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Archive for Saturday, August 19, 2006

City gateway taking shape

Plan calls for one big, several smaller shops

August 19, 2006

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This rendering shows the Tuscan-style Italian architecture that developers plan to use for the corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. The plan calls for one big box store and several smaller shops or restaurants and will be built in phases over several years.

This rendering shows the Tuscan-style Italian architecture that developers plan to use for the corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. The plan calls for one big box store and several smaller shops or restaurants and will be built in phases over several years.

The new commercial area expected to be Lawrence's western gateway for years to come is beginning to take shape.

Developers who own 45 acres of commercially zoned property at the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway have filed their most detailed plans yet for a new shopping and office center that will accommodate at least one big box store and several smaller shops or restaurants.

"This is a true gateway to Lawrence that I think we're all going to be proud of," said Tim Fritzel, a Lawrence developer who is working with longtime Lawrence developers Duane Schwada and Steve Schwada to build the project. "I think this could end up being a real feather in our cap and a feather in the community's cap when it is all done."

The development - dubbed Mercado - will feature Tuscan-style Italian architecture for all 10 buildings proposed for the site.

The developers don't have tenants for the project, but likely will try to attract national or regional retailers that Lawrence residents currently drive to Topeka or Kansas City to find.

"It could be done in a way to provide Lawrence residents more opportunities to spend their money in town," Steve Schwada said.

Definite timelines for the project aren't in place. Duane Schwada said it could be a year before the first tenant for the site is found, and the plan calls for the development to be built in six phases over "several years."

Just how many new stores would be at the site also isn't fully determined. When city commissioners approved the commercial zoning for the property in May, they limited how much new retail development would be allowed there.

City commissioners set total retail space at 184,640 square feet, though the zoning allows for other types of commercial development such as banks and offices that would not be considered retail uses.

The plan the developers have submitted to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Office proposed about 350,000 square feet of commercial space. The project is anchored by three large buildings - 175,000 square feet, 60,000 square feet and 50,000 square feet - in addition to seven smaller buildings ranging from 10,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet.

The area of land at the bottom left soon could be the site of a new shopping and office center that will accommodate at least one big box store and several smaller shops. The land is north of West Sixth Street to the east of the South Lawrence Trafficway. Sixth Street is in the middle of the photograph going from the east, at left, to the west. St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, 5700 W. Sixth St., is visible at left.

The area of land at the bottom left soon could be the site of a new shopping and office center that will accommodate at least one big box store and several smaller shops. The land is north of West Sixth Street to the east of the South Lawrence Trafficway. Sixth Street is in the middle of the photograph going from the east, at left, to the west. St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, 5700 W. Sixth St., is visible at left.

The developers concede that under the current restrictions they could not fill all three large buildings with retail stores. But, for example, they could fill the two smaller large footprint buildings and the majority of the seven outlying buildings with new retail shops. Or they could just fill the one large 175,000-square-foot building and only one or two of the smaller outlying buildings. Any space not occupied by stores or restaurants could be used for other nonretail uses such as banks, offices or service businesses.

Less opposition

Members of the development group stopped short of saying they would ask the city to increase the amount of retail allowed at the site, but they clearly believe the area could accommodate more stores.

"The site has tremendous exposure and visibility," Duane Schwada said. "We're following the deal the City Commission has approved because that's all that we can do."

Commissioners limited the retail space because there were fears too many stores would hurt downtown businesses and create traffic problems on Sixth Street.

Fritzel, though, said he didn't expect the new development to be direct competition for downtown. He also pointed out that his family's business - Gene Fritzel Construction Co. - is one of the larger downtown property owners and has proposed about $150 million worth of new development in downtown as part of a proposal to build a new downtown library.

The developers said they also believe the timing of the project will help alleviate traffic concerns. Currently, most of the property surrounding the site is undeveloped.

"This is a rare opportunity for the community to plan a large development ahead of any residential uses," Duane Schwada said. "This will be ahead of all the traffic. It will be ahead of all the houses."

Thus far the approach has worked well. The Mercado project has faced far less opposition from neighborhood groups than a shopping center and a Wal-Mart store has faced at the intersection of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.

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Gwen Klingenberg, president of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods, said her West Lawrence members were watching the project, but were taking some comfort in the fact that the amount of retail uses has been capped and the project likely would be built in phases over a number of years.

