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Archive for Saturday, April 22, 2006

Future looking bright for new development in south Lawrence

April 22, 2006

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Mike Elwell looked all over town for a place to make his dreams for indoor tennis come true.

The search ended along Clinton Parkway, in a building designed and built for basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer and other sports.

"This puts us online a lot faster than trying to start from scratch and build one," Elwell said late last year, as he prepared to close on his purchase of the building at 5200 Clinton Parkway.

Elwell isn't alone in taking an adaptive-reuse approach to projects in southern Lawrence, now that his center is open for Kansas University players, club members and the general public able to serve and volley in town and out of the elements.

Several other projects have emerged during the past year, while others continue to progress and still others wait to be executed.

Among them:

¢ Miles Schnaer, owner of Crown Automotive, worked out a deal with Wal-Mart so that both businesses could grow at their current homes. Schnaer acquired the former Payless Cashways building next door and converted its 75,000 square feet into space for his Toyota dealership, 18 service bays, a used-car showroom and a body shop. Wal-Mart, meanwhile, took over Schnaer's former Toyota dealership, now used for a larger parking lot and a Wal-Mart expansion that will turn the retail powerhouse into a Wal-Mart Supercenter, which includes a grocery store. Wal-Mart's expanded Community Recycling Center already has opened.

¢ Auto Exchange continues to work on plans for opening an auto lot across the street, at the southwest corner of 33rd and Iowa streets. A former bait shop building that had been home to Wright's Wallcoverings has been razed to make way for the car lot.

¢ Mass Beverage, a new retail liquor store, moved into space near SuperTarget that had been vacated months ago by Gateway Computers. KU Credit Union broke ground earlier this year for its second Lawrence location, this one just around the corner along 31st Street.

¢ Southern Hills Center, which opened in 1977 at 1601 W. 23rd St., freshened up its look by adding stucco facades to its 70,000 square feet of commercial space, which includes Pizza Shuttle, King Buffet, Pinnacle Career College, Daycom and the Masonic Lodge.

¢ Pancho's, a family-style Mexican restaurant, closed at The Malls shopping center, but another restaurant at the center - Wheat State Pizza - is expanding through new locations. The pizza chain, which started at The Malls in August 2004, now has company-owned restaurants in Baldwin, downtown Overland Park, Gardner and Emporia; franchise locations are expected in the coming months elsewhere in the Kansas City area and Manhattan.

As companies carried out their business in town, Lawrence city commissioners continue to mull plans for a new sewer treatment plant along the Wakarusa River. City commissioners have been meeting with leaders from the Douglas County Commission and the Lawrence school district to weigh the effects of where the plant might be located, particularly how it might affect the direction of development once the plant goes into service, expected to be in 2011.

Elwell, for his part, couldn't wait that long to get his new tennis center in play. He invested more than $1 million in the project, purchasing an existing recreational center that would meet his needs and those of his friends, members and other renters of court time.

Elwell already is planning an expansion to make the center even more viable in the years ahead.

"We're too big of a community not to have a facility," Elwell said.

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