Archive for Monday, February 13, 2012

Accept change

The hotel/apartment project proposed for the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets is part of a positive trend for downtown Lawrence.

February 13, 2012


The soundest strategy to protect Lawrence’s most treasured historic asset — Massachusetts Street — is to give New Hampshire and Vermont streets some flexibility to change.

If members of the city’s Historic Resources Commission think as big as they should, they already realize the most significant threat to Massachusetts Street is not the idea of someone tearing down a historic building tomorrow. It is the prospect that, in 15 to 20 years, important buildings simply will decay.

It is not hyperbole to suggest that, in the coming decades, Massachusetts Street will be lined with underutilized buildings broken up by the occasional pocket of bars that excel only at extracting money from Lawrence’s student population. For downtown to increase its vitality, it needs more people who call the district home, and it needs destination-type businesses. The proposed hotel/apartment building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets provides both.

Neighbors to the east of the project have objected to the proposed building’s height, mass and the traffic pattern it would create, along with several other issues. Developers have worked to address some of those concerns, and the latest proposal for the Ninth and New Hampshire building creates a reasonable precedent for how taller buildings should interact with historic neighborhoods. The building is five to six stories on the side that faces busy New Hampshire Street, but it is three stories tall, about 35 feet high, on the side nearest the neighborhood. In total, the building is significantly shorter than the recently constructed 901 Building on the west side of New Hampshire Street.

In addition, the architects have significantly changed their traffic plans for the building, eliminating all usage of the alley for hotel business. The Historic Resources Commission should feel pleased. Its efforts have helped produce a better design for this project.

Some neighbors are saying the project should be put on hold until a district plan for the downtown area can be completed. This would be a classic Lawrence strategy and one that would further cement the city’s reputation as being unfriendly to business. A downtown district plan would have value — assuming the city could complete it in a reasonable amount of time. The city really ought to have a serious discussion about whether it wants future development on the many city-owned surface parking lots in downtown.

However, this current project should not have to wait. It is not the developers’ fault the city has been slow to plan. The city should have begun planning for taller buildings in downtown when the Hobbs Taylor Lofts were built several years ago. The planning really should have been hammered home when work began on the 901 Building more than a year ago.

Downtown clearly is in transition. The forces of change are at work — and let’s be honest — the fear of change is what has spurred a good deal of opposition to this project: fear that downtown Lawrence or its vitality will change, fear that it won’t attract visitors, fear that the pride Lawrence residents feel for this special place will be lost.

Downtown shouldn’t fear this project. This project deserves the support of the city’s Historic Resources Commission on Thursday evening. Downtown deserves the chance to change.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

Because the city has failed to plan in the past an inappropriate project should be allowed to destroy the character of the residential neighborhood it abuts? That's just idiotic.

George_Braziller 3 years, 9 months ago

I think Dolph would be singing a different tune if this was happening in his back yard.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

Dolph managed to get city-maintained pocket parks to surround his house.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 9 months ago

Some people just like to complain.
The Gaslight Village project encourages urban sprawl, destruction of the environment while all those residents will be getting into their cars. Yet high density projects downtown that keep people near their destination are equally criticized. Every project will have some benefits and some negatives. If we hold out for that perfect project that has zero negatives, then no project will happen. And should that happen, they will complain that there are no jobs. Some people just like to complain.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

Nobody is saying that those lots can't be developed-- they're merely saying that this particular development is inappropriate for those lots.

If developing downtown in a denser way is in the community interest (and I agree that it is,) there's absolutely no harm in taking the time to make sure it's done right, and in a way that doesn't impinge unnecessarily or excessively on the bordering neighborhoods.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 9 months ago

By taking our time to do it right, studying the issue, debating it, getting consensus, do you mean like what is happening with the SLT? We've been taking about that for many decades now. If it were a private developer and not the state, they would have pulled the plug on that project many years ago. Which might suit those opposed to it, but if it were a developer, we'd be talking about taking large sums of private money out of the local economy. The concerns of neighbors should be heard, but so should those of the developer. He not only needs to make a profit, but one large enough to justify risking millions of dollars. I keep seeing complaints from people who say the rich don't provide jobs, or that they are hoarding money. Some of that is certainly true. But when you have a wealthy developer willing to invest a large sum of money into the local economy, and then complain about how he invests those millions, then we're just complaining for the sake of complaining.

