Archive for Monday, July 28, 2014

Your Turn: Planning must respect community vision

July 28, 2014


By Candice Davis

Lawrence city planning must be guided by a vision that protects the interests and welfare of all residents and safeguards the quality of life we have come to enjoy. Our comprehensive planning document for growth and development, Horizon 2020, provides such a vision and needs to be used as a valued reference tool to evaluate the impact of development projects.

A group of North Carolina developers, Collett Associates, have been working with our city planning department for 18 months in planning a large retail development on south Iowa Street, called Southpoint. Many concerns have arisen about the timing and feasibility of this project. The development will require both rezoning and annexation of land as it does not conform to Horizon 2020. It will also require infrastructure to reach the site.

This proposed retail project is located at the southern most entrance to our city and in part of the floodplain next to the Wakarusa Wetlands. Building in a floodplain is a costly and risky proposition.

Last week, the city-county planning commission wisely voted against this proposal, but it will likely be revisited. Residents need to be informed as there are already existing city commitments to retail developments in other Lawrence locations. The success of the new regional recreation center may be aided by the development of retail shopping and hotels in the northwest portion of the city. Given that our tax dollars have been invested in the recreation center, it does not make sense to support retail development to the south.

The North Carolina retail project is large, nearly half the size of our downtown. How many new retail businesses can Lawrence absorb without harming other established citywide businesses? City data shows that retail sales, adjusting for inflation, have not increased substantially since 1995. The success of this retail proposal is dependent on drawing out-of-town shoppers. This is very speculative as there are many large regional malls within easy driving distances from Lawrence and the surrounding communities.

Thoughtful and careful consideration must be made about the need to expand retail development. We must preserve what makes Lawrence a unique destination. The welfare of our downtown is a priority, and city planning practices and decisions are critical in protecting and preserving this jewel. Retail shopping is an important component to the overall experience of being downtown.

Downtown Lawrence provides a sense of identity and place that a shopping mall or strip mall never will. Our downtown has survived because of the past efforts of citizens who fought for years to keep out a regional shopping mall. Without their efforts our downtown would look like Topeka, Wichita, Atchison, or Kansas City, Kan. None of these cities have been able to restore their once vibrant downtowns.

There is not another downtown city center in the Midwest that compares with the charm and vitality of downtown Lawrence: We offer cultural experiences, shopping, art, history, music, entertainment, food, gorgeous parks, the river, parades, sporting events, gathering places and leisurely strolls for family and friends. Our downtown is an enjoyable destination for our residents as well as those outside the city. We cannot risk losing it.

Thoughtful and effective city planning is critical. Developers and out-of-town investors are not city planners. They may have wonderful ideas, but it is our city planning staff that must decide the potential benefit to the community for each project. The residents of Lawrence as well as developers both risk investment dollars in new development. Our tax dollars help support city services, local businesses and infrastructure costs. We deserve city planning that will protect our investments and the community we love. “Free market” ideas without good planning are reckless and destructive. They threaten the vitality of our city, especially our downtown.

City planning should always consider the overall health and welfare of the entire community, follow appropriate city planning protocol and use established urban planning principles and data that bring credible facts to the table.

The North Carolina proposal does not meet the vision of our long-range plan and is not good for Lawrence. A beautiful park with walkways, bike paths and access to the Wakarusa Wetlands would be a more welcome project for this location.

— Candice Davis is vice chair of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods and co-chair of the Oread Residents Association.


Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

Where's the business?

Where are the retail dollars?

Where is the common sense?

Are flooded markets friendly to business?

How many jobs will be lost?

Why does lawrence continue to finance a low wage community?

New retail stealing from existing retail does not generate new retail dollars or more sales tax. This is economic displacement = no new growth just more expense for taxpayers.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

What should govern development in Lawrence: developer money or community planning?

Community planning of course.

Developers buying land is a risk they must assume. It is not the taxpayers responsibility to insure that the developers are able to profit as they so desire. It is not the responsibility of the taxpayers City Commission to insure that the developers are able to profit as they so desire.

Too often in Lawrence we've been told by our local politicians that Horizon 2020 is only a guideline therefore it is okay to violate the plan that has been deemed a fiscal responsible approach to managing Lawrence,Kansas growth.

Helter Skelter growth breeds the tax dollar money hole monster aka Lawrence,Kansas.

Michelle Reynolds 3 years, 5 months ago

I appreciate your concern for downtown. But,downtown also needs to take care of itself. I would love to shop downtown. I do as often as I can. But, it's never open when I am off work. I was downtown last Saturday at the farmers market. There were so many people eating breakfast and wondering the street it looked like lunch time on a Saturday. If businesses were smart they would be open, instead of making shoppers press their faces against the windows.

As for the concern about to much retail. Large retail developers do a feasibility study prior to proposing a development. They aren't going to randomly spend millions of dollars not knowing of they will get their money back. Along with a feasibility study they do a study to find out how much of Lawrence's retail sales are leaving Lawrence. Based on those studies by the developers and the stores wanting to come they know Lawrence will support this amount of retail development. The developers picked that location because retail shopping likes to be by retail. Just like downtown. You shop in one store and since there is another one right next door you go in that one and so on and so on. Lastly, it is disappointing our planning commission worked with the North Carolina developers for 18 months then said No, seems like someone in that department might have brought that up sooner.

