Archive for Friday, October 19, 2012

Town Talk: Proposed roundabout for Ninth and New Hampshire to get hearing; renderings for new multi-story building downtown; Ninth Street improvements planned

October 19, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• Get ready to go round and round about another large development at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

No, this time the discussion will be a little different than it was for the big debate surrounding a multi-story hotel at the southeast corner of the intersection. Now, we’ll actually be debating whether we should go round and round, as in whether there should be a roundabout installed in the intersection of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

If you remember, a development group led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor has proposed a seven-story apartment and office building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire. As we previously reported, the city’s Historic Resources Commission already has approved the design of the building, which tops out at 77 feet at its tallest point. So unlike the controversial hotel project across the street, this project won’t have to go through a contentious design review by the City Commission. The design is set.

What is not set is the idea of a roundabout at Ninth and New Hampshire. The development group has sought approval to build a roundabout at the intersection in order to help move traffic and to provide what they think will be safer pedestrian crossings.

The city’s Historic Resources Commission and the city’s planning staff have kind of thrown up their hands on that request. The city’s multitude of downtown plans don’t really address the idea of roundabouts in downtown. So, city commissioners will get to figure it out.

As proposed, the roundabout would be 90 feet in diameter, which is the same size of roundabout that is located at 19th and Barker in East Lawrence.

The city’s staff memo indicates the intersection could become more pedestrian-friendly with a roundabout. That’s because the pedestrian crossings no longer would be right at the intersection but instead would be placed a bit before the intersection. I haven’t seen a proposed design of the roundabout, but the city memo indicates the design would provide an island that would provide some refuge for pedestrians.

The staff memo also states roundabouts are “efficient and safe alternatives” for moving traffic through an intersection. But the memo doesn’t discuss how well roundabouts work in areas where there is significant truck traffic. At first glance you wouldn’t think there is a lot of truck traffic in downtown, but a host of restaurants and stores have deliveries made everyday via truck. I’m not sure how well trucks navigate the roundabout at 19th and Barker.

I’ve been told the roundabout at Ninth and New Hampshire likely will have some sort of signature art piece at its center. Based on what some trucker friends have told me about how they navigate a roundabout —straight over the curb — the city may want to consider putting an artsy-looking cement mixer in the center of the roundabout. It may be handy for crews repairing crumbling curbs.

Commissioners will consider the roundabout issue at its 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday at City Hall.

• For those of you who want to know what downtown’s newest multi-story building will look like, the folks at Treanor Architects have developed a new set of color renderings for the project. The rendering to the side of this article shows the western edge of the building that will face New Hampshire street. But click here to see the design for all four sides of the building.

As a reminder, the bulk of the building will be devoted to apartment units. A total of 121 apartment units will occupy floors two through seven, while the ground floor will accommodate office space that will be anchored by new offices for Lawrence Bank. The existing building on the corner — which includes offices for Lawrence Bank, Adecco personnel services and formerly for Black Hills Energy until the natural gas company moved to a new office on North Iowa — will be demolished.

Here are the latest renderings for the proposed office and apartment building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. This view is of the western front of the building, which faces New Hampshire Street.

Here are the latest renderings for the proposed office and apartment building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. This view is of the western front of the building, which faces New Hampshire Street.

The new building will range in height from 68 feet to 77 feet. It also will include its own underground parking, which will have its entrance and exit on the alley. The project is scheduled to include a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and I gather they will come with some unique amenities for downtown. Perhaps the most unique is that the building currently is designed to have a rooftop pool to serve residents. The hotel at the southeast corner no longer will have a rooftop pool, but it will have a ground-level, indoor pool. Who would have ever guessed even a couple of years ago that Ninth and New Hampshire would be the site of two swimming pools?

As I mentioned earlier, the major design elements of this building — which at 177,000 square feet will be the largest of the three new multi-story buildings at the intersection — have been approved. Height, scale and massing issues have all passed historic muster at City Hall.

But the developers are seeking city commissioners to vary from one finding of the city’s Historic Resources Commission. The approved plans call for parallel parking along New Hampshire street. The developers want to have a 9-foot setback along New Hampshire Street that would allow for an extra-wide 13-foot sidewalk and angled parking stalls. The angled parking stalls would be similar to those in front of the Hobbs Taylor Lofts at Eighth and New Hampshire.

