City Commission Unanimously Upholds HRC Recommendation Against Downtown HUB Project

The Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously, 5-0, early Wednesday morning to uphold the Historic Resources Commission’s recommendation against the HUB, a six-story luxury student apartment complex proposed for downtown.

Several hundred people showed up to overflow the meeting room and dozens spoke to the commission about their opinions of the project, most of them negative. The discussion of the project lasted more than four hours, and the commission’s decision came at about 1 a.m.

By affirming the HRC recommendation, the Commission agreed that the project, proposed by Chicago-based developer Core Spaces for the corner of Massachusetts and 11th Streets, encroached on the historic value of the nearby Douglas County Courthouse, Watkins Museum and Old English Church. The commission also agreed that the project did not meet the Downtown Design Guidelines

The Commission’s vote on one of the most controversial proposals to come before it in years followed mostly negative comments from speakers concerned about the building’s size and mass, its impact on parking, Core’s poor reputation for similar projects around the country and the needs for additional student housing, especially downtown. Proponents of the project argued in favor of its potential impact on the downtown economy and the need to replace the long-vacant Allen Press buildings and parking lot at the site.

Here’s the Lawrence Journal-World’s coverage of the meeting and the decision.

Please Help Us Take Action on the Massive Proposed Downtown HUB Project

To our LPA members and followers:

ARCHITECT’S RENDERING OF THE PROPOSED HUB PROJECT. THE WATKINS MUSEUM IS ON THE LEFT.

ARCHITECT’S RENDERING OF THE PROPOSED HUB PROJECT. THE WATKINS MUSEUM IS ON THE LEFT.

We need your help. City commissioners need to hear from you over the next few days about your feelings about the massive HUB student housing project that has been proposed for 11th and Massachusetts streets downtown. The City Commission is scheduled to hear arguments on May 7 on an appeal being brought by the developer, Core Spaces, to overturn the unanimous recommendation against the project by the Historic Resources Commission.

We believe the scale and design of this project could overwhelm the historic Douglas County Courthouse and Watkins Museum buildings on the adjacent corners. Our belief is that this may be the biggest threat to the historic character of downtown since the downtown mall proposals in the mid-1980s. This is a time to be informed, aware and vigilant as a citizen.

This photo illustration was prepared by LPA to show the approximate size and mass of the proposed HUB project and its relationship to Massachusetts St., the surrounding buildings, and nearby historic properties like the Watkins Museum (lower left), the Douglas County Courthouse (lower center) and the Old English Lutheran Church (upper right, adjacent to the proposed HUB parking garage on New Hampshire St.).

This photo illustration was prepared by LPA to show the approximate size and mass of the proposed HUB project and its relationship to Massachusetts St., the surrounding buildings, and nearby historic properties like the Watkins Museum (lower left), the Douglas County Courthouse (lower center) and the Old English Lutheran Church (upper right, adjacent to the proposed HUB parking garage on New Hampshire St.).

Some background: One of the services LPA provides is that we follow development proposals that could affect listed properties through the planning approval process. We are present at every meeting of the Historic Resources Commission (HRC), frequently providing informed comment on agenda items. We also work to maintain good communications with planning staff and city commissioners. Certainly, final votes taken don’t always go the way we would like, but 99 times out of 100, we can say the effort we put forth to represent LPA interest was enough. The appeal Core Spaces is bringing to City Commission May 7 for its massive student housing project downtown could be the rare exception. 

To date, LPA has had one initial meeting with a Lawrence representative of the developer, formulated our position over a number of meetings of the executive board and the full board, shared information with other concerned public groups, testified at HRC, and submitted two letters to the City Commission. We are now working to meet personally with each commissioner.

LPA would appreciate if you would communicate your concerns about this project to the commission by letter or email no later than May 5. Attending the City Commission meeting May 7 also is important, but please be advised that the staff and applicant presentation will be long, and many speakers will want to provide public comment. Up to three minutes per speaker is allowed..