"I don't think there is as much concern with this project as some others because there have been some limits put in place," Klingenberg said. "The neighborhood hopes those limits stay in place. That is a very important issue for the neighborhoods."

Interim planning director Sheila Stogsdill said planning commissioners likely will review plans for the development at either their Sept. 25 or Sept. 27 meeting. The plans ultimately will need City Commission approval.

6th and the SLT

Comments

MWIV 8 years, 1 month ago

I guess if there is vacant land, one can expect it to be developed. I just wished this community had spent the same amount of time and money finishing the SLT. I think it is time to maybe "move on" and get out of Lawrence. Somebody has to pay for all of this. The idea of private delelopers doing a new library downtown is just absurb. One might argue for a larger and better library, but having lofts and retail associated with it? Is there room in this town for people other than the Fritzel"s and Compton? When is enough, enough for these folks? That's my story and I am sticking to it. :)

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sunflowerpower 8 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence is becoming Topeka, KS. There's a reason why Topeka is a joke, and these folks evidently don't understand the punchline.

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

Where is the business? Basically Lawrence is a very small town especially when compared to KC/JOCO metro and Topeka. So long as nothing is done about the 15,000 or more job commuters the local economy is not going to change significantly. Those commuters spend money elsewhere which is not a new phenomenon.

Take a look around and we find downsized big named stores including Sears and Penney's. Why? Because the retail dollars are not available that would justify more square footage. More selection and better pricing exist in the huge retail areas that surround Lawrence and are not that far away.

Cities throughout the USA are restoring downtowns not only for living but also for retail. Lawrence is a great place to live but it has it's retail dollar limits. Most people did not locate to Lawrence to watch it become Topeka or Kansas City.

Wal-Mart and that bogus new urbanism project are also on the table for construction at 6th and Wakarusa. The old Wal-Mart has expanded. Obviously no one has done an economic impact study for any of these new proposals on an individual basis.

One major problem in Lawrence is that our powers that be think that because a speculator buys a piece of property that automatically dictates the right to build or develop. Not so. Buying land is like playing Wall Street...sometimes you win sometimes you don't. In Lawrence the real estate industry and developers are actually the city county planners which is why our taxes are so inflated.

Yes people love to visit Lawrence for it's college sports,art shows,music and it's downtown. Perhaps this ought to be the focus for further economic development? Empty space is not a tax burden until infrastructure is installed. How many more parks, rec centers, fire trucks,police cars,trash trucks,criminal activity and city staff do we want to add to our already inflated tax bills?

People moving into Lawrence appear to have slowed significantly? Is it because of too much crappy housing contruction,high taxes,lack of high paying jobs, high gasoline prices or what?

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simplifying 8 years, 1 month ago

I do hope that there are environmentally sound aspects to the designs. Solar voltaics, dual flush toilets, natural lighting, greywater recycling, trees and shrubs planted for best natural cooling, a bus stop, etc.

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average 8 years, 1 month ago

Perhaps the Fritzels could use a European vacation. This is Tuscan architecture.

http://static.flickr.com/34/122602951_e7bb8ee47b.jpg

Mercato (and the 500 parking spaces that the artist forgot to draw) could be dropped on Metcalf and no one would even notice that it was there.

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Pro_Lawrence 8 years, 1 month ago

I agree with Merrill and simplifying but this is leap frog development. Let the housing fill first then build something. Do developers who build cheap apartment buildings and expensive homes make good shopping center developers? Downtown is hurting and this will hurt it more. Sixth and Wakarusa is quickly becoming empty. Build up, not out. Take care of the downtown first.

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irishblues 8 years, 1 month ago

Jobs that pay a living wage...When will Lawrence wake up and figure out that is the key? You can't spend money if you can't make money. If you're stuck in a town with nothing that pays more than squat per hour, you'll have nothing to spend! Go ahead, build more "tuscan style" crap. (plaza design?) You have to count on the small percentage that can afford to shop there (and I don't know what that % is) Majority of Lawrence citizens can't shop there anyway because they are too busy trying to make ends meet on $9 or less per hour. AND then the companies they DO set up here take advantage of the lower wage scale and they don't pay all that great, IF you can get on. Then they close down, because "they can't make any money" and every one is laid off. Hence, bedroom community because we all have to commute to to survive. But I'm not bitter....I just hate having to commute at $3 a gallon to make a decent living. I'm also considering moving in the next year closer to my work and leaving the bedroom community behind.
Sorry, had to vent. This Fritzel thing really frosted me.

