New plans for a multistory hotel project at Ninth and New Hampshire streets are moving in the right direction, Lawrence city commissioners indicated Tuesday.
“This is a process in my opinion that is working,” Mayor Bob Schumm said. “It is not complete yet. It is still a process that has more opportunity and agony to go. So hang in there.”
A development group led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor on Monday confirmed they have agreed to reduce the height of a proposed hotel/retail building on the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets by one story.
On Tuesday, city commissioners received a brief presentation on the project, which is slated to be heard by the city’s Historic Resources Commission at a special meeting Monday.
Commissioners took no votes related to the proposed design of the building but did tell members of the crowd that the design was changed after the developers were informed a larger version of the project likely did not have enough votes to win approval.
“I have been concerned about the project all along in terms of its size and its financial aspects,” Schumm said.
The previous design called for the building to include hotel, apartment and retail uses. It would have been six stories tall at the corner of Ninth and New Hampshire and five stories along much of its western edge that faces New Hampshire Street.
The newly proposed design will reduce the height by one story along the western edge and will remove the apartment use from the project. The eastern edge of the building — the edge closest to a historic neighborhood along Rhode Island street — is proposed to be three stories tall.
Neighbors on Tuesday didn’t offer any specific comments related to the new design but told commissioners they thought the project was moving much too quickly with the specially scheduled Historic Resources Commission meeting set for Monday.
“We want it to slow down so we can sit down and really talk about what these plans mean,” said Katherine Harris, who lives just east of the location for the project.
Monday’s Historic Resources Commission meeting will focus only on the proposed building for the southeast corner of the intersection. The development group on Monday also confirmed that it hopes to build a multistory apartment building, likely with 90 to 120 apartments, on the northeast corner of the intersection, where Black Hills Energy currently has its offices.
But Lawrence attorney Dan Watkins, who is representing the developers, said plans for that project haven’t yet been filed and likely won’t be anytime soon.
A spokesman for Black Hills on Tuesday confirmed the natural gas utility was in the process of finalizing a deal to transfer the property over to Compton’s First Management Inc. Black Hills then would move into First Management’s executive offices on North Iowa Street.
Black Hills spokesman Curt Floerchinger said he didn’t yet have a timeline for when the office may move because the deal has not yet been finalized. But Floerchinger said the company does plan to move its maintenance operations from its shop facility near Eighth and Delaware streets. The new North Iowa Street facility will allow the administrative offices and operations division of the company to be located at the same site.
“Our goal in relocating is to bring the office and operations personnel together,” Floerchinger said. “When they are separated, it does create some challenges.”
But Floerchinger said Black Hills will maintain ownership of the east Lawrence maintenance shop property, which is near the rapidly redeveloping area surrounding the Poehler building.
“We’re exploring our options on that property,” Floerchinger said. “We don’t have anything planned at the moment.”
Floerchinger said the move of the Black Hills offices, which houses about 40 Black Hills employees, won’t affect customers.
“It will be a seamless move for our customers,” Floerchinger said. “We won’t skip a beat in the service we provide.”