The Historic Resources Commission, however, balked at that idea, saying the historic pattern of downtown is to have buildings up near the streets. But the developers note that the angled parking configuration will allow for 19 public parking spaces in front of the building. The parallel parking arrangement will provide only eight spaces.

The request comes at an interesting time politically. The city is contemplating spending $1 million and placing a special assessment on all downtown property owners to pay for an additional level of public parking at the proposed library parking garage. It would be interesting to see what the reaction would be if the city moves ahead with that project but then denies a request by a private development to add more public parking spaces.

• Speaking of downtown parking, there may be one thing that trumps it — bike lanes.

There are significant changes coming to the portion of Ninth Street between Tennessee and Kentucky streets. The city has received about $150,000 in federal funds to add a center turn lane and two bike lanes to the one-block stretch of street.

But to make room for it all, city engineers are recommending that seven public parking spaces along the street be removed. The parallel parking spaces basically are in front of the law office of Lawrence attorney Todd Thompson and in front of the 901 Kentucky Street office building.

According to a city memo, the owners of the Kentucky Street office building don’t object to the removal of the parking, but Thompson does.

City engineers, though, are excited about the project. They say the addition of a center turn lane will improve safety on the street since vehicles turning left will be out of the main flow of traffic. The project also will include a new, more advanced traffic signal at Ninth and Tennessee.

The two bike lanes both will be five feet wide, which continues a city trend to add bike lanes to major streets when significant construction is undertaken. To fit all the lanes in, however, the city — in addition to removing the parking — will need to reduce the width of the vehicle lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet.

If commissioners approve the project at their Tuesday evening meeting, construction likely would begin in the spring and would be completed by mid-August.


jhawk1998 1 year, 6 months ago

Round-abouts are not designed to be retrofitted into an existing intersection. Round-abouts should only be used when new streets are installed that allow for the proper turning radius.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 6 months ago

The problem for pedestrians at roundabouts lies 100% with drivers and the refusal of too many to pay attention.

Typically, there are NO pedestrians in the roundabout. So, as a driver, you only need to be concerned about pedestrians twice. Once BEFORE you enter the roundabout-- Is there a pedestrian attempting to cross? If so, let them before proceeding into the roundabout. The second time is BEFORE you exit the roundabout. Same as before you enter, Is there a pedestrian attempting to cross? If so, let them before proceeding out of the roundabout. It's that simple.

W/ regards to the size of the roundabout-- the one at 19th and Barker is big enough to allow nearly any vehicle to travel through it, even though some of the (much) larger ones may have to hop the short curb in the center. If it were made any bigger, it would encourage higher speeds and encourage those with lead feet to blast through it.

And if there was no structure at the center, this would encourage drivers to drive across that center rather than around it, which would be very dangerous.


alcoholbliss 1 year, 6 months ago

Pedestrians and roundabouts

Find a safer place to cross, which means JAYWALK down the street a ways. In other countries pedestrians give way to autos, here we are taught that pedestrians have the right of way.


gilly 1 year, 6 months ago

The real issue is driver behavior--lack of attention and either an inability or a lack of interest in acknowledging the presence of noncar traffic. So many drivers don't stop or even slow down. I've seen drivers blow through the four-way stop at Ninth and New Hampshire. I've seen them--frequently--drive towards pedestrians who are legally crossing. A roundabout is a traffic-calming device, meant to slow drivers down so others can negotiate the intersection. Pouting and railing against roundabouts is more about a personal wish not to change behavior than it is about considering the pros and cons of roundabouts. My take is that something is needed at that intersection, but I'm not sure a roundabout is the best choice--I don't think it can be large enough to work effectively there.


irvan moore 1 year, 6 months ago

stop signs are cheaper and work, forget the roundabout please


MacHeath 1 year, 6 months ago

Roundabouts are great, if designed properly. There isn't a good one in this town. The one on Barker is too small. They will not spend the money to do it correctly, so they shouldn't build one. There is no island for pedestrians in a properly designed roundabout. It just amazes me how folks in this town talk about roundabouts, and don't know the first thing about them...even the folks that build them! Do some research for cyrin-out-loud!

