Close is not close enough.
New plans for a multistory hotel/retail building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire won over some key opponents Monday night, but the city’s Historic Resources Commission found the proposed building is still too tall to fit in with a historic east Lawrence neighborhood.
“We are not here to help craft a profitable structure,” said Historic Resources Commissioner Michael Arp. “We’re here to make sure what is built there meets the guidelines, and I still don’t believe it does.”
A development group led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor had hoped new plans that cut one story off of the building would satisfy the Historic Resources Commission. The project eliminated 21 apartments from the design to make for a smaller building that ranges from five stories near Ninth and New Hampshire to three stories along the edge closest to the neighborhood along Rhode Island Street.
“It is disappointing,” said Lawrence attorney Dan Watkins, who represents the development group. “It was a significant reduction in height, mass and uses.”
The project can be appealed to the Lawrence City Commission. If the City Commission finds there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to the project, it can allow the project to move forward despite the rejection from the HRC. Watkins said he would have to consult with his clients before he could comment on whether an appeal would be filed with the City Commission.
The project won two key endorsements before the vote. The city’s Historic Resources staff provided a report that said the new design warranted approval under the various guidelines the city uses for historic projects. The city staff had recommended denial of the previous plans. The leader of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance said his organization also could support the project as meeting the minimum guidelines needed for approval. The organization previously had urged the Historic Resources Commission to reject the plan.
A majority of Historic Resources commissioners, however, said the building was still too large in comparison to the adjacent Lawrence Arts Center. Some commissioners said they wanted to see another story eliminated.
The Historic Resources Commission on Monday took three votes on the project and approved the project on two of three matters. The project was found to be in compliance with the city’s Downtown Design Guidelines and to be compatible with the adjacent Social Service League Building, which is on the local register of historic places. But the project was found to not be compatible with the adjacent North Rhode Island Street Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.