Downtown in Focus
Third Quarter 2012
story by DEREK HELMS

Downtown Lawrence Inc.

Downtown Painted - photo by Steven Hertzog

In all likelihood, Norman Rockwell would love downtown Lawrence. With blocks and blocks of unique shops, dinners sitting on restaurant patios and corners full of cascading flowers, Downtown
Lawrence is as close to a living history museum as you can get in town. Second maybe only to the University of Kansas, Downtown Lawrence is the city’s largest attraction.

Since its inception as a working group of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Lawrence Incorporated has evolved into a free-standing organization working to enhance, support and develop the businesses located in the blocks surrounding Massachusetts Street.

Win Cambell, long-time owner and operator of downtown furniture store Winfield House, fondly recalls the organization’s beginning. “Back in the 1960’s a group of businesses worked with the Chamber to get some parking lots built on Vermont Street and New Hampshire Street,” Cambell says. “The group was comprised of only downtown business owners, so I guess that was the very beginning of Downtown Lawrence as an organization.”

At the time, the group was a small division of the Chamber of Commerce. No dues were paid, and new members were not recruited. As development spread away from the downtown area, and strip malls were built, the casual group decided to organize and protect their retail market share.

“We saw what these new shopping centers were doing to promote themselves,” Cambell says. “Not just the new centers in Lawrence, but malls in the region were promoting themselves with planned events. We thought ‘well why don’t we do that?’ So we did.”

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