Archive for Monday, December 11, 2017

Developers to propose downtown project with conference center, hotel and high-rise condos

Developers presented plans for the redevelopment of the old Lawrence Journal-World production facility at the City Commission's work session, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017.

Developers presented plans for the redevelopment of the old Lawrence Journal-World production facility at the City Commission's work session, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017.

December 11, 2017

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Lawrence city commissioners are getting their first look at a redevelopment that would convert a dormant corner of downtown into the home of a conference center, hotel and other multistory buildings, but also would require the city to be a major partner in the project.

At the commission’s work session Tuesday, developers will present the project, which would replace the former Journal-World production facility at Sixth and Massachusetts streets with four new buildings and an outdoor plaza, and would add a new parking garage in the 600 block of New Hampshire Street.

Developers are asking the city to own the parking garage and conference center, with a contract or partnership for its operation, and provide incentives for the other buildings: a 12-story condo and apartment building; a multistory hotel and retail building; and a multistory apartment and retail building.

A map of the corner of Sixth and Massachusetts streets shows first-floor plans for redevelopment of the site of the former Journal-World production facility.

A map of the corner of Sixth and Massachusetts streets shows first-floor plans for redevelopment of the site of the former Journal-World production facility.

City officials said the specific details of the conference center partnership and incentives aren’t yet established, and the work session is mainly an opportunity for commissioners to give the developers feedback on the idea.

“I think the key thing will be for the City Commission to decide if this is a project that they do want to see and have as a priority,” Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard said. “In that case, then those would obviously be details that staff would work with a development team on.”

The former Journal-World production facility takes up most of the 600 block of both Massachusetts Street and New Hampshire Street and has been out of use for several years. The property is currently owned by The World Company, the former owner of the Journal-World.

A map of the corner of Sixth and Massachusetts streets shows the upper-floor plans for redevelopment of the site of the former Journal-World production facility.

A map of the corner of Sixth and Massachusetts streets shows the upper-floor plans for redevelopment of the site of the former Journal-World production facility.

A development group led by Lawrence businessman Mike Treanor is under contract with The World Company to purchase the property, according to Bill Fleming, a Lawrence attorney representing the development group.

For those who might be nervous about the city becoming a partner in the conference center, Fleming said he thinks the risk to the city is pretty low.

“We as the developer are going to take most of the actual risk for the success or not success of the conference center,” Fleming said. “I don’t think there is much downside risk for the city and I think there is a lot of upside.”

Fleming said there are a lot of professional, educational and social organizations that need a space to hold large events. He said the amenities of downtown Lawrence would be a big draw for such conventions and conferences, and the visitors would provide an economic benefit for the city.

“The community impact we think would be significant, in terms of the number of people that it would bring to Lawrence and the type of activity,” Fleming said. He noted a market analysis estimates events at the conference center would draw around 100,000 attendees annually.

The idea for a conference center project goes back to 2014, when the city and the University of Kansas partnered to conduct a market analysis of a potential new conference center in Lawrence. Fleming said The World Company and Treanor have since contracted with the same firm, Convention Sports & Leisure, to conduct the second phase of the study.

Developers are also asking for a land exchange, swapping the city parking lot near the intersection of Sixth and Massachusetts Street for a tract of land just south of that location, which the development plans leave as open space for a public outdoor plaza.

Though details of the incentives aren’t established, developers are interested in dedicating an increment of hotel guest tax to pay for the conference center and establishing a tax increment financing district to pay for private parking for the hotel, condos and apartments, according to a presentation from the development team.

For her part, Mayor Leslie Soden was not enthused about subsidizing or granting incentives for the project. Soden said she is interested in hearing about development downtown that doesn’t need incentives. She said she thinks the city needs to prioritize affordable housing and permanent, well-paying jobs.

“I’m really tired of developers that cannot seem to come up with a business plan that doesn’t rely on taxpayer dollars,” Soden said. She said she’d like to know if developers can make the project work without incentives.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.

Comments

Mark Kostner 2 months, 1 week ago

That looks good. I thought they would put the hotel at the entrance to Mass but that's an improvement and a nice entrance to downtown. I hope someone is working on the other end at 11th and you would have two nice entrances.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months, 1 week ago

I sure hope they address parking better than they did with the apartment project and other places.

Bill Turner 2 months, 1 week ago

“I’m really tired of developers that cannot seem to come up with a business plan that doesn’t rely on taxpayer dollars." Yep, me too. And that's why I voted for you, Ms. Soden.

Fleming said he thinks the risk to the city is pretty low... “I don’t think there is much downside risk for the city and I think there is a lot of upside.” I'm really not interested in the opinions of people who have a stake in the deal. Of course they think it's a good idea. My advice: put your own money where your mouth is and leave us out of it.

Charles Jones 2 months, 1 week ago

Same old song, privatize the profits and socialize the costs. Meanwhile, the rich get richer. Maybe the city could demand an equity share in the profit side, run the money through the Community Fund to social service non-profits.

Tony Peterson 2 months, 1 week ago

This isn't even practical because of the traffic. It already backs up at that intersection because it's a bottleneck and can't be reconfigured because of how the bridge is designed.

