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Archive for Saturday, January 14, 2012

City leaders shouldn’t be complacent about retail vacancies

January 14, 2012

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Recent headlines in the Journal-World have suggested local business and civic leaders are not overly concerned about retail store closings. They acknowledge there are a number of empty stores but point out that retail sales figures show a slight improvement over last year.

They suggest the city may have lost Sears, Old Navy, Borders and other smaller operations in recent months but say that’s no reason to think the sky is falling.

It is proper to be optimistic about the future, particularly in a city such as Lawrence with a major university, but just because the city may have “bounced back” in past years is no guarantee the same “bounce back” will occur in the future.

Times are far different. In past years, there wasn’t the competition of the nearby Legends, the numerous convenient shopping centers in Johnson County or the Internet, which makes out-of-town shopping easy and quick. In addition, in past years, Lawrence enjoyed steady growth with new industry, new business and added residents. Lawrence was the darling of the state, with these new businesses and industries, along with handsome population gains.

Times have changed. School district officials and interested parents are trying to figure out what elementary schools to close, and we seem to have lost more industries and businesses than we have gained.

Not all local merchants are singing the “everything is getting better; good times are coming” song. In fact, one successful businessman told this writer, “I think things are getting worse, not better.”

This local resident told of merchants who have planned on expanding, starting new businesses or leasing additional space and now are saying they have to change their plans. They say they cannot afford the projects they were planning, that they had eaten into their savings and that they have to back out of business agreements. Even in cases where rental or lease rates have been slashed, merchants have said they can’t afford to stay in business.

This doesn’t present a healthy or realistic case for “it really isn’t as bad as some may say.”

This situation doesn’t have one simple cause. It’s a combination of reasons. In one sense, it is a “perfect storm” with the national economy in the dumps and no real reason at the present time to think conditions will improve overnight, or at least until after November’s presidential elections. There’s the cumulative effect of Lawrence’s city government sending negative and less-than-enthusiastic signals to industry and business interested in locating in Lawrence. The sense of complacency has infected far too many in Lawrence, causing them to think eventually everything will be OK. There’s also a lack of enthusiasm, excitement, leadership and involvement from the university, which used to be one of the outstanding features or assets of Lawrence.

Not too many years ago, leaders in other university cities asked Lawrence residents, “What is the secret you have? Why is it you have such a successful and cooperative town-gown relationship?”

Sure the economy is a significant factor in the local retail scene, the vacant storefronts, but the city’s justified and continued reputation of being an extremely difficult city in which to build and grow plays a major role. Likewise, complacency is a deadly disease.

Add to this the growing and powerful effect of special interest groups who can stop a planned project dead in its tracks and the fact that those trying to sell Lawrence as a great place to live and work really don’t know how city commissioners may react to this or that project or effort. Just because there may be a ruling, policy or action on a past situation is no guarantee city commissioners will vote the same way on a new and similar proposal.

Consider the fight developers are facing as they try to get an OK to spend millions on a new business-apartment-hotel building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. Consider the arguments that such a building would cut off sunshine to some sidewalk coffee drinkers or that it shouldn’t be higher than a nearby building being able to derail such an addition to the city. Apparently, this is the case with the proposed building. Think back to the battle Lowe’s faced in trying to build a store in Lawrence that would have added hundreds of construction jobs and sales positions. Unable to satisfy City Hall, they abandoned their Lawrence project.

Many other examples could be cited in which Lawrence lost out on new jobs, new payrolls, new taxes and new residents. This doesn’t mean Lawrence should throw away any and all building requirements and standards. Officials should make sure new buildings, industries and commercial activities are, indeed, good for the city.

The fact is, whereas Lawrence once led the state in many favorable categories and measurements, this no longer is the case. Once the highly favorable, positive momentum Lawrence used to enjoy stalled or came to a stop, it is doubly difficult to regain that momentum.

Headlines saying “City, business leaders not sounding alarm over retail store closings,” and “City’s retail vacancy generally improves” will not get the job done.

It is a very serious situation, and a “we’ll get through it” approach falls far short of getting Lawrence back to its leadership position.

Comments

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

Lawrence city commissioners & city hall staff have continued to show their antipathy toward retail, commercial & industrial growth in Lawrence for many years. The price is being paid now & will continue into the future.