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lilcountry 8 years, 1 month ago

It will be OK if some new main-stream dinning was available. I think that would attract people to the area for shopping.

However, if lawrence employeers would pay employees a wage that complements the cost of living in lawrence then all these smaller retail shops could have a chance to stay in business. There have been several "GOOD"shops and "GOOD" people loose their business' at the 6th and Wakarusa shopping center. I can only forsee this again if small mom and pop shops open in the area.

The development isn't going to help the job market. College or high school kids ususally work these type of jobs and are only around for 1-4years. Students as employees are replacable and cheap labor. This is another way employeers keep wages down.

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irishblues 8 years, 1 month ago

lilcountry; well stated. I agree, and I'm glad I'm not the only one of this opinion.

Go Merrill! I always love to read your posts. You say what I'm afraid to most day.

Thanks, IB

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irishblues 8 years, 1 month ago

No, I know I won't be missed, and I know the reality of no jobs in Lawrence.

I'd love to be able to shop these places. I'd love to be able to stay here and spend my money where I earn it.

I'm just another old settler thinking about loading up my wagon and heading back east since the farm won't pay off and the bank wants it back coz I couldn't make the loan. No big loss.

Thanks for the reality check, marion.

Thanks, IB

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Godot 8 years, 1 month ago

Nice little tidbit here:

"He (Fritzel) also pointed out that his family's business - Gene Fritzel Construction Co. - is one of the larger downtown property owners and has proposed about $150 million worth of new development in downtown as part of a proposal to build a new downtown library."

$150 million dollar library development. hmmmmm. Just a few weeks ago it was $75 million. Amazing how quickly that has grown.

He conveniently leaves out the "tax payer funded" descriptor for the $150 million development, and the fact that, when it is all said and done, and paid for by the taxpayers, he and his buds will OWN the libarary and all of downtown.

Lawrence, home of suckers.

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lilcountry 8 years, 1 month ago

Marion Lynn

Are the rural and country folk of Baldwin, Ottawa, Garnett and Lawrence supporting the once run down, trailer park, empty field that has been recently developed into the Best Buy-Home Depot area?

No-there is empty retail/business space still sitting. Waiting.... O' I'm sorry we have a UPS Store and another small sporting goods store trying to survive.

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irishblues 8 years, 1 month ago

I CERTAINLY did not mean to come across as whining. I'm b*tching.

I work hard and I mean hard. I'm proud of my profession and my life's work. I've those same types of people on my staff. I've fired 'em for lack of productivity, absenteeism and no committment for excellence. It's the ones I keep and have some drive and sense of duty I can't give more $ to at review that lose more than I.

I guess I should have included the fact that I've worked hard all my life with no "unsavory" habits to "blow" my money on over priced baubbles, if I wanted to do that, I'd spend it in Lawrence!

I beg this board's pardon for my apparent "whining" about jobs, wages, gas prices, misguided ideals, etc.

I'm going out for coffee - plain - old - coffee. Thanks IB

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bmwjhawk 8 years, 1 month ago

U ppl are funny complainers. Thanks.

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Jamesaust 8 years, 1 month ago

The only "city gateway" that should be planned is an office park - with the City committed to lure employers to Lawrence. There is absolutely no shortage of commercial retail (6th & Wak doesn't look healthy to me) and, given the number of commuters, people can swing by any retailer not in town on their way home.

What does "Tuscan-style Italian" architecture have to do with Lawrence? Is "Tuscan-style" the equivalent of fake Tuscan? If Fritzel wants to recreate a New England village-style, fine - that at least has some historical connection to Lawrence.

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Gareth Skarka 8 years, 1 month ago

They want to build a "gateway to the city"....on the west side of town.....

...when most of the people coming here (by simple study of population density) are coming from the east.

Brilliant.

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brfts 8 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence is well on it's way to becoming just another bland college town like Lincoln, Ne. I can just see it now with all the growth out west killing the local businesses and downtown drying up eventually. Do we really want to be like Johnson County??

