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.


snitty 6 years, 1 month 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.

Daniel Speicher 6 years, 1 month ago

That would be my concern as well. I love the idea of a boardwalk, but the logistics of it may be a real headache for city planners, I'm afraid.

suggestionbox 6 years, 1 month ago

There is a movie theatre downtown: Liberty Hall.

Matt Schwartz 6 years, 1 month ago

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

shadowlady 6 years, 1 month ago

+1 A real grocery store, one that has everything. Dollar General is ok in a pinch, but we need something better than that. And not a grocery store that is going to rob us blind. They can price food at the same level as across town.

fromlarryville 6 years, 1 month ago

There are plenty of people that pay the toll to go to the Legends, not only from here but from other cities also. Just think if we had the sales taxes here!

John Hamm 6 years, 1 month 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.

pagan_idolator 6 years, 1 month ago

Different trailer parks. The one being harassed is at 8th and Walnut.

JackMcKee 6 years, 1 month ago

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

rtwngr 6 years, 1 month 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.

canttakeitanymore 6 years, 1 month ago

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

flyin_squirrel 6 years, 1 month 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).

billybrewster1 6 years, 1 month ago

You seem to be reading a lot into Dan's comments. If I read what was written above it seems to me that he expressed that it could be good or bad for Downtown. All depends on what actually gets developed. Do you remember Bauer Farms?

And if you look at the list of proposed tenants for the North Mass development, you'll see a a proposed ice cream shop, brewery, multiple restaurants, and I'm sure the developers wouldn't say no to a barber shop too (in fact, maybe that's the problem...the developers are unlikely to say no to anything and they're asking for everything).

How is this any different than what already exists in the real Downtown?

indecipherablepolitics 6 years, 1 month ago

Where are you seeing the list of proposed tenants? I'm looking at the concept PDF and this could be really cool.

flyin_squirrel 6 years, 1 month ago

If you are looking at the Market Study, that is not a proposed list of tenants by the developer. That is an independent company hired to say how this development will affect the retail market. A Market Study is required for any new development and is only one of many studies that are required. This development is no where near finding tenants.

billybrewster1 6 years, 1 month ago

That's my point entirely.

The only thing that the developers have put forth is the required market study that the City requires. Some would also argue that the market study is flawed. In one respect I guess the developers should hope that it is since it pretty clearly points in the direction that Lawrence is over-built on retail (either from a vacancy rate or per-capita perspective).

Other than that, there is no plan on what could be there. It's whatever someone is willing to buy and build. And the developers are asking for the sky when it comes to what they could build.

If someone came along and said "I'd like to build a 50,000 square foot emporium that specializes in rare McDonald's toys" (however misguided that might be), the developers would execute the lease if the price was right.

Until there are concrete plans on what will be built there, what exactly is being voted on? Speculation?

flyin_squirrel 6 years, 1 month ago

Ah, this is only the rezoning process. You are about 10 steps ahead in your request for specific tenants....

JayhawksandHerd 6 years, 1 month ago

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

JackMcKee 6 years, 1 month ago

The Riverfront Mall has actually found a use, albeit not the one that was intended. It looks better than 95% of the buildings in North Lawrence.

JayhawksandHerd 6 years, 1 month ago

Make no mistake, I'd love to see that area cleaned up. However, I don't understand where this sudden demand for new retail and residential spaces came from when we're not even close to filling what we have.

JackMcKee 6 years, 1 month ago

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

JackMcKee 6 years, 1 month 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.

gatekeeper 6 years, 1 month ago

You obviously have only seen the area by Johnny's. Thanks for insulting a lot of residents and being a total *%#$. There are great neighborhoods in N. Lawrence and a lot of great people. Don't judge the entire area by what you see driving down 2nd St.

JackMcKee 6 years, 1 month ago

Why would you jump to that conclusion? South Iowa is all commercial. It should be pretty obvious that I'm describing the war zone that is North 2nd street. I wasn't directly insulting your rancho deluxe located North of the River. I have seen a certain girly bar out in your neck of the woods that I must say is pretty impressive, even by my standards.

irvan moore 6 years, 1 month ago

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

gatekeeper 6 years, 1 month ago

There's almost 1000 hourseholds and a population of over 2000 in N. Lawrence. Yeah, 1000 households don't need groceries.

2002 6 years, 1 month ago

The Riverfront Mall was NOT a failure. And you are correct about the national trend. The Riverfront Mall didn't make it as a mall over time, but it created a positive change in the area. The hotel reuse is a great example and it is a gem in downtown. Can you imagine how impossible it would be to build that hotel today? You would have the Lawrence hating tree huggers complaining about ruining habitat, the elitist historic commission crying destruction of historical setting and the rape and pillage conservatives wanting to build a stucco box.

Belinda Rehmer 6 years, 1 month 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...

nytemayr 6 years, 1 month 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!

Flap Doodle 6 years, 1 month ago

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

fromlarryville 6 years, 1 month 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!!

Gotalife 6 years, 1 month 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.

boxturtle 6 years, 1 month 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.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 1 month 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.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 1 month 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

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