Still too tall.
The city’s Historic Resources Commission unanimously rejected plans for a multi-story hotel/apartment building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets, likely putting the fate of the project in the hands of Lawrence city commissioners.
Historic resources commissioners were told the building — which varies in height from six to three stories — would damage a historic district of homes along Rhode Island Street, which is just east of the proposed project.
“The building would loom like the clumsy giant who has moved next door, blocking sunlight and wondering why it never gets invited to potlucks,” said K.T. Walsh, a board member for the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association.
Members of the development team — which is led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor — had made several changes to the building in an attempt to address neighborhood concerns. But an attorney for the neighbors said there was only so much that could be done.
“It is an elephant,” said attorney Ron Schneider. “They’ve said let’s clean up the elephant. Let’s wash it. Let’s clip its nails, maybe clip its tail even. But it is still an elephant in a backyard.”
Compton said after the meeting that he was not planning to make any more changes to the building’s height in an effort to win HRC approval. Instead, he said he would appeal the decision to the Lawrence City Commission, which likely will hear the project in the next several weeks.
“We believe it is still a good project, and we’re excited to move forward on it,” Compton said.
Historic resources commissioners had little debate about rejecting the project. The commission did not provide any specific guidance on how the project would need to change in order win approval from the board. Previously, though, the commission had indicated the building needed to be more similar in size to the adjacent Lawrence Arts Center. That would require the new building to be no taller than three stories.
Earlier this month, architects for the project reduced the number of apartments in the proposed building by 13 units. That allowed the height of the eastern edge of the building — the portion closest to the residential neighborhood — to drop from four stories to three.
But neighbors remained concerned that much of the rest of the building would be five stories tall, or actually six stories near its Ninth and New Hampshire entrance. The building is proposed to house 80 hotel rooms for the TownPlace Marriott chain, 21 apartments, retail space and a sixth-floor restaurant.
The project, though, can still move forward if city commissioners approve the plans in the coming weeks. But Schneider said city commissioners will have to make a very specific legal finding that there are no feasible and prudent alternatives for the property. Schneider said he thinks that will be a hard issue for the developers to overcome.
“There are an innumerable number of options that are feasible and prudent for that property,” Schneider said.