Google friggin roundabouts for pedestrian safety!!


waitjustaminute 1 year, 6 months ago

Really. A round-a-butt at 9th and NH? Better put a gi-normous fire hydrant in the middle so when firetrucks need to respond in a hurry, they can hook up there instead of creeping around and through because "traffic moves more efficiently through a round-a-butt." And when Mass and NH and Vermont and all the side streets are nothing but ashes, due to a major fire, we can say, but that round-a-butt held up well. Except of course, when the drunk college student drove his mom and dad's Lexus into it, but other than that . . . . only in Lawrence.


OonlyBonly 1 year, 6 months ago

Bang! With this comment we know it's wrong two ways. "but the city memo indicates the design would provide an island that would provide some refuge for pedestrians. " 1) If the roundabout is safer why do pedestrians need "some refuge?" 2) IF this was reasonably enforced, "The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter" there wouldn't be any problem at all.


sjgreen 1 year, 6 months ago

I drive through the roundabout at 19th & Barker every day, and I love it. However, I cannot imagine having one downtown -- especially one that size. It's too small to give you a good chance to look both ways for pedestrians, even at 10-15 mph. It would be even more dangerous on weekends when those pedestrians are likely to have been drinking.


RoeDapple 1 year, 6 months ago

Just another good reason to avoid the stench of downtown. I will miss ZenZero though.


atiopatioo 1 year, 6 months ago

I like roundies because Europe and Korea has them.


classclown 1 year, 6 months ago

Then again, this town and its denizens have a proud history of bending over and taking it as long as it's something for downtown, Compton, or KU. This one actually meets two of those criteria.


classclown 1 year, 6 months ago

Isn't there a waiting list for roundabout installation? I seem to remember reading a while back about the city not being able to afford to put one in everywhere they were wanted. Therefore they were put on a list until the city came up with the money to build them in the order they went on the list.

I'm sure one way or another the city will be footing the bill for this so shouldn't this one be put on the list?


bearded_gnome 1 year, 6 months ago

Wouldn't a yield to pedestrian sign or a pedestrian cross signal solve the pedestrian problem?





guavablues 1 year, 6 months ago

Read Gareths post. It is so simple and works well. If someone is in the round about they have the right of way. Yield to them.


akuna 1 year, 6 months ago

Wouldn't a yield to pedestrian sign or a pedestrian cross signal solve the pedestrian problem?


COjayrocks 1 year, 6 months ago

The link to the additional elevation views of the NH building does not seem to work. Anyone else having trouble?


Armored_One 1 year, 6 months ago

Drive south on Connecticut to the roundabout at 19th Street. I have, seeing as I live somewhat close to that roundabout. I have yet to see anyone yield to anyone, especially any traffic travelling on 19th Street.

This is not Europe. Stop trying to act as if there is some kind of a renaissance happening in Lawrence. There is nothing wrong with stop signs or even a stop light. Ten bucks says whatever putz recommended this is going to expect the city to pay for it's construction, and once it's built with our money, repairs and maintenance will come out of our pockets as well.

Twenty bucks says it'll get approved, even if every resident of Lawrence showed up to the meeting and unanimously said 'No' to the idea.


1 year, 6 months ago

I know that the city was looking at putting in a roundabout at 19th & Louisiana at the high school and decided not to. I would think that decision making had to do with pedestrian safety.


Gareth 1 year, 6 months ago

It's simultaneously sad and freakin' hilarious to see all the hayseeds lamenting roundabouts as "dangerous" and "deathtraps."

Learn how to drive, chuckleheads. You're not on the farm dirt roads any more.

It's very simple. Look to your left. Is there somebody in the roundabout? They have right of way.

GOSH, that was so difficult.


Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 6 months ago

I thought we were done in Lawrence wih this damned roundabout crap!!

See what you get when you don't vote in local elections, idiots and jerks with no sense or capability get voted in and get to inflict their stupid and dangerous notions on the community.

Roundabouts are NOT safe, I have nearly been hit at several of these "safe" locations. Local drivers do not understand them, will NEVER understand them, and you hazard your life if you do not plan to avoid these stupid European creations.

I am out on the streets regularly in my work each day and I see some of the most reckless, jerks in the country out who do not understand flashing yellow arrows, yellow stop lights RED stop lights for Christ's sake!! Ditto "stop" signs on school busses, stop signs on CORNERS, and other raffic signs. Ditto idiots who drive in a driving rainstorm, or pre-dawn darkness or late evening dusk with out any headlights, Yeah, you are a hero you can see in the dark. Maybe others cannot see you, didja ever think of that??)

