Meeting minutes — January 20th

Officers present: Ted, Jeff, Alison

Neighbors present: 13

The meeting was rescheduled from last week because Ted had a conflict with a city advisory board meeting.

Ted called the meeting to order at 7 pm. He thanked residents for coming out in the bitter cold.

Ted went to the meeting last week and the downtown zoning on North 2nd Street (formerly Bridge Street, of course!) was part of the discussion. The area goes all the way to Lyon Street, encompasses the Levee cafe, goes to the depot, and covers the area behind Johnny’s.

But Ted believes that we are not benefitting from technically being a downtown district. This year, when the city initially decorated with lights for the holidays, there was much less on the Depot. When Explore Lawrence was a tenant there (which is not a department of the city), we got accustomed to having great decorations on the building and the trees. The new management said they weren’t getting enough signatures from visitors, so they moved downtown about six months ago. Travelers are still stopping at the depot, and when there’s nothing there, Ted eventually gets a call.

The Visitor Center is now on the east side of Mass in the 800 block. There is no parking dedicated to the center, and there is no RV or camper parking in the area the way there was at the Depot.

Ted says it was a bad move to change the Visitor Center to downtown. Though they may be getting more signatures from shoppers in downtown Lawrence, these may not be actual tourists or visitors to the city.

Parks and Recreation is the department that puts up lights, so Ted called city hall when he saw that there were only two bushes and the outline of the Depot decorated after waiting to see if they would put up the customary amount of lights. He said that the whole area looked like a dark hole rather than a festive entrance to the City of Lawrence. Since the zoning is the same as Mass Street downtown, Ted thinks we need to be treated as such. They did put up more lights, but it’s nothing like it was in the previous years when Explore Lawrence was there.

Ted told the commission that he wants the Depot and North 2nd street to be decorated the way downtown is each year, including trees and light poles. Parks and Rec confirmed that they will make sure to decorate the entire Downtown District, all the way to the underpass next year. (They know they will hear from us if they don’t!)

At least 30,000 vehicles per day drive through North Lawrence on North 2nd/3rd. Having a cheerful appearance that mirrors the lights traditionally put up downtown during the holidays will be welcome.

Since the Depot now doesn’t have a tenant and there is space, Ted wants to see more historical information installed that pertains to Jefferson, Kansas (through 1870) and North Lawrence (since 1870), and have the Depot be a permanent installation of the River Kings historical display. Jefferson was here in the 1820s, concomitant with the presence of Delaware tribe. Some of the older buildings still standing are from the 1860s. Ted remembers buildings still standing in the 1960s that were build in 1840 or so. The River Kings were workers that supported business and recreation in Lawrence through the mid-20th century. Currently, part of the River Kings display is in the lobby of the Spring Hill Marriott. Ted would like to see some of the historic material from the Watkins collection also rotate in and out of the Depot on a regular basis.

Were this move to happen, the Depot would become a destination for visitors once more. Currently it is a city-owned building that can be rented for weddings, meetings, etc.

A neighbor talked a little bit about the history of Bismark Grove, where in the 1800s and around the turn of the 20th century, there were picnics, events, races, concerts, etc. The train line used to have a stop at Bismark Grove before it came into the Depot in North Lawrence.

Ted pointed out that as the development behind Johnny’s happens, there will eventually be 500-600 new residents living there, as well as shops and businesses where people will visit and work. We hope there will be a grocery store there as well. Many parts of the Johnny’s building will be saved, as well as the Gaslight building, the building that Sadie’s is in, and the old grain elevator will be preserved.

Ted is on the Downtown Master Plan Advisory Board, and they had their second meeting last week. What the city decides based on what that board and the consultants say will affect how North Lawrence looks and feels over the next 20 years. South of the river they are talking about increasing below-ground parking instead of surface parking in the current surface parking lots. They are exploring building 6-7-story buildings on the current surface lots, with underground parking, retail on the first floor, and offices above. HRC says they cannot demo any historical buildings, but the city can build on currently vacant lots. The plan is 2020-2040, and it will change the look of downtown to look more like the Great Wall of New Hampshire, with the historic buildings interspersed between the new, tall buildings. The limit on height for buildings is currently around 90 feet, but could be up for discussion as infill happens. 

We have a new city manager, who comes to us from Clayton, MO, basically a suburb of St. Louis. They have a lot of new buildings like we do on New Hampshire, and there are 35-40k people who commute to Clayton every day to work in that area, and only 20k residents. So, the 2020-40 plan is looking at preserving the historic character of downtown while building upward and increasing density and residency.

A resident complimented the city for doing a good and timely job of snow and ice removal and pre-treating during the latest storm.

Ted said his purpose on this advisory board is that our side of the river gets developed the way we want it to be. Something like the development behind Johnny’s can only be good where it is, because it would not happen in any other area of North Lawrence due to desire to keep the residential appearance.

Ted continues to work on the grocery store project, with the hope that there will be one that wants to join the development behind Johnny’s. They have been working to contact smaller retailers like Brothers Market (Tonganoxie), Harps Foods (De Soto) and Checkers (of course), along with larger retailers (ALDI, Price Chopper) with the information about how many residents are underserved in the area, and how many cars come through that intersection each day. The grocers that are being targeted will get a packet of information as well as a large map of the area. We are hoping for a 35,000K grocery store, which is a little smaller than the Mass St DIllons, and parking will be much better.

