Archive for Tuesday, May 1, 2012

City to consider North Lawrence boardwalk development plans

May 1, 2012


Lawrence city commissioners will take a stroll along the boardwalk, so to speak, at their meeting today.

Commissioners are scheduled to consider a host of rezoning requests and a major change to the city’s downtown boundaries that would open the door to a boardwalk-style development along the north bank of the Kansas River.

But the boardwalk likely won’t be the center of discussion at today’s meeting. Instead, the prospect of a big box store on the site is drawing concern from some downtown merchants who fear the project could be more of a competitor to downtown than a complement.

“I think having a major new development this close to downtown has the potential to be really awesome for downtown or really bad for downtown,” said Dan Hughes, owner of Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, 804 Mass. “It all just depends on what we really end up getting.”

Plans being presented to commissioners today are just concept plans. The rezoning requests would allow nearly 9 acres of property surrounding the Johnny’s Tavern location at North Second and Locust streets to develop with the same type of guidelines that exist in downtown. In fact, the development group, which includes the owners of Johnny’s, Lawrence businessman Jon Davis and others, are asking that the official boundaries of downtown be extended to include the area.

But the group also is asking that the development be allowed to include buildings with a footprint of up to 50,000 square feet. In downtown, building footprints generally are limited to 25,000 square feet.

That has Hughes and a few other retailers concerned the development is going for a “fake downtown” look like Zona Rosa or The Legends in the Kansas City metro, which place an emphasis on big box retailers.

Paul Werner, the architect for the development, said that’s not the case. He said the project will be a true mixed-use development, likely with up to 300 or more apartments and condos, that aims to make the river a more prominent feature for all of downtown.

“We want a lot of residential,” Werner said. “Retail really is not the driving force of the project.”

Werner said concept plans still call for a boardwalk to be built above the level of the Kansas River levee. The boardwalk could be lined with retailers and restaurants, likely including a new Johnny’s. As for larger tenants, Werner said the request for a footprint of 50,000 square feet is designed to accommodate some special uses the project hopes to attract. Those would include either a grocery store or movie theater.

“I think people would love a movie theater in the area, and I don’t know where you would put a large one in downtown,” Werner said.

The project doesn’t have any tenants signed up, nor does it have a firm timeline for when it would start construction if approved. Werner said he doesn’t want to start placing unnecessary conditions on what type of uses could take advantage of the 50,000-square-foot provision.

“I don’t want to hamstring the project before it gets started,” Werner said. “But you have an 85,000-square-foot Sears building sitting vacant, and no one is talking about putting a big box store on a lot behind Johnny’s on the river.”

Some city commissioners, though, may want more assurances on the issue. Mayor Bob Schumm, who is a downtown restaurant owner and landlord, said he’s generally supportive of the project. But he said he would rather allow the project to move forward with the 25,000-square-foot limit, with the option of approving a larger building for a specific user that comes forward.

“But I like the idea of development near the river,” Schumm said. “It could create a new level of ambience that could help define the downtown environment.”

City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

America is Over Stored = Demand is down and supply is up. More than consumers want or can effectively support.

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. Con't


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

This river development concept lacks lacks direction. Short on specifics.

6th Street New Urbanism,Riverfront Plaza and Tanger Mall = mammoth retail failures. Why do it again and again?

Why not consider development that would generate more sales tax and new jobs for the long term? Hotel jobs are low wage.

What do consumers use everyday: Johnny’s this is a known fact that does produce revenue daily. I say bring on an expanded and beautifully landscaped new Johnny’s with an outdoor patio viewing the river and the park. Why not include a stage for Willie Nelson and the Texas Playboys...can we say MUSIC. Good brew,food and music pay back.

What other types of business draw consumers daily? 1. hardware store 2. grocery store 3. laundromat

The above combination might just generate a wonderful flurry of economic activity for North Lawrence. Rural residents and North Lawrence might appreciate this combination.


boxturtle 1 year, 11 months ago

Please Please Please please make a Free State owned satellite German style Beer Garden, that serves snacks and nice outdoor seating by the river. I want it to exist.


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

If it is built, "I'm" not going to use it. And that's final. In the spirit of "May Day", I am "Forward" in this decision with a hint of "progressive social justice" to boot.


Gotalife 1 year, 11 months ago

Most of the questions being asked on this conversation thread have already been addressed by the developers and others including entrance and exits into the area, improvements needed, etc. So, much of what has been said, in a very negative way, is or has already been discussed and planned for.


fromlarryville 1 year, 11 months ago

Lawence city commision is way biased since most of them have businesses downtown. They did not want a "Legends" type outfit where the new Walmart is and now thats pretty much a bust. And look at all the Money Wyandott county is getting for their efforts. Now downtown businesses want us to shop there but all our money is going to property taxes!!


