Town Talk: Renderings released for proposed multi-story, downtown hotel; Cosmosphere wants our missile; Watkins museum to celebrate this weekend
News and notes from around town:
• Developers of a proposed, multi-story hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire streets are giving the public its first glimpse at what downtown’s newest addition to the skyline may look like. The folks at Lawrence-based Treanor Architects have filed plans for the six-story project with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department. (Sorry, black and white plans were all that were available.) The first rendering to the side of this article (click on it and it becomes larger) is a view from the southwest corner. In other words, you are standing in the middle of New Hampshire Street in front of the Lawrence Arts Center. (You’re also backing up traffic.) The second rendering is a view straight from the south, looking down. In other words, you’re in a helicopter, or perhaps a new-aged hover craft, above the Lawrence Arts Center. (You also are really freaking people out.) The glass story that juts out slightly from the corner is indeed an indoor swimming pool, complete with a retractable skylight. The second rendering shows part of the roof also serves as a sun deck. (The folks in the chaise lounges are requesting that the hovering move elsewhere.) It appears the roof area also would have a small bar area, which may cause some downtown employees I know to hover. The main entrance to the hotel would be on the far south corner. (The part of the picture closest to you.) There would be a driveway between the new building and the Lawrence Arts Center, where hotel guests could load and unload. Just north of the lobby would be space for about a 2,000-square-foot restaurant/wine bar. Farther north — all the way to the corner of Ninth and New Hampshire — would be about 5,000 square feet of retail space. The space could serve as one large store or could be broken up for two or three retailers. Another 1,600 square feet space is located on the back side of the building — fronting the alley — that could be used either for retail or office space. Also off the alley is a small parking lot for 10 vehicles, which likely will be a valet parking lot. The main parking for the project is underground. Two levels of underground parking will provide 89 spaces. In total, the plans list 119 spaces, which includes 14 on-street spaces, four parallel parking spots and two drop off parking spots. Not shown in these renderings, but the main entrance to the underground parking would be off Ninth Street. It also appears that a loading dock area is located off Ninth Street.
Other details of the project are much as we reported last week. The hotel will have 81 rooms on the top three floors of the building. The second and third floors of the building will house 36 apartment units, including two studio apartments, 22 one-bedroom units and 12 two-bedroom units.
The project will need multiple layers of approval from City Hall. Up first will be a review by the Historic Resources Commission. That could come in October or November. The project also will need approval from the Planning Commission. There also may be approvals needed from the City Commission, although the zoning on the site is already in place. Expect height issues to be a major talking point with the adjacent East Lawrence Neighborhood. I hear the project will be conducting a new type of study of Lawrence — a shadow study to determine how large of a shadow the building will cast. I know I have heard that the folks at the Bourgeois Pig and at Z’s Divine Espresso have noticed how their outdoor seating areas receive less sun as a result of the seven-story apartment/retail/office building that is under construction on the southwest corner of Ninth and New Hampshire.
Developers are saying that the hotel will be a Towne Place Suites by Marriott, although a deal with a Marriott franchisee has not been finalized yet. The city currently has a SpringHill Suites by Marriott in the former Riverfront Mall property in downtown. The franchisee of that property will be given an opportunity to be part of the new project. Members of the Simons family — which owns the Journal-World and LJWorld.com — are part of the ownership group of the SpringHill Suites by Marriott.
• An interesting offer by the Hutchinson Cosmosphere or a intricate Communist plot to weaken Lawrence’s defenses against the Red Menace? That’s what Lawrence city commissioners soon will have to determine. In case you didn’t know, Lawrence has its own Cold War defense system in place. In the section of Centennial Park that fronts Sixth Street there is a Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile on display. (All right, the missile isn’t operable, but the Rooskies don’t need to know that.) Now, the city has received a letter from the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson. The center wants to know if the city has any interest in donating the missile to the center for use in a new rocket and aircraft park that is being developed on vacant across the street from the Cosmosphere. The Polaris was donated to the city in 1964 by the Lawrence Navy League, according to research done by Cosmosphere staff. Christopher Orwoll is the president and CEO of the Cosmosphere, and he is aware of the missile because he has spent some time in Lawrence. He is a former commanding officer of the NROTC unit at Kansas University. The Cosmosphere would restore the missile and presumably say something nice about Lawrence. But, of course, we would be left naked to the Evil Empire. (For those of you who believe the Cold War is over, I would point out that we still have restaurants in this very town that serve square hamburgers, which is clearly Communistic. Think about that.) City commissioners will formally receive the letter from the Cosmosphere at their Tuesday evening meeting. They are expected to refer the item to staff for further review.
• Given this turn of events, perhaps we should enjoy Downtown Lawrence while we still can. From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, the Watkins Community Museum will be hosting a birthday party for Lawrence. The celebration of Lawrence Founders Day will include birthday cake, kids games, live music and a scavenger hunt that will include $250 in gift certificates from Downtown Lawrence Inc. merchants. The museum is at 11th and Massachusetts streets. The event is one of many going on this weekend downtown. We previously have reported on the MS bike event that will bring about 2,500 bicyclists to Lawrence on Saturday for overnight stay, the strongman (and woman) competition in Watson Park on Saturday, and a music and art event at the Granada on Saturday. There likely are other good, wholesome, American events that I’m not aware of that will be going on this weekend in Lawrence, which has been proudly standing guard against the Red Menace since at least 1964.