Commissioners appreciate letters and messages written respectfully and in your own words. It doesn’t have to be long. But you need to make sure your voice is heard and counted. You can send snail mail or email. Address your message to Lawrence City Commission. By mail, send it to PO Box 708, 6 E. 6th Street, Lawrence, Ks, 66044. Send email to Bobbie Walthall, bjwalthall@lawrenceks.org. Bobbie is an administrator in the City Manager’s Office. She will make sure your email is distributed to all five city commissioners. 

LPA has written two letters to the commission that you should read and that might be helpful for you in formulating your own messages to the commission. The first one, here, raises overall objections to the design. The second one, here, focuses on the unusual plan to build over the alley between New Hampshire and Massachusetts streets. We also have a news story about the HRC decision. If you read these, you will gain a good understanding of what is being proposed and what concerns preservationists have.

Thank you, 

Dennis Brown

LPA President

Historic Resources Commission: Massive HUB Project Would Overwhelm Three Historic Properties

Architect’s rendering of the proposed HUB project. The Watkins museum is on the left.

Architect’s rendering of the proposed HUB project. The Watkins museum is on the left.

The Lawrence Historic Resources Commission (HRC) voted unanimously on March 21 that a multi-story HUB apartment building proposed for the southern half of the 1000 block of Massachusetts and New Hampshire Streets would significantly encroach upon, damage or destroy the environs of three downtown historic properties.

The massive development, which is proposed to be as many as six stories tall, is surrounded by the Douglas County Courthouse (south) the Watkins Bank Building (west) and the Old English Lutheran Church (east). All are listed as landmarks on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places.

The HRC also voted unanimously that the project did not meet key elements of the Downtown Design Guidelines. All seven commissioners were present and provided comments about the decision they made. They also heard objections to the project from a number of citizens who came to the podium to speak. LPA provided comment based on board discussions that have been ongoing since late 2018. 

While LPA recognizes that our community needs to find a design for the site that will bring people, retail sales and additional tax dollars to our city, a plan calling for a 550-plus bedroom apartment building covering virtually the entire footprint at five or six stories would certainly encroach upon the three listed properties. LPA’s concerns include:

  • Scale: The project is grossly out of scale with the predominant two- or three-story structures on Massachusetts Street downtown.

  • Height: While a height of three or four stories could be acceptable at the corner of 11thand Massachusetts Streets, the developer’s current plan would surpass that level and keep that inappropriate height throughout all elevations of the project.

  • Mass: The primary structure in the development (there is another mixed-use/parking garage structure proposed for the east side of the 1000 block of New Hampshire), would cover nine original townsite lots. It would be the single most massive building in the downtown area.

The HUB project tries to hide a fifth story on Massachusetts Street by setting it back 20 feet from the façade of the lower levels. It still would be easily seen by pedestrians on the west side of Massachusetts Street, as well as from the upper floors of the Watkins Building and the Courthouse

The developer also proposes to build out over the existing alley at the third-floor level. This is very objectionable to LPA because it essentially would create a tunnel that would disrupt the typical street/alley development pattern of downtown. If it is allowed here, it could certainly be repeated in other downtown blocks, significantly altering how downtown looks and functions.

The Courthouse and the Watkins Building have always been the most dominant structures on the southern end of downtown. The Old English Lutheran Church (designed by John Haskell, who also designed the Courthouse) has always served as a transitional structure from the downtown into the residential area. 

LPA wonders if two or more buildings, rather than one monolithic one, might produce a desirable result at this site. We are convinced, however, that any project that is to be built at this location will be better at enhancing our downtown’s commercial vitality and its livability more if it respects the three adjacent historic properties.

Read the Lawrence Journal World’s story about the HRC decision here.

UPDATE, March 28: The Lawrence Planning Commission met last night and was asked to approve a small portion of the project. The plan includes some first-floor residential units, which require a special-use permit to be allowed in the downtown area. Prior to the developer’s work with Architectural Review Committee, some of those units fronted the street. Now all of them are internal. HRC had determined that this particular component did not harm the environs of the three listed properties. The Planning Commission voted 8-1 to recommend approval of the special-use permit to the City Commission.

LPA will continue to track developments in this project and post reports here.