Ellen Young came to talk with us about the 31st running of the Shamrock Shuffle on Saturday March 7th at 9am. Last year they changed the course and ran the 10K through NL. Many of the 10K runners loved the route and the neighborhood. This year the 5K will be the first part of the 10K route rather than run on the levee. The run begins at 9, and the 5K should be over by 10. There will be an aid station again at The Bird (mile 1.5). Residents are welcome to sit and watch runners and encourage them on their route or play music. The race will begin at Johnny’s, drop off the Levee at 8th and Oak, 9th to Maple, left at Maple to Locust, to Elm, and then west (opposite of traffic, in a designated lane) on Elm to 3rd, and at 3rd and Elm get back on the Levee around the Levee Cafe and the 5K be mostly over around 10 am. The 10K will continue over the bridge into the Pinckney neighborhood. There are volunteers who will be picking up trash and taking care of the runners. Volunteers will flyer the affected streets with door hangers.

Proceeds from the race will go to Tenants to Homeowners, Positive Bright Starts, and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Last year the money went to the Lawrence Children’s Choir and Lawrence Football.

A resident asked how many runners typically run. Ellen said 300-350. A resident asked where the runners will park. Ellen said that they will park at Johnny’s, the Visitor Center, and the parking lot at 2nd and Locust.

They are calling for volunteers. The city wants adult volunteers at all the major intersections. People can show up at Johnny’s to be assigned to their volunteer jobs.

The St. Patrick’s Day parade originally started at The Bird, went across the bridge, and went on various streets to what is now the R bar. Apparently merchants in downtown didn’t want rowdy, drunk, heathen North Lawrence folks parading on Mass Street — until they saw the crowd that the parade draws! Then the parade started at South Park and came up to the Bird, and a few people wanted it to stop at 6th. But because it started at The Bird, and was originally a North Lawrence event, we would not have that.

The Christmas donations totaled around $5000 this last year. Officially, we adopted around 8 families. Each got $500 in gift cards, from DIllons and Wal Mart. Becky Price at the Ballard Center distributed the cards to the families. We had some extra money, so we bought more gift cards to give to additional families in the form of gas cards, etc. Then, we still had some money left over, so Ted asked Becky what they needed. She said diapers! Ted cleaned out the #4 diapers at the local retailers along with baby wipes, etc. He asked Becky what else they needed! It was supplies for women’s monthly needs. Ted asked, you really want ME to go buy this? But he did! NLIA also gave out a number of $50 -100 cards to more people whose names we got from Ballard, individuals and families that might need a little help.

We also had a nice surprise this year from Wes at the Bird. He stopped at the Re-Cyclery and crew down $1000 for bicycles and said Ted will be by to pick them up. Ted got a call the Saturday before Christmas from Wes saying that the bike shop was expecting him. Wes said he’d know what to do with the bikes! Wes bought a variety of bikes from small trikes on up to 5th-6th grader size.Ted called a friend with a truck help him pick them up and take to Ballard. Ted also got a call from a resident about some teddy bears she had that along with some winter hats and gloves. It was a huge bag full of little bears and a huge bag or stocking caps, and gloved for kids!

Ted said that all the businesses up on North 2nd and 3rd are very generous and caring during  the holiday season and that everyone misses Beverly. Ted has been doing the collection mostly on his own the past 2 years. Beverly recently retired after 15 years of doing this volunteer job, but she sure has our businesses “well-trained” to help with the project. They are glad that the money stays in North Lawrence and helps North Lawrence families.

Ted talked about the traffic calming devices destined for Lyon Street. They are finally being installed, after a 2-year wait once we were awarded the federal grant money to install them. (These are the grants that we are no longer eligible for because we are no longer a low-to-moderate-income neighborhood). Ted had been asking the city why the humps had not been installed even though we had gotten the money via our grant two years ago, $40,000 to pay for and install them. There is a new traffic engineer who has been taking bids for outside contractors to do the humps, and the latest bids were $9300, rather than the $8000 we bid the grant out for. Because we got a federal grant for ours, ours should not cost the taxpayers that, however!

Ted said that recently there was a church that wanted to donate $10K to the city to put in bus benches and bus shelters. (Ted said he was worried the city would commandeer the money and spend it somewhere else!) The commission would not take that money from the church for that project. They said they didn’t have a policy for how to take gifts from organizations or people for projects.

A resident reminded us that there is a year-round farmers’ market in North Lawrence, on Saturday afternoons from 2-4 at Happy Shirt. There is also a Sunday market that happens at 10am at Slow Ride Roadhouse. This outdoor market will begin again on March 1st — and you can get tacos at Slow Ride when you’re done shopping.

The Cabin Fever Chili Supper will be Monday, February 10th at 5:00pm at the Union Pacific Depot. This will be in lieu of the regular monthly meeting. We have only 13 folks signed up to bring food — so get in touch with Ted or Alison soon to let you know what you’re bringing!

Ted asked for a motion to adjourn and a second. The vote was was unanimous.

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