News and notes from around town:
• More than just tall buildings may be coming to the intersection of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. A roundabout may be built at the intersection, too.
The city’s Historic Resources Commission will get its first look at a proposed seven-story apartment building planned for the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. As previously reported, a development group led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor — the same group that has built the multi-story 901 N.H. apartment building and plans to build the multi-story hotel and retail building on the southeast corner of the intersection — is leading the project.
But the plans presented to City Hall have twist to them — or more accurately, a bit of a circle to them. The developers are proposing a roundabout for the busy intersection of Ninth and New Hampshire.
City Hall planners are neither recommending approval or denial of the roundabout. Instead, staff members are suggesting it is an issue that city commissioners should decide. The city’s Historic Resources staff, however, has determined a roundabout won’t damage the historical environs of the downtown area. The intersection has never had a roundabout, but from 1910 to 1929 the Roosevelt Fountain that currently is in South Park was located in the middle of that intersection. I’ve actually heard a suggestion from a local historian that the fountain be moved to the center of the new roundabout, but I haven’t heard anybody at City Hall take to that idea yet.
As interesting as roundabouts are, it will be a sideshow to what will be a debate about another skyline-altering building in Downtown Lawrence. Here are some details:
— The building is proposed to be seven stories tall. The height of the building varies from 77 feet tall at the point closest to the intersection of Ninth and New Hampshire and shortens to 68 feet at the northern edge of the building. Staff members have determined the building would be compatible in height with the Hobbs Taylor Loft Building farther north on New Hampshire Street and with the 901 Building, which is catty-corner from the proposed apartment building.
— In total, the building would have 121 apartments — with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units — on floors two through seven. The ground floor is proposed to have space for an apartment clubhouse, a bank — presumed to be Lawrence Bank, which currently is on the site — and space for additional offices. All told, the project will have about 177,000 square feet, and could easily add more than 200 new residents to Downtown Lawrence.
— The project will include its own underground parking garage. The plans also propose to convert a portion of the public, parallel parking along New Hampshire Street into saw-tooth parking spaces.
— Obviously, the plans call for the former Black Hills Energy building, which houses Lawrence Bank and several other offices, to be demolished. (In case you are just now catching up, Black Hills Energy has moved its offices into the former headquarters building of First Management on North Iowa Street.) The city’s historic resources staff concedes that the building — although it is over 50 years old — is not historic. The building was built as a grocery store by the Kroger Co. in 1957, and later became Waymeyers grocery store until it was converted into an office building in 1981. But do you know what was originally on the lot? A hotel. The Place Hotel, according to old maps, relocated from the community of Franklin to Lawrence in the late 1860s. So, I guess you could argue, the new hotel slated for the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire will take the intersection back to its historic roots. Well, as has been proven at this intersection, you can certainly argue anyway.
So far, the city’s planning staff has viewed this project fairly positively. At the moment, the planning staff has not made any recommendation to lower the height of the building, which was a major issue for the proposed hotel/retail building at the southeast corner.
But unlike that project, this project on the northeast corner does not abut homes. The planning staff, however, is recommending the design of the building be sent to the city’s Architectural Review Committee. Staff members are suggesting that more recesses and other design elements be used to break up the mass of the building.
It will be interesting to see how this project gets received by the city’s Historic Resources Commission. This will be the first big project since the controversial hotel/retail building went through the City Hall process. City commissioners ended up unanimously setting aside the HRC’s concerns about that building, and the mayor expressed some pretty frank frustration with the group. In case you have forgotten, Mayor Bob Schumm said he thought the HRC had become “extraordinarily strict,” and that it has become “almost impossible” to win approval for a major downtown development from the group.
“I’m a little unhappy with what I see coming out of the HRC,” Schumm said in late July. “I was on the commission that created the HRC many years ago, and I said at the time I hope that it becomes an advocate for protecting our history but doesn’t become obstructionist.”
I expect some neighborhood opposition to this project, but make no mistake, the City Commission is interested in seeing this new apartment project built in downtown. But listening to the tone of the debate may be telling to see if a new attitude about downtown redevelopment has emerged.
The city’s Historic Resources Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. today at City Hall.
• Who knows, maybe this seven-story building will get constructed and no one will even notice because everybody is preoccupied with their new, city-issued trash carts.
As we previously have reported, the new city-issued trash carts will start being delivered to households on Oct. 15. But Monday also is an important date to keep in mind. If you know you absolutely are going to need a cart that is different from the standard 65-gallon cart, you need to make that request to the city prior to Monday.
Households have the option of requesting a 35-gallon cart or a 95-gallon cart. Your monthly trash rate will be $1.50 cheaper than the standard rate, if you use a 35-gallon cart. If you use a 95-gallon cart, your monthly trash rate will be $2 higher than the standard rate.
People who want to request a different cart can do by going to lawrenceks.org/carts, or calling the city at 832-3032.
If you are unsure of what size cart you need, all three sizes will be on display at the upcoming Lawrence Energy Conservation Fair. The fair is set from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Holcom Recreation Center, 2700 W. 27th Street.
If you don’t tell the city what size cart you would like, you will get the standard 65-gallon cart. City officials are hopeful most households give the 65-gallon cart a try before requesting a different size. If households end up with too small of a cart, that is going to be a problem because the city will be keeping track of how often people set out extra bags of trash that won’t fit into the carts. If extra trash bags are left often, the city will require you to have a larger cart, and your rate will be adjusted accordingly.
The city is placing its order for 21,000 new trash carts on Monday, which is why the city wants to know your preference now. But the city will allow people to change the size of their carts, if they find the 65-gallon cart simply doesn’t work.
Beginning on Nov. 9, the city will have a 120-day “right-sizing” period, where the city will switch out carts at no charge for residents.
There are two other dates to circle on your calendar: Nov. 9 and Nov. 16. On those two days, households can set out their unwanted trash cans to be picked up for recycling. The containers should be to the curb by 6 a.m., and should be empty of trash.
• Another week, another set of land transfers from Douglas County officials. There appeared to be no big deals that stand out, but take a look for yourself. Click here to see the complete list.