, Mass, Kentucky, Haskell, 19th, etc). bums. None. If a bum was in my yard (or my kids tree house), I'd likely use my 2nd amendment rights to eject him from the property.

East Lawrence is unsafe, unsavory and dangerous for kids.

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

"2. Solve the homeless issue = a community issue"

Not my community. This is a problem for folks who live near 10th and Vermont.

No bums near my house. And if you try to move them there, my neighbors will be sure to get a new City Commission ASAP.

The East side doesn't vote. If you don't vote, you don't count.

Terry Sexton 6 years, 8 months ago

This project creates construction jobs, building materials sales, sponsorships by willing advertisers, ancillary sales for restaurants & shopping. No, it does not solve all of our economic woes, but it is a positive contributing factor that would help our local economy.

I'm not much of a theater goer, but it seems that this modest investment would be a win for everyone.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

Rebuilding all of the old sidewalks thereby a safer walkability community can create jobs for 2-3 years. This adds value to existing neighborhoods. Also a win win.

Maybe the Community Theatre could consider using their money rehabilitating the masonic building downtown? It might be the most excellent bang for their bucks or rehabilitate the Granada? Also creates jobs and further beautifies downtown. Another win win.

ljwhirled 6 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, Doug would need to sell them, and as long as he is getting TIF to fund his build out, I doubt they will be up for sale.

GreenEyedBlues 6 years, 8 months ago

Theare Lawrence is asking for a one-time investment that will provide decades of benefits. Sums vastly larger than those they request are hemorrhaged to out-of-state developers on a regular basis.

This is a LOCAL, homegrown enterprise that has "made do" for long enough. I have seen some truly fantastic shows in that manky hovel and they are due for a space worthy of the quality of their productions.

This theatre, this city deserves better.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

If the group cannot raise the money that is why I suggest doing a rehab on one of two downtown sites.

Keeping them in production is the bottom line even if it means a new/different approach.

Bob Forer 6 years, 8 months ago

"a great asset to Lawrence"

change that to "a great asset to the upper-middle class families in the new upscale Lawrence neighborhoods."

Bob Forer 6 years, 8 months ago

Nobody, rich or poor, deserves government money for essentially frivilous projects when economic times are rough. If the building they own is inadequate to stage their productions, I would think they could find space in one of the many publicly owned stage venues in Lawrence. Expecting the public to help finance "some cool digs" in tight financial times is exceedingly vain and arrogant.

irvan moore 6 years, 8 months ago

why is there a pond? i think we should have a sclupture garden and let artists rotate their stuff every 6 months so people who are easily offended could appreciate the lawrence art scene without having to go downtown to east lawrence.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

Taking on this new building brings with it substantial more overhead than ever before. What makes anyone believe this new venue will draw the crowds to support?

Build it and they will come has been the ultimate mark of failure in Lawrence,Kansas.

blindrabbit 6 years, 8 months ago

This funding of this project is beginning to feel like a "shakedown" of any viable governmental agency. To save some money on the project, I suggest that it be redesigned to equal the architectural gems that are now along 6th Street in front of Free State High School; including CVS, Sprint and Smashberger.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 8 months ago

Downtown has Free State; you're stuck with 23rd Street Brewery. Start chewing!

Godot 6 years, 8 months ago

Here's the deal. Lawrence Community Theatre existed entirely on the funds provided by its supporters from the early '80's until now. They bought an old church and rehabbed it to fit their needs, however subpar, and paid it all off from user and supporter funds.

Then, the not-for-profit corporation received a gift of $1,000,000. That huge gift lead to dreams of grandeur, and the formerly rag-tag, pay-as-you-go operation began to dream of a state-of-the-art theater in West Lawrence. All they needed was $6,000,000. They hired the architects ( who did not volunteer their time) and the engineers ( who also did not volunteer their time) and hired fund raisers (who also did not volunteer their time) , and at the end, they completed the plans for a magnificent theater that they could not afford.

They canvassed their volunteers and their donors and gathered 80 percent of the funds necessary to build their dream theatre. They just needed a little more.

Would any local bank fund them, even though they had so much equity to put against the loan?

Apparently not.

So, as a last resort, rather than downscale their project to match the monies pledged, this Board elected to request the already strapped city and county governments to guarantee what the local banks were unwilling to do.

This once-proudly independent organization, having been given $1,000,000, saw the opportunity to leverage that money to a factor of 7, and, having failed to fund that from theater supporters, decided to assess the entirety of the community of property owners, many who have no interest in Theatre Lawrence, for the benefit of Theatre Lawrence, rather than downsize the project to fit their donations.

This is wrong. Completely wrong.

William McCauley 6 years, 8 months ago

Ding ding ding we have our winner folks.....

Kontum1972 6 years, 8 months ago

hmmmm..does the governor know about this?

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