— Submitted by Janice Melland, DTGrocery core member, East Lawrence resident and DT business owner
For the past 2-plus years a core group of 8 to 10 people have met every week to discuss various ways to bring a full line affordable grocery store to downtown, in order to address food desert issues affecting North and East Lawrence, and other areas of the city, involving about 20% of the city. We have also met regularly with representatives from Hobbs-Taylor Loft staff, City Commission members including the Mayor, who are all strong advocates for the project, the new City Manager Tom Marcus, County Commissioner Nancy Thellman, and other representatives of food-related interests in Lawrence, as well as area neighbors. Our core group has members from East, North, Old West, and Pinckney neighborhoods, as well as members from the Douglas County Health Department (who did the survey many of you participated in.)
Our ideal space has always been the former Borders building, because of its central location. When local developer Doug Compton purchased the building, we initially thought a store on that site was not going to be possible, but it’s looking more and more likely. Negotiations between Mr. Compton and his partner in the venture, Treanor Architects, and a well-established area grocery chain have been very promising. Treanor staff will meet with our DTGrocery group in late June, and present at the July 5th ELNA meeting, to solicit feedback from people who will be most impacted by such a venture. In addition to issues about the actual process of a grocery store (which will be addressed once the grocer agrees to a lease,) site design elements and ways the City can facilitate the project (which might look like assistance with pedestrian walkways and parking lot patrol), right now we are trying to address concerns about the building’s footprint, parking on site both surface and underground (NOT on Rhode Island St) for both customers and employees, safety issues such as effective but unobtrusive lighting, site screening/fencing, historic district concerns, preservation of the building’s historic north wall, and visual integration of the building’s architecture with surrounding buildings.
East Lawrence residents and others who are interested in the Downtown Grocery Committee and increasing access to food for all in general can follow us on our Facebook site (go to Facebook and search Downtown Grocery for Lawrence KS) https://www.facebook.com/groups/DTGrocery/ where you can check out posts, events and join the conversation. Also the Downtown Grocery Committee meeting is open to the public the last Thursday of the month when we meet at the Lawrence Public Library downstairs in the Local History Room at 9am. We hope to see you online or at our monthly open meeting or at the July 5 ELNA meeting with Treanor Architects.
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