(Lawrence) Community Effort Revamps Downtown
Is a parking garage smart growth? Yes -- if it's part of an innovative
downtown redevelopment plan. Lawrence is building a multi-level garage as the first piece
of Downtown 2000, a project that will include an art center, housing and shops.
For better or worse, cars are a part of the American lifestyle, and communities can
hardly ignore the needs of drivers. But what planners can do is balance these needs with
those of pedestrians and cyclists to create areas that encourage residents to park and
walk -- or even leave their cars at home. In the case of Lawrence, they are integrating
the new parking garage with adjacent development that will include loft-style apartments,
room for dozens of retailers and new office space.
This city has involved hundreds of residents, developers and local leaders in planning
the redevelopment. By its expected completion date of summer 2001, the project will turn
an underused area in the heart of downtown Lawrence into a place to shop, work, live and
That is what makes this project -- including the parking garage -- smart growth. Poorly
used but central space in a community's downtown is being redeveloped to create jobs,
shopping and housing in a pedestrian-friendly design. When communities have a thriving
downtown, the urge to sprawl is checked. And this project will help do just that.
Oz Theme Park
(Desoto) Theme Park Sprawl is No Fantasy
The most serious sprawl threat in Kansas comes from the takeover of the
Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant near DeSoto by the Oz Development Company -- a group of
investors who want to develop a theme park based on the Wizard of Oz story.
In 1941, the Army acquired over 9,000 acres near DeSoto by buying half a dozen farms
and building the Sunflower Plant. Though the plant helped contribute supplies to World War
II and the Korean War, it has been idle since 1992 and the Army has been trying to sell
But the Oz theme park is not right for this property. It will jump over existing
development in the county and lead to more suburban sprawl. The increased traffic from the
project is also a major concern. An extra estimated 36,000 cars per day on the K-10
highway will harm air quality in the greater Kansas City area, which is already close to
violating Clean Air Act standards.
Pressure is building to reroute -- at taxpayer expense -- the K-10 highway between
Lawrence and Johnson County in order to handle the traffic the project will likely
generate. The highway improvements, if carried out, will damage wetlands and pave over
more open space.
Another major concern is the possible toxicity of the site itself. The
environmental impact statement raised serious questions about how much pollution is still
on the premises, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is critical of the cleanup
work conducted by the Army.