The primary focus has been on "protecting downtown". Downtown has been so protected it is suffocating. The problem is the people who have moved to Lawrence are used to shopping in more contemporary venues and that will not change. The "quaintness" of downtown only goes so far and then the real shopping goes where the variety & selection are...outside of downtown & Lawrence in general. Witness the current round of closings.

Lawrence strangles the incentive to bring any significant businesses/jobs to Lawrence. Everything is debated & argued to death. Today retail, commercial & industrial businesses have choices where they locate. For too long Lawrence has chosen the "My Way or Highway" approach. Well guess what, they have chosen the highway. Oh yes there is talk of companies coming to town. But where are the companies that could bring significant employment and move jobs from KC & Topeka to Lawrence? In Lawrence the top employers including the university have jobs but pay no taxes for real estate, sales, personal property, etc. How is this different than tax abatements requested by private businesses seeking to locate their companies here?

Lawrence does not even have a "Comprehensive Plan" for the future direction of Lawrence & Douglas County, nor a strategic action plan of how to achieve that direction. For years we have operated without those plans and real forward thinking. As the saying goes: If you do not have a tangible goal then any place you end up is okay. Well we have ended up in a pickle, and it is a sour pickle.

It will take real leadership to move Lawrence forward. This means strong leadership from a strong President of the Chamber of Commerce, changes in administration at city hall, and existing business leaders banding together to forge a leadership coalition to work with the Chamber & City Hall Administration to set in place policies & plans that will move Lawrence into the future to create a vital economic & jobs base.

I hope our civic leaders are listening.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

None of those comments explain why Sears is closing their store in Lawrence.

It's a "big box" store and it's not located downtown.

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

Consider that Lawrence has not supported enough growth to bring a full variety of sub-contractors to build & finish a building.

Sears closed because they could not economically justify modernizing their store.

Companies do not spend valuable resources where there is little opportunity for an economic return.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

What on earth is that supposed to mean?

If there's enough demand for their products and services now, they wouldn't be closing the store.

Having tried to buy some appliances there, I'd say that poor customer service is a more likely reason for the closing.

Sears built the store there, not downtown, and it's not a quaint little boutique store, etc.

Michael Throop 2 years, 11 months ago

I think Lawrence residents should be forced to pay an "exit tax" if they buy something outside the city...for the good of everyone, of course.

James MacMurray 2 years, 11 months ago

I would be real careful with what you propose....such an "exit tax", if implemented, would be followed by a lot of exiting from Lawrence.

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

Jafs think more broadly. It is not just our current situation. This problem has been coming for years. Look at our tax revenues. Over the years our sales tax revenues have failed to keep up with inflation. When Kmart opened, in its first year, it generated more tax dollars than all of downtiwn combined.

Stores come and go for various business reasons.

Downtown Lawrence Inc. is a great example of how disfunctional the leadership in Lawrence has become. The business leaders down there can not agree on anything, & not all of the downtown businesses are members.

The business leaders of Lawrence need to provide strong leadership to establish a long term path for our future.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

"Stores come and go for various business reasons" - That's what I said.

I have no interest at all in the "business leaders" of Lawrence providing "strong leadership".

They could focus more on providing customers with quality goods, services, and good customer service, in my view.

nekansan 2 years, 11 months ago

Sears & Lowe's has a focus on appliances and tools & home improvement. The prices of real estate in the Lawrence market combined with the expansion west of the KC suburbs have finally caught up with Lawrence. People that used to choose to live in Lawrence are looking at the costs of housing, the improvement in retail and dining that areas such as the Legends have brought to the area and are choosing to live elsewhere. Sure apartment housing might be on the rise, but that is not the real growth that Lawrence needs. Lawrence needs homeowners that are buying appliances, shopping at building supply houses etc. The statistic quoted in a recent story indicated that new home sales were down more than 30% from last year which was down significantly. Combine that with a surprising number of vacant homes on the market (this would be an interesting statistic to see) in the city and it's clear to me that real estate in Lawrence is a key part of the problem. Developers have restricted availability of land and the city tightly limits annexation and so far prices have held, but I suspect that the tide has changed. If the city does not get aggressive about single family residential growth, they are letting the highest value upper income residents walk away and take their retail dollars and higher disposable incomes with them.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

Oh my - the last thing we need is more single family growth in this town.

That growth is what drove up the price of housing, for one thing.

