Archive for Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Your turn: Market move raises concerns

March 12, 2013


The Lawrence City Commission recently considered a request from the Lawrence Farmers’ Market to use a portion of Parking Lot 8 in downtown for its Tuesday market. The question the City Commission had to decide was whether the market would be inconvenienced by being forced to hold the Tuesday market a few hundred yards away from its Saturday market location or whether to disrupt the customers, clients and employees of downtown businesses. The City Commission, after weighing the various interests, chose to go with disrupting the businesses of downtown.

Parking is a big problem for all downtown businesses. Special events like the Farmers’ Market create traffic which is good for many businesses downtown, but not all. Downtown Lawrence Inc., which has a board elected by the majority of the businesses located downtown, opposed having the Tuesday market at this location. The opposition was not to the market, but to using Parking Lot 8 because of parking issues.

Downtown businesses are affected differently when parking is at a premium. Restaurants and bars tend to do better when there is high traffic. People make spur of the moment decisions about whether to go for a drink or eat at a restaurant. Whether to visit a dentist, lawyer or accountant is not a decision people make impulsively. Thus, high traffic benefits restaurants and bars but is disruptive to businesses that provide services and many merchants where impulse buying is not a big factor. These businesses will not be able to set appointments for clients on Tuesday afternoons out of fear that their clients will not be able to find a parking space.

Over the last 30 years, I have witnessed downtown Lawrence change from a retail shopping district to a bar and restaurant district. The commission has intentionally or unintentionally set priorities that benefit bars and restaurants when balancing the interests of special events like the Farmers’ Market. Businesses considering locating downtown and businesses currently located downtown have been sent a clear message about priorities for downtown. Some folks say that a bar and restaurant district downtown is not a bad thing. I disagree. Downtown Lawrence should strive for a mixed-use district. Mixed-use districts provide a stronger downtown but also present greater parking challenges.

I am very concerned about the City Commission’s steps toward making a decision on this issue. Farmers’ Market representatives stated at the City Commission meeting that they had started the process of requesting the Tuesday market move in November of 2012. DLI and local businesses were not notified until late January of the request. That notification stated that the Tuesday market wanted to be in the grass and would take no parking spaces away.

By the time the issue came to a head in front of the City Commission, the Farmers’ Market was requesting the parking spaces and was in a position where it had to know where the market was going to be for the spring. The commission was faced with making a decision on this issue at the last minute. Will the City Commission repeat this mistake or will it take steps to ensure that this issue is thoroughly studied before a decision is made the next time?

The Lawrence Farmers’ Market representatives have made it clear that they have no interest in the parking lot under construction by the library. They are committed to the current Farmers’ Market location. I think everyone hopes the market expands and does well, but, if it stays at the current location, expansion of the weekday market will create a serious problem. The market will more than likely expand to Thursdays and seek additional parking spaces for its Tuesday market. The City Commission should not wait until a snowy day in February to begin the process of making this decision. If it does, and the trend continues, downtown Lawrence will end up a bar and restaurant district.

— Michael E. Riling is an attorney whose offices are located in downtown Lawrence.


Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

Thank your local Chamber of Commerce run by the big 3 developers for ruining downtown Mr. Riling. You sir should have been filing lawsuits. Killing downtown has never been a smart retail policy.

How much money will your business and others lose? How much has been lost over the past say 17 years?

Isn't it odd so many other cities are restoring downtowns while Lawrence movers and shakers are still pounding nails in the coffin?

BTW your local Chamber of Commerce run by the big 3 developers have yet more plans on the table for what they call" downtown redevelopment" which will also impact parking lots in the downtown area. Beware. It may also impact the Farmers Market.

GravyTrainBandit 4 years, 10 months ago

SERIOUSLY? Who says "Farmers market? Not in my neighborhood!"?! The Farmers Market is an economic engine in this town. They've been in business for 37 years and have done great things for our community (fiscally, nutritionally, agriculturally, socially, culturally). As Riling indicates, the Farmers Market attracts people downtown. People who shop the Market regularly support downtown businesses on market days. You'll note that ZERO retail businesses or restaurants complained about the move, and many wrote letters of support - likely recognizing the benefits the market brings to them. This opinion article is written by someone who doesn't want to risk parking a space or two further from his favorite spot. He won't have to. There are 120+ spaces in that lot, and the lot is NEVER full. Studies showed at least 35 spots regularly open. The market requested only 18 - 3 hours/day, ONCE weekly, for 25 non-winter weeks. The city is also negotiating with US Bank to open up an additional 18-30 spots in their adjacent lot on market Tuesdays. Regarding the long term: The market NEVER said they wouldn't move to the library. False info. To all who are concerned about negative impacts on parking that the Tuesday market might brink, I say: buck up! The Farmers Market is a friendly neighbor - and walking an extra couple paces wouldn't hurt your health anyway. I hope you'll take advantage of the privilege of having fresh healthy food available in your Food Desert location this year. It IS only a one year agreement. I do agree with Riling on one point though: It is unfortunate this decision-making process dragged on so long that there was pressure to make a decision fast. However, as was noted in a previous editorial on this subject, the City Commissioners DID do their best work that evening. They very thoughtfully considered all angles and had a thorough discussion of the subject before unanimously determining that the case for moving Tuesday's market to downtown was a strong one, and the right one to support.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 10 months ago

"These businesses will not be able to set appointments for clients on Tuesday afternoons out of fear that their clients will not be able to find a parking space."

This is, at best, an extreme exaggeration. At worst, said clients might have to look for a couple of minutes longer and/or walk a few feet more.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

" downtown redevelopment" will be the topic of discussion this Wednesday morning 7:30 AM at city hall..... a study session.

Might want to come down to find out what's up.

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