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LMH proposes to tear down several houses to make way for more hospital parking


I’ve long joked that everybody who enters Lawrence Memorial Hospital has high blood pressure not because they are ill but because they’ve tried to find a parking space. The hospital has filed plans at City Hall to help address the parking shortage at LMH, but it will involve tearing down a half-dozen homes in the surrounding neighborhood.

LMH leaders are seeking a variety of zoning and special use permits to convert a large portion of residential property along Michigan Street into a parking lot that will accommodate about 100 cars. The new parking lot would begin near the northeast corner of Fourth and Michigan streets and would stretch to the southeast corner of Third and Michigan streets. The new parking lot would be adjacent to an existing parking lot that runs along Arkansas Street between Fourth and Third streets.

The new parking lot, though, won’t take up the entire block along Michigan Street. There are two property owners along the east side of Michigan Street that evidently are not interested in selling to the hospital. As a result, those two homes will be surrounded on three sides by a parking lot. (Insert your own Joni Mitchell joke here.) One of the property owners is listed as the City of Lawrence. I confirmed it is a property managed by the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority and is part of its affordable housing rental program. The other house appears to just be a traditional single-family home owned by a couple.

A look at some of the houses that would be demolished as part of the LMH parking plan along Michigan Street.

A look at some of the houses that would be demolished as part of the LMH parking plan along Michigan Street. by Chad Lawhorn

If there is a sticking point on this LMH parking plan, it likely will be the demolition of the other six single-family homes on the block. Tearing down existing housing stock — especially as the city has a goal of promoting more affordable housing — can be tricky in Lawrence. I haven’t yet heard back from a hospital official, but it appears that five of the six houses are occupied. The hospital does own all the houses at this point, according to the plans filed at City Hall.

Affordable housing is an important goal, but so too is having a functional hospital. The current parking situation at LMH doesn’t grind functions at LMH to a halt, but it is an issue that I’ve heard hospital leaders express concern about for a number of years. It is not uncommon for hospital visitors to park on residential streets around the hospital.

I haven’t yet gotten a definitive number from LMH, but by reading through plans it appears the project will add about 190 new parking spaces to the area around the hospital. The new lot along Michigan Street would be the largest contributor with 97 new spaces. But the hospital also proposes to add some angled parking spaces along a couple of major roads near the hospital.

Plans showing the new Michigan Street Parking lot. Courtesy: City of Lawrence and Landplan Engineering.

Plans showing the new Michigan Street Parking lot. Courtesy: City of Lawrence and Landplan Engineering. by Chad Lawhorn

LMH plans to add angled parking stalls along the east side of Arkansas Street, on the portion of the street that is near the northern end of the hospital. Currently, 24 angled parking stalls are there, but the number would grow to 62 if the plan is approved. The hospital also plans to begin using angled parking stalls along Maine Street, which is the busy city street that runs along the eastern edge of the hospital. Plans call for 34 angled stalls to be built along the west side of Maine Street.

The hospital will need to win a variety of approvals from City Hall before it can go ahead with the project. The plans are scheduled to go before the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on May 24. The hospital is seeking approval of a special use permit for the parking lot and is requesting that the property be rezoned from single-family to a special hospital zoning designation. If approved by the Planning Commission, the plans would need to win approval from the City Commission before work could begin.

We’ll see how the request goes. The larger question may be what the hospital’s long-range plans are for parking. It is not uncommon for hospitals to have a parking garage. LMH does not, but conceivably it could convert a surface parking lot into one. Understanding whether a parking garage is part of LMH’s future or whether expanding surface parking lots into the surrounding area is in the cards are issues that may interest planners.

I’ll let you know if I hear more from the hospital.

Plans for adding angled parking stalls along Arkansas Street. Courtesy: City of Lawrence/Landplan Engineering

Plans for adding angled parking stalls along Arkansas Street. Courtesy: City of Lawrence/Landplan Engineering by Chad Lawhorn

Plans for adding angled parking stalls along Maine Street. Courtesy: City of Lawrence/Landplan Engineering

Plans for adding angled parking stalls along Maine Street. Courtesy: City of Lawrence/Landplan Engineering by Chad Lawhorn


Jake Davis 10 months, 2 weeks ago

The hospital has such a cookie cutter design and very confusing when trying to navigate the interior. Why doesn't the hospital build a parking garage along the west side rather than uproot all of these families. IMO it is a very poor design.

RJ Johnson 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I agree with Jake, makes more sense to build a parking garage.

