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Archive for Saturday, January 7, 2012

City, business leaders not sounding alarm over retail store closings

January 7, 2012

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When news came out that Sears was going to close about 100 Sears and Kmart stores across the country, commercial real estate agent Doug Brown didn’t need to see the list to know that Lawrence’s Sears store on South Iowa Street would be on it.

“Anybody who went into the Sears building could see that coming,” said Brown, a broker for McGrew Commercial Real Estate. “Most days you could shoot a cannon off in there.”

Indeed, Sears did announce its Lawrence store would close in the near future. While that didn’t create surprise, it does beg the question of whether it should create some worry.

The Sears closing marks at least the third strike against national chain retailers in Lawrence in the last year. First it was Borders in downtown Lawrence. The bookstore chain in February put Lawrence on its list of stores it would close as it tried to revamp its finances. It didn’t matter. Soon thereafter, all Borders stores collapsed like the plot of a “Twilight” novel. The building at Seventh and New Hampshire remains vacant.

In mid-December, Old Navy surprised the retail scene by confirming it would close its Lawrence store near 33rd and Iowa streets. Its last day of business will be Jan. 26.

Then Sears announced it would close its store at 2727 Iowa, the only store in Kansas that ended up on the chopping block. The closing will mark the end of at least a 45-year history of Sears having some presence in the city. It also will leave vacant an 85,000-square-foot building, one of the larger retail vacancies for Lawrence in recent years.

But the trio of announcements doesn’t seem to be sending up red flags about whether Lawrence remains an attractive place for national retailers.

“We’ve been through these types of cycles before,” said Hank Booth, acting president and CEO of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. “I’m hearing from many retailers, especially the ones that make a point to be active in the community, that they’re doing well right now.”

Signs of a decline

It wasn’t too long ago, though, that the health of retail in Lawrence was a major topic. In April 2010, the city appointed a task force to study retail issues and determine what — if anything — community leaders could do to help the retail scene.

In early 2010, there were signs of higher vacancy rates in downtown Lawrence, and City Hall leaders were pointing to a key statistic that showed Lawrence was losing more sales to other communities than it had in past years.

Today, the vacancy rate in downtown appears to have improved, but Lawrence still ranks in the lower third of major Kansas cities when it comes to attracting shoppers — at least according to one measurement.

The Kansas Department of Revenue calculates a “pull factor” for each major city in the state. The pull factor basically measures whether the amount of per-capita retail spending for a community is above or below the statewide average. Communities that have per-capita spending levels higher than the statewide average generally are thought to be doing a good job of either attracting outside shoppers or keeping local shoppers.

Lawrence’s most recent number found the city’s per-capita retail spending to be 2 percent higher than the statewide average. That ranked the city 19th out of 25 major cities in the state. But the number was an improvement from the 2009 reading, which showed Lawrence was slightly below the statewide average.

As recently as 2006, though, the city had per-capita spending that was 12 percent above the statewide average. If the city could return to that level, it would result in about in about another $7 million in local sales, or about another $180,000 in sales taxes collected by the city.

Tricky business

Mayor Aron Cromwell said that keeping Lawrence residents in town for their shopping needs is important.

“Overall, I think we have had a problem that there are several things that you just can’t buy here,” Cromwell said. “Or at least there’s not many options in some categories.”

Such concerns were a major topic of discussion of the city’s Retail Task Force. When the task force delivered its report to city commissioners in February, it included recommendations to help retailers tackle that problem.

A key recommendation was for the city to create a new database that would give local retailers access to important statistics about what type of product needs are going unmet in the market. Commissioners in February said they wanted to see a cost estimate for the database and would consider it as part of their 2012 budget.

But when the 2012 budget was approved this summer, the issue never came up. Neither did a recommendation that the city help organize a new group of stakeholders that would pool its money to do joint advertising designed to attract outside shoppers to Lawrence.

City Manager David Corliss said the items weren’t forgotten. Instead, he said, it became clear that the commission didn’t have a consensus on how active it should be in promoting retail issues.

“The commission needs to decide what role it will have in promoting retail jobs,” Corliss said. “I think it has decided to a degree. It has said that our role is to promote the primary jobs and the retail will follow.”

