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Archive for Sunday, February 23, 1997

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February 23, 1997

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Meet 'America's Smart Corridor'

The area borderingKansas Highway 10 has seen an increase in major construction projects. A regional group hopes to give direction to the development.

Kansas Highway 10 has never been smarter, say officials with a regional organization that monitors and guides its development.

And soon, drivers on the highway will be reminded that K-10 is, in fact, "America's Smart Corridor."

Rich Caplan, executive director of K-10 Association Inc. and a Lawrence developer, said the group is launching a marketing campaign that dubs the highway "America's Smart Corridor." The campaign is to include monument signs placed at certain spots on the highway, including the intersection at Renner Boulevard near Olathe. Native materials and native stone will be used to build the signs.

"We're going to be encouraging that marketing theme to be used by developers and the chambers (of commerce) whenever appropriate," Caplan said.

The "smart" designation has more than one meaning.

"We've got a well educated workforce in Lawrence and Douglas County," Caplan said. "And we are focusing as much as possible on high-tech companies ... that require a highly skilled work force."

Among those companies are Microtech, which is building a 20,000 square foot facility in west Lawrence.

"That's the kind of company we're excited about attracting," Caplan said.

Formed five years ago to keep ahead of the development curve, K-10 Association Inc. is made up of a regional mix of developers, land owners and utilities. The group involves Lawrence, Eudora, DeSoto, Shawnee, Olathe and Lenexa. Every city along K-10 has agreed to use standard design guidelines for new developments along the highway.

According to traffic figures and various companies' interest, those developments will not likely slow down anytime soon.

A study completed by Kansas University graduate students showed that K-10 traffic in 1995 was up 13 percent compared to 1994. Interstate 70 between Lawrence and Kansas City saw only a 5 percent jump in that same time span.

"The corridor is enjoying the benefit of its location," said Kent Fry, president of KTen Inc., developer of Corridor 10 Commerce Park in DeSoto. "There is lots of activity right now in the area -- and it's expected to continue."

Commerce Park stretches from McDonald's in DeSoto to Sealright Packaging. About 75 of its 213 acres are still open to development. Fry is also involved with K-10 Association Inc., a separate organization from Fry's KTen Inc.

Promotional efforts for the area are linked, in part, to its fiber optic capabilities. Southwestern Bell has indicated that any project along the corridor can gain access to the state-of-the-art technology.

The corridor also boasts good power supplies and plenty of available space.

Recently the first retail center along the corridor opened at Cedar Creek south of Olathe. And the first set of crops at Kansas State University's research station -- located at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant -- should be planted this spring.

Lawrence and Johnson County may eventually include the possibility of an interlocking transportation system.

"It's very preliminary, but we're trying to get some hard facts together," Caplan said.

To maintain the smart nature of the corridor, the group had to first come to terms with its rapid growth. The look of Interstate 35 was used as a specific example of what to avoid.

"Sprawl -- the 's' word that people don't like to use," Caplan said. "And we don't want to see it happen, either."

Among the projects in the works for the corridor:

  • A distributing headquarters for Aldi -- one of only nine distribution headquarters for the corporation worldwide. The $25 million, 425,000 square foot facility will be built on 168 acres at the southeast corner of the K-10 interchange with Kansas Highway 7.

The facility will create 102 jobs initially, Caplan said. The company broke ground in December.

  • A new site for Allied Signal Commercial Avionics. In June, the company announced it planned to build a $100 million facility at K-10 and Renner Boulevard. Less than two weeks ago, the company told Caplan the plans may have to be scaled back somewhat.

"We're confident they're going to end up on K-10," Caplan said. "The only question is the size and scale and exact scope of the new facility."

A jobs estimate was not available.

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