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Lawrence lands on list of quirkiest cities in America; developers to meet again on future of Turnhalle building; group forms to support police HQ issue
Well, put down your Honk for Hemp signs, park your Art Tougeau cars, and tell the zombies on Massachusetts Street to take a break from the brains. I have some disturbing news to report: The website of Travel+Leisure magazine has named Lawrence one of the quirkiest towns in America.
The magazine ranks Lawrence No.15 on its list. Like me, you may find some of their examples of our quirkiness interesting. The editors said we made the list by “embracing those who aren’t afraid to make public spectacles.” Case in point: The Busker Festival, which features a variety of street performers and begins tonight. Certainly the event is a load of fun, but quirky? The last I checked, a hula-hoop is an American icon, and fire has been around since the dawn of time. Why wouldn’t you combine the two? And that costume is just functional.
The editors really get under my skin with the next one, however: “Each year the fire department makes a show of rescuing Santa off the roof of Weaver’s department store.” Excuse me? That’s on Santa. We don’t tell him where to park his sleigh. Are we just supposed to leave him up there? Clearly, there is only one conclusion to draw from this: Travel+Leisure hates Christmas. (Maybe the Journal-World will make its own list of the biggest Christmas-hating magazines in America.)
The magazine also touts how Lawrence year-around supports the Museum of the Odd and its collection of nearly 600 sock monkeys. The museum is supposedly at 1012 New York Street, although in my 23 years of living here, I’ve never been to it. I suppose that makes me an oddity, which means I’ll never go now out of fear they’ll keep me.
The last one, though, perhaps disappoints me the most. The article notes that the community “ranked highly for its ice cream,” and then goes on to mention Sylas and Maddy’s Home Made Ice Cream in downtown. That is very disappointing. I was assured by the staff there that they would never disclose what I do with the cone.
Regardless, there it is. Lawrence is the 15th quirkiest town in America. I suppose they’re hoping we’ll make up some T-shirts about it, or spray paint our cars with a big No. 15. And we might, but I can assure you it won’t be because some fools at Travel+Leisure want us to.
If you’re curious about who else is quirky, the list includes a few fellow college towns: Bloomington, Ind., ranked No. 9, in part for its large number of Tibetan Buddhists; Charleston, Va., No. 8 for Edgar Allan Poe’s dorm room that is kept behind glass; and Boulder, Colo., for its annual Tube to Work Day. Taking the top spot, though, was Asheville, N.C., where you can sign up for a tour to forage in the woods for “fairy potatoes,” which apparently is some type of fungus that grows on trees and is promoted as the “Mushroom of Immortality.”
In other news and notes from around town:
• Well, won’t the editors of Travel+Leisure be embarrassed when they see the serious topics we’re moving on to now. Of course, I’m talking about the community discussion of how to save an East Lawrence building that was home to a social club that was built on the very ordinary principles of gymnastics, German food, beer, and sometimes bowling.
As we previously have reported, a group led by Lawrence developer Tony Krsnich has reached a preliminary deal to buy the old Turnhalle building at Ninth and Rhode Island streets. Now Krsnich and his team are trying to figure what uses they can put in the old building that once housed the German-American social club Turnverein.
The developers will hold their second community meeting to get feedback on possible uses for the building. The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Cider Gallery in the East Lawrence Warehouse Arts District near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets. (The Warehouse Arts District is another one of Krsnich’s developments.)
Tom Larkin, a member of the development group, said the idea of some sort of beer garden with some bowling lanes in the basement is still very much a live one. That was similar to how the Turnverein used the basement of the building. Larkin said several groups that do performances also have expressed an interest in the main floor, which includes a stage and a balcony. Larkin said the idea of a dinner theater also hasn’t been ruled out yet.
But there are going to be some significant challenges to overcome with the property. Parking will be a major issue. The property really doesn’t have much of it, so the city and the neighborhood may have to back away from their normal parking standards if they want to have a prominent use in the building.
Using the 1869 stone building for a private residence may be the easiest way to get around the parking problems, but the Lawrence Preservation Alliance — which saved the building from dilapidation — doesn’t want to see it used as a private residence. Larkin said his group also doesn’t think that would be the best use for the building.
After this Tuesday meeting, Krsnich’s group will have to start making some decisions about the future of the building. It was mid-July when he signed the deal to purchase the building. The deal gave his group 60 days to conduct due diligence and come up with a plan for the building. So, as it stands, he has less than a month to decide how or whether to move forward.
• Lawrence residents also will have a big decision to make in the next few months. As you know, voters will be going to the polls on Nov. 4 to decide whether to vote for 0.2 percent sales tax to fund construction of an approximately $28 million police headquarters.
As I told you earlier, a citizens group has formed to support the sales tax issue, and now we have a better picture of that group. The Friends of Lawrence Police, Inc. has launched its website — FriendsofLawrencePolice.com — and is actively campaigning for the issue.
My understanding is the group has registered as a Political Action Committee, which means it can raise money and do campaign advertising on the issue. In addition, group members will be co-hosting tours of the current police facilities, organizing town hall meetings on the issue, and generally talking the issue up around town. The group has an executive committee that includes a mix of business people and community leaders. That group includes: Don “Red Dog” Gardner, Aaron Clopton, Gary Rexroad, Michelle Derusseau, Kevin O’Malley, Harry Herrington, Allison Vance Moore, Daryl Bugner, Tom Dobski, Ted Boyle, and Brian Kingsley.
It will be an interesting election to watch. There certainly is a sizable group like these folks who support the police department and are discouraged about the working conditions present at the department. There also, I believe, is a significant group of residents unhappy with how the city has handled some previous large projects — namely Rock Chalk Park — and are hesitant to give this commission a positive vote on any new project. Like many elections, this one probably will be decided by how the folks in the middle swing.