As far as buying appliances, etc. if the stores in Lawrence were better, with good customer service, that might help a bit. I have been continually disappointed with that, and I've been in the market for new appliances a couple of times.

Just one example - installers don't seem to know how to install washers and dryers correctly, and don't even follow the simple clear directions included with the paperwork (unfortunately, I didn't see that until after they'd left).

nekansan 2 years, 11 months ago

Single family growth is what drove up prices? Hardly. By that logic pricing in (Metro) Kansas City and Topeka (both significantly larger population and household wise) should be much more expensive. The problem is the city does not annex and grow to allow continued growth of single family by supporting more competition amongst builders. Instead they artificially suppress the number of developments and lots sold, protect the existing builders and force home prices to remain higher than all surrounding communities.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

It is the commuter friendly developments on the edges of town which drove up housing prices in Lawrence, because people can make more money elsewhere, and live here/commute to work.

When most people who lived in Lawrence also worked here, home prices were lower and more affordable for folks that worked in Lawrence.

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

If leaders want downtown to be the center of everything then they need to bring some major attractions downtown that will lead to retail & commercial service sales downtown.

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

Another good example is the lack if a long term vision/goal regarding Lawrences future is our city commission. Every year they set new goals for that year. They do not evaluate themselves or their actions, nor annual planning against their progress toward the long term future planned direction of the city.

We have no idea what the threats to Lawrences future economic health are, nor do we have contingency plans to deal with those threats.

Lawrence used to like to talk about "Vision Planning". We have no written future vision plan for Lawrence & no plan to achieve that vision.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

With a change of players every 4 years (at least), it's hard to know how we could have a stable long-term plan.

beaujackson 2 years, 11 months ago

20 years of lax rental housing control in central Lawrence has eliminated several thousand families in SF zoned neighborhoods. These families have moved to surrounding towns.

Students purchase very little in Lawrence, compared to families. Also, Lack of families in central Lawrence has played havoc with the elementary school system enrollment.

Lawrence city commissioners are to blame for this problem. They are finally listening to neighborhood complaints, but it may be too late. Student rental housing in SF zoned neighborhoods is responsible for the destruction of central Lawrence as desirable family home ownership, and the city commission has been complicit.

All local businesses are suffering from lack of families who have moved from Lawrence because of inflated housing costs in central Lawrence caused by the student rental "business".

irvan moore 2 years, 11 months ago

it's not really a downtown anymore, it's ,more of an entertainment district, we lost the soul of downtown a long time ago

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

Another good example is the lack of a long term vision/goal regarding Lawrences future is our city commission. Every year they set new goals for that year. They do not evaluate themselves or their actions, nor annual planning against their progress toward the Long term future planned direction of the city.

We have no idea what the threats to Lawrences future economic health are, nor do we have contingency plans to deal with those threats.

Lawrence used to like to talk about "Vision Planning". We have no written future vision plan for Lawrence & no plan to achieve that vision.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Downtown has not received any protection thus the constant vacancies.

There are only so many retail dollars available in Lawrence,Kansas no matter how many new retail whatever are constructed. Ooops the powers that be did not accept that premise and proceeded recklessly down the no economic growth path.

While complaining about being business unfriendly there is no more solid demonstration of business unfriendly than the flooded markets in Lawrence,Kansas.

Had the downtown central business district been managed in a fiscal responsible manner our our retail markets would be prospering instead of barely getting by.

Unwise inflation of rents and unwise helter skelter construction throughout the community is unfriendly to business and not too damn smart.

Face it the Chamber of Commerce and some retail property owners are wanting to blame others for their inability to maintain a central business district in a tight and prospering fashion aka incompetence. Greed has been the short term winner for the few not the community.

Lowes was smart in not building in a community that simply could not support a large store much less two home improvement stores.

Old Navy and Banana Republic should take over the Antique Mall building although I would miss the Antique Mall. Or Old Navy should move next door to Arizona Trading Company.

There has been massive retail failure in Lawrence, Kansas: 1. RiverFront Plaza 2. Tanger Mall 3. Baur Farms 4. thus creating downtown vacancies

All of which were forced down the throat of Lawrence,kansas by local developers. And now it is happening again over by Johnny's on the levee. A lot of Lawrence people are not shop till you drop kind of people aka have better things to do with their time. The used car sales people running Lawrence cannot change that no matter what kind of BS they keep throwing around.

