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Archive for Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Home Depot street changes costly

February 20, 2002

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Intersection improvements at 31st and Iowa streets for a new Home Depot store will cost the city more than $1.45 million, city commissioners learned Tuesday.

Home Depot would pay another $1.46 million for the improvements, according to estimates, and the Kansas Department of Transportation would add $300,000.

The $3.2 million total cost exceeds the nearly $2.2 million bill developers anticipated last fall, with city taxpayers picking up $300,000 more than originally expected.

And Assistant City Manager Dave Corliss said Tuesday that Home Depot is asking to be the contractor and have authority over the improvements that usually is exercised by the city.

"They want to have that level of control over the project," Corliss said. "That's not how we traditionally bid out public improvements."

"The agreement would not take the city out of the position of requiring the bid or approving the bid," said Lawrence attorney Dan Watkins, who represents Home Depot. "We would also have the city inspecting it and reviewing it at all points along the way."

Commissioners mostly withheld comment Tuesday on the costs. But there were fresh signs Tuesday of opposition to the project.

Two neighborhood residents expressed concerns about the expected increase in traffic along 31st. Michigan-based Malan Realty Investors, which owns the Kmart property at the intersection, distributed a letter to commissioners and the media challenging the plans.

"Is the city truly considering entering into an agreement to pay 50 percent of a bill over which it has no control, and which is certain to be inflated due to the expedited time schedule of the (Home Depot) group?" Malan President Alan Warnke wrote.

The costs increases are the result of the larger size of the project: Each approach to the intersection will be built with dual left-turn lanes, and KDOT chimed in with its $300,000 to add safety features  probably improved traffic signals.

"The proposed improvements significantly increase the capacity of the whole intersection," said Chuck Soules, the city's public works director.

That concerned Joyce Wolf, president of the Indian Hills Neighborhood Assn. She noted the owners of the Home Depot property have an option to purchase land on Iowa Street that adjoins the 31st Street site of the store. That option expires in April, officials said.

"If the development faced Iowa instead of 31st, would that have a beneficial effect on traffic on 31st?" she asked.

Commissioner David Dunfield also wanted an answer.

"I'd certainly like to have full information on that when it comes back to us for consideration," he said.

The commission will be asked to approve the project March 5.

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