Archive for Friday, June 22, 2012

City officials to consider fate of 9th, N.H. plan

June 22, 2012


It will be a tall order for Lawrence city commissioners.

At their Tuesday evening meeting city commissioners will attempt to end a long-raging debate about whether a multistory hotel/retail building should be allowed on the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

On one side are several neighbors who argue the proposed building is too tall to coexist with the historic neighborhood immediately east of the site. On the other side is a development group that contends they’ve shrunk the building as much as is feasible and that further rejection from the city could damage the health of downtown Lawrence.

City commissioners this week were cautious in saying too much about their opinions on the project, but City Commissioner Aron Cromwell said both sides are still pointing to issues they are unhappy with.

This rendering provided by Treanor Architects shows the revised building plan for a project at Ninth and New Hampshire streets, directly north of the existing Lawrence Arts Center. The plan was rejected Monday, April 30, 2012, by the Historic Resources Commission.

This rendering provided by Treanor Architects shows the revised building plan for a project at Ninth and New Hampshire streets, directly north of the existing Lawrence Arts Center. The plan was rejected Monday, April 30, 2012, by the Historic Resources Commission.

“But the law of infill development seems to be that if you have everyone unhappy, you probably are on the right track,” Cromwell said.

Commissioners will meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday to hear a formal appeal of a Historic Resources Commission decision that rejected the project on the grounds it wasn’t compatible with the historic neighborhood to the east. Here’s a look at several issues surrounding the project:

l The project has changed significantly since it was first proposed in September 2011. Mayor Bob Schumm and Commissioner Mike Dever both have worked with the development group — led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor — to reduce the height of the building. The discussions also spurred a proposal for a seven-story apartment/office building on the northeast corner of the intersection, and a package of city incentives for the two buildings. Neither the seven-story building nor the incentives package are up for approval on Tuesday.

l The hotel/retail building is proposed to have 90 hotel rooms that would be part of a TownePlace Marriott extended stay hotel. The project also would include a restaurant on the fifth floor and retail space on the ground floor. In total, the building would be 121,908 square feet.

l As for height, the building is taller along New Hampshire Street and shorter along the alley nearest neighbors. In terms of specifics, the building will be 63 feet at the corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. Along the alley, the building will be 40 feet tall.

l Unlike with most issues, city commissioners will be sitting in a “quasi-judicial” role. Commissioners are being asked to make a legal ruling on whether there are “feasible and prudent” alternatives to the proposed project. The commission’s decision is subject to an appeal in Douglas County District Court.

The issue of whether there is a feasible and prudent alternative is expected to be hotly contested on Tuesday. Several neighbors have hired Lawrence attorney Ronald Schneider to argue the project can’t proceed as designed. Schneider said he plans to present data to show several other types of projects on the property would be feasible, especially if developers gave up on the idea that the property must include an underground parking garage.

“As presented, about a third of the costs goes to an off-street parking garage,” Schneider said. “There are nearly an infinite number of uses for that property that wouldn’t require off-street parking.”

But Bill Fleming, an attorney for the development group, said the project already has won a positive recommendation from the city’s professional planning staff. He said the evidence doesn’t support that the project will damage the neighborhood to the east.

“The main issue for us is the project is located in a commercially zoned district of downtown,” Fleming said. “We really think this project will support downtown and make downtown a more desirable attraction.

“We’re not building this in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The project is being built where it is supposed to be built.”


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

" The area isn't looking all that good"

Yet another straw man argument. Just because it isn't cookie-cutter, ticky-tacky bland like your neighborhood doesn't mean that the neighborhood is falling apart. Sure, there are some neglected houses here and there, but by far the majority of houses in the neighborhood are in relatively good shape. And the block immediately to the east of this proposed hotel is in generally very good condition, and getting better.

BTW, the location of the homeless shelter is completely irrelevant to this discussion.


