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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

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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.

Comments

its_just_math 2 years, 2 months ago

"Change" used to be a good thing. But, nowadays, "change" has gotten a black eye. Besides, now it's not good enough---"change" that is. Nowadays we need fundamental transformalizationistically driven "change".

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 2 months ago

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

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 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.

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jhawkinsf 2 years, 2 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.

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George_Braziller 2 years, 2 months ago

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

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 2 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.

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