Clark Coan 10 months, 2 weeks ago

“Pave paradise and put up a parking lot.” How about they move the houses to vacant lots and deed them to Tenants to Homeowners for affordable housing?

Sean Williams 10 months, 1 week ago

Affordable health care is an issue, too. We can talk about affordable housing on another page. The City hasn't had to subsidize our hospital because of the initial generosity of Elizabeth Watkins, enduring /private /community financial support, and good management. The hospital writes off over a million dollars of indigent care each year and is an unheralded gem for the City of Lawrence. Most people have no idea how blessed we are to have LMH. Parking should be provided and the 6 occupants of those "paradise" homes will find other places to live. There are limited lots, and moving those existing houses might not be efficient, economical, or the best end result for the next occupants, IMHO.

Michael Kort 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Let's be honest .

Landlords have imminent domain over their property which in this case was not given or sold to them with any restrictions that I know of to keep it residential .

LMH is a non profit hospital....... and not a "fantasy island franchise"

Deck over Deck parking is like a bridge........expensive to put up .......and to keep up for ever and a day..... once built .

Parking garages also create shading of natural light, obstruct views, etc..

I could see the hospital letting the tenants keep the last few months of rent to pay for moving and future rental deposits elsewhere, and fully refunding any tenant deposits no matter what shape the home is in ( it is a tear down ! ) and to perhaps help them to find the next place to rent ( what a concept ? ! )

Make it easier for people to leave ........be helpful .......and they just might go willingly.......and time is always money and effort expended .

Nobody has to be Draconian here but let's be practical .

Nice idea to move theses houses elsewhere until you count all the costs of physically moving them, acquiring land SOMEWHERE CLOSE IN, foundation and slab or basement, driveway and utility hookups and figure out just how deficient of modern home building code standards these homes are ( as is ) .

Might be cheaper to build new homes elsewhere and then you'd know what you would have to rent or to own, when you are finished, quality wise .

Tony Peterson 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Pretty sure that the neighbors across the street and adjacent to this really bad idea will have plenty to say about the proposed plan. Would YOU want a parking lot directly across from your house or next door? Highly doubt it.

Kendall Simmons 10 months, 2 weeks ago

EVERYTHING costs money to build and repair, so how is that a meaningful argument? Should we not build bridges any more?

And, as far as blocking natural light and the view...that's what TREES do, too. Should we cut them all down? And have you not seen the multistory LMH expansion? Do you seriously not know how much light and view that blocks???

The hospital has spread parking further and further and further away from the hospital. And the area with the houses isn't even zoned for what they want. The hospital needs to grow its parking UP, not OUT. What's next? Tearing down my block...just for frickin' parking???

Michael Kort 10 months, 1 week ago

Ever consider the cost of the next CAT Scan Machine or the next enlargement of the ER or a lab expansion or interior replacement costs that never end or payroll and retirement costs .

Either the patients pay for a parking garage or LMH goes down for the cost because the State of Ks has probably paid for KUs lots in KCK or they wouldn't be there .

Obviously, the hospital owns most of that proposed lot property, outright ..

They could have built a multi story lot before any additions to their building but then all that you would havehad is convenient parking to nowhere .

You put the handicapped parking next to the building and the rest of us walk .

We are lucky that LMH is solvent but with Republicans ever attacking healthcare costs and i wouldn't take those gov. or insurance payments or the ability of a hospital to eat unproductive debt, for granted .

Michael Kort 10 months, 1 week ago

Shure it has meaning .

LMH is a survivor amongst countless non profit hospitals that have had to go out of business and into for profit hands .

We are lucky that LMH is solvent and with Republicans running healthcare i wouldn't take payments from the gov. or private insurers for granted, as in hoping that we can tie nonproductive debt to those, for the community wish list .

Can they certainly send the bill to build this to you personally because this ain't KU and the state won't pay to build and run a multistory lot for LMH .

Blocking natural light was about light going into the building to exterior rooms from outside . i assume that they house patients .

Richard Heckler 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Yes go up not out .....

If anything build a mental health facility on the new lots......

Richard Quinlan 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Be thankful we have a viable health facility in our town , props to LMH , they need a little room and Lawrence should be tolerant of redevelopment.

David Holroyd 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Will the new parking, paved of course, be subject to any flooding? Recall when the ditch to the east was paved to alleviate flooding of the backyards of the houses in question?

The real question that the Journal World should delve into is: How much are the current property taxes on the houses to be demolished? What is the Hospital's plan to replace that revenue to the city , county and state and USD 497?

After all, the hospital pays no taxes on parking lots....I do believe.

Assignment for Richard Heckler: check it out.