Cromwell said he largely agrees with that assessment.

“We have to be careful with retail,” Cromwell said. “If we encourage one type of retailer to come to town, it can hurt an existing retailer that is already here. That’s probably the biggest reason we haven’t acted real strong on the retail front.”

Space to show

Despite the recent announcements, there have been signs that the retail market is picking up. The city’s 2011 sales tax collections were up 4.3 percent, ending two years of declining tax revenues.

The city also had some new national or regional entrants come into the market. Natural Grocers opened on 23rd Street. Mattress Firm has signed lease space to open at 33rd and Iowa streets, and JoS. A. Bank quickly filled downtown space that had been occupied by Talbots.

“I think the local marketplace is starting to heal itself,” said Earl Reineman, vice president of Weaver’s Department Store.

Brown said he thinks the situation on South Iowa Street also will look better in 2012. Speculation in the retail industry is that Ross, a discount department store, is strongly interested in the Old Navy location, although the landlord for the spot has not yet confirmed that speculation. Brown also said he’ll be surprised if Old Navy stays out of the Lawrence market for long. Speculation is that Old Navy isn’t closing its Lawrence store because of low sales totals, but rather because of a leasing issue with its landlord.

As for the Sears spot, Brown said he views the 85,000-square-foot building as an opportunity for Lawrence. He said the space could be split into two or three smaller stores.

“It is easy to say shop local and buy local, but barring that, I don’t think there is anything the community needs to be doing,” Brown said. “I think they just need to be patient and not think that the sky is falling.

“I don’t think the sky is falling. It is kind of an exciting time for people like me. We have space to show. I can tell you that people are already working on making deals. I think you’ll see some activity in 2012.”

Comments

Mike Edson 2 years, 11 months ago

So let's think about the reasons Lawrence lost those three businesses. Sears is a dinosaur in the retail world. It wasn't just the lack of decent customer service that took them down. It was that we as consumers could go and buy the same goods and services cheaper somewhere else. Sears was a little overpriced when it came to the quality of their soft goods and hardware. The same could be said for Old Navy. Old Navy's clothing quality is disposable at best even at a lower price point. Stores close because they don't make the numbers. Even if they were having trouble with the landlord it wouldn't justify the cost of relocating or closing the store if the profits were there. As for Boarders, that was just bad company management. They always seemed to be a day late and a dollar short on developing viable business strategies to keep the company in the black. So in short, the Lawrence consumer voted with their dollar. It is the one consumer power we have that can make a difference. I would prefer that Lawrence refrains from becoming a discount chain store town. We deserve better than just seconds.

Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 11 months ago

I agree with edson443 on these points. But it is a real shame with Borders- there are lots of things that Borders had which aren't available elsewhere in Lawrence. And I agree with him that Lawrence must not become simply a discount chain store town. He has put it very well, "We deserve better than just seconds."

irvan moore 2 years, 11 months ago

why would we worry about business and jobs leaving lawrence, i mean gosh, we need to spend our time and energy fixing a trash service that's not broken

TheBigW 2 years, 11 months ago

That, and harassing local citizens who are trying to open small a business.

mae 2 years, 11 months ago

Lawrence simply isn't a destination shopping event like downtown used to be. If I have to come in from say Tonganoxie or DeSoto, I'm in and out, otherwise I'd rather head to the Legends to see the art and fountain, or Lenexa for hardware stores. 31st and Iowa isn't going to fix your problem, it just makes shopping easier and faster for the few things you may need.

parrothead8 2 years, 11 months ago

Why go to Lenexa for hardware stores if you can go to Cottin's on Mass St?

Kookamooka 2 years, 11 months ago

Of all of the cities in Kansas, I would think Lawrencians would have the most loyalty to their local retailers. There is a "buy local" awareness here that pervades. I made a conscious decision to support my Mass street retailers at Christmas this year. I don't want them to go away so I'll pay the extra (thinking of it as a good will/sustainability tax) and hope that others do the same. Lawrence needs to stay a vibrant community and spending our hard earned money at the mom and pop shops is the best way to stop economic "leakage" and keep those dollars right here in our town.

mae 2 years, 11 months ago

Respectfully disagree. The majority of students will go home to see friends, catch a high school game and hang out. You forget that the Lawrencians don't spend the majority of the money in retail.

