| 2013 Winter | story by MEGAN GILLILAND | photos by STEVEN HERTZOG |
The City of Lawrence has developed a Community Design Manual that contains set design standards for commercial (retail) and industrial buildings. Commercial design standards apply in any district zoned for commercial use. At some point in the future, residential design standards may be developed. Downtown Lawrence has a separate set of guidelines. The design guidelines apply for all new construction and are applicable for remodels, depending on the scope of the remodel.
“The City of Lawrence created design standards and guidelines that offer a vision for commercial design,” Amy Miller, assistant director of the Planning and Development Department at the City of Lawrence, said. “This is an approach that can be beneficial both to developers and to the community.”
There are certain principles that guide the design standards for Lawrence: Improve the overall quality and promote well-designed projects; ensure compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods; enhance pedestrian safety and walkability; and improve user-friendliness and predictability in the design review process.
During the application process, the Planning and Development Staff review several elements to determine if the project meets the guidelines set forth in the Community Design Manual. These elements include site planning, storm water and site drainage, streetscape and neighborhood transitions; vehicular access and parking areas; pedestrian access and amenities, outdoor storage, sales and service areas, landscaping, screening and walls, and lighting and security.
“It isn’t unusual for cities to create standards for design,” Miller said. “In fact, we hear from national retailers that standards are common. Retailers also want to provide a quality product that is a good representation of their company to the local community. Every commercial development goes through a site planning process. During site planning, we look at every development to see how the building is oriented on the site, the compatibility with surrounding areas, natural features of the site and whether or not existing vegetation is used as part of the landscaping.”
The Planning Department looks at building orientation as a key consideration to make sure that developments are woven into the physical fabric of the community and surrounding neighborhoods by recommending that building placement and orientation provide compatible transitioning techniques to minimize adverse impacts such as noise, odor, light and glare.
“Building orientation is a key goal,” Miller said. “We want parking to be in the rear of the site which helps to create a pedestrian friendly way. Additionally, we want to see developments that have four-sided architecture, not just a façade that has traditional architectural elements.”
An example of a development that worked very hard to create a pedestrian-friendly area was the CVS on 23rd and Iowa Street. Pedestrian access is a very important part of the planning process. Developments should include clear ways for people to walk store-to-store easily and safely.
Other key elements include landscaping and building architecture.
“We encourage the use of native materials in site drainage and storm water retention/detention,” Miller said. “We want to see low-maintenance plants that use less water.”
For building architecture, a percentage of the façade of a building must use native building materials including stone or masonry. There should be some articulation of the design on the building too – use of windows, varying elevations, etc.
“The goal of articulation is to create visual interest in the building,” Miller said. “We don’t specify colors to be used but we do look at the materials used and consider what will last longer and bring value to the Lawrence community.”
When planning a development or a remodel, the business community is encouraged to talk to the city’s planning staff at the very beginning of the process.
“Contact us at (785) 832-3150 to talk to our planning staff about specific requirements and how we can assist through the development process,” Miller said. ■