If only those Lawrence senior citizens who became an Internet sensation by filming a flash mob at the local Target store had worn T-shirts reading “Retire in Lawrence.”
“Now that would have been a marketing campaign,” said Cynthia Wagner, the city’s assistant city manager who is working with the newly formed Lawrence Retiree Attraction Task Force.
But the dancing residents of Meadowlark Estates, whose video has attracted more than 1.5 million viewers on YouTube, didn’t wear any such shirts, so the city’s retiree attraction task force continues its work.
At a meeting Wednesday, task force members said making Lawrence into one of the top retirement destinations in the Midwest is likely going to involve more mundane topics such as housing, taxes and medical care.
“Taxes, in particular, seem to be a pretty significant issue for retirees,” said Doug Gaumer, president of Lawrence’s Intrust Bank and a member of the task force.
Task force members said they want to gather data on sales and property tax rates for a variety of Big 12 communities and other college cities — everywhere from Fort Collins, Colo., to Chapel Hill, N.C. — to get a clearer picture of how Lawrence’s financial climate stacks up to other potential retirement communities.
The group’s final report also is expected to review strengths, weaknesses and opportunities related to:
• Medical services, social services and volunteer opportunities.
• Legal, transportation and employment opportunities.
• Kansas University’s offerings for retirees, other educational services and cultural and entertainment activities.
• Housing options.
City Commissioner Hugh Carter, who is co-chairman of the task force with Douglas County Commissioner Jim Flory, said he thinks the housing component could lead to discussions about how different entities can form partnerships to build infill housing that is geared toward retirees.
“I’m hoping a big idea or two can come out of this,” Carter said.
Carter said he expects the task force to produce a report to deliver to city and county commissioners by the end of May. After that, he expects another group to put together a marketing plan based on the recommendations of the task force.
Carter said time is of the essence on the project because the Kansas University Alumni Association is planning a special survey this summer polling its membership about retirement issues. Carter said the alumni association has agreed to ask participants in the survey whether they would like more information about retiring in Lawrence.
Carter thinks that could produce several thousand leads for the community to follow up on, and he said it would be important for the community to have a formal marketing plan in place.
“I think we’re doing this work at a really good time,” Carter said.