There are only so many retail dollars available in Lawrence,Kansas no matter how many new retail whatever are constructed. Ooops the powers that be did not accept that premise and proceeded recklessly down the no economic growth path.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

" In the parlance of the trade, many chains are simply over-stored." This economy may not bounce back anytime soon.

America has 9 million or more homes on the market and no jobs for an estimated 26 million.

Retail chains are cutting back.

The " boom town economy" mentality killed our economy. It will take several years to recover. Local "boom town economy thinkers" joined the parade and now Lawrence retail is struggling for too damn many.

America Is Over Stored ( Do Lawrence,Kansas planners,Chamber of Commerce and city government not realize this?)

The Wall Street bankers boom town economics building frenzy produced a bumper crop of new retail space. But the occupants haven't materialized.

The carnage in retail hasn't been this bad since an anarchist bombed Chicago's Haymarket Square in 1886. In January, Liz Claiborne said it would shutter 54 Sigrid Olsen stores by mid-2008; Ann Taylor announced that 117 of its 921 stores would be closed over the next three years, and Talbots axed the Talbots Men's and Talbots Kids concepts and 22 Talbots stores. Even Starbucks has scaled back its yearlong saturation-bombing campaign.

But back out inflation and sales of gasoline, and retail sales fell in real terms in the past year. Clearly, demand is down.

And supply is up. This decade's building frenzy produced a bumper crop of new retail space—from McStrip malls built near new McMansions, to hip new boutiques in the ground floors of hip new Miami condo buildings. But as is the case with those McMansions and condos, the occupants for new retail space haven't materialized.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, the national retail-vacancy rate rose for the 11th straight quarter to 7.5 percent—the highest level since 1996, according to research firm Reis, Inc.

With new projects coming online—34 million square feet of retail space will be completed in 2008—the rate is expected to spike further to 8 percent. In the parlance of the trade, many chains are simply over-stored.

Con't http://www.newsweek.com/id/112762

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

Another good example if the lack if a ling term vision/goal regarding Lawrences future is our city commission. Every year they set new goals for that year. They do not evaluate themselves or their actions, nor annual planning against their progress toward the. Long term future planned direction of the city.

We have no idea what the threats to Lawrences future economic health are, nor do we have contingency plans to deal with those threats.

Lawrence used to like to talk about "Vision Planning". We have no written future vision plan for Lawrence & no plan to achieve that vision.

Kontum1972 2 years, 11 months ago

well u saw the response by that woman who tore up the Clifford Still painting...isn't it time for the good people of Lawrence revolt against the so called hacks who run this town to be called on the carpet...or run out of town on a rail..isn't that how they use to do this in the past....short of a rope....to "Stinking Politicians and local Hacks" ....the time has come when u need to decide whether YOU are going to be the Problem or you are going to be the Solution...!

You the good people of Lawrence are the Key...you all maybe forgot how a revolt by the public on the Vietnam War brought and end too it....Power to the People!

beaujackson 2 years, 11 months ago

Maybe it's time to elect city commissioners by the "ward" system.

The present "at -large" method may be"stacking the deck", to the detriment of the majority of homeowners and taxpayers.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Lawrence is a college town which the primary focus is education. That is where the money is so why not focus on more institutions of education? Build a business college,an art institute,a Vo Tech campus and a ASE automotive certification institute.

The real estate executives want us to believe that "shop till you drop" can easily generate the same revenue as the 25,000-30,000 college kids bring to town. Let's bring 45,000 students to Lawrence and watch economic growth take place.

The Free Market has spoken which says the kcmo/joco retail market is far more desirable to Lawrence shoppers. The Free Market says stop digging a deeper money hole. Lawrence cannot support massive retail development which only produces economic displacement that which increases the tax burden on the Lawrence population.

Face it the Free Market knows very well that Lawrence is no kcmo/joco retail market. Let's not get duped again.

In more than 25 years of shoving that down the throats of taxpayers what we have is a failing philosophy.

Now these same thinkers are draining the wallets of taxpayers building just about anything connected to sports. They are thinking they can sell more real estate spending zillions of dollars on "athletic projects". In doing so this group has our school district BOE recklessly spending money to support another failed philosophy.

The new hotels are being built to further this failing philosophy.

