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City commissioners approve $800,000 worth of work to support area around Poehler Lofts project

January 15, 2013

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Fixing streets to help a project that is saving old East Lawrence buildings sounded like a good trade to city commissioners on Tuesday night.

Lawrence city commissioners unanimously agreed to approve more than $800,000 worth of street improvements and other construction-related expenses to upgrade the area around the recently renovated Poehler Lofts building near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets.

The proposed improvements are designed to assist a renovation of the Cider Building, 810 Pennsylvania St., that developer Tony Krsnich is working to convert into an arts and events gallery.

“The buildings in that area were really destined for the landfill,” said City Commissioner Aron Cromwell. “It has been a tremendous accomplishment to save them.”

Krsnich has renovated the multi-story Poehler grocery warehouse building into a 49-unit, rent-controlled apartment building. Work is underway to convert the adjacent Cider Building into a destination-style art gallery that will house everything from local to international artists.

The space will double as an events gallery for wedding receptions and other functions. The project is part of a larger effort for what Krsnich is calling the Warehouse Arts District. Another building along Pennsylvania Street, commonly called the Seedco building, has been converted into an arts incubator building that provide low-cost studio space for everything from artists to a recording studio.

But Krsnich also confirmed that he hopes to expand on the residential component of the district as well. Krsnich said he intends to apply next month for federal tax credits that would help fund a 34-unit apartment building for the area. The project would be just south of the current Poehler building.

The new building, if it successfully emerges from the tax credit competition, also would be a rent-controlled project and would involve a partnership with Lawrence-based Tenants to Homeowners.

Tuesday’s approval from the City Commission is designed to provide a boost for the entire district. Among the improvements approved are:

• $263,000 to rehabilitate Pennsylvania Street between Eighth and Ninth streets with new brick pavers.

• $279,000 to reconstruct Ninth Street from Delaware to Pennsylvania streets and to improve the intersections of Eighth and Pennsylvania, Ninth and Pennsylvania and Ninth and Delaware.

• $111,000 for stormwater improvements.

• $123,000 for new parking on Pennsylvania and Eighth streets, new sidewalks and pedestrian lighting.

“Pennsylvania is in really rough repair right now,” Krsnich said. “We think they’ll be important improvements to make when we’re asking groups from Kansas City to use the facility, when we are asking artists from New York to show at the building.”

Krsnich hopes to have the art gallery/event space open in the next two months.

“I think it is going to end up being an iconic area for the city of Lawrence,” Mayor Bob Schumm said.

Comments

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

How bout property owner vouchers tor a thirty year supply of vaseline to ease the pain.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

The streets in this area have been neglected for decades. This should not have necessarily been written up as part of the warehouse area improvement. Instead it is a lack of maintenance that has become more like a demo by neglect with the owners being city hall going back years and years.

Because of the neglect over the years it has become a more expensive project than perhaps it might have been. I say it is over due. There are other areas such as this in older neighborhoods. Contact City Hall to put YOUR tax dollars to work in your older neighborhood.

At least some of the new work being accomplished as a benefit district which is being funded or billed to the property owners as a CID district. Without the extra sales tax. Much like sidewalk rehab work could be accomplished....in any older neighborhood.

KT Walsh advised city hall of existing material that is simple laying around being available in another community that could save tax dollars on this project. You go girl.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

yes, there are many neighborhoods that need road improvements, primarily in the lower income areas of North and East Lawrence. But the area being improved here is not a true neighborhood, but instead a developing business district. Shouldn't our priorities, and our tax dollars be spent on true neighborhoods instead of for-profit business districts.

Merrill, if you oppose free handout's to Compton, et. al, you are being intellectually dishonest by supporting free handouts to other for-profit business entities. The fact that it concerns art rather than hotel rooms doesn't change its essential character as a for-profit business.

YOu lose your credibility when you oppose public funds in support of private sector development, but make an exception when the business is the type that you "approve" of.

You have previously stated (and on many occasions) that development doesn't pay for itself. I agree with that proposition. So please articulate specifically what it is about this particular for-profit arts district that changes that. And let's not forget that we are not talking about affordable art for the masses. The proposed gallery will have expensive pieces only affordable by higher income folks.

Finally, the roads being improved are not arterial through streets, but instead, will mostly benefit local traffic to the arts district.. Aren't there more traveled roads in the poor neighborhoods that need work as well, the improvement of which will benefit many more citizens of Lawrence.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

P.S. A question. Do you live near the project? If so, I understand your duplicity.

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flyin_squirrel 1 year, 7 months ago

"You lose your credibility"... did Merrill ever have any credibility? Sit in a LAN meeting and you will quickly make your own opinion of Merrill.

His comment above shows his true colors, when it is good for Merrill, it is good for the community. When it doesn't benefit Merrill, it is bad for Lawrence.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

The biggest problem is that there is no clear policy on what does and should trigger an investment of city funds in support of private development. It's pretty much an arbitrary decision every time it comes up, and, as such, prone to favoritism.