Supporting your locals is awesome, but really look at supporting with your vote to give tax incentives or something to any little local artsy business on Mass. Don't support a freakin' mcdon alds.

Jayhawk1958 2 years, 11 months ago

I know for a fact that we lose the college student retail market because we don't have a Dillards or Macys and Weavers mens selection is very limited.

BruceWayne 2 years, 11 months ago

The fact that our leaders are "not sounding alarm" is a HUGE concern for me. Now I realize most of our "leaders" have money. Some made it selling fake barbque and soggy fries, some made it giving prison hair cuts. They could not give a rats arse about you and I. I really thought Cromwell would strive for change and I was wrong. He may be the lamest excuse for an elected official in the history of our once fine town.The problem is there little or nothing we can do...the same people have run this city for long , I fear it might be beyond fixing.

Getaroom 2 years, 11 months ago

Bruce: "the same people have run this city for long, I fear it might be beyond fixing." Please tell us whom you believe to be the same people who have been running Lawrence for too long. A list of developers? Current hired city officials? Current elected city/county government? Voters? KU? What is it that needs fixing if it is broken? Name your culprit(s) Please. I do not mean individuals who's personalities you do not like but something relevant to running a city that you do not agree with, i.e., those specific actors who have made choices that broke the city beyond fixing.

As one possible example something like: rejecting American Eagle Outfitters distribution Center because they do not pay wages high enough to actually make a living(might be true to some extent), but they do employ people rather than not offer any jobs. There are differing opinions on such actions as that one. Keep in mind that since choosing Ottowa, AEO has more than doubled. And please do not use the "it's the no-growthers fault". In reality no one who lives anywhere is in fact for no growth, no growth is death to any community.

So pony up Bruce, what is your take?

BruceWayne 2 years, 11 months ago

Mike Amyx and David Coreless would be a good start. How much monay aheve we paid to outside consultants to tell us if we need to spend more money? And how much did the nightmare at Magnagro (besides two senseless deaths) cost the taxpayers? Amyx and Coreless 100% responsible. And I wont even go into how much business Sue Hack chased away. Should I keep going, or is that "pony up" enough for now? So I will ask you...does it not concern you that our elected "officials" are not "sounding the alarm"? My point was that Schumm has made his money, as has Amyx. Coreless could retire today and live like a king. I am sure the employees at the places that are closing are indeed "sounding the alarm."

LHS56 2 years, 11 months ago

It is the "no growth" Getaroom. It started in the late 70's when Douglas County State Bank ripped up their neighbor improvements. This organized the "no growth" folks and they have had a great influence on the future of Lawrence since that time. We have and are now reaping the benefits of their actions. I don't look for any change in the near future.

Dan Blomgren 2 years, 11 months ago

It's all a numbers game. Look just at the competition just on South Iowa alone. Big box all fighting for the same dollar includes Sears, Target, Super Walmart, Kohl's, TJ Max, Bed Bath $ Beyond, Best Buy, Home Depot, and JC Penney. Then throw in the locals like Room Makers, Mattress Discount, Kief's, Maurice's, etc.... All trying to serve a population that has been stagnant for a while now. And most of that population is college kids. Too many bars and restaurants downtown explains the cannibalization, and therefore the vacancies downtown as well. The 'pie' just keeps getting cut thinner and thinner for those still in the game. And 'whomever' wants to add retail on the banks of the Kaw in North Lawrence too. People we don't need more space to rent, we need more renters! Growing the population with tax incentives, job growth, new industry, a city government working to create jobs and encouraging business development will fix this mess. Hey here's a thought: Maybe we try to capitalize on the 20, 000 kids that graduate every year from KU with various degrees. Let's try to keep that youth and vitality in Lawrence. Why not encourage and promote new industry with these talented young adults? Just my two cents!

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

We've lost Talbots and Liz Claiborn as well. Lawrence could not pull off the retail experiment at Tanger Mall = lot of retailers. Lawrence could not pull off the Riverfront PLaza = lot of retailers.

Baur Farm at 6tht and Wakarusa is a failure. The retail center at 15th and Wakrusa has been up and down mostly down.

