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Archive for Wednesday, June 19, 1991

S FINAL ZONING APPROVAL

June 19, 1991

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The Lawrence City Commission may take up the Wal-Mart rezoning issue at its meeting Tuesday but then again, it may not.

When commissioners on June 11 unanimously approved Wal-Mart's request to rezone 9.8 acres at 33rd and Iowa, the site of Wal-Mart's proposed new store, they made their action contingent on approval of a transportation plan.

The plan, which would determine such issues as whether Wal-Mart would pay the costs of installing a traffic signal adjacent to the project, originally was expected to be discussed at next Tuesday's meeting. However, Diane Mullins, city planner in charge of the Wal-Mart project, said the Wal-Mart issue may not come before the commission again until July 2.

"We've asked the applicant to defer another week but we've not heard back," she said.

If the Wal-Mart issue is to be part of the agenda for the city's Tuesday commission meeting, Mullins said the planning staff's recommendations on the traffic aspect of the rezoning issue will be released Thursday afternoon. If Wal-Mart agrees to wait until July 2 to bring the issue before the commission again, the staff report also would be delayed a week.

HOWEVER, John Lungstrum, a Lawrence attorney representing Wal-Mart in its negotiations with the city, was said to be out of his office until Thursday afternoon.

Last week, Lungstrum said he was uncertain when construction of the new store could begin, even if the city granted full approval for the project at Tuesday's meeting.

He said the company was negotiating with Williams Natural Gas Co. of Tulsa, Okla., for relocation of a gas line that runs diagonally through the proposed store site. Lungstrum said the line would have to be moved before ground could be broken.

However, once Wal-Mart gains full city approval for its plans, Lungstrum said the company is prepared to close the deal to buy the property on which the store would be built. Wal-Mart has secured an option to buy the property, contingent on city approval of the new store, and Lungstrum said the purchase could be completed within a week of final city action.

THE OWNERS of Royal Bowling Lanes, 3300 Iowa, which sits in the footprint of the proposed store, have said they will remain open for business until the Wal-Mart deal is final.

In the meantime, details about the specific retail format Wal-Mart plans for the new, 131,321-square-foot store remain scant. Jane Arend, a spokesman at Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., declined on Tuesday to discuss the company's plans for the new store.

Because the company is still working through the city approval process, she said, "Obviously the deal is not complete or final, so I would not be able to confirm any details."

However, if Wal-Mart applies its rule of thumb to the Lawrence store, it will be a Supercenter. Stores in that class range from 97,000 to 211,000 square feet in size and sell groceries as well as general merchandise.

SUPERCENTERS are smaller than Wal-Mart's four Hypermart USA stores, which have locations in Topeka and Kansas City, Mo. Hypermarts range in size from 180,000 to 260,000 square feet and offer services, such as optical shops and shoe repair, in addition to groceries and general merchandise.

The Supercenter concept would add groceries and possibly expand the offerings of general merchandise now available at the existing, 87,000-square-foot Lawrence Wal-Mart, 2727 Iowa.

Last week Lungstrum said Wal-Mart was seeking a new occupant for the existing store building.

"I'm told that there are several options that they're taking a look at, both private and governmental," Lungstrum said.

He declined to be more specific except to say that Wal-Mart is not trying to sell the building.

"Wal-Mart is actively involved in leasing that building rather than selling, so Wal-Mart is not concerned about that building sitting vacant," Lungstrum said.

THE U.S. Postal Service has said it is interested in finding a larger location to replace its cramped Jayhawk Station, 1519 W. 23rd. However, a spokesman for the postal service's office in Wichita would not confirm that the Wal-Mart building is one of the sites at which the postal service has looked.

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