"Finally, the roads being improved are not arterial through streets, but instead, will mostly benefit local traffic to the arts district.. Aren't there more traveled roads in the poor neighborhoods that need work as well, the improvement of which will benefit many more citizens of Lawrence."

You've apparently not been in this area much. The traffic is quite heavy, especially with truck traffic, including concrete and gravel trucks and 18-wheelers headed downtown or through town. The streets are in pretty bad shape after several decades of such traffic.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

Agreed. There are no standards in place, which make it inherently arbitrary.

No, I am not familiar with the area. But I do know that repairing brick streets is 3 to 5 times more expensive than repairing the same with an overlay of asphalt. The money saved for one block (up to $140,00) could be used to rehabilitate three or four homes in East Lawrence and provide affordable housing for perhaps 20 or so moderate income folks. What's better? A street that looks "historic" or helping three or four families by subsidizing decent and affordable housing?

Moreover, the only reason he grant was approved was based on its connection to the for-profit project, and not because of need. Yes, there are many streets in East Lawrence that need repair. Why don't we start there, instead of focusing on a specific street pursuant to a developer's request. The developer has one but interest--to enhance the value of his investment. He couldn't care less about making the streets for passable for the public at large. The benefit to the public at large is purely incidental.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

Actually, I think that asking such a question goes part way to a more rational process-- do the improvements being requested benefit the larger neighborhood, especially when it's an older neighborhood that's been neglected for a very long time?

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nomessinmynest 1 year, 7 months ago

How dare you say this area isn't a true neighborhood. In this East Lawrence neighborhood there are homeowners, renters from all walks of life, ammenities and services. Living in these residences are single families, students, professionals...both white and blue collar, all of these residents contribute to the community in Lawrence. These are residents and business owners who will look out for each other, this would be my definition of a 'true neighborhood'. There are exisitng businesses that are vital and new busines ventures that will be vital to the Lawrence community that desire to place their roots in this area and provide jobs. Do these businesses and homeowners, who pay their property taxes, not deserve storm water drains and decent roads that are navigable without potholes? There are numerous homes that have been restored beyond their current market value in hopes of exceeding community expectations. Do these homeowners not deserve a decent road to traverse? In addition, there are parks, schools, and trails that provide neighborhood residents with service and recreation. I don't know how much you have traveled outside the state of Kansas, but by nationwide standards, this IS definitely a TRUE NEIGHBORHOOD.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

How dare I have an opinion????? The sole purpose of the grant is to support a for-profit business. It has nothing to do with neighborhoods. Any benefit the surrounding neighborhood receives is incidental. If the city leaders were truly concerned about the neighborhoods of east and north lawrence, the terrible roads and sewers would have been fixed long ago. Do you think the upper middle class inhabitants of old west lawrence would tolerate similarly poor roads?

It's all about business, not about people. Take you sanctimony elsewhere.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

Preventing or eliminating blight is an extremely good investment-- way better than cornfield sprawl that generally encourages blight elsewhere in the greater area.

And who cares if the gallery succeeds? Even if it fails, there's still a restored building in a no longer blighted area of town that will almost surely attract a new tenant.

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flyin_squirrel 1 year, 7 months ago

"Who care if the gallery succeeds? Even if it fails, there's still a restored building in a no longer blighted area of town that will almost surely attract a new tenant."

Well following your logic, who cares if Compton's Downtown hotel/apartments succeed, they will no longer be blighted gravel parking lots, and will surely attract more residents/visitors to downtown.

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alex_delaney 1 year, 7 months ago

But a vacant lot with a Johnny on the spot at 9th and New Hampshire is not a blight? Come on...

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

It's only "blighted" because the owners of the lot have consciously chosen not to maintain it.

With very minor exceptions (this lot being about the only one) downtown is not a blighted area. Far from it. And a five-story hotel became the only option for developing that corner because the owners preferred sitting on it, in a willfully blighted state, until the biggest cash cow came along, complete with $million in public subsidies.

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flyin_squirrel 1 year, 7 months ago

Poehler building and the Cider building are only blighted because the old owners had chosen not to maintain them. And unlike the downtown lot, the developer got a deal on them because they were blighted, so he shouldn't need subsidies.

Cannot say one is good and the other isn't. Without subsidies the Art District wouldn't have happened (I agree that it should get gov help), and without the subsidies the Hotel wouldn't have happened (i agree that is should also get gov help). Both are infill and good for our downtown businesses.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

Compton's projects are overwhelm and overfill, not infill.

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COjayrocks 1 year, 7 months ago

Well there you go, the fact that you refer to them as "Compton's projects" says that you are making it personal instead of rational. Your arguments continue to weaken as the true motivation for your "opinions" show through. It is ok to dislike someone but that doesn't mean it justifies your blind dislike for the work he/she does for Lawrence.

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swampyankee 1 year, 7 months ago

How about spending some dough on on teachers or mechanics or electricians or bus drivers etc. ???

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grammaddy 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm just glad to see something being done in East Lawrence for a change. Sooo much money get spent everywhere else in this town while our streets and schools crumble.

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