Wal-Mart at Sixth and Wakarusa
A native grass area, additional walkways, more landscaping and the use of natural building materials are among major changes to a new plan for a Wal-Mart store in northwestern Lawrence.
Wal-Mart leaders and developers Wednesday discussed new plans they've submitted for a 99,840-square-foot Wal-Mart store at the northwestern corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.
"It is a first-class plan," said Lawrence developer Bill Newsome, who owns the property along with Lawrence businessman Doug Compton.
The project, though, has drawn opposition from several area neighbors, who have said the project will create too much traffic and will cause motorists to cut through their neighborhood.
Neighbors and others soon will get a chance to comment on the plan. Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioners are scheduled to have a preliminary discussion on the project at either their June 25 or June 27 meeting. They then are expected to have a full hearing on the plan at their July 23 or July 25 meeting. Dates will be finalized later this month.
Angie Stoner, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said neighbors and planners will be looking at a plan that is significantly different from one proposed last year by Wal-Mart and ultimately rejected by the previous City Commission.
The size of the Wal-Mart building and four smaller buildings - ranging from 1,800 square feet to 7,800 square feet - are virtually unchanged. But Wal-Mart designers said there have been several changes to how the site is structured. They:
¢ Eliminated a planned 24-unit apartment building on the southeastern corner of Overland and Congressional drives. That 1.6-acre piece of property now would be used as a "native grass interpretative area" that would double as a stormwater detention area for the project.
"We've eliminated about 30,000 square feet of rooftop space and impervious surface from the plan," Stoner said.
¢ Added several amenities, such as seating areas, pedestrian pathway lighting and eight "focal points" made of boulders, trees and plants.
¢ Agreed to design the exterior of the Wal-Mart building to use at least 30 percent "native materials."
¢ Converted 35 parking spaces from the traditional concrete to "green pavers," which are designed to provide a pervious surface for water to drain.
¢ Agreed to replace a 5-foot sidewalk along Wakarusa Drive with a 10-foot recreational path.
¢ Added a site for a future public transit shelter on Sixth Street.
Stoner said Wal-Mart leaders are ready to start hearing from planners and community members.
"We have always understood that it is important to have a store that fits the needs of our customers as well as the community," Stoner said.
Stoner said plans for the store continue to call for the Wal-Mart to have a grocery department in addition to its line of general merchandise. It also would have a 6,147-square-foot garden center, but would not have a tire and car care center.
The new set of plans comes after Wal-Mart and the developers agreed in April to a city request to delay the start of a trial in Douglas County District Court that was set to determine whether the city previously had illegally denied Wal-Mart a building permit.
The city asked for the delay in order to give two new city commissioners - Rob Chestnut and Mike Dever - a chance to weigh in on the Wal-Mart issue. Following the April elections, Chestnut and Dever replaced two of three commissioners who had opposed the previous Wal-Mart plan.
The trial, which could be held if the most recent plans are rejected, is scheduled to start Sept. 10.