In order to reduce the total number vacant retail spaces the powers that be decided Tanger Mall would be light industrial aka smoke and screen.

City Hall and commissioners need to pay attention to what Lawrence is not and stop living this facade of Lawrence being a retail giant for the benefit of the few. Lawrence,Kansas is surrounded by many big retail choices not too far away. It's been this way forever.

In the 1980's downtown Lawrence still had several clothing choices until the wreckanomics thinkers decided they wanted to make Lawrence like everywhere else instead of remaining unique......yes Unique was the strong point for Lawrence downtown. These wreckanomic thinkers brought on the cornfield Mall concept which would have failed due to lack of retail dollars in the community. Lawrence downtown lost several quality family owned retail operations in the process.

Then the wreckanomic thinkers decided to start building hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of new homes to establish a high tax dollar bedroom community. Hoping to create this bogus retail market. This effort has failed big time except that we still have the high tax dollar bedroom community. This is why Lawrence homes are over valued by the county because Lawrence in essence is over extended. Over valued homes = more tax dollars to pay out. County value and bank loan value( market value) can be not even close.

50YearResident 2 years, 11 months ago

I am going to kick this old dead horse again. What is the real reason why the economy is in the dumps and national chains as well as local businesses are closing? It's much deeper than the Lawrence economy, it's the whole US and now the complete world. What happened? It all comes down to George W. Bush. He and his oil buddies and War suppliers have succeeded to bankrupt the World, and he did it in only 8 years of a failed Presidency. When gas went to $4 a gallon and interest rates fell to 1 to 3% on savings accounts and the Stock Markets quit making a profit for the average investor, the economy was doomed. So put the blame where it lies, the Bush Administration.
It is not just local, its national and now world. There is no easy fix at this point so keep bending over and grabbing your ankles. We are in this for the long haul.

mae 2 years, 11 months ago

+1, totally agree. Luckily no child falls behind so we can look forward to a new generation of progressive thinkers.

jayhawkinsf 2 years, 11 months ago

The empty storefronts on Mass. St. is the fault of Bush. Got it. And all social ills are the fault of FDR and LBJ. Got it.

Flap Doodle 2 years, 11 months ago

50, you beat merrill to the punch with your "blame Bush" dreck.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

And, when you rent to a restaurant, you charge a different price per square foot?

I wonder if that's even legal.

Dan Blomgren 2 years, 11 months ago

The fact that our 'city, business leaders not sounding alarm over retail store closings' tells the apathy and ignorance of our elected officials.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

The mess at 31st and Iowa is the wreckanomic thinkers answer to the Corn Field Mall. K-Mart hit the road as well even with their distribution center down the street.... more or less. American Eagle is on the way out as well.

Face it Lawrence,Kansas this is over stored. More stores is not the answer. More hotels is not the answer unless we start bringing in big concerts, more bike races and turning Lawrence into the art community it should be. Finding within ourselves to put Mass Street back on the map = no more bars.

Use Mass street to hold conventions such as: art and garden fairs after all art and gardens are both art bring the farmers market to Mass street every Saturday morning = pleasant chaos Sometimes blend the Farmers Market with the art and garden fairs schedule some of the above on home game days to maximize sales * Lawrence has existing resources but has gotten a bit snooty about allowing them to perform

Lawrence does not need NEW school buildings and more strip malls. Lawrence needs to re-create a very tight and protected downtown central business district that is friendly to business.

This wreckanomic approach that which has been adopted is failing big time. Not even Lawrence,Kansas can afford economic displacement. Economic displacement is the art of overloading the retail pie , warehouse pie, housing pie etc etc etc. Economic displacement is anything but economic growth.

The local real estate industry needs to understand economic displacement is unfriendly to business and taxpayers.