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Tychoman 8 years, 1 month ago

What a fool idea. 6th and Wakarusa could have been a gateway. That's sure what it seems like. This is a very, very bad idea. Yet another overblown waste of space and money.

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GardenMomma 8 years, 1 month ago

I find it interesting that the picture of this new "Tuscan-style" building is titled "Mercato" and the LJWorld called it "Mercado" in the article. Doesn't the paper employ any copy editors? Or copy editors that know their sh--?

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Tychoman 8 years, 1 month ago

No. I'm not 100% wrong. Tanger was supposed to be a gateway. Anybody remember Tanger? Lawrence doesn't need one any more than KU needs family-sponsored gateways. This is a bad idea and a waste of money, too much empty retail space in the city already. Plus this'll mess up traffic trying to get on K10 and US40.

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stlcards515 8 years, 1 month ago

the whole point of this is to expand lawrence. why did we annex a bunch of empty land into the city, to build it up. I wasn't aware of this until the other day, but the lawrence city limits goes all the way out to the dam now. They put it out there, and everything in the middle fills up. People need to get it through their heads that people want to live in Lawrence, and it's growing.

The only reason people go downtown is for 3 reasons. The chain stores, such as AE, Abercrombie, Gap, Urban Outfitters, etc, and the bars. Then people stop by the local stores to see what's in there. When was the last time you heard someone say, oh I think i'm going to go down to the third planet, to see if they have such and such.

I live on the west side of lawrence, and i'm very happy this is going in, because it will be alot easier to go there than to drive downtown and mess with the horrible traffic there.

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Jeff Goger 8 years, 1 month ago

I think Lawrence needs to consider devolping its roads before any more retail sites. It takes way to long to get across town. There are not enough large trafficways east/west or north/south. The ones we do have can't handle all the traffic. It seems like all the road money goes to making more round-abouts and not to the real problem of good safe traffic flow through the city.

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Aileen Dingus 8 years, 1 month ago

Posted by Pilgrim on August 19, 2006 at 8:39 a.m. Posted by simplifying (anonymous) on August 19, 2006 at 7:54 a.m.

I do hope that there are environmentally sound aspects to the designs. Solar voltaics, dual flush toilets, natural lighting, greywater recycling, trees and shrubs planted for best natural cooling, a bus stop, etc.


As much as I'm sure you'd like it to be, this isn't San Francisco or Berkley. If I want to live there, I'll move there.


Pilgrim- why should energy efficient and smart designs be limited to use in SF? I doubt any of simplifying's ideas would happen, developers for the most part do not choose those methods, but I think it would be a great thing if more of them did.

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Sigmund 8 years, 1 month ago

Sears and Penny's have had problems more than in just Lawrence and I am certain Walmart has done a market study and feel they will be able to compete and make money. Frankly I trust their judgement alot more then the City or Traffic Safety Kommissions! Unlike those Kommissions they are successful and are held responsible for their decisions.

Lawrence will never become Topeka or Kansas City, we will never be the capital of the State (thank god) and we will never attract enough jobs. There is nothing here except a cute but increasingly empty downtown and KU.

Downtown landlords and business don't want to compete with Walmart, who can blame them? But until rents downtown become more reasonable they must charge the prices they do just to pay taxes and rents. The only way prices are going to be reasonable here (both for retail space and retail goods) is to allow the larger companies to compete here.

I'm sure the Merc doesn't want to compete with Walmart, they won't be able raise their prices to pay for all the new taxes the City has imposed let alone keep up wages with the cost of living. Ditto for the downtown landlords who increasingly see their monopoly of retail space being eroded, buildings sitting empty, tax bills coming due and no one to rent. Eventually they will have to lower their rents, accept corporate tennants (Starbucks, Ben and Jerry's, etc) or allow the buildings to sit empty.

The crash in downtown real estate is coming and trying to postpone the inevitable by restricting competition will work for a little while. The problem is when your protectionism of downtown does fail the crash will be that much worse. You can only soak the Citizens of Lawrence (high prices, taxes, and rentals) so long before they can't afford Downtown prices and are forced into the open arms of Walmart.

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Ward 8 years, 1 month ago

I'm apalled this nostalgiac Tuscan box is being touted as a new gateway to Lawrence.