Dan Eyler 1 year, 9 months ago

Look at it like this and you can determine who is getting the better shake. Your homeless shelter is moving to my neighborhood and a very nice well done business moving into yours. Lawrence will need the jobs and the average wage to work in this new business will be higher than the majority of businesses on Mass. The place isn't going to fail and it isn't going to change the historical value of old Lawrence. Drive the neighborhood and convince me how this can hurt the area. Of course there is historical value to the down town area, but junk is junk. Even in Lawrence junk doesn't always hold it's value, historically or financially. We hear a lot of talk from the east Lawrence neighborhood association about the historical value of their neighborhood. The neighborhood association needs to focus more on cleaning up it's own house. The area isn't looking all that good and this might raise the awareness and standards of those who claim historical rights. but in the mean time the place is falling down around you.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

By the way according to Radio news Legends special nonsense tax packages are not working out so well for the county..... as it turns out.

Local Tax Payers Over Extended!!! Time for the real estate executives and developers to foot the bills for their own projects.

Taxpayers should be allowed to vote for or against all new capital improvement projects and rate increases. Nothing moves forward without voter approval. This would include USD 497.

New capital improvement projects are in fact increasing the tax bills. There is no way to get a budget under control when there is constant new expansion of the infrastructure.

Adding miles and miles of new water and sewer lines is no way to rein the budget. Adding more and more homes for trash service will never allow the budget to become stable.

No one has a clue when the economy will bounce back if ever so why are commissioners approving new tax increases by way of new capital improvements and tax dollar give aways.

Where is the hard evidence that Lawrence taxpayers support these nonsense tax incentives?

Where is the hard evidence that Lawrence taxpayers can afford these nonsense tax incentives.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

Welcome to Lawrence,Kansas the tax dollar money hole for reckless spending government. Where the owners of the tax dollars have little to no say.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

What should be done about this problem?

Lawrence needs a set of development controls that permit the City to dictate not only the height, bulk and use of a project but also the timing of when these projects are built.

Zoning dictates the height bulk and use of a project. Clearly our zoning does not do this well. The current proposal seeks to go higher than the rules permit, but this decision is not reviewed by the Planning Commission or the City Commission. The development controls of the city should mandate that any significant project must go through review by the Planning Commission with a public hearing procedure.

Lawrence needs a set of development controls that allow it to set the pace of growth. In this, the City is woefully lacking. The City’s development controls assume that once zoned, the private market knows best how to time development. We are now in the fifth year of a real estate driven recession because of the error of this assumption.

Lawrence is paying the price for letting the development community dictate the pace of growth.

Lawrence’s retail space grew faster than retail spending. From 1997 to 2007, retail spending grew by 26% but new space added 36% to the stock of space, producing over 500,000 square feet of surplus space. The surplus resulted in chronic vacancies downtown, along 23rd Street and in various neighborhood centers.

The market has consumed about one-half of that surplus, but with the current economic downturn, it will take a long time to work through the remainder of the surplus. Yet the City continues to approve more retail space as if the problem does not exist.

Lawrence’s housing stock expanded faster than the growth in its population. From 2000 to 2007, the counts of households grew by 4,500, but developers built 5,700 housing units, creating a surplus of 1,200 units. The surplus is equivalent to a dozen large subdivisions, enough to cover the city’s needs for more than 6 years, devastating the housing industry.

Now the City is confronting a similar problem with its hotels. The taxpayers invested $11 million in the Oread Hotel. The City has an interest in the Eldridge Hotel surviving because it uniquely defines our historic downtown. Recently the City approved zoning for a hotel as part of the North Mass Development. The City is rezoning property at 6th Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway for a sports complex with a retail shopping center and a hotel. As if all of this is not enough, the developers of 9th and New Hampshire propose yet another hotel.

The City lacks development controls that place it in a position to: 1.) Determine that pace at which it can absorb new space, and 2.) Regulate the pace of new construction so as to prevent overbuilding.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

What does the 9th and New Hampshire proposal teach us about our development controls?