Flap Doodle 1 year, 11 months ago

Wasn't a certain prolific poster urging the creation of a park in that area using junked cars as seating?


CWGOKU 1 year, 11 months ago

The real question is, will I be able to go under the boardwalk ?


Andini 1 year, 11 months ago

Don't change Johnnys. They finally have the grease just right.


nytemayr 1 year, 11 months ago

The fire department already posts a fire truck on the parking area in North Lawrence because the bridge access is dangerous to emergency response time.

I'm for development BUT my concern is traffic over t he bridge. Improve traffic on North 2nd or kill this project!


Belinda Rehmer 1 year, 11 months ago

I like the idea of a boardwalk development along the river. If built with the same ambiance as the visitors center and as an extension of downtown I believe it could really be a win/win. It could enhance what we have here, make it more enticing to the tourist/bed & breakfast trade. But of course parking/traffic would continue to be an issue...


Liberal 1 year, 11 months ago

I get so sick hearing about the Riverfront mall and the outlet mall by the highway. This was not a local failure it was a national failure. Outlet malls were going up all over the country, including Lawrence, City after city especially smaller communities had these malls built. Virtually all of them failed. Get off of it.

If you want to have a vibrant downtown you have to bring people to live down there. Having a walk-able riverfront would be great. The river walk area in Wichita is one of the great things in the area.

Now putting a grocer there is about the dumbest thing I have ever heard and is designed to appease those folks who keep wanting one down there. There will not be a grocer there, just like Bauer Farms was never going to be what it set out to be. I am all for the project but smoke and mirrors are in use here.


irvan moore 1 year, 11 months ago

that trailer park/farmers market used to have some really good hippie lettuce in the late 60s


JackMcKee 1 year, 11 months ago

Seriously, though, please do something with North Lawrence. It's the only place in Lawrence that's a bigger eyesore than South Iowa. It's hard to believe it's even the same town.


JackMcKee 1 year, 11 months ago

Has anyone ever seen the trailer park out by Johnny's? It make Gaslight Village look like Mission Hills. Yowza!


JayhawksandHerd 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, if by "Riverfront Mall" you mean "unnecessary," then I would agree.


flyin_squirrel 1 year, 11 months ago

Negative Lawrence will have a viable downtown if Lawrence doesn't start getting the population living closer to downtown. This is a win/win for downtown! Dan Hughes wants more people downtown but is afraid of competition. Cannot have it both ways Dan. With the shops that are currently downtown, there is no reason for anyone to visit downtown except to grab ice cream, get a beer, eat, or get a haircut (I would have said visit Sunflower Bike Shop, but after his ignorant comments, I am rethinking that).


canttakeitanymore 1 year, 11 months ago

how in the world does what was described in the paper sound like the "riverfront mall" ? ?


rtwngr 1 year, 11 months ago

Can anyone say, "Riverfront Mall?" This is a boondoggle waiting to happen. This is not a movie and it is not the plan of a visionary. Just because you build it does not mean they will come. This kind of development is wrong for the area and will not yield anything but empty crack condos eventually.


JackMcKee 1 year, 11 months ago

Don't mess up the pizza ovens/kitchen at Johnny's!


OonlyBonly 1 year, 11 months ago

Nobody notices that this new proposed development coincides with the harassment of the trailer park residents? Also I'd assume (hate to do that but...) Johnny's would have to go for "improvements" at the intersection there.


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

Who would "visit" it? Outsiders that have to pay a "toll" to the troll to visit "Larryville?" N. second is a dive from the lack of "outsiders" visiting and spending money.

Get real "Larryvile: A Boardwalk on one of the top 10 contaminated rivers in the nation.... in a destination "Outsiders" have to "pay" to visit?

Tell everyone how the Mall/motel is doing on the contaminated river when "Outsiders" do not visit.



tanaumaga 1 year, 11 months ago

Grocery Store would be nice....the rest of it, not so much.


suggestionbox 1 year, 11 months ago

There is a movie theatre downtown: Liberty Hall.


snitty 1 year, 11 months ago

As a North Lawrence resident, I'd like to know how this proposal will deal with traffic. There is only a single egress from the site, which is at the intersection of Locust and North 2nd, directly in front of the Kansas River bridge. This critical intersection is the only connection to the city for those living north of the river, and for emergency vehicles. A development of such size and scale will create bottleneck situations at that intersection that could block the bridge and cut off vital services.


bozo_the_clown 1 year, 11 months ago

Why even try, the Historic Commission will claim that the trailer park over there needs to be protected and the project will go nowhere. I'm with those who want to protect downtown from expansion and development, so if they want to build apartments or a movie theater, build it out in west Lawrence cause this city needs more suburban sprawl.


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