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lunacydetector 8 years, 1 month ago

the majority of retail vacancies sit downtown. the rents are too high because the old timer landlords saw what some of the major retailers were paying for their space. massachusetts street only has 9,500 vehicles per day as compared to the 27-32,000 found on the other major corridors. the other major corridors are not having vacancy problems, except for possibly one and that is due to poor traffic access caused by the City - namely where the hereford house was and across the street behind people's bank.

the REAL problem in lawrence is the over built office market. there are vacancies out the wazzoo. until lawrence STOPS being the MOST restrictive city in Kansas and possibly the midwest, those buildings will sit empty for years to come. you'd think lawrence would be bending over backwards to try to get white collar businesses to move to lawrence, but they sit on their hands unable to recognize these problems we've had for years. the living wage, though an honorable proposal has in effect stifled business. we aren't on anyone's radar to come to lawrence because we have a VERY BAD reputation for liking anything business related.

lawrence, kansas business UNfriendly....and proud of it

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cowboy 8 years, 1 month ago

The transplant commerce directors are drawing a nice salary and wouldn't rock the boat or they'd be fired pronto. Why would anyone want to go thru all the bs to open a biz in lawrence , site plans that take months to get approved after every tom dick and harry gets input on it , regulations on top of regulations , absolutely no balloons , oh god that is an aggregious offense , no banners , the sign nazi will come and take them , expensive advertising because the journal world controls everything , high property costs , higher rents , higher taxes , yeah a great environment , only if youre a huge chain can you bear that freight and timeline , thus the corporate conversion.

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Tychoman 8 years, 1 month ago

This "gateway" is a huge waste of money and space.

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scott3460 8 years, 1 month ago

"I live on the west side of lawrence, and i'm very happy this is going in, because it will be alot easier to go there than to drive downtown and mess with the horrible traffic there."

Poor moron, he probably doesn't even understand how stupid his comment is.
I just hope that 10 years from now, as he sits in a Wanamaker/Metcalf traffic hell, he comes to understand that "horrible traffic" emanates exponentially from each of these cancerous and useless "developments" that is allowed to disgrace our community.

Also for those of us that have been in the area for a while, it should be pointed out that this development will be nearby to the formerly virgin plot of prairie that had never been plowed, until speculators ruined it in the early to mid nineties. How proud we should be that we've traded such a jewel for a soon to be parking lot of some faux Italian Village, or some other such monstrocity.

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scott3460 8 years, 1 month ago

"If you feel that way, why did you not buy the property and set it aside?"

Actually, efforts along those lines were being pursued at the time, but the owners, in true speculator/developer fashion, plowed the land up to prevent such a result. Typical behavior, but still a shame.

And thanks for the spelling lesson. Never was a strong suit.

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lunacydetector 8 years, 1 month ago

marion, in response to your response to me, the high property taxes are somewhat based on what the rental rates are bringing downtown and what some properties brought when sold. so in essence, it is the over inflated rental rates that drove the values of the properties when the appraiser's appraisal of the property based its value on the income the property was generating in order to justify the financing from a bank. those figures are turned over to the county appraiser. thus, this increased the property tax. sure, maintenance is higher on dilapidated properties with inadequate or out of date electrical service or insufficient heating and air, but the property taxes are the meat of any extras a tenant has to pay. higher rent = higher property tax.

the unfortunate thing is, the county isn't going to drop the values of these properties downtown just because the spaces are vacant. they may hold the values in check, but that's about it.

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jayhawks71 8 years, 1 month ago

Marion, you are a moron. You go to your little rivercity talk site and spread lies. May your Alzheimer's consume you slowly and painfully. Jerk.

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Kelly Powell 8 years, 1 month ago

Wow, jayhawks71.....What a compassionate and intelligent comment...Now why don't you give out your real name so marion can pose his rebuttal....I know, you feel all safe and snuggly under that white peaked hood of anonymity....But it is time to crawl out of your cave and be a man(or woman)....If you are going to curse someone with a horrible death you should have the testicular fortitude to let him know who is cursing him.

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Tychoman 8 years, 1 month ago

Marion you shouldn't be one to lecture (as you always do on EVERYTHING) with spelling-errors. Just earlier this week and last week you had spelling errors in just about every post. So much for "paying attention."

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