Interest in downtown picks up

Sites gain tenants while Blue Heron seeks buyer in district with open spaces

December 13, 2007


'Jo Shmo's' heading for downtown Lawrence

A KU-trained opera singer is looking to make a major play in downtown Lawrence. His plan? Open 'Jo Shmo's' - a bar and grill featuring burgers, beer and bocce. Enlarge video

The vacancy rate for downtown properties may be up a bit from recent years, but the number doesn't tell the whole story of interest and activity in the central business district's real estate, a commercial Realtor said.

The vacancy rate is running about 8.1 percent for retail space in the district, said Allison Vance Moore, of Grubb & Ellis | The Winbury Group. But that doesn't account for properties that recently became vacant and just as quickly secured new tenants.

Nor does the vacancy rate include a gauge of recent interest taken by a collection of local, regional or perhaps even national retailers thinking about moving in to spaces others have left behind.

"It's darn healthy," said Vance Moore, who tracks the market for retail space in town. "It used to be interest from T-shirt shops and restaurants. The interest now is a lot more diverse, with more traditional retailers looking - and that feels good. That's what people are looking for."

Case in point: Bob Schumm recently leased his new retail space at 717 Mass., just north of his Buffalo Bob's Smokehouse. Of course "new" is relative, considering that he built the place in 2002 and has been using the street-level retail space since then only for storage of equipment and building materials.

Schumm, owner of Schumm Foods, won't say what's going in, but he's looking forward to good things from the shop that will provide "general merchandise," not operating as a restaurant or bar.

"Downtown is filling back in again, which is nice," said Schumm, who has been doing business downtown for 20 years. "I'm glad it's happening."

Also in the mix:

¢ Jo Shmo's, a new bar and grill, is slated to move into 724 Mass., the former home of Thai House. The place promises to feature burgers, beers and - in a first for downtown Lawrence - two indoor courts for bocce, a ball game that combines features of bowling and shuffleboard.

It is the project of Josh Mochel, a New York opera signer who is moving back to Lawrence, where he studied at Kansas University and always had dreamed of owning and operating a place downtown.

"I'm from Chicago, and I live in Brooklyn, New York, but there's just something amazing about downtown Lawrence," he said. "The old-school businesses, they're absolutely amazing. We want to keep that spirit going, and it's my hope we can continue and develop a new tradition."

¢ The folks behind Yokohama, a sushi restaurant at 1730 W. 23rd St., plan to open a new location at 811 N.H., the former home of New Hampshire Street Bistro.

And Blue Heron, 921 Mass., plans to close at the end of January, ending a 25-year run in town and opening up yet another piece of prime real estate in the city's central business district.

Galen Tarman, owner of Blue Heron, hopes to find a buyer for the business that sells eclectic furnishings, designer items and home accessories. Otherwise, he intends to move his remaining inventory to a warehouse and sell through the Internet, giving him more time to focus on buying and selling stocks.

"The business has a lot of potential," he said. "We've gone through a couple years of soft sales, but it has a lot of potential for the future."


Katie180 10 years, 5 months ago

I heard Bay Leaf is moving into Bob Schumm's retail space...don't know if it is the truth, but things aren't really "filling in" if a store just moves are they.

wavindawheat 10 years, 5 months ago

I don't understand what you mean by steal the other guys idea and dollar. With 100,000 people and students in the town, we are gonna need more than one coffee shop to service the people of Lawrence. And furthermore, healthy competition means the best possible product for the consumer. A business can't just open up shop and think they don't have make any improvements for twenty years.

woxy 10 years, 5 months ago

Not to mention:

yarn store comic book store Wild Territory (unique gift store) tattoo shops ice cream stores (or is that what you meant by "yogurt shop"?) fabric stores

RomanNose 10 years, 5 months ago

Don't forget the Hookah Bar and that place with all the percussion instruments.

booze_buds_03 10 years, 5 months ago

There is also a home store(tile, carpet etc.) and a few architecure firms

thomgreen 10 years, 5 months ago

Shoot, I'll miss Blue Heron. I can't say I bought stuff, but I always liked getting ideas there. Too bad I didn't have more disposable income, they would have gotten more business from me.

rumor_man 10 years, 5 months ago

Don't forget about the non-alcoholic dance club called Last Call.

alm77 10 years, 5 months ago

skateshops videogame store w/ new arcarde oldest brewery in KS professional offices (attorneys etc.) secondhand stores (at least 3 I can think of) sell-your-stuff-on-ebay store

OH and whatever happened to the euro style grocery store??

rumor_man 10 years, 5 months ago

How could anyone forget to mention the Drop-In Shelter, Salvation Army & L.I.N.K.?

...and City Hall & The Library....

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 5 months ago

alm77 It's right next door to Brits. Au Marche

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 5 months ago

I don't think you can measure downtown move-out rates by comparing years of downtown occupancy as a reason to get excited.

You'll need to look at other, similar downtowns.

Lawrence moveout rates can be down by 80% and still be 5 times higher than average dowtown moveouts. Face it, Lawr. has a high turnover in downtown businesses.

kujayhawk 10 years, 5 months ago

"Otherwise, he intends to move his remaining inventory to a warehouse and sell through the Internet, giving him more time to focus on buying and selling stocks."

Translation: I'd rather take my chances gambling than own a business in downtown Lawrence.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 5 months ago

How is selling things on the internet gambling. Many people are doing it successfully with little overhead.

webmocker 10 years, 5 months ago

"Is 811 N.H. cursed?"

It seems to be, and the curse may be due to once being part of the inappropriately named Quantrill's Flea Market.

alm77 10 years, 5 months ago

kneejerk - The small business failure rate is something like 1 in 4, so it would logically follow that there would be a "high" turnover rate in a place where so many small businesses are being opened. Personally, I grew up in a town with a DEAD downtown. I'd rather have high rates of turnover than no businesses at all.

toefungus 10 years, 5 months ago

When Realtors talk about the market being good, they are only trying to push a deal. Never ask a Realtor how a real estate is performing. Look at vacancy rates, price per square foot, and turnover.

Real Estate School lesson number one: Smile Real Estate School lesson number two: Always say the market is great.

wavindawheat 10 years, 5 months ago

"Location, Location, Location and downtown is NOT"

Downtown is not? How in the world can you say that??? When was the last time you saw visitors from out of town walking down 23rd st. window shopping? Oh wait, I thought I saw the Nebraska fans holding hands walking down 6th St. amongst all the wonderful cars at 45 - 55 m.p.h. ready to bar hop, or better yet, eat at Spangles. Wal-mart and Target are not Location, Location Location. They just set up their cookie cutter warehouses wherever they want and people follow and sheep. baaaaaahhhhh

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