Matthew Herbert 2 years, 11 months ago

Lawrence is a highly educated, technologically savvy community. Translation: retail "stores" are 20th century museums. Like many technologically advanced citizens I know that it is cheaper and with more abundant selection to shop online. My wife owns a highly successful business in Lawrence that never has, nor ever will, have a "storefront". Some of you on this forum have bought from her, most never knowing they were supporting a "local business". If Lawrence wants to stay relevant we need to stop trying to keep Sears and Borders and start trying to get the next Google.

jayhwkr 2 years, 11 months ago

The city should focus on helping businesses instead of spending so much effort preventing change. I hear story after story how people just stopped trying to open a business or make their current business more attractive, because the city was such a pain to deal with! Make our codes a little more lenient, easier to enforce, and faster to get approved. To tie businesses up in the permitting process for way to long keeps people from opening businesses and keeps part of our town looking run down, like much of our "historic" downtown.

eotw33 2 years, 11 months ago

its the Walmarts...worst thing for the economy since George W.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Every community has a permitting process most of which can require about 12 months. Fast track is not the answer. Neither is overloading the markets.

What kind of change is being prevented?

Which codes are creating so much alleged hassle?

"keeps part of our town looking run down, like much of our "historic" downtown." Blame this on the slum lords that own the buildings.

TheBigW 2 years, 11 months ago

(Quote) Which codes are creating so much alleged hassle? (quote)

Ok here is one for you, when I asked to use the airport for a FAA approved and regulated aviation activity... the bright minds at the city tried to say that the current zoning laws would allow for a recreational facility, but I would need a "special use permit", (the only airport user that would be required to have one) however in two months AUG 09 they were going to change the zoning at the airport to IG, and that zoning would not allow for a recreational facility and there for they will not grant a special use permit to me....... Now the truth is, the city has no legal right at all to require a special use permit for a federal regulated aviation activity, only the FAA has any say in the matter, not only was that comment discriminatory under the FAA airport improvement program grant funding contract the city signed for 11.5 million dollars in AIP funding (our tax dollars), it was designed to do only one thing.... keep out a small business some ones golf buddies didn't like or want to have to share their little "country club like airport".

In fact if you look at the city's website about the airport you'll see the current wording in regards recreational users. http://www.lawrenceks.org/airport (quote)LWC is an outstanding all-weather airport for recreational or business flyer.(quote)

Hey wait minute, I thought the new zoning laws outlawed "recreational " users... so what is it, just some types of recreational users are banned? Or is all recreational pilots are not allowed? The fact of the matter is they can't outlaw any light sport, recreational , private pilot, commercial pilots from engaging in using the airport, only the FAA has that power.... then evens means skydiving!

This is just one small example of the abuse coming out of the offices of Chuck Soules, David Corliss, and the lying of Richard Haig & Richard Bryant of the Lawrence Airport advisory board. The list is very long in regards of this type of BS being used to run me off along with another skydive operator in 2005. And people wonder why I've had to call in the FAA to force the issue.

TheBigW 2 years, 11 months ago

Currently the FAA is in the process of changing the requirements for airport sponsors who take funding on the allowable space requirements for on airport dropzones, because the FAA is tired of having to fight these same battles time & time again across the country, due to many airport boards, like the City of Lawrence airport board, who operate without a clue and advise City's and county's to violate the grant funding contracts. Currently there are 12 pending cases, mine is one of those 12.

A quick check of past cases, like mine prove how the FAA views this type of discriminatory actions by airport sponsors. For a complied list of these earlier cases you can find them here http://www.uspa.org/AboutUSPA/USPAinAction/USPAAirportAccessWins/tabid/547/Default.aspx and here http://www.uspa.org/tabid/548/Default.aspx

Despite the commission being told on 11-15-11, by the hired airport consultants, I was correct that they couldn't discriminate, the city has not expressed an interest in coming to the table for talks, they are hell bent on remaining in violation of the earlier AIP contract until forced by the FAA to change their ways. So at this point it's in my best interest to wait out the FAA to issue the national ruling sometime in the near future. The airport consultants the city hired for the master plan, stated, the city couldn't discriminate, but could set rules and restrictions, such as to limit or ban skydiving to only one day a month and that they couldn't see it being done on the airport because there is no space to land a parachute on the airport, have you looked at an aerial of the airport? And because sometimes jets land there. Seems none of those smart fellas can read the FAA's advice on the rules http://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/advisory_circular/150-5190-7/150_5190_7.pdf (see page 10)

Better look out Al Stubens, your type is next to get banned, http://www2.ljworld.com/videos/2012/j... ..... Also the city says I can't land in the grass areas, due to the under ground power lines, you know, because that happens all the time, skydiver getting electrocuted via under ground power lines... and getting run over by business jets...NOT.... LOL

So no I have not won yet, it seems clear to me the FAA is going to be forced or required to send inspectors out here from Washington DC, at tax payer expense to explain a few things to the city leaders. The City can still refuse my business and the FAA can then ask the City to repay the 11.5 million with interest and also they can say NO to the current pending requests for 13.5 million the city is getting ready to request. http://www.lawrence.airportstudy.com/section_lwc_mp/ That means all the money they spent to update the master plan over the last year the city will get stuck with that bill, oh I mean the local tax payers will get stuck with the bill.

