East Lawrence property owners recently received a notice from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department informing them a public meeting is scheduled for Thursday to consider the nomination of nine properties to the Lawrence Register of Historic Places.
Perhaps each of these sites and the buildings on these properties are indeed truly historic and should be considered for the special designation.
However, based on previous efforts to designate specific locations around the downtown area and the consequences of such designations, it might be wise to at least study the potential effects of this action.
The notice from the planning office points out, “The designation as a landmark on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places will place additional review requirements on any development or redevelopment within 250 feet (the environs) of the register property which requires a City permit. A Certificate of Appropriateness or a Certificate of Economic Hardship will be required before a City permit is issued.”
No one knows what the future of East Lawrence might be in the coming years. However, the sites to be considered for historic designation cover a wide area from the 500 block of Connecticut Street to the middle of the 1000 block of Pennsylvania Street, including properties on Connecticut, New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania streets.
Almost any commercial or retail development proposed in this area would face major hurdles if the locations nominated for historic designation are approved.
Consider the sites currently so designated around downtown Lawrence and how this plan or footprint presents serious consequences for those desiring to make major changes to their buildings, or in undertaking remodeling or expansion.
Again, perhaps each of the proposed sites — 645, 742, and 1004 Connecticut St.; 934, 945, and 1029 Delaware St.; 821 New York St., and 936 and 946 Pennsylvania St., — deserve historic designation. Each of these locations creates a 250-foot zone with special limitations on development or renovation. Combined, they could effectively shut down any new commercial or retail development.
This proposal comes at a time when many are wondering why Lawrence seems to be stalled in its economic development, as well as its population growth. Others wonder what can be done to pump more growth and development into the east side of Lawrence. It might be timely to check specifically whether the proposed historic designations would help or hinder the economic development in East Lawrence.
Care and preservation of historic sites is important, but it is wrong if such an effort is primarily a method to make it more difficult to remodel or build new homes, and/or to stunt commercial development within the relatively wide “historic” area.