A Kansas City-area developer wants to turn a field in northwest Lawrence into the city's next big shopping center, complete with "big box" retail.
Jim Harpool, of Dial Realty-KC, has plans for transforming 52 acres at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive into a complex called Wakarusa Place. It would feature more than 200 apartments, four restaurants, a bank, pharmacy, professional offices and nearly 250,000 square feet of speculative retail.
Nearly half of that shopping space 120,000 square feet would be under one roof, and set up for a single user. And, like a similar-sized Home Depot proposed for part of 30 acres at 31st and Iowa streets, it would include a garden center.
Harpool declined to discuss potential stores, but noted that Lawrence's South Iowa Street already home to Wal-Mart, Kmart, SuperTarget, Sears, JC Penney, Kohl's and Payless Cashways simply doesn't have enough room to handle any more big stores.
It's time, he said, to head west.
"We think it is a great spot for some retail that will take some of the pressure off of South Iowa," Harpool said.
Harpool filed his plans Friday at city hall.
Larry Kipp, who lives a mile north of the intersection, said the proposal would be better suited for a site farther west, at the intersection with the South Lawrence Trafficway.
Pumping another 247,000 square feet of retail into an intersection that already has too much shopping, he said, is just asking for trouble especially if it features such "destination-type" stores typical of South Iowa.
"This is a paradigm shift in terms of locating regional retail in Lawrence," said Kipp, who lost in November to Jere McElhaney for a seat on the Douglas County Commission. "We need to plan our community for the future, not to fit the business needs of a particular occupant of a particular property at a particular time."
Harpool said he has a contract to buy the property. Part of the proposed site currently is owned by The World Company, which owns the Journal-World; the rest is owned by the Rock Chalk Ranch Partnership, headed by Judy Green and Ed Collister Jr.
The property is zoned for agricultural use. Harpool wants it changed to planned commercial development, so that he could start construction in June and have it completed by May 2003.
A survey conducted for Harpool by Rich Caplan & Associates determined that Lawrence could handle another 427,705 square feet of retail space during the next three years.
Wakarusa Place would enjoy "excellent" access and visibility in a fast-growing area that already is "limited" in its retail offerings, Caplan said, in his report.
Harpool said bringing in "anchor" retailers would help draw shoppers into smaller shops at the intersection's two other corners. The northeast corner of Sixth and Wakarusa, leading to Free State High School, remains undeveloped.