Michael Kort 10 months, 1 week ago

Parking lots aren't taxable improvements to land that are taxable ?

l know that there is a fee to park in the lot between the Sr. Center and the Library unless you can find a space on the very top floor which closes during snow storms which people do pay . .

Richard Heckler 10 months, 2 weeks ago

KU Med has had to build up not out it seems. LMH does have a lot or two which could be built upon going up.

Building up is tolerant of redevelopment. Sooner or later building up needs to be done.

Michael Kort 10 months, 1 week ago

KU Hospital KCK started in a single building at 39th and Rainbow BLVD and has been built onto forever and a day . It is even north of 39th St in another building, has 3 locations along I-435, etc blah, blah, blah .

On the other hand there used to be a hospital in Topeka called St. Francis's that spent itself into non existence .

Which patients will be charged to build your multi story parking lot ?

I hope that you guys aren't going to try and get a robotic gurage to hold more cars !

Michael Kort 10 months, 1 week ago

If you are KU MEDICAL in KCK the state ( and user fees for some ) pay for those parking lots and their upkeep .and people pay for lower level library parking spaces in Lawrence ..

Nothing as expensive as deck over deck parking lots just happens or get built for free .

KU Med has 773 beds, has 963 doctors, 1,825 nurses and they get LMHs worst patients by helicopter

LMH has 145 beds, 221 doctors, 254 nurses .

LMH is a Large Rural Hospital......try some perspective here concerning what you think that LMH needs today or can actually afford

Maybe you compare apples to oranges here as KU Med has the Billion dollar KU safety net endowment and the deep pockets of state support to take on parking garage costs .

Doyle Coons 10 months, 1 week ago

Don't forget to add in the Cambridge North Tower that KU Hospital is building. That will add about 150 more beds! The Cambridge North Tower will add: •92 beds •28 intensive care beds •12 operating rooms •300,000 total square feet •100 physicians on staff •600 healthcare jobs And they will open 32 more beds in this building a year later! Along with this, they added the largest parking garage in the metro area, bringing the total to 5 garages. http://www.kumed.com/find-us/cambridge-north

Richard Heckler 10 months, 1 week ago

What about the existing parking lot that could be converted to a multi story lot?

Whatever will be built spreading will not be the answer. Therefore going up should be done and of course it's far more convenient to do it on the new area now instead of trying to build around parked vehicles.

Build multi-story on the new lot now THEN go back build up two stories on existing lots once the new lot is up and parking. OR perhaps construct a mental health facility above of the existing parking lots? This is planning ahead.

Richard Heckler 10 months, 1 week ago

THEN go back build up two stories on existing lots once the new lot is up and parking. OR perhaps construct a mental health facility above of the existing parking lots with additional parking.

A patch here and a patch there is not good use of money.

Judy J Romero 10 months, 1 week ago

Just my opinion. A parking garage at least 5 stories would be better. Why should everyone walk thru the cold & heat. How many hospitals have parking garages?

Michael Kort 10 months, 1 week ago

I don't believe that St. Lukes South in OP has a parking garage..... nor do I believe that Menorah Medical Center in OP has a parking garage but both have open flat lots...... and are within similar size range comparison to LMH .

Perhaps the editors could get an estimate of what it would cost to build a five story ramped parking gurage on top of an already full time daily use parking lot that can not just go out of service during the building of ramps and five florors of garage above it ?

Forget the existing parking lot as part of the deal because decks and ramps are often one and the same in parking garages as they climb and descend .

How about a Cost Comparison of the proposed tearing down, paving and curb parking changes vs 5 stories of garage built over a lot that is in constant use that can not just be closed down for months ?

How about a long term cost comparison between repaving a lot vs up keep on 5 garage levels and ramps ?

David Holroyd 10 months, 1 week ago

Chad, again, what is the total amount of lost property taxes to the city, county and school district and state after the houses are demolished and taken off the tax rolls?

David Holroyd 10 months, 1 week ago

Mr. Kort,

Actually the hospital in KCK began at 311 Seminary just south of Southwest Blvd. Dr. Bell provided $100,000 to build it as a memorial to his deceased wife Eleanor Taylor Bell and 20 acres as well. It became occupied in 1906, used as a lab until 1972 and torn down.

Just as Lawrence Memorial was financed by Elizabeth Watkins originally.

Those were the days that made towns great! Now? Not so much so.

Where are the Elizabeth Watkins in Lawrence?

David Holroyd 10 months, 1 week ago

I guess Chad stopped answering questions. Lost property taxes? How much?

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