Large Crowd Celebrates Rededication of Historic Santa Fe Depot

The renovated Santa Fe Depot. Photo by Leilani Photographs

The renovated Santa Fe Depot. Photo by Leilani Photographs

More than 100 people crowded into the Santa Fe Depot on February 22 as the historic midcentury building was rededicated after an extensive renovation project. The renovation of the depot, after years of neglect, is one of the greatest midcentury preservation efforts in Kansas and Lawrence.

Architect Warren Corman, one of the original designers of the depot, regaled the crowd with stories about its creation. Photo by Leilani Photographs

Architect Warren Corman, one of the original designers of the depot, regaled the crowd with stories about its creation. Photo by Leilani Photographs

A highlight of the afternoon was a speech by one of the depot’s original architect’s, Warren Corman, who entertained attendees with stories of the building’s creation in the mid-1950s.

Part of the crowd that celebrated the rededication of the depot. Photo by Leilani Photographs 

Part of the crowd that celebrated the rededication of the depot. Photo by Leilani Photographs 

Other speakers at the event included representatives of the groups who made the renovation project possible, including Depot Redux, the non-profit advocacy group founded by Carey Maynard-Moody; Lawrence Modern; Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway; Amtrak; Lawrence city officials; and Lawrence Preservation Alliance.

This diverse coalition of groups worked for many years for the city to take over ownership of the building and for the depot to be listed on the National, Kansas and Lawrence Historic Registers. That in turn facilitated a Transportation Enhancement grant administered by the Kansas Department of Transportation and matching funds  from the city to fund the extensive renovation.

The building now looks very similar to what it looked like when it opened in 1956, augmented by new geothermal HVAC, new electrical, plumbing and a new roof. There is fresh paint and new aluminum fascia wrapped around the various roof elevations. The bathrooms, entrances, walkways and platform now meet Americans with Disabilities guidelines. The operable windows have interior storm windows and screens that blend seamlessly with the north and south  walls.

First Management Construction was in charge of the renovation and Stan Hernly of Hernly Associates Inc. was the architect who made sure the renovation adhered to  historic guidelines.

Tom Harper, president of Lawrence Modern, and Dennis Brown, president of LPA, at the ceremony. Photo by Leilani Photographs

Tom Harper, president of Lawrence Modern, and Dennis Brown, president of LPA, at the ceremony. Photo by Leilani Photographs

Diane Stoddard, Lawrence’s assistant city manager, provided the leadership and determination for the depot ownership to be transferred to the city. Without Diane, the depot still would be owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe and falling into a worse state. LPA presented Depot Redux and Stoddard with Preservation Achievement Awards in 2017 for their work preserving the depot.

We are happy and grateful to all of the citizens of Lawrence who were involved with this successful preservation effort and look forward to many more years of the depot being a Lawrence landmark and serving as a regular stop for Amtrak passenger trains.

Winter 2019 Preservation in Progress (PIP) Awards

LPA’s Winter Preservation in Progress Awards recognize local residents or groups that have performed preservation work that improves a structure, promotes preservation concepts or sets the stage for future preservation efforts. The Winter 2019 PIP awards recognize a campus bandstand, an extensive downtown rehab, and a John Gideon Haskell-designed church that is now used as office space.

HUB Project Too Much For Downtown

Artist’s concept of the proposed HUB apartment building at 11th and Massachusetts streets. The Watkins Museum is on the left.

Artist’s concept of the proposed HUB apartment building at 11th and Massachusetts streets. The Watkins Museum is on the left.

It’s been about 20 years since downtown’s historic Massachusetts Street was last affected by a major infill project. Since the west side of the 600 block was rebuilt, there certainly have been other changes downtown, but those have primarily involved different uses rather than major alterations to our built environment. That could soon change in a big way if the proposed HUB apartment complex at 11th and New Hampshire gains the necessary approvals from City Hall.

Core Spaces, a Chicago developer, is proposing this massive student housing complex to be built on the southern third of the east side of Massachusetts and the west side of New Hampshire in the 1000 block. As currently proposed, the building would be six or seven stories tall and extend along 11th Street from Massachusetts to New Hampshire on the south, stretching to Einstein’s and Maceli’s on the north. At its third story the building would extend over the alley. The proposal also includes constructing a three-level parking garage for tenants on the east side of New Hampshire Street, between the Municipal Court building and the Old English Lutheran Church.