I vote yes for more retail. It is at least more jobs and more retail tax revenue. Not the jobs we want but it's something. Look how well Venture Park is turning out. The police department doesn't even want to go own city owned property. I say yes to jobs, and yes to sales revenue, that will help pay for all the crazy spending of our city commission

Ken Lassman 3 years, 5 months ago

Hmm....we need more retail in order to address the fact that most downtown stores are closed on Saturday mornings? No, that's not what your point is....

We need this floodplain mall because they've done a feasibility study that shows that they can make money there? Well, Tanger Mall did that, too, I'm sure, as did the Riverfront Mall. Did their feasibility study include the impacts of such a retail expansion on downtown Lawrence? That would be an interesting thing to find out, don't you think? I mean, if the retail vacancy rates at the end of the tax break period has increased substantially in other parts of town, what does that mean in terms of net tax collections,

And finally, don't you think the Planning Department raised their concerns with the North Carolina developers during the 18 month process? Don't you think the issues Candace brought up were also brought up by the Planning Dept. to these out of town developers?

John Yocum 3 years, 5 months ago

Candice - So does the proper setting for retail mean only the one on the right (northwest) side of town?

Since when has the town followed 2020?

Downtown is proportionately more food/drink than "retail" before 10:00am and after 6:00pm. Might be a shock to some Lawrencians to learn that there are those of us who need retail options other than 10:00 - 6:00. I love the downtown, but my wife and I consider it more of an entertainment district than a retail one at this stage.

Give those of us on the wrong side of Iowa and Wak a chance at retail.

Bruce Bertsch 3 years, 5 months ago

Horizon 2020 is a GUIDELINE. If someone wants to risk their $$$ on a retail development that will bring additional revenue, then maybe we should actually consider it. Maybe these folks did research that indicates that the "Mercato" location will not be successful. Just because you want them to build there does not mean its the best location. In addition, downtown as a retail center? That ship sailed long ago. Concentration of ownership and high rents and being "historical" will make it less feasible every passing day.

Gary Rexroad 3 years, 5 months ago

I agree with Ms. Davis assertion that a community vision should guide development. I also agree that development in West Lawrence is needed and likely inevitable. There are a couple of points we should discuss…

• Our comprehensive plan sets this area for consumer business. Members of the planning commission, who were present at the time H2020 was drawn, have stated this was their intent and believe it a good location for a retail center

• More important, The Southpoint developers have been working hand in hand with today’s city planners and have received their approval

So far, we have not been able to convince developers that West Lawrence is right for them. We need to think seriously about building incentives into that area making it a logical and attractive direction for development. Saying yes to the Southpoint project will not limit or restrict development in West Lawrence. When Mercado becomes a viable option, people will build.

Our downtown is alive and important and a big part of what makes Lawrence special. I believe the two best things we can do for our downtown is to drive density by design into that area (more people and businesses) and to do what we can to keep people here to spend their retail dollars. We lack the options today’s consumers want which is why so many go to Topeka, KC and the Legends. If those options are made available, people will have a choice to stay home which benefits every business.

Let’s also remember how badly our city needs sales tax revenue. Our infrastructure needs (Library, Police HQ etc.. ) have outpaced our revenues Two separate studies have shown the Southpoint development will increase sales tax revenue for Lawrence and DGCO. We have an opportunity to draw shoppers from other cities to Lawrence to experience our wonderful community and deposit their sales tax revenue while they are here.

The Southpoint project is a good fit for the intersection of two highways, is consistent with our comprehensive plan, has the support of our cities planning staff, would make a great gateway to our city and would bring badly needed sales tax revenue to our community while keeping shoppers at home and drawing others from surrounding communities.

Clark Coan 3 years, 5 months ago

An eye-opener for me. I didn't realize that total retail sales have been flat since 1995 and the project would be half the size of downtown. I think Kirk McClure has said that the city is overbuilt in terms of retail space. The older shopping centers are hurting. This cornfield mall will hurt existing businesses, though probably not downtown, which has mostly boutiques, bars and restaurants.

Thomas Luxem 3 years, 5 months ago

I am wondering what stores in the Southpoint project are going to save Lawrence retail. I know Old Navy was here and left and are pegged as one of the retailers for Southpoint. If only (fill in the blank) was in Lawrence we would have a better retail experience. Please tell me which new retailer is going to increase out-of-towners coming to our community to spend their dollars. As a Downtown retailer I know there are products here that you can't find anywhere else in surrounding communities. That's how all of us stay in business. We have a concentration of deep retail in Downtown Lawrence. We buy local products. We buy from small unique suppliers. Its our job to bring you products you can't find anywhere else. We already have better retail, do we just need more? That's the question we have ask.

Cille King 3 years, 5 months ago

1) Sales tax revenue has been flat for the last 10 years, while retail square footage has increased 4% per year during that time. Why would anyone think that this increase in square footage would increase sales tax revenue?

