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Downtown promoter seeks to close part of Massachusetts Street for free, outdoor movie
Perhaps you remember the days of the free movies downtown, when a projector was set up in the then-vacant lot just north of the city's parking garage at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
I still hear people complain about how that multistory apartment building that took over the vacant lot ruined the days of the free movies. How dare someone do millions of dollars worth of development on a lot that was planned and zoned to accommodate, well, millions of dollars worth of development.
Perhaps you may even remember the days when The Granada in downtown Lawrence actually showed movies instead of serving as a music and event venue. (Man, you're old.)
Well, city officials will have a chance to bring back both traditions for at least a night. The owners of The Granada, 1020 Massachusetts, have filed a request at City Hall to show a free, outdoor movie on Sept. 26. But there is a significant twist to the request: The movie would be shown in the middle of Massachusetts Street and would require the entire 1000 block to be shut down for about six hours.
We'll see whether that idea excites downtown merchants, but the movie should excite children of the '80s, anyway. Mike Logan, owner of The Granada, said he's chosen The Goonies, a 1985 kid-oriented film with Corey Feldman and others that has become a cult classic.
As I mentioned, though, the idea of closing down Massachusetts Street may end up getting the same reception as a Corey Feldman, Goonies-style hairdo would today. Certainly the city has agreed to shut down Massachusetts Street many times before, but in recent months a few commissioners have started to grow weary of the idea. Commissioners Bob Schumm and Mike Amyx, who both own businesses on Massachusetts Street, have gotten an earful from fellow merchants who say keeping the flow of traffic and parking in the heart of downtown is critical to their businesses.
The Granada wants to close the street from 4 to 11 p.m. on a Thursday. So, we'll see whether merchants, restaurant owners and other businesses downtown object to a closing at that hour.
Logan said he's optimistic the idea will be well received.
"We picked a Thursday night specifically for that reason," Logan said. "I think it is the right block for it, and we think the timing won't be that impactful."
As for the occasion behind this big event, The Granada is celebrating 20 years as a live music venue. It opened in 1993 after ceasing to be a movie theater in the late 1980s. In an homage to that movie history, plans call for an inflatable movie screen to be set up near the intersection of 11th and Massachusetts, and moviegoers would bring lawn chairs and blankets and sit on the closed portion of Massachusetts Street. The movie would be free to attend, but The Granada would operate a concession stand and beer garden in the parking lot next to its building. Organizers originally had hoped to allow beer on the closed portion of the street, but they did not get their request into City Hall soon enough to allow for all the public hearings that must happen to allow alcohol on a public right-of-way.
In fact, city commissioners just learned of the request yesterday. They're being asked to hear the item at next week's City Commission meeting.
Logan, who has owned the venue for the past 10 years, has several other events planned during the week of Sept. 20 to celebrate the anniversary. Look for details of those in the near future. They should provide a little recognition for a business that once was primarily a nightclub but now has turned into an events venue that has become one of the larger generators of traffic in downtown. Logan told me that the venue hosts about 250 events a year, and already has 85 events scheduled between now and the end of the year.
"We're having a lot of fun," he said. "Our core focus now is to bring national-level talent to Lawrence."
Here's a look at some other news and notes from around town:
• It may not be as fun as a movie, but the city is set to get a new pump station to move sewage through a key section of south Lawrence. (Actually, that sounds better than the plots of a few romantic comedies I've been forced to sit through.) City commissioners at their Tuesday meeting agreed to pay $170,670 for about five acres at the northwest corner of 31st and Louisiana streets to house the sewage pump station. As part of the purchase, the city will receive a donation of about 18 acres just west of the corner. Much of that ground is in the floodway and could never be developed under city regulations. But city officials believe it will be a nice piece of greenspace along the new South Lawrence Trafficway, and eventually a hike and bike path could be built through the property that would connect the Naismith Valley Park hike and bike trail to the trail that will be included along the SLT. The deal still leaves about 8.5 acres to the west, including the house of Bruce and Joan Snodgrass, which is available for development. As we've previously reported, Menards has the property under contract to use in its new retail area on the Gaslight Village Mobile Home Park, just west of the site.
• It is not often that people come to City Hall saying: "Spend local taxpayer money instead of private grant money to build a project." But that's what happened at Tuesday's city commission meeting. City commissioners decided not to apply for a $14,000 Kansas Health Foundation Grant to install specialized outdoor fitness equipment in a portion of South Park. (Deerfield Park has some of the equipment, if you are curious about what it is.) Commissioners balked at the grant after Commissioner Jeremy Farmer and a local nonprofit grant writer asked the city to reconsider applying. The duo argued that if the city applied for the money it may be less likely that other nonprofits in Lawrence would receive any money from the grant program. They said the city should show restraint this year because many nonprofits are relying on private grant money more heavily than ever because of cutbacks in federal funding. Commissioners agreed to back off this time, but they did so with hesitation. They said grant funding is mighty important to the city too. As for the fate of the fitness equipment, it was left undecided whether the city would use local funds to purchase the equipment. When that comes back up, I'll let you know.
• And finally, one housekeeping matter. (My wife's ears actually perked up. She thinks I've figured out how to run a vacuum cleaner.) Don't worry, it is nothing silly like that. Several of you have been asking for a way to get some sort of e-mail notifications about new Town Talk columns. Well, we've figured out how to do that. It is a once-a-day e-mail digest of Town Talk columns. A link to sign up for the free service can be found below.