Bob Forer 2 years, 11 months ago

Not too many years ago, leaders in other university cities asked Lawrence residents, “What is the secret you have? Why is it you have such a successful and cooperative town-gown relationship?”

Now that's a laugh. I have lived in Lawrence for 40 years and I have never sensed nor witnessed a cooperative town-gown relationship.

no_thanks 2 years, 11 months ago

You are correct The free markets have spoken to many Lawrence retailer's and the message is their value proposition isn't as attractive as alternative markets (ie Internet, JOCO, Legends, etc...). But, free markets is also the result of why additional retail space was built. Developers make investments based on a good idea of demand for the product being built (the market is sending signals that they could earn a profit if a certain location or type of product is built) , and rarely speculate (other than on the purchase of land). With that being said, Lawrence's lack of population, wage, and job growth is of grave concern as we are still suffering from the failed policies of the no growth commissioners. Congrats to all those who are against growth. You have clearly one the last decade.

no_thanks 2 years, 11 months ago

You are correct The free markets have spoken to many Lawrence retailer's and the message is their value proposition isn't as attractive as alternative markets (ie Internet, JOCO, Legends, etc...). But, free markets is also the result of why additional retail space was built. Developers make investments based on a good idea of demand for the product being built (the market is sending signals that they could earn a profit if a certain location or type of product is built) , and rarely speculate (other than on the purchase of land). With that being said, Lawrence's lack of population, wage, and job growth is of grave concern as we are still suffering from the failed policies of the no growth commissioners. Congrats to all those who are against growth. You have clearly one the last decade.

guess_again 2 years, 11 months ago

The no-growther's are killing our retail sales?

Hardly. Too many store vacancies comes from too much retail space, not too little. And last time I checked, there were plenty of residential vacancies in the apartment complexes and in my neighborhood.

scaramouchepart2 2 years, 11 months ago

Lawrence is overbuilt in every retail and residential area with vacancy everywhere. High rents for retail and apartments and high home costs and low wages.. Lawrence’s financial stability has not been based on business, but on construction. That is why we built so much in the 80’s and 90’s and why we are losing now. Our city leaders refuse to acknowledge they have to change how we finance our city coffers. Retention of local dollars will never happen because we are not big enough for businesses to provide the big store product line. For instance J.C. Penny’s locally does not carry the American Living line and never will so we go to Topeka or KC.

Citizen1 – we have a future plan, but ignore it and we continue to believe that construction will save the day as we blight not only the coffee drinker’s sunlight, but those who will move out of town because of it.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 11 months ago

I agreed with Dolph's comments until I read about the 900 New Hampshire proposal. We do have a comprehensive plan. It's called Horizon 2020. We also have building development codes. If we were following the plan or the codes, the 900 New Hampshire project would never have been proposed. Following our plan and codes is not anti growth. There are areas designated for growth and guidelines for infill development. If we followed them, these conflicts would not be happening.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 11 months ago

Bedroom communities like Lawrence are not sustainable and cannot function independently. the population of homeowners is down to about 50%. We cannot contine to rely on the construction industry and retail markets to support the city.

It is not up to business leaders or the city commissioners to plan the community. There is a comprehensive plan, Horizon 2020, that was developed by community volunteers. (Before H2020, we had Plan 95.) Each chapter is updated every five years. Each plan lasts for 25 years. See http://www.ci.lawrence.ks.us/pds/

I have two concerns. 1. Fewer people seem to understand how to make a difference in their community than people did ten to fifteen years ago. 2. We have to select our leaders from a smaller population than we did ten to fifteen years ago.

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

We do not have a comprehensive plan! Horizon 2020 is a Land Use Plan. A Comprehensive Plan sets the long term direction for the community. It contains several direction goals, amoung them community size, mix of job types to achieve our employment goals, but basically it contains specific goals for the community. The Action Plan states the policies & how we are going to achieve our goals.

The Land Use Plan says where the various types of development will occur.

With out the 3 planning components listed above we will continue to flounder, and argue about everything.

The fact that we argue about everything shows we do not have an agreed on community long term goal/ perspective.

Lawrence does not know if it wants to ever grow up, let alone what it wants to look like if it was to ever grow up.

scaramouchepart2 2 years, 11 months ago

Citizen1 The reason we argue is because we do not follow our long planning which Horizon 2020, Transportation 2030 and the many other documents we have like Plumbing and neighborhood plans or our 2008 - 2013 Capital Improvement Plan.

