Whether round is sound for downtown Lawrence is still up in the air.
City commissioners on Tuesday split on the idea of whether a roundabout should be installed in the intersection of Ninth and New Hampshire streets as part of a project that will add a hotel and an apartment building to the area.
“I think we should get the best possible intersection we can get out of this development,” said City Commissioner Mike Dever. “Does that mean a roundabout? I don’t know.”
What is known is that there are two commissioners who are adamantly opposed to a roundabout at the intersection.
“Have you ever tried to cross the street at the 19th and Barker roundabout?” City Commissioner Aron Cromwell asked the developers proposing the roundabout. “I have, and it is like playing Frogger. It is extremely dangerous.”
City Commissioner Mike Amyx also said the roundabout idea held no appeal to him.
“I will not vote for a roundabout at that intersection,” Amyx said. “It is just that simple. I will not do it.”
A development group led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor have proposed the roundabout. The group has won approval for a new multistory hotel for the southeast corner of the intersection and are finalizing plans for a seven-story apartment building on the northeast corner of the intersection. The group also owns a multistory apartment/retail building on the southwest corner of the intersection.
“We believe this will increase traffic mobility and flow, and increase traffic safety and pedestrian safety,” said Micah Kimball, an architect with Treanor Architects, which is designing the new development at the intersection. “We believe in those safety improvements, and we think it will give us a chance to incorporate some art into the intersection.”
Commissioners essentially deferred any action on the roundabout discussion for at least two weeks after Dever and Mayor Bob Schumm both said they wanted staff to at least study the roundabout issue in more detail. Commissioners were split, though, because Commissioner Hugh Carter was absent from the meeting.
Schumm urged commissioners to not take action on the request until the full commission could hear the whole issue. He said he wanted to hear more about potential safety enhancements a roundabout could add for motorists and pedestrians. But he also said the roundabout could be appropriate to mark the significant new development at the intersection.
“I am kind of in favor of this,” Schumm said. “This intersection is going to be fairly handsome. It will give it a little bit of new flavor and new flair.”
City commissioners were told the intersection would be about the same size as the roundabout at 19th and Barker. But commissioners also were told more detailed design work would have to be done to prove that delivery trucks, fire engines and other large vehicles could navigate the roundabout.
Commissioners also took other actions related to development at Ninth and New Hampshire. They included:
• An agreement that 18 angled parking spaces can be built along New Hampshire in front of the proposed building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. The Historic Resources Commission had approved eight parallel parking spaces as part of the plan.
• Approved documents related to the tax increment financing district and a transportation development district for the hotel project. Commissioners previously had approved in principle the package of incentives for the hotel, but Tuesday night they started the process of approving the actual agreements.