Lawrence will have one of the more distinctively designed Wal-Marts in the country, according to company leaders and developers who unveiled designs Monday for a new store at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.
"I would put this design up against any in the country," said Bill Newsome, a partner in the Lawrence development company that owns the property at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. "And I mean against any retail development, not just other Wal-Marts."
The 99,840-square-feet building will feature a synthetic slate roof, a facade that features several areas designed to look like shuttered windows, synthetic stone veneer, and large amounts of landscaping that includes a native grass "interpretive area."
Neighbors invited by Wal-Mart to view the designs Monday afternoon were mixed in their responses.
"My concern has always been about the traffic, and this doesn't do anything to help traffic," said Paula Pepin, who lives in the west Lawrence neighborhood adjacent to the intersection. "I still think we're going to overload that corner."
Some area residents, though, said they were ready for the long-stalled project to move ahead.
Angie Stoner, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, speaks about plans for a new store at 6th and Wakarusa
"We like it," said Bud Antle, who lives west of the proposed site. "It means we won't have to drive to the big one on South Iowa Street that is about six and a half miles away."
When the project will move forward is still an open question. City commissioners and Wal-Mart developers reached an agreement in April to avoid a trial in a lawsuit alleging the city had improperly denied Wal-Mart a building permit for the project. The project had been controversial, in part, because neighbors said the new store would overwhelm the intersection, which also serves nearby Free State High School. Developers, though, said traffic studies showed the intersection was designed to handle any projected increase in traffic.
City Commissioner David Schauner attended the Monday gathering and said he wasn't overly impressed with the design.
"It is not the layout I wanted to see," Schauner said.
He said he wanted the store to put more of its parking behind the building, rather than making the parking lot such a prominent feature of the design. He also said he was concerned the site layout would make it too easy for Wal-Mart to expand the store in the future.
City commissioners agreed to sign the agreement in April only if Wal-Mart promised to keep the store smaller than 100,000 square feet. But the agreement would not stop Wal-Mart from submitting expansion plans to a future commission.
"This shouldn't be a foot-in-the-door type of project," Schauner said.
Angie Stoner, a spokeswoman with Wal-Mart, said that wasn't the retailer's intention.
"We're focused on this project," Stoner said. "We're not looking to expand."
Stoner said Wal-Mart will take into account all the comments it has received from the community and submit an official design in the next couple of weeks for city officials to review. Stoner said once the project is approved - which could still be several months - it would take 10 to 12 months to complete construction.
"We definitely want this to be a store that fits the community of Lawrence," Stoner said.
More about Wal-Mart at 6th and Wakarusa
- Joint statment about Wal-Mart lawsuit
- Wal-Mart back, with bigger request (10-28-06)
- Wal-Mart question up for city approval (10-23-06)
- Wal-Mart proposal hits another roadblock (09-01-06)
- Planning Commission split on proposed Wal-Mart (08-31-06)
- City gateway taking shape (08-19-06)
- Wal-Mart reveals design for Sixth Street location (08-15-06)
- More stories in our Wal-Mart on Wakarusa section Â»