Something needs to be built on the northeast corner of 11th and Mass., but should it be a six- or seven- story building that takes up half a downtown block?

Something needs to be built on the northeast corner of 11th and Mass., but should it be a six- or seven- story building that takes up half a downtown block?

The church, the Douglas County Courthouse and the Watkins Museum are all listed as landmark properties on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places. The project is currently under review by the Historic Resources Commission (HRC). The applicant is now preparing to meet for a second time with the Architectural Review Committee (ARC), a subcommittee of HRC. Small design changes are being made that may bring the project into compliance with the City’s Downtown Design Guidelines, but the overall mass of the structure may be difficult to justify when it goes back to the full HRC, probably in March. The project also will need approval from the Planning Commission for a Special Use Permit due to the proposed ground floor residential use.

While LPA agrees that our downtown corners are the most appropriate locations for taller buildings, and that this corner is in great need of redevelopment, to our chagrin this building stays at or near its maximum height throughout. Massachusetts Street shows variable roofline heights going from one building to the next. HUB instead takes a pedal to the metal approach of height and mass from one end of the building to the other, creating one large block of a building.

 

Three Lawrence Sites Nominated for National Register of Historic Places

A house, a church and a block in Lawrence are under consideration for the National Register of Historic Places. All three nominations are awaiting review by the National Park Service. 

On November 17th, the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review considered eight nominations to National Register of Historic Places. Three of the nominations were for historic resources located in Lawrence: The Chewning House (1510 Stratford Road), First United Methodist Episcopal Church (946 Vermont Street, known today as First United Methodist Church), and the Johnson Block Historic District (east side of the 800 block of Arkansas Street and west side of the 800 Block of Missouri Street). All three were nominated for their distinctive architecture and/or methods of construction. 

The Chewning House

The Chewning House

The Chewning House was designed for Bert and Helen Chewning in 1936 by George Malcolm Beal, chair of the University of Kansas Architecture program, and built by J.L. “Tommy” Constant. Located in the West Hills neighborhood, the house is often referred to by local architectural historians as the first modern home built in Lawrence or Douglas County and was key to establishing modern architecture in Lawrence. The house also was one of around 1,000 homes built throughout the country as part of General Electric’s “New American Home” program in 1935 and 1936. The program aimed to put architects, builders and suppliers back to work during the Great Depression, and began with a design contest in which architects submitted designs to GE. Each house was opened to the public upon completion to showcase the company’s new electrical appliances. Today, the Chewning House retains its original materials and floorplan, though it has been enlarged to accommodate modern living with a sensitively designed addition at the rear of the house. 

First United Methodist Episcopal Church has been continuously used as a religious facility since 1891. Located adjacent to Lawrence’s original townsite, the oldest portion of the church was designed by John G. Haskell and built between 1889 and 1891. The three-story limestone Romanesque Revival building is situated on two lots, and in 1949 and 1958 the church acquired two additional lots to the north along Vermont Street. In 1962, a three-story modern brick wing designed by Robertson & Ericson was constructed on these additional lots. The original church building retains a great deal of Haskell’s original design and materials and has been well maintained over the years. The modern 1962 addition also is considered architecturally significant. 

Located along the east side of the 800 block of Arkansas Street and the west side of the 800 block of Missouri Street, the houses within the Johnson Block Historic District were constructed between 1900 and 1945. Lawrence businessman Victor Johnson purchased the block in 1909 and began developing it that same year. Johnson’s development plan significantly influenced local development, as it was noted in the Lawrence Daily Journal that by turning a former cow pasture into one of the finest residential blocks in the city it was expected that other similar developments were sure to follow elsewhere in town. Today, many homes located in the district retain original siding, windows and distinctive architectural features. In 2017, district resident Michael Arp, with assistance from LPA and architectural historian Dale Nimz, was successful in getting the Johnson Block added to the Lawrence Register of Historic Places


 

2018 Preservation in Progress (PIP) Awards

For the 2018 Preservation in Progress (PIP) awards, LPA is recognizing three very different kinds of structures as examples of quality rehabilitation work: a single-family home, a multi-family structure and a former garden center now being sensitively converted to other uses. Congratulations to all of our 2018 PIP winners!