Lawrence lacks proper development controls. The absence of proper controls prevents the City from reviewing major projects and allows developers to dictate the pace of growth. This is a mistake.

Quick history:

The City Commission will hear an appeal of the decision of the HRC. The scope of the City Commission’s review is narrow. It is to determine whether or not the owner of the property can develop feasible projects under current zoning that will not harm adjacent historic properties. In this setting, feasibility means that a development will earn enough cash flow to attract investors. Generally, this cash flow has to return about 10 percent annually over a period of 10 years.

There is little question that feasible alternatives exist. Three-story projects are feasible if no parking garage is included. Town Peterson demonstrates this in his submission to the City Commission. If a parking garage is added to the development, then a project is probably not feasible without deep subsidy.

The report from Springsted finds that subsidy will be needed to make a project feasible if it contains a parking garage.

The City Commission cannot, in good conscience, find that no feasible alternative exists under current zoning. It is clear that a three-story retail/office facility will generate a competitive return on investment.

To the developer, the problem is not the percentage return on investment with a three-story project; it is the dollar amount of profit. The developers can make more money with a larger development that includes five or six stories, a hotel, and a parking garage with that garage paid for by the taxpayers.

How did Lawrence get into this problem?

Lawrence is in this problem because of a lack of proper development controls. Because the zoning did not end with the death of the Downtown 2000 project, the City has lost much of its capacity to control this project.

Some version of the proposal at 9th and New Hampshire may be a development that the City, the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association, the Historic Resources Commission and the community at large may all support. But we will never know under the current development controls because there is no opportunity to debate the project. There is constrained review of its impact on adjacent historic properties, but the HRC review is not supposed to go beyond this narrow issue. Assuming that the developers will seek deep subsidies on the property, there will be some debate over whether or not the project should be given costly subsidies, but again, the debate will be unfairly narrowed to this topic.

The process as being played out now will not permit the community to weigh in on the height of this project, the timing of this project nor the impact of the project on our downtown and other hotel projects.


Flap Doodle 1 year, 9 months ago

Oh, heck, get some outside consultants and whiz away a few hundred grand doing another study.


flyin_squirrel 1 year, 9 months ago

Chad, please write a detailed article describing how a TIF, CID, neighborhood revitalization act, star bond, etc... Work, and put in the pro's and con's so people understand what they are commenting on.


mikekt 1 year, 9 months ago

So, if these TIF construction loans require regular cash pay-back payments to be made to a lender & the taxes generated by this project, fall short of the advertised amount of expected income to pay off those loans on time, who is on the hook to make up the rest of the regular monthly Tax Increment Financed payments shortfall amount????? Can you say Power & Light District in KCMO & That KCMO is paying 12 Million per year out of their own pockets to keep the TIF repayments on the P&L development afloat? If the developer of KCs' P&L District sells it tomorrow, KCMO has no claim or recourse against their profits from that sale & is still on the debt with the full faith of their budget till the TIF is paid off! What happens here? And who is certifying that any future TIF income projected for this project ( to pay it off ) , is any kind of a "real number" & not just a made up excuse to put part of the cost of building this thing, onto the citizens of Lawrence, as make up payments on for any shortfall, in expected tax revenues to pay for this ( TIF ) thing? If Lawrence ever has to pay on this TIF, should not that confer ownership rights or fist claim on any profits if it is built & sold or runs an excess income in the next payment period? If Lawrence is obligated, financially, it should come with benefits, if it has to meet that obligation. Such as being repaid for any payments made, as a first claim on any spare cash or sale? Ask yourself,.....what would a private bank do? Why should government be any different for some borrowers? Does your bank make up on your car or home payments & ignore the whole thing if you are years behind in your repayments & keep paying on you? We should all get our next home or car loan TIFed. How about getting a small business loan TIFed? Let the city worry about making the payment on time......and let's not give them the right to put a lean on our stuff! WOOOO HOOOO!!!


Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 9 months ago

Doug Compton, please walk away from this deal and every deal in Lawrence, Ks. Stop paying the millions you pay a year in property taxes. Do not lease or sell any of your buildings. Let them all sit empty. Let Lawrence twist in the wind for five years with no property taxes and let all the buildings go into foreclosure and sell for pennies on the dollar creating less property taxes. Doug, file bankruptcy and protect all your liquid assets and retire rich in Florida and don't look back accept to give this town the bird. These people want to live in a cow town of yesteryear with no new buildings or new residence. Let them have it.


goodcitizen 1 year, 9 months ago

Why is it that the city has to buy the Salvation Army to tear it down for a green space and sculpture area for the art center, when this vacant lot is already vacant?


Melinda Black 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm trying to understand why each time I read about a controversial development project, it seems to involve Doug Compton. I also want to understand why so many of Compton's projects require taxpayer funding or abatements. Enlighten me please.


Flap Doodle 1 year, 9 months ago

A habit obscene and unsavory Holds David Cay Johnson in slavery With lecherous howls He devours young owls That he keeps in an underground aviary.


pizzapete 1 year, 9 months ago

I like the idea of turning this lot into a community garden or park. I'd also suggest a miniature golf course or go cart track or food trucks or zebra petting zoo until this location is more viable for development.

Why are we letting the developer push us into a project that is not economically viable at this time? Maybe in 20 years the new owner can put a hotel or apartment there without a handout from the city? If the develper isn't ready to pay for it all himself at this time don't build it, we can wait.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 9 months ago

Explain why the city would run off private money that asks for no abatements, etc?

Historic environs is worthless. It does more to discourage preservation. A property should only be designated to the lot it sits on, not 500 feet around it or 1,000 ft.

Did neighbors in East Lawrence not like John Stavros? Not likely, they shopped and worked in his building. Lawrence knows nothing about history. The Historic Resources commission needs a good lawsuit against each and every member appointed by the commissioners. The time may be coming.This commission studies every thing to death and still cannot make a decison, sending stuff back and forth to the state for consideration and even the state has over ridden the local HRC. So what does that tell you? What? It tells OEW that the locals are just that, or as Shakespeare called them "rustics". Much ado about nothing except they feel important in a little cesspool of a pond.

What is worse though that the city commissioners allow staff to run off projects. Now is time to clean house. And for the poster who said something about turning the space into a garden...Mr. Schumm knows full well how to beat the taxes on a vacant commercial lot and no one is complaining about that, not even the J/W will touch it. What say Chad?


Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

New York Times Journalist David Cay Johnston then boggled the crowd with a blunt assertion: "We pay billions of dollars in taxes that never get to the government." Much of the sales tax we pay at big box stores and shopping centers is diverted to the large companies that own the stores.

It's just one of the many swindles these chains have learned to perpetrate against city and county governments.

This is so effective that the Cabela family, which owns a chain of big-box sporting goods stores, receives 137% of its profits from taxpayer subsidies. If they couldn't work this scam, they wouldn't be in business at all."

This is what's happening in throughout Lawrence as we speak which is reckless tax dollar management across the board. Local developers have discovered ways to extort money from taxpayers by way of local government.


irvan moore 1 year, 9 months ago

they have to ok it to buy out the salvation army in the city commissions war on downtown homeless, they will protect downtown at the expense of the neighborhoods


Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

Hotel industry is a low wage industry so where is the living wage for each employee?


Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

"“But the law of infill development seems to be that if you have everyone unhappy, you probably are on the right track,” Cromwell said. " This is nonsense and not the attitude when dealing with a serious matter.

And more than $11 million tax $$$ in corporate welfare sometimes known as pork barrel. How does this improve the quality of life for the largest group of stakeholders in Lawrence known as the taxpayers.