If you want something that says Lawrence wants only businesses that support the workforce of Lawrence through specific job skills that exists here and wages to support those working here are able to live here. We do not have that. I think you will find city leaders, elected or not, supports free Market which does not support a local community's ability to control long range planning of that type.

If we can't follow planning direction, do you expect a long range plan of ideas as you are asking for would be followed?

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

The no economic growth team works at the Chamber of Commerce that which is flooded with members of the real estate/building industry = a very very narrow vision.

Housing/construction starts should not be considered as a measure of the economy. Helter skelter construction all over the place cannot produce the desired results of: 1. fiscally responsible spending of tax incentives which should be minimal 2. no economic displacement 3. excellent pay scales throughout the community 4. attracting clean well paying industry 5. protecting local taxpayers from over extension by local governing bodies

A tight,fiscally well managed central business district that is prospering beyond belief perhaps should be the measure of the economy. Reckless over growth is not attractive.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

WE are the stakeholders!

We voters are by far the most powerful and most important economic stakeholders!

What makes we voting spending taxpayers the most important stakeholders in any new development or construction project whether it be private or local government? Each one of us spend thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars in this community without which Lawrence would be nothing. Yet we are cast aside under the facade that none of this is any of our business.

Is it the taxpayers responsibility to guarantee the real estate industry and developers a nice tidy profit on their speculation and/or risky investments? Absolutely not!

Always let the voters decide how reckless or not we wish to be.

I believe all incentives to sell and/or develop property should come from those wanting to profit from their endeavors:

  1. Real estate agencies
  2. Property owners
  3. developers
  4. building contractors and suppliers

Never from the taxpayers! Always let the voters decide how reckless or not we wish to be. Why? Because this type of local big government socialism does not benefit the lions share of the population. We are not necessarily the profiteers.

Always let the voters decide how reckless or not we wish to be.

Voters and taxpayers are the primary stakeholders no matter what. That's right without we taxpayers there could be no tax dollar mooching.

What makes we voting taxpayers the primary stakeholders in any new development or construction project whether it be private or local government? Each one of us spend thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars in this community without which Lawrence would be nothing. Yet we are cast aside under the facade that none of this is any of our business.

Always let the voters decide how reckless or not we wish to be. After all without our spending economic growth will suffer substantially. We voters are by far the most powerful and most important stakeholders!

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

Well, without business investment & business profits Lawrence would be nothing. People need to understand that point.

The too employers in Lawrence, KU, hospital, School District, etc, pay no taxes. Thus as a hole Lawrence employment picture is based on tax & community largesse.

Businesses are the drivers of communities. Unless we become more welcoming, and actively promote the concept we are open for business, then Lawrence will continue to be s second class city.

It is time to put aside our prejudices regarding business & profits and realize there is no future without them.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

Without employees and customers, businesses would be unable to thrive.

Communities are the drivers of businesses.

Lawrence will never be a "first class" city - and that shouldn't be our goal, from my perspective. First class cities are cities like NY, SF, etc.

The idea that we should aspire to that status is odd to me.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

People that live in the communities and spend their money are the drivers of all communities. Can we say the most important stakeholders that do not appreciate 24/7 corporate welfare that which increases our cost of living and benefits the few profiteers.

gl0ck0wn3r 2 years, 11 months ago

Can we say that Merrill too often phrases statements in the form of a rhetorical question? Can we say that Merrill and his ilk are one of the major reasons businesses dislike Lawrence? Indeed, we can.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Bedroom communities are high tax dollar items so it is a done deal compliments of our local Chamber of Builders.

If Lawrence regulations are so damn difficult why are all the Lawrence builders still in Lawrence,Kansas whining? We know why.... here they can manipulate local government.

There is always Topeka and KCMO metro....

Hudson Luce 2 years, 11 months ago

The trouble with Lawrence is that it's a combination of two mutually incompatible cities: Old Lawrence (Old West Lawrence, East Lawrence, North Lawrence) and West Lawrence, roughly the areas of Lawrence before 1980 and the areas developed after 1980. Both have police stations, one across from the old courthouse, the other on Bob Billings Parkway, shopping areas, gas stations, churches, schools, major employers - and the residents have mutually incompatible ideas about planning, development, and how life should be lived. In addition, Old Lawrence is predominantly liberal and Democrat, West Lawrence is conservative and Republican. As long as these two places are conjoined, gridlock and bickering will continue, and Lawrence as a whole will continue to decline. A separation would do both much good.

