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News and notes from around town:
• What is the oldest bar in Lawrence? It sure sounds like a question that ought to be answered over a glass of red beer and a pickled egg. (Yum. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.)
I don’t have a definitive answer, but David Heinz said his research indicates it is Harbour Lights, 1031 Mass. Heinz owns Harbour Lights, and he said he’s found documents that show the bar has been operating pretty much continuously since Prohibition ended. For the most part its name has been Harbour Lights, although at one point it was called Harbour Twilights. (That was one red beer too many.)
Regardless, it is a mighty old bar and Heinz has filed plans at City Hall to put a new twist on it. Heinz and the Lawrence-based architecture firm of Hernly Associates have filed plans to add a “elevated/rooftop hospitality deck.”
The project won’t exactly bring the idea of full-rooftop seating to Downtown Lawrence, but it takes a step in that direction. The plans call for a multi-level deck to be built atop the patio space that currently exists behind Harbour Lights. That’s not exactly a new idea. Several establishments — especially since the smoking ban has gone into effect — have added those type of two-level structures. But Harbour Lights will be a bit unusual in that part of the deck will be built over the top of the Harbour Lights roof.
The old building has a back addition that has a lower roofline than the rest of the building, and the architects are proposing to build the deck above that lower roof. So, rooftop seating, kind of.
The project will have to go through the Historic Resources Commission and get other approvals as well. It will be interesting to watch the reception. I’ve long wondered why Downtown Lawrence hasn’t gotten into the rooftop hospitality business. If you’ve ever been to Boulder, you’ll notice it is a big trend there. Obviously we don’t have the mountains to look at, but how beautiful would the fall foliage season be from up high? (OMG, did I just say that? How friggin’ old am I?)
Heinz, who bought the building a few years ago, has an even more ambitious idea that he hopes to incorporate into the project. He plans to install several solar panels on the roof of the covered deck area. His hope is to generate about three-quarters of the bar’s electricity needs from the solar panels. If that works, he’ll take it a step further.
“I would really like to be the first place downtown to go off the grid,” Heinz said. “The goal is to get a generator and cut the cord.”
One last aspect of the approximately $80,000 project has to do with the facade of the building. It will get cleaned up and given a look that is more consistent with an early 1900s building. The interior also will get a makeover with new bathrooms, and an old-timey barn wood-like floor.
Heinz hopes to have the project completed by the end of the summer.
• Maybe it was the beautiful fall foliage, or perhaps something else, that brought visitors to Lawrence in 2011. Whatever the case, visitor spending was up for the year, according to a new report from the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Visitor spending totaled $60.2 million in 2011, up 26 percent from 2010 totals. Other numbers from the CVB reported included:
— An estimated 722,000 visitors came to the city. An estimated 404,000 were overnight guests and 317,000 were daytrip visitors.
— The city collected $1.5 million in local sales taxes from visitor spending.
— It is estimated the average overnight visitors spent $111.50 per day on lodging, food, beverages, and other retail purchases. The average daytrip visitor spent an estimated $47.68 per day.
— The CVB provided services to 81 groups and conventions that added $3.04 million to the local economy.
— The CVB attracted or coordinated nine sporting events to Lawrence that totaled $2.43 million worth of purchases in Lawrence.
— Approximately 7,600 guests signed the registry at the Lawrence Visitor Information Center, with 34 percent coming from outside the state.
— The CVB’s visitlawrence.com Web site attracted 130,137 unique visits for the year.
• Add one more date to the list of downtown events that will require a street closure. City commissioners at their meeting tonight will consider a request to close the 900 block of New Hampshire street from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on April 22, which is a Sunday.
The Kansas Half Marathon is making the request for the street closure. The event — which is a fundraiser for Health Care Access — had planned on using a route that took advantage of the Burroughs Creek Trail in East Lawrence. But the major utility work that is underway near the trail where it goes under the 23rd Street bridge was problematic.
So, organizers have developed a route that starts and ends in the 900 block of New Hampshire but also goes through East Lawrence, the Barker Neighborhood, the Oread Neighborhood and the KU campus. Click here to view a map of the route.
Commissioners will consider the street closure request at their meeting at 6:35 tonight at City Hall.