George_Braziller 3 years, 9 months ago

It's the wrong building and project for that particular location. If it had been proposed for the northeast corner of the intersection there wouldn't have been nearly as much opposition because it wouldn't be directly abutting a neighborhood.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

If there's truly a demand for this type of development downtown today, there will still be one in a couple of years once appropriate locations have been identified. And if in the meantime that demand disappears, the developer(s) will have been spared the making of a bad investment.

If the current owners of those lots want to move ahead with development that's more on the scale of the Arts Center, they can likely be up and building as soon as they want. And combined with the Arts Center, parking garage and the 901 building, that will have that block of NH considerably denser than the half dozen or so houses and empty lots that were there just a dozen years or so ago.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 9 months ago

This is the way I look at it. There may be a valid reason for opposing this project. Let's just call it reason "A". And there may be a valid reason for opposing the project at Gaslight Village, reason "B". And "C" for the old Olive Garden project and "D" for Masonic Temple, etc. Whether you intend to or not, all this opposition creates consequence "F", which is a hostile business environment.
Now all those projects would have created jobs for a dozen carpenters, a dozen plumbers, a dozen electricians, etc. They would have each pumped a couple of million into the local economy, as those tradesmen would have spent some of that money locally in restaurants, clothing stores, etc. They in turn would have spent that money again, each time a little tax money going into the local coffers. Money that could be spent on the needs of our local community. Now the liberal Democrats will yell that Brownback promised jobs, jobs jobs. And the conservative Republicans will yell that Obama promised jobs, jobs, jobs. But the reason we don't have jobs here in Lawrence, Ks. is because there are people looking for reasons "A,B,C,D", not thinking that their actions are causing consequence "F".

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

Advocating for jobs building stuff that the greater community either doesn't need or will do more harm than good to neighboring folks who will suffer uncompensated loss is not a good argument (in my opinion.)

And as I pointed out, just because this particular project should not get built, others can be (including on these very lots,) creating just as many jobs, even if the timing is somewhat delayed.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 9 months ago

You're assuming other more appropriate projects are waiting in the wings. Look at the Olive Garden or Masonic Temple locations. Nothing but "For Sale" signs. There are a limited number of developers with enough resources to make these projects go forward. Just saying something else would be better won't make it happen. It might take a tax abatement here, or a compromise there.
But as to uncompensated loss, I would disagree with you on that statement. All of us benefit when the economy is strong, when people have jobs. Then they are out spending money with an increase in money flowing to the city. That spending also creates jobs. I have no idea where these developers keep their money. I do know that I would rather have them hiring tradesmen, buying bricks and concrete, than purchasing shares of some stock and then paying a low 15% on their capital gains. Get that money out into our community where it might do some good. If they're willing to do that, we should let them.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

There are numerous locations downtown that would be much more appropriate than this one for the hotel. If the developers really believe this one is a good investment, they can and will do it there.

And if there is going to be major development downtown to create the density you say you want, there will be a wide variety of development happening, including something more appropriate for these particular lots.

And who elected you to speak for the neighbors whose quality of life will definitely suffer if this is allowed, anyway?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

"Some people just like to complain."

And let me guess, your recommendation is to just lie back and enjoy it, right?

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

It is imperative that communities conduct market capacity studies to understand their market potential, before any vote can be taken on retail,residential or light industrial proposals.

Lawrence taxpayers deserve to know our market capacity and the economic impact of new projects.

All new development is often mistaken for economic development when instead it could easily be promoting economic displacement and property value depreciation

Could this be a reason for our extraordinarily high taxes? Could this be a reason Lawrence,Kansas the most expensive place to live and do business in Kansas?

Every developer that comes before a City or Planning Commission make their projects sound like they were written in Lake Wobegon where all the site plans are good looking and the economic impacts above average. The symptoms of a flooded residential market are everywhere. Depreciation of residential property values is significant.

Our governing bodies must remember there are still only so many tax dollars available in Lawrence,Kansas.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 9 months ago

You've been posting this same text since 2009. Are you getting weary of seeing it yet?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years, 9 months ago

How about starting with getting rid of the panhandlers, vagrents and other types of street people first?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

Do you have a final solution you'd like to propose?

jafs 3 years, 9 months ago

Actually, conservatives are generally not pro-change. That's one of the distinctions between them and liberals/progressives.

Personally, sometimes change is good, sometimes it's bad, and sometimes it's a sideways move.

If it isn't broken, don't fix it.

But, when things can be improved, I'm all for it.

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