LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission voted early Tuesday to recommend rejection of a proposal for a shopping development that would add more than 500,000 square feet of commercial space in Lawrence near the new South Lawrence Trafficway.
The commissioners’ vote does not mean the proposal is dead. Developers could ask the Lawrence City Commission to consider the proposal, which would be one of the largest shopping projects in the city’s history, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.
“I think there is a place for a development like this in town, but I don’t think it is here,” said Commissioner Eric Struckhoff.
Some commissioners said the location near the intersection of the trafficway and Iowa Street interchange was not right for the project and they prefer it be built in northwest Lawrence near the new Rock Chalk Park sports complex.
The developers said national retailers who would locate in the shopping area want to be next to the other major retailers located on South Iowa Street. The area near Rock Chalk Park has been zoned for retail for years but hasn’t been developed.
The vote came after the commission heard more than four hours of public comment and presentations about the proposal.
Opponents included residents concerned about the negative impact the project would have on downtown Lawrence and other developers who objected to the city’s process. Supporters said Lawrence needs new retailers and the tax revenue they would bring in.
“I can’t imagine a project of this size doing anything but wiping out commercial development on Massachusetts Street (in downtown Lawrence),” said longtime Lawrence resident Betty Alderson.
Leaders of the development group argued that the project is expected to draw big box retailers, along with some restaurants, which would not compete with the smaller retailers in the popular downtown shopping area near the University of Kansas campus.
“You are not seeing a project that tries to recreate Massachusetts Street,” said Chris Challis, the project manager for the development group.
The North Carolina-based developers said after the vote they have not determined how they will respond to the commission’s vote.