JackMcKee 2 years, 11 months ago

And Cromwell does his deer in the headlights impersonation again. Let's see, Cromwell's "successes" as Mayor:

  1. $20 million parking garage
  2. messing up trash service that works just fine
  3. coming up with other random idiotic ideas like homeless meters
  4. losing retailers in mass quantities
  5. weakest housing market in the history of Lawrence

and all this clown can say is "doh, guess Lawrence is just gonna be OK"

Please resign from office and never run again.

The sad thing is, who on the commission is going to do any better? Cromwell is actually hurting the town, though, so maybe an empty suit is better.

Worst City Commission ever.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

"You and others like you do nothing to financially boost this city's economy."

Without me and others spending our money the Lawrence economy would be in big trouble as would owners and developers. Me and others as spenders and taxpayers are substantial stakeholders in this community. Any time a project is requesting tax dollar assistance for a project or a project requires tax dollar spending makes myself and all taxpayers a stakeholder.

New buildings or houses do not necessarily translate into economic growth for the community as a whole. Perhaps only for the developer.

"You are a big downtown guy unless someone wants to create a new apartment. Then you complain about apartment sprawl. Which is it?"

When markets are flooded any new development becomes a drag on the markets and tax dollar growth. Empty apartments are not generating sales taxes nor are they covering the cost to a municipality directly related to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new residential developments. Empty apartments neither support nor generate new employment.

Down with the tax dollar moocher approach! I prefer the Free Market approach = Developers pay 100% their own way without a leg up from taxpayers.

There is one consequence of helter skelter aimless growth that usually goes unmentioned by the local media,city hall and elected officials - local profiteers are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

JackMcKee 2 years, 11 months ago

and one more thing, if a more useless Chamber of Commerce exists in the Midwest please tell me where. This Chamber cares about throwing parties and having parades. I'm sorry, but that's not brining in businesses to the community. Lawrence needs real jobs, not more bars, restaurants or city workers. The town needs to develop an economy that doesn't revolve around KU. That's the easy money and I know the left wingers here just love to spend that money but the town is stagnating. Lawrence is turning into a larger version of Westport.

Dayna Lee 2 years, 11 months ago

I personally found that Old Navy is not the steal of a deal that it once was. The excitement of going to Old Navy as a parent was being able to buy something with a national label for a great deal. Sears I feel could have lasted if they were willing to carry a few "Kmart" brands to get you in the door. These days we just have to watch the sales and shop on the right days. I've noticed that Goodwill and Salvation Army are both open for business.

I vote we turn Sears into a skating rink. I miss skating.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Ice Skating and roller skating has support:

What kind of new recreation facility do you want for Lawrence? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/apr/recreation_survey/

Notice ice skating has 60% to which city hall has turned a blind eye

indoor volleyball/basketball etc etc etc has 19% of the vote to which the Chamber and city hall want to blow tax dollars.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

"Lawrence needs real jobs, not more bars, restaurants or city workers. The town needs to develop an economy that doesn't revolve around KU."

City workers pay for themselves. They receive decent wages,retirement plans and medical insurance. This cannot be said for any work that is farmed to to private enterprise therefore increases our Social Services Taxes.

About KU payroll. There was a time when KU was the substance of Lawrence,Kansas which kept the Lawrence economy looking good no matter what the economy was doing. That has been wrecked by the new wreckanomics approach of home builders bringing this "bedroom community" to us big time. Now the cost of maintaining Lawrence has increased who knows how many times through sprawling development.

No way to pay for this new development without soaking the homeowners with increased taxes,increased user fees,increased water and sewage rates,increased trash rates .... you name it. Tax increases is the word. Yet today it is business as usual.