Isn't it wonderful that corporate america is able to wander about to shop for "tax incentives" aka bribe money. Where did this concept originate? The tax dollar haters shop for tax dollars to put into their bank accounts.

Communities are being strong armed what a scam. Time to do away with all Free Lunch programs for the local wealthy politically connected real estate industry.

Lawrence Taxpaying Voters should weed out the city hall “Free Lunch” program!

Here’s what happens (THIS IS ALL ABOUT LOCAL DEVELOPMENT): Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston joins us to talk about "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Politically Connected LOCALS Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)." Johnston reveals how government subsidies and new regulations have quietly funneled money from the local poor and the local middle class to the rich politically connected.

Read,learn and weep as these folks empty our wallets and increase our taxes.


usesomesense 1 year, 9 months ago

Property tax 'forgiveness' should ONLY be provided in the following circumstances:

  1. If the area in question is in condemn-able disrepair and the property owner waives or is stripped of ownership of the property due to unwillingness or inability to pay for repairs required for the property to be acceptable condition. A vacant lot is NOT condemn-able. Only uninhabitable and/or dangerous structures.

  2. The business being built will directly bring a SIGNIFICANT number of jobs and/or wages - basically a number of $ per square foot - the better the pay, the fewer jobs required. The building would either have to be owned by the business or at the least have a secured lease for the term of the tax break. A hotel for example houses quite a few people but generates wages for relatively few people for the square footage. An office building on the other hand is full of wage earners.

The fact is that these are investment projects. As a taxpayer being asked to provide an 'investment' the city and taxpayers will never see real dividends from, and if the project fails be on the hook still I am offended. Perhaps if the payback is 10-20% of gross rent revenues until the 'investment' is paid back with interest? We don't get a real vote on these things - just stuck waiting for election time, helpless to undo anything after the fact. If developers have concerns about infrastructure costs and return on investment perhaps they shouldn't develop things they don't have enough faith in.

Vacant lots and corn fields are not a problem in my opinion. Furthermore; if a vacant lot at that location is really a problem perhaps a community garden or park until a development plan that doesn't require the injection of taxpayer 'investments'

I'm not concerned about the design of the project - high density is really required for the continued health and growth of downtown as our population expands. It's necessary to have competition for downtown retail space and options for more downtown destinations.


ljwhirled 1 year, 9 months ago

Not only are they asking for a waiver for historic resources, they want the taxpayers to kick in $11.8 M.

Quit spending through the tax code! If we are going to give them $11.8M, it should be on the expenditure side of the budget.

Then EVERYONE with an economic development activity can put in a proposal for the money and they can all be evaluated on their merits.

When you spend through the tax code, only the rich are able to benefit.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

“We’re not building this in the middle of a residential neighborhood."

Not true. Before the Arts Center was built, that stretch of NH had several houses that were the western edge of the E. Lawrence neighborhood. Development there should be a transition between downtown and the residential neighborhood, not one of the largest and most intensely used buildings downtown.


kshiker 1 year, 9 months ago

If the City Commission turns down this project, then maybe we can finally get rid of this idiotic historic environs review process. The process has only become a tool to help the anti-development nuts stifle good development proposals.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 9 months ago

What were the neighbors like in east Lawrence when John stavros built downtown? The city has recently run off a new 3million dollar construction of a fraternity building which would've been built in an already dense area near campus. and around apartments. Why? Because of an inept city commission, a flawed planning dept and from emails I have seen, the builder is no fritzel or Compton. This business of backdoor politics is so obvious now the commissioners are not leading but following. Fire Zollner, mccoulgh (too many moles in planning) get rid of corliss. Not a cheerleader for the city like he promised when he was hired He is a yes man for two developers as well as rest of the staff. , not a leader!. Sad state that communist china is easier to do business in. Even there , LAN. Does not exist. Lawrence is not business friendly unless two developers are used and only a couple of architects. Why? Because they cannot get work anyplace else. If so they would be doing so


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