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Progress 2007 Economic review & forecast

Automotive retail expansions continue in south Lawrence

April 21, 2007

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Dale Willey this year is chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, the lead trade group for one of America's largest retail sectors.

So it only figures that he's expanding his own Dale Willey Automotive in southern Lawrence.

"I'll be busy," Willey said late last year, as he prepared to close on his purchase of property adjacent to Dale Willey Automotive, 2840 Iowa.

Willey isn't the only one stepping on the accelerator when it comes to growth in southern Lawrence.

Among other companies, developers and others making progress along South Iowa Street and spots nearby:

¢ Bossier Nissan Subaru opened in December by taking over the former Dale Martens Nissan Subaru, 2112 W. 29th Terrace. But Bossier - a partnership led by Jim Webb, who serves as general manager - won't be there for long, as the dealership has until May 31 to move into a vacant auto showroom and auto sales lot next door at 2300 W. 29th Terrace, where Bossier has a two-year lease and an option for two more. The relocation will make way for Jack Ellena Honda to move its dealership into the current Nissan Subaru location, returning Honda vehicles to the spot where they entered the Lawrence market back in 1973. The Bossier partners - all connected to auto dealers in Texas, primarily in Bryan-College Station, home to Texas A&M University - plan to seek out a new spot in Lawrence, likely in northwest or southeast Lawrence.

¢ Auto Exchange, which already has two locations on East 23rd Street, started construction earlier this year of a long-awaited lot at the southwest corner of 33rd and Iowa streets, next to Culver's Frozen Custard. The project had been ensnared in wrangling with the city staffers over issues that included traffic flow and access.

¢ Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, made its lone store in Lawrence even larger. In September, the company celebrated the grand opening of an expansion of its store at 3300 Iowa, with more than 90,000 square feet of additional space to accommodate a full-service grocery store, a Blimpie restaurant, a portrait studio, a vision center, a SmartStyle hair salon and a Regal Nails salon. Also included: a Central National Bank branch inside the store, and a "Connect Center" for sales of wireless phones.

¢ CVS Pharmacy, a chain of 6,200 stores in 43 states, has started work on its first Lawrence store, to be located at the southeast corner of 23rd and Iowa streets. The company last year purchased the property that had been home to a Furr's Cafeteria, then in March had the vacated building razed to make way for construction of a new 13,000-square-foot store that will include a drive-through pharmacy, photo center, beauty supplies, vitamins and other products.

¢ Rex Appliance closed in September after 13 years at 2800 Iowa. The place closed when sold to Robert Fyfe, who bought the building so that he could relocate and expand his Pay-Less Furniture Outlet from 2900 Iowa.

Fyfe's move made way for expansion of Dale Willey Automotive. Willey has plans to tear down the former Pay-Less building and an adjacent row of units at A-1 Mini Storage.

The site will be used to accommodate used car sales, a portion of the business expected to have about 100 vehicles on site, up from the current 60. By relocating the used cars, Willey will have room for more new vehicles: about 200, up from the usual 150.

"We're thrilled to have better visibility," Willey said.

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