Yes KU at one time not that long supported Lawrence,Kansas in quite a nice fashion. There were many more family owned business operations in downtown Lawrence. Lawrence,Kansas was the size of community it needed to be. Then the cardboard housing industry stepped in and the rest is history.

Flap Doodle 2 years, 11 months ago

"City workers pay for themselves...." I'm calling wild blueberry muffins on that statement. Paying city workers takes much more out of the budget than the workers pay back in taxes to the city. But don't let reality get in the way of a good talking point.

beaujackson 2 years, 11 months ago

The Riverfront Mall was a success in the beginning, but failed for several reasons.

  1. Several REAL factory outlets did Ok, but were soon joined by "fake" outlets that gave the entire mall a bad "feel".

  2. Free parking was replaced by fee parking - a "killer" for outlet malls.

  3. Complaints by K.C. merchants that carried similar brands probably caused several outlets to close.

Branson (MO) has REAL outlet malls - worth the trip for serious shopping.

LadyJ 2 years, 11 months ago

I heard that Old Navy would consider reopening in Lawrence if they could find a space with lower rent. Maybe Chad could check that rumor out.

LadyJ 2 years, 11 months ago

Do the high property taxes contribute to the high rents? Think about it, not just for businesses but housing rentals as well.

Norm Jennings 2 years, 11 months ago

Downtown merchants refuse to help themselves, 8-5 M-F and 9-12 Sat hasn't meant sustainability in retail since the '70s. Either you have to own your own building or you will eventually go under. As a consumer, I do not feel compelled to wear these albatrosses around my family's economic neck. If you do, and can afford it, more power to you.

Would love to not be forced to commute in order to hold a professional position, but Lawrence just doesn't have enough to go around. Downtown residential real estate used to be the most expensize, but now it doesn't feel safe, and basic services like grocery stores are too far away to walk...why?Lawrence actually has the residual "capital" to fight the downtown-flight, but it will take creativity, and a willingness to pay and prioritize tax funds for visible, "community policing" before retirees and others will feel comfortable ending daily trips in their cars and trading Alvamar Villas, Tuckaway, and Brandon Woods residences for Downtown living.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Use Mass street to hold conventions such as: art and garden fairs after all art and gardens are both art bring the farmers market to Mass street every Saturday morning = pleasant chaos Sometimes blend the Farmers Market with the art and garden fairs schedule some of the above on home game days to maximize sales * Lawrence has existing resources but has gotten a bit snooty about allowing them to perform

After considering the above:

The primary business of Lawrence,Kansas may I suggest education. NOT competing with the retail giants KCMO/JOCO metro, Topeka metro and Olathe metro for retail. They have all the money and better paying jobs. Lawrence has the most inflated cost of living.

The primary business of Lawrence,Kansas may I suggest education: where is the state of the art Vo tech campus Where is the business college * where is the art and design school

All of the above might well benefit KU for any number of reasons. Those who make the discovery a 4 year degree is not what it's all cracked up to be could simply choose another major such as welding,horticulture technology,computer technology without leaving Lawrence,Kansas. The VO-Tech campus is just down the street.... so to speak.

Bottom line = students made Lawrence,Kansas so why not do all we can to attract even more students.

JackMcKee 2 years, 11 months ago

"Bottom line = students made Lawrence,Kansas so why not do all we can to attract even more students."

Probably the most misguided statement I've ever read on this forum. The town needs tech jobs and other high paying jobs. Students are only good at supporting cheap restaurants and dive bars. It takes about 10 students to contribute as much economically to the community as one person making $150k per year. Students also aren't going to do anything to help the Lawrence housing market, which in case you haven't noticed is in shambles. Lawrence is already over 50% renters. That's too many, in my opinion.

Look at Ottawa and compare it to Lawrence since the American Eagle plant opened. The fools in Lawrence (I'm assuming you were one of them) drove that employer off.

Lawrences biggest problem is that it's too easy for the town to take money from students and waste it in foolish ways. That in turn attracts foolish people and we end up with even more foolish choices.