LPA Buys a Parking Lot!

Parking Option Secured for Turnhalle

After a year of negotiations, LPA is set to close on the purchase of the 32-space parking lot that sits directly across E. 9th street from Turnhalle and is currently owned by U.S. Bank. Combined with our purchase of 904 Rhode Island, LPA now controls the properties on either side of Turnhalle, both of which were facing uncertain futures until LPA stepped in.

Our goal is to encourage the rehabilitation of the now-vacant Turnhalle, which LPA saved with a major stabilization project while it owned the historic structure from 2012 to 2014. The parking lot is a critical part of that plan, and LPA has entered into a lease with an option to buy for the parking lot with Tony Krsnich, the owner of the Turnhalle.

The most likely path forward for the Turnhalle is some type of mixed-use plan combining retail, gallery and gathering space. For major rehabilitation and reuse to occur at the Turnhalle, parking is a necessary component. Dedicated parking spaces commensurate with the activities proposed will be required to gain site plan approval.

When LPA owned the Turnhalle, U.S. Bank was using the lot as parking for its employees. In December 2016, LPA was advised that the bank’s employees had shifted to the city parking garage, leaving the parking lot vacant. LPA decided to act out of concern that a development group with no interest in Turnhalle could purchase the lot and build on it.

We believe that Brad Burnside, president of the bank’s local branch at 9th and Massachusetts, along with key members of his staff, expressed their strong support for our proposal to the corporate hierarchy in Minnesota. Ours was not the only offer considered. If the Lawrence Turnhalle can be returned to community use as a functioning and treasured building, the actions of the local bank staff in support of LPA will be a big reason why.

Tony Krsnich’s lease payments on the parking lot will cover LPA’s holding costs. The purchase option can only be triggered after both a substantial rehabilitation has been completed and an occupancy permit for both levels of Turnhalle is attained. LPA would then sell the lot for the same price for which it is purchasing it. Eight wonderful LPA members have stepped up with two-year loans at below-market rate to finance the transaction.

LPA has proactively developed and executed a comprehensive strategy to leverage a rehabilitation of Turnhalle. This is the second time LPA has thrown virtually everything we possibly could at saving Turnhalle. The first time we knew we had bought the structure some time and hoped that things would work out. This time, we are providing a creative path that encourages its eventual rehabilitation.

Read the Lawrence Journal-World story: Nonprofit Buys Downtown Parking Lot In Hopes of Helping Historic Building

LPA Acquires Historic House at 904 Rhode Island

904 1.jpg

We have exciting news to announce. As part of our mission to preserve historically significant buildings in Lawrence, the LPA has purchased the home at 904 Rhode Island, immediately south of the Lawrence Turnhalle. Like the Turnhalle, which the LPA bought for preservation in 2012, the home was previously owned by the Ernst family.

LPA worked with attorney Boog Highberger to craft preservation covenants that will protect the historic property, and is now offering this landmark home for sale. The covenants focus on preserving the historic features visible from the street, specifically the character-defining wooden front porch, brick walls and original windows. This will make it possible to do rehabilitation work inside and possibly build an addition off the rear of the house. 

LPA purchased the Turnhalle, which was built in 1869 at the corner of 9th and Rhode Island, in 2012. The group raised funds, did critical repair work to stabilize the structure, crafted legal protections for the building, and later sold it to developer Tony Krsnich. The Ernst Family had owned the Turnhalle and the current house and provided generous terms for both sales to support their desire to preserve these important structures. LPA believes that its purchase of 904 Rhode Island will assist with plans to return the Turnhalle to a community resource by removing uncertainty about its status.

Records show that 904 Rhode Island was built prior to 1889 and originally owned by Thomas Collier. In 1908 it was sold to the Turnverein, the German community group that operated the Turnhalle, and the LPA believes it became the home of the caretaker for the two properties. The Ernst family purchased both buildings in 1938. “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to take another step towards the adaptive reuse of the Turnhalle and are grateful to the Ernst Family,” LPA President Dennis Brown said.

In December, the home was sold to a new owner, ensuring its long-term preservation.

Photos by Katy Clagett

Photos by Katy Clagett