Plans for a multi-story hotel/apartment building on the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets have shrunk in hopes of attracting more support from neighbors.
An architect for the project confirmed Thursday new plans reduce the number of apartments in the proposed building by 13 units. That has allowed the height of the eastern edge of the building — the portion closest to the residential neighborhood — to drop from four stories to three.
“We’ve heard a lot of concern about the height of the building, and we’re trying to respond to that,” said Micah Kimball, an architect with Treanor Architects. “We’ve circled the wagons to see what we can do to reduce the height.”
Circled or not, it appears developers still have a fight on their hands with several neighbors who live in the historic neighborhood along Rhode Island Street.
“We appreciate they’re trying to make it relate to the neighborhood better,” said Leslie Soden, president of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association. “But it is still an ocean liner of a building.”
Soden said reducing the eastern edge of the building to three-stories is an improvement, but she said neighbors remain concerned much of the rest of the building is five stories tall, or actually six stories near its Ninth and New Hampshire entrance. Soden said a design that makes the entire building three stories — closer to the height of the adjacent Lawrence Arts Center — would be more acceptable.
A representative of the development team — which is led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor — said there is no way the project could be financially feasible if the overall building height was reduced to three stories. The project as proposed includes an 80-room TownePlace by Marriott hotel and 21 apartments, along with retail and restaurant space.
Bill Fleming, an attorney for the development group, said the hotel chain has set 80 rooms as a minimum, and the developers can’t eliminate more apartments and still make the project work from a financial standpoint.
“This is absolutely the smallest we can go and still meet the project’s requirements,” Fleming said.
But Fleming said the new design includes several changes aimed to improve how the project works with downtown and the neighborhood. They include:
• Height changes. The building has two wings on its eastern edge that jut towards the neighborhood. Those both have dropped from four stories to three stories. The height of those wings now vary from 33 feet to 38 feet high, depending on the slope of the site. Kimball said the new heights are roughly equivalent to an existing 2.5 story home that is on the block.
• Plaza area. The eastern edge of the building includes a recessed area near the property’s alley. In previous plans, that area was to be used for a parking lot. The new plans call for the area to be an outdoor seating area for patrons of the hotel.
• Drive-thru removed. The original plans called for a vehicle drop-off lane between the new building and the existing Arts Center. The traffic lane would have put significant numbers of vehicles onto the alley between the building and the neighborhood. But the new plan eliminates the drop-off lane. The area between the Arts Center and the building would become an outdoor seating area. Plans now call for a new drop-off lane to be built alongside New Hampshire Street.
• A glass story. The portion of the building closest to the corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets is planned to be 74-feet tall, down from 78-feet in a previous plan. That portion of the building continues to be six stories, but the top story is now planned to be a special glass story designed to let more light pass through the building.
Previously, the design called for a glass story on the southern end of the building, near the Arts Center. That story was designed to house an indoor swimming pool. The new plan eliminates that glass story and replaces it with one on the north end of the building, closer to the Ninth and New Hampshire intersection. The new glass story is designed to house a 4,000 square feet restaurant. The indoor pool has been scrapped and replaced with an outdoor pool on one of the roofs.
The developers are tentatively scheduled to present the new plans to the city’s Historic Resources Commission at its Feb. 16 meeting. The HRC previously rejected an earlier set of plans, and instructed the developers to significantly reduce the height of the building. If the HRC rejects the new plans, developers can appeal the decision to the Lawrence City Commission, which likely would hear the appeal in March.
— City reporter Chad Lawhorn can be reached at 832-6362. Follow him at Twitter.com/clawhorn_ljw