Quit sucking off the KU nipple and get a legitimate Chamber of Commerce that works to attract good jobs to Lawrence. Quit building high density apartment complexes in residential areas on the West side of Lawrence. Quit handing out TIF to anyone willing to slap up a building in downtown Lawrence. In fact, quit focusing so much of the city's resources on Mass Street. It's en entertainment district now. Quit acting like it's some crown jewel. It's a place for drunk people to stumble around on the weekends and catch a bite of Mexican food. Spend more effort to make Lawrence business friendly.

Basically everything in Merril's post was exactly wrong. If you follow Merrill's advice Lawrence would end up losing about 10,000 people in population. Then all you'd have is some tourists and some students. This town would be broke and the real estate values would be horrendous.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

Do you think Ottawa is a better place to live than Lawrence?

JackMcKee 2 years, 11 months ago

It's not a question of whether it is better, it's the fact that the community has improved considerable since the addition of a major employer. An employer that Lawrence turned its nose up towards. Lawrence needs jobs, not more students. That's the point.

I seriously wonder sometimes where a lot of people in Lawrence work, or if they even have employment. It seems to more and more that it's content to live off essentially government welfare.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

It certainly is that question.

If you're suggesting we should follow whatever policies Ottawa follows, then you're implying their decisions are better, and that it's a better place to live.

Otherwise, there's no reason to copy their policies.

Lawrence has an odd combination of high costs of living and low wages/lack of decent full-time jobs, but it's always been that way, and I imagine it will always be that way to some extent.

Despite that fact, it seems to be a rather attractive place for people to live.

I don't think we need more students either.

Many people in Lawrence work in other cities now, and commute - I'm sure you know that.

Armstrong 2 years, 11 months ago

Ok Merrill. Lets say 5,000 people show up for a convention on Mass. Of those 5,000 let's say 4,700 cars show up to get everyone here. Where do the majority park even close to Mass.? Cmon man

JackMcKee 2 years, 11 months ago

and finish the South Lawrence Traffic Way.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

If it were not for all that music industry Branson would be just another small town in the hills.

Flap Doodle 2 years, 11 months ago

If a frog had wings, he wouldn't bump his butt when he hopped.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 11 months ago

I have lived here for over 40 years. In that time I have seen many, many businesses run off from locating in Lawrence due to the political posturing of city government elected by a very small fraction of the public, those who take full advantage that most of the local citizens do not take part in local elections. Ask ten people who our city commissioners by name. You might be surprised at the ignorance and disassociation that many people have with the idiots that are elected by very few activists in this community. Faddish decisions like the stupid roundabouts have been inflicted on this community by a miserble few. The mantra "cornfield mall" was invented by local "leaders" to discourage merchants from locating here. A number of prospective employer merchants have refused to locate here because of the crappy business attitude of the morons on the city commission.

None of this loss of business and jobs surprises me, I have been saying these things for years, yet we continue to get the same clueless, gutless, spineless city commissioners who dance to the tune of Mr. Core-less, the "city manager" who is supposed to be evaluated and continued by the toothless commissioners. This is the problem. But I know a lot of you will disagree with me, but watching this coimmunity for 40 years and knowing of the situations that exist in other communities such as the one I grew up in, Lawrence truly is underserved and abused by deficient government, both in structure and competance.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

The most salient part of that comment is "most of the local citizens do not take part in local elections".

Representative government can only work the way it's supposed to work when citizens participate in elections in large numbers.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

I understand your point.

And, I agree that voters should be well informed and educated.

headdoctor 2 years, 11 months ago

I refuse to believe that the business owners downtown refuse to change their hours to adapt to their customers. If they can make it pay by staying open later they would.

The root of the problem is the cost of renting space downtown. Minimum of three to five year leases. Triple net and or income percentage leases make it impossible for most small business to start up and thrive. CAM charges and taxes can make it even worse since those values generally increase regardless if your sales drop. Some city regulations don't help either. Businesses can only generate so much revenue per square foot of building space.

sad_lawrencian 2 years, 11 months ago

Chad, great article. Thanks for keeping tabs on this issue in Lawrence.

sad_lawrencian 2 years, 11 months ago

Despite all the negativity in these comments, I feel that Lawrence is still a very special place. The shops, bars and restaurants are quite nice, and I still haven't found another place like it in Kansas.

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