Kathleen Christian 2 months, 1 week ago

12 stories? Are they trying to turn this town into another New York, Chicago, Kansas City or Baltimore? This will only take away the appearance of Lawrence. Why can't they limited the height of buildings? Washington DC did and even though it is a large city it still maintains that hometown feeling because people are not over shadowed by structures. I'm very disappointed and I hope the project does not go through. I'd rather see all retail than to see a 12 story building of over priced apartments. Downtown needs more free parking than buildings.

David Holroyd 2 months, 1 week ago

No one else wants to buy the J/W property so why not stick it to the taxpayers....there will be incentives REQUESTED...but these are not developers,,,they are interlopers..

Real developers would bulldoze the riverfront mall, the city hall and start from the river and go south... if in fact that location is even desirable..

Realistic developers would go to the west campus and build the conference center..after all the Dole Center is there and the Lied Center....Downtown has NOTHING....

This is a way to bail out Dolph,

btw,,,the bridge over the river is misplaced...

"downside for the city" Who is the city? There seems to be a reoccuring theme that the city is NOT the taxpayers and residents but rather a private entity made up of staff, commission , and a city manager.. Lawrence cannot even fix streets...I can only imagine what the proposed development would look like in 20 years....remember how dirty the library had become..BECAUSE the "city" wanted a new one...and the taxpayers would be stuck with the bill and maintenace in perpetuity.

Tony Peterson talks about traffic....Tony the staff and the architects don' t care about traffic problems..I have heard that there is even a roundabout proposed in the eventual final design...

It's going to be big, beautiful, and feature works of art

West campus is the place but great minds are not in Lawrence but have gone elsewhere to invest..

And Treanor is investing how much? Perhaps the money he has already made off the taxpayers in Lawrence...even as far back as the airport.

A real generous guy NOT.

Rob Chestnut 2 months, 1 week ago

I believe that the city incentive policy is written to entertain tax incentives for developers taking all of the risk in private development. This proposal as described is asking the City of Lawrence for significant capital investment to be funded by hotel guest tax. If the City determines that the parking and convention center are important assets to be paid through bonding to support downtown, that is one consideration. But I can't see how you justify this investment as well as long-term tax incentives that will generate very little incremental revenue for the City over the first 10-15 years.

Deborah Snyder 2 months, 1 week ago

There seems, to me, to be some kind of developer's long-range planning occurring within a concentrated portion of "downtown" Lawrence, with stakeholders consisting of longtime Lawrence 'movers & shakers' holding, or buying up, played out property.

The Simons have, for several years now, been lobbying whoever they can about converting their news building into either a hotel, or a convention center.

We now have a set of developers who, scenting tax breaks, are putting forth more mixed use plans to convert or raze properties on New Hampshire to Vermont, 11th to Sixth than you can shake a stick at... while out-of-state developers are descending on the perimeters of Lawrence with outlandish ideas for entertainment (white. water. raftING?!) or typical suburban sprawl mall proposals (...in floodplains) or new neighborhoods (the size of Eudora!) like vultures to fresh meat.

Why? The city police department just chose what I would consider the far NW side of town, in the belief that it will become more centralized, given time. I personally believe tax rebates, cuts and incentives are playing a huge outsize role in this.

Yet, for all that, we can't seem to entice one major business (defined as bringing in a hundred jobs or more...) from settling in at our brand spanking new Venture Park?

Carol Bowen 2 months, 1 week ago

Communities are beginning to realize that incentives far outweigh the benefits. Voters in Lawrence had clearly slammed on the brakes during the last two city commission elections. The city's infrastructure needs repair and updating. We have realized a new library, a sports facility, and a water treatment plant in a short span of time. A new police department facility and a transit hub are being planned. In general, we are an attractive city, but we should pay attention to our current assets before moving forward.

I do have one concern. It looks like developers are planning Lawrence rather than Lawrencians. I don't recall twelve story structures in the city's building codes. This development plan is very aggressive., invasive even.

Jody Meyer 2 months, 1 week ago

Is there any information out there regarding the specifics of the convention center, i.e., how many people it would hold, meeting room capacity, etc? Groups have stopped using The Oread as they can't accommodate larger meetings and people hate the parking. The renovated DoubleTree can accommodate larger groups and has easy access to the turnpike.

Louis Kannen 2 months, 1 week ago

From a distance, the logical name for this proposed project lies just a block and a half down the street on New Hampshire...The Bottleneck. Obviously, your City's "Apparent Official Developer" would need to deal with a looming 'naming rights' issue. Oh well, all in the name of Progress for your Tax-Paying Citizenry.

Clara Westphal 2 months, 1 week ago

A 12 story building on Mass Street or any part of downtown Lawrence is a bad idea. Mass St. will not be the unique draw that has brought people from out of town to shop. It will be just like any other town's main street.

Carol Bowen 2 months, 1 week ago

The developer is using 12 stories as a bargaining chip. He will graciously settle for 9 or 10 stories. The building codes do not allow the height, so he will request a variance.

Zoe Flowers 2 months, 1 week ago

Maybe the city should build the new police station there, :)

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