2) The development proposed for Southpoint is 193% larger than the car-orientated businesses in the plan in place (page 6 of the staff report).

3) Staff report Chapter 6 , page 16, further development should not extend south beyond K10.

4) This proposal undermines the process to amend Horizon 2020.

5) 3 of the businesses proposed in Southpoint would relocate from other places in Lawrence.

6) Southpoint's access from the east (Michigan and Louisiana) would further stress already busy and width restricted Louisiana.

7) The stores in Southpoint would be scaled down versions of the national retailers - just as JC Penney, Kohls, Home Depot, Sears, Bed-Bath-and Beyond and other Lawrence stores are to fit the smaller market.

8) A shopping center is a great gateway to Lawrence?????

9) Riverfront Mall and the Tanger Mall also did a market study to determine that their stores would succeed.

10) We are working toward Complete Streets. This proposed development works against that goal.

11) There are the newly rezoned retail sites at the Menards location for new retail on the south side of Lawrence

Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 5 months ago

Okay, here is my question. If Lawrence citizens are supposed to spend their money here to benefit their community, shouldn't other cities be doing the same?

John Yocum 3 years, 5 months ago

I think I'll run right downtown and buy ten unique $75 shirts to wear this year to teach in. Oh, wait. Maybe I should get 10 less-unique $2O shirts at a south Lawrence retailer in case a student accidently bumps into me with a non-washable marker.

I love our downtown, but there are some things I cannot afford down there. Clothing at my income is one of them.

Shopping center as a gateway to Lawrence is a problem? Yeah. A car dealership and a movie theater is much better…

Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

" Large retail developers do a feasibility study prior to proposing a development." How do we know this?

New retail taking from existing retail does not generate new retail dollars nor more sales tax. This is economic displacement = no new growth just more expense for taxpayers.

Down sized stores for a downsized community are not exciting nor do consumers have the choices and best prices.

This is all about selling real estate not about improving our quality of life. An over sized strip mall.

How many will shop there while paying an extra 2% in sales tax? A back door gimmick. We have no idea what type of tax dollar give away this project will garner.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

Candice Davis does her homework and presents her findings in a concise and comprehensive manner.

Thank you for all your hard work.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

How do we subsidize some local development profiteers?

--- failing to change the always say yes mindset of our City Commission

--- accepting Lawrence,Kansas "Always Low Wages" = slow payback if ever.

--- accepting the brown cloud of pollution that is building over Lawrence

--- pick up the cost of more criminal activity as Lawrence grows.

--- building new and wider roads such as the SLT.

--- building schools on the fringe.

--- extending sewer and water lines to not necessary development.

--- extending emergency services to the fringe.

--- direct pay-outs to developers. For example in Lawrence downtown two more 9th and New Hampshire structures looking at more and quite healthy multi-million tax $$$$ “donations if you will”. ( ) Our commissioners could have said no.

--- "Free Lunch: How Local Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Taxpayer Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)." This reveals how local government subsidies and new regulations have quietly funneled money from the local poor and the local middle class to the rich politically connected.

Bill Moyers

David Cay Johnson – What exactly is TIF?

Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

"Thoughtful and effective city planning is critical. Developers and out-of-town investors are not city planners. They may have wonderful ideas, but it is our city planning staff that must decide the potential benefit to the community for each project. The residents of Lawrence as well as developers both risk investment dollars in new development.

Our tax dollars help support city services, local businesses and infrastructure costs. We deserve city planning that will protect our investments and the community we love. “Free market” ideas without good planning are reckless and destructive. They threaten the vitality of our city, especially our downtown. " Candice Davis

No community has an endless supply of retail dollars contrary to what developers have led communities to believe. Southpoint Developers discovered a new source to enrich their bank accounts which will not enrich the Lawrence quality of life.

If Southpoint fails it's written off to bankruptcy not to mention developers do not use their money to build anything…. it's the banks money and/or taxpayer subsidies.

I have never understood how so many can believe that a deregulated laissez faire approach to urban economics is healthy for the taxpayers tax base and existing business owners.

Let’s support our existing retailers and their employees instead of cutting into their economic growth.

Supporting our existing retailers and their employees instead of cutting into their economic growth is fiscally responsible.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

We could be a vibrant, dynamic, somewhat progressive city because the Lawrence majority want to remain unique instead of becoming among the communities that choose the cookie cutter image.

Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 5 months ago

I would like to know, with pictures: what is happening to the (awful name) Venture Park?

Which companies have already chosen to locate there?

Are these start-ups?

How about places to eat, have fun during breaks (walks, trips on bikes, basketball courts... etc.) and to buy groceries, so that you can bicycle or walk (as well as drive) to places downtown and in other parts of Lawrence?

Lawrence Journal World: Please give us an up-to-date article on all aspects of that project.

Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 5 months ago

And how is the North Carolina group, who is working with city planning, being paid?

Do the members of that group come from and know intimately a city such as Lawrence? Or do they come from a town with many shopping malls, etc. Candice Davis describes, and I agree with her description, that Lawrence is a very unique place now, and should remain that way.

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