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

Old & New Lawrence comment is excellent.

There exists a double standard within Old Lawrence. It accepts the tax free existence if KU, LMH, USD497, and other top employers. They revel in the sakes of downtown merchants. Essentially enjoying the benefits of largesse in those areas of the community. That is they see a benefit to themselves & the community.

Yet let a company that wishes a partial tax credit, yet will bring jobs and other benefits and the company is labeled "Corporate Greed".

I will bet none of the residents of Old Lawrence ever turned down a salary increase, increase in benefits proved by employers.

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

So I am requesting to know: "Why the double standard"?

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Corporations preach Free Market therefore that does not include tax credits from the people.

Free Market does not say go to the people and receive a leg up against a competitor....

Free Market says invest in yourself and stand on your own = no tax dollar moochin!

Let's take a look at the KU and USD 497 payroll plus benefits: These payrolls pump a ton of our tax dollars back into the community. KU students provide a ton of dollars into the university which also come back to our community. Education pays back.

The LMH is a healthcare center payroll which pumps a ton a money back into this community. Health care pays back and is among the very few fastest growing employers in the nation.

All three provide a ton jobs into this community. A lot of which are well paid and/or above minimum wage.

Wal-Mart on the other hand leads it low paid employees to the SRS services to be sure they get some health care coverage and food stamps. That is a liability to taxpayers.

"I will bet none of the residents of Old Lawrence ever turned down a salary increase, increase in benefits proved by employers. " Why should they ..... do you turn down a raise?

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Students, art, music and cycling bring money to town so why focus on retail that Lawrence cannot support?

Education is known for its stamina and revenue generation through both strong and weak economic times.

How can Lawrence bring a few thousand more students to town? Vo-Tech Campus,Business College, Art and Design School = Students produce stable and generous economic growth.

FYI: Kansas City is known as the City of Fountains.

It is famed for its rich art scene, including the Plaza Art Fair, which is in the top five ranked art fairs in the nation, and the thriving Crossroads Arts District.

Also convenient are numerous great museums, galleries and performing arts centers.

The Arts & Economic Prosperity studies continue to be among the most frequently cited statistics used to demonstrate the impact of the nation’s nonprofit arts industry on the local, state, and national economy.

CONCLUSION: Think students! This investment would ultimately bring new economic growth to Lawrence,Kansas.

Education is known for its stamina and revenue generation through both strong and weak economic times.

Students = stable and generous economic growth

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

None2, No I do not when the analysis conducted by the city's own staff says there is a net benefit to the city to give the requesting company some type of benefit to locate or expand in Lawrence. That my friend is not a double standard. It is just following the cities own plan to attract investment in Lawrence. It is good for both Lawrence & all of its citizens.

What is failing to be acknowledge here is Lawrence competes with other cities both locally & nationally when trying to attract businesses. Businesses have sales to compete for our individual retail dollars, and so cities have incentives to compete for the employment, construction and other investments businesses bring to a city.

I would imagine we are very happy when we buy something on sale versus paying full price for the item. That is competition! And cities compete to get businesses to locate and expand in there communities by giving them incentives.

If incentives did not work cities would not provide them & retail stores would not provide them for you & I.

You raise a question of loyalty of businesses to the cities in which the are located. How is a companies loyalty to a city any different than an employees loyalty to a company? If an employee leaves a company for any reason isn't that a significant issue for them as well? The company has investments in you in training, lost opportunity, salary, benefits, time, etc. They have lost all of that also.

Companies are individuals the same as you and I. The company is a legal individual in the eyes of the legal and business community. Because companies are individuals and are run by individuals they behave as individuals. Any argument that can be made against a company can also be made against and individual.

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

My question remains as before: "Why the double standard"?

wyattearp2 2 years, 11 months ago

I can't wait until the entire downtown is gone. Businesses Gone - Buildings Vacant! Flowers and the bushes in the concrete corner boxes overgrown and weedy ..... Its gonna be a site to see!

Say No to Downtown Change and say Yes to Vacated buildings!