What the nell makes any idiot in city government think that these drivers will heed any of the cautions required by this continuing to build these damned whilygigs???


oletimer 1 year, 6 months ago

roundabout's are stupid, dangerous, and costly. The only folks who enjoy this are drivers in the biggest vehicles who can bully their way through these death traps. My heart rate goes up whenever I attempt to get through the stupid things without being hit. A simple intersection is safer, less expensive, and a heck of a lot more reasonable. Contractors and cement producers love this things, and have somehow sold the idea to highway designers. You can bet they don't drive through them. Whoever name them as "traffic calming" devices is nuts.


MacHeath 1 year, 6 months ago

It does not take a genius to design a roundabout that will work in that intersection,and be safe for pedestrians. What will happen, is that the roundabout will be poorly designed, and be to small. They won't leave enough room to put crosswalks before the intersection, like they should. A well designed roundabout, is a thing of beauty. The city will not spend the money to do it properly...and they may not have the room there anyway. If Compton wants road improvements, why don't they make him pay for it? The hospital had to pay for the road improvements it wanted. (The turning lanes on 3rd and Maine, and the improvements done to 3rd, and Arkansas). The hospital is not-for-profit, and administered by a board of trustees appointed by the city! Look into this J/W! I realize that Compton and Simon are probably buddies though. No reporter has the cojones to touch it.


Laura Wilson 1 year, 6 months ago

I like roundabouts. People here just don't know how to utilize them properly. Spend anytime driving outside of the major cities in Europe and you'll learn pretty quickly.

I do have issues with the ridiculous amount of money spent here beautifying them with bricks and faux gas lamps and plantings. Several of the elaborate roundabouts in Lawrence would be little more than yellow round humps to drive around overseas.

That said, while I don't have a problem with a roundabout at 9th and New Hampshire, an intersection I drive through at least four times a week, the pedestrian crossing idea sounds dangerous. You can't safely cross in a roundabout. In England the crossings are often well back, but the distance between Mass and NH on 9th is so short and so heavily trafficked, this isn't feasible. There are already crossings in the middle of New Hampshire (the one between 10th and 9th being lighted and bricked). Adding another seems burdensome to drivers having to stop twice in a half block stretch.


flyin_squirrel 1 year, 6 months ago

Beautiful building that will look great on our downtown skyline! Hopefully all the negativity people on these blogs will invest some money in making our downtown better, rather than trying to impede improvements.


KansasLiberal 1 year, 6 months ago

Compton has no taste and the people at Treanor Architects have no talent. Why do Compton and Treanor insist on building such ugly buildings?


bearded_gnome 1 year, 6 months ago


there is NO *turn FOR PEDESTRIANS!



Bob Forer 1 year, 6 months ago

How is this safer for pedestrians? A roundabout slows traffic; it doesn't stop it. One can infer from the article that there will be crosswalks on the four streets leading to the roundabout at a distance from the roundabout, but apparently no stop signs. So instead of coming to a full stop, cars will only be require to yield to pedestrians if they see them entering the crosswalk while their vehicle is in motion. How is this safer? With a four way stop, the vehicles will be required to stop regardless of pedestrian activity., instead of being slowed by the roundabout.

Additionally, one would assume that the hotel will attract out-of-town guess with no roundabout driving experience. I wouldn't think it would be wise to inject driver confusion in an area with heavy pedestrian traffic.

And by the way, if this project cannot be built without taxpayer money, why are the developers seeking to spend an extra $200,000 plus on a roundabout. Or are they expecting the additional cost to come from our pockets?


scribe 1 year, 6 months ago

I am all for roundabouts but not where there is heavy pedestrian traffic. I don't want to have to take refuge on an island just to keep from getting hit. I'm not even sure the roundabout will navigable for the buses and trucks that use that street.


Andini 1 year, 6 months ago

I hope this new roundabout includes a statue of Doug Compton in the center.


Keith Richards 1 year, 6 months ago

Chad-Are you sure it is a 90ft in diameter roundabout? That would make the roundabout bigger than the building is tall.


chzypoof1 1 year, 6 months ago

SMH...ANOTHER roundabout? In downtown? Just make sure you put something in the middle the impedes the view of the drivers (like the other ones in town) so it's COMPLETELY unsafe....



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