Lawrence's former Payless Cashways store is being sold to an investor from Leawood for $4.4 million.
The 10.8-acre site at 3434 Iowa went on the auction block after the Lee's Summit, Mo.-based company filed for bankruptcy protection in June and announced in August that it would liquidate its assets.
Lewis E. Nerman won approval last week from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to buy the Lawrence site and another in St. Joseph, Mo., for a total of $6.4 million. The sale is expected to close in February.
Nerman said he didn't have any immediate plans for the property, which he intends to lease to a major retailer perhaps to another home-improvement store, an automotive dealership or anyone else looking for a high-visibility, high-traffic spot in the city's busiest retail corridor.
The Lawrence site had been listed for sale at $5 million.
"I think I've got a great location and I'm excited about the area and the growth Lawrence is having," he said. "I'm just hoping to be a part of it."
Nerman's entry in the market comes as Home Depot has secured permission to build a store a few blocks north, at the northeast corner of 31st and Iowa streets.
Across town, another developer has the city's blessing to bring a similar home-improvement store to the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive, although the site's owners have said that they had yet to land a contract.
But Nerman's broker, Michael H. Fishman of Olathe, said that having a 73,500-square-foot building ready to go along with a 4.5-acre lumberyard and 278-space parking lot gave his client a leg up.
Fishman's already heard from "three or four" interested parties. He's also talked with Home Depot.
"Home improvement is obviously a target along with the traditional electronics, big-box retail, and furniture," Fishman said.
At least one home-improvement chain apparently is off the list.
Minnesota-based United Building Centers said it did not intend to move into Lawrence, despite agreeing last week to buy former Payless stores in Topeka, Salina, Wichita and two others out of state. The Lawrence site simply cost too much.
"That's probably one of the reasons Payless couldn't make it," said Tom Larson, UBC's vice president for operations. "They had real estate that was too high priced."
Michele Hart, who brokered the deal on behalf of Payless Cashways, said she had expected more interest in the Lawrence store, which opened in 1995 and proved to be one of the chain's most successful sites.
"It's their biggest prototype, one of their nicest stores," she said.
The pending purchase would be the first investment in Lawrence for Nerman, who until earlier this year had been president and chief executive officer of Arrow Truck Sales Inc., based in Kansas City, Mo.
In January, Nerman sold Arrow to Volvo. At the time, Arrow was coming off a year in which it had $200 million in sales and 20 dealers in the United States and Canada, each selling used over-the-road trucks.