Carol Bowen 2 years, 11 months ago

Citizen1, Yes, H2020 is a comprehensive plan. From the city's website,

"Horizon 2020 Comprehensive Land Use Plan A Comprehensive Plan expresses a community's desires about the future image of the community. It provides the foundation and framework for physical development and policy decisions in the future. It is used as a policy guide that identifies the community's goals for directing future land use decisions. The Plan is used by property owners to identify where and how development should occur; by residents to understand what the city and county anticipates for future land uses within the community; and by the city, county and other public agencies to plan for future improvements to serve the growing population of the community. Specifically, the city and county use the Comprehensive Plan to evaluate development proposals; to coordinate development at the fringes of the county's cities; to form the foundation for specific area plans; to project future service and facilities needs; and to meet the requirements for federal and state grant programs. The Comprehensive Plan allows the decision makers to look at the entire community and the effects of land use decisions on the community as a whole to determine whether individual proposals are consistent with the overall goals of the community."

H2020 does have land use and urban growth maps, but the chapters definitely focus on vision.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 11 months ago

None2, "I do find fault with Dolph's comments about Lowe's. Lowe's though that they were so special that they could by pass all the zoning rules setup. They also wanted their special tax."

The 900 New Hampshire proposal also defies the zoning rules set up. Can we agree that it's Dolph's specific examples that are problematic?

David Reynolds 2 years, 11 months ago

hear_me, I am sorry but Horizon2020 is only 1/3 of a complete Comprehensive Plan for a community.

A total plan consists of: (1) The Comprehensive Plan which sets out the strategic long term goals including the "Future Vision of the Community" (The What & Why) including but not limited to, what should be the structure of the future economy (types of businesses that will provide jobs, tax base & mix of taxes), business planning including financial requirements & financing methods, infrastructure, transportation, social and other strategic needs for the community. (2) The Master Plan which sets out the policies where in the Comprehensive Plan will be implemented (The How). Within it you would expect to see specific policies, forms, and written outlines of what each company needs to do to earn tax abatements or other benefits if any. Usually you would see specific statements that say for each goal you help us meet (in the Comprehensive plan or environmental commitment you implement) you will receive a specific benefit from the community, because each goal has a value to the community. Also you would expect to see marketing plans, etc. The Master Plan puts the communities "best foot forward" to demonstrate we are business friendly & in the process if the companies help us achieve our goals we will reward them in the process. (3) The Land Use Plan defines the desired land use patterns specifying where certain types of development are proposed to take place (The Where). It also includes zoning, etc.

While we may have a Land Use Plan we do not have a Comprehensive set of plans that defines our vision of the future Lawrence, what is required to achieve that vision, nor do we have a Master Plan to consistently keep us on track to achieve that vision .

A good example of the lack of planning is how the City & County Commissions operate. Each year the commissions meet to set goals for the coming year. And each year is a new adventure, especially when new commissions are elected & seated. There is no consistent plan that guides them. That is why we see so much inconsistency in actions taken by our commissions.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 11 months ago

Citizen1. H2020 has much of what you are looking for, but maybe not the depth. It is an improvement over Plan 95. The problem is that the City Commission and the Planning Commission do not follow it. Developers never know what will be approved and what will not be approved. They consistently apply for variances and plan to negotiate.

There has been some follow through - expanded parks and rec with a tax to support it, a sidewalk inventory and improvement plan, a focus on service industries, a recognized working relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, mass transportation. The chapter on the environment has been ignored. I don't recall all the chapters. I thgought some of the plan was short-sighted, but that's what updates are for.

streetman 2 years, 11 months ago

Elephant in the room no one wants to talk about: Being half way between the KC metro area and Topeka, Lawrence is in a bad retail situation. We like our cutesy Mass Street boutiques and restaurants, but it will always be hard for Lawrence to attract retail business to achieve the tax base needed. We should be building bridges, not barriers, to those who express interest in investing here.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 11 months ago

The cutesy boutiques and restaurants are the attraction. Mainstream stores are everywhere. We need non-retail investment to improve the job pool. Development ranging from production to think tank to provide jobs at various skill levels. Diversity is key.

AMC5546 2 years, 11 months ago

Did someone say Lawrence is empty? I'm trying to keep track of all the nothing. http://emptylawrence.blogspot.com/

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