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Archive for Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Outlooks on retail issues differ

March 27, 2007

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A shopper leaves the Wal-Mart on Iowa Street this summer. Wal-Mart will have two stores in Lawrence because city commissioners struck a deal in August with the discount store earlier this year to build a store at the corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.

A shopper leaves the Wal-Mart on Iowa Street this summer. Wal-Mart will have two stores in Lawrence because city commissioners struck a deal in August with the discount store earlier this year to build a store at the corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.

Keeping the city's retail market healthy has become a key issue in the City Commission election. The issue also has divided the field of six candidates into two camps.

In one camp are Commissioners Boog Highberger, David Schauner and candidate Carey Maynard-Moody. They've been preaching caution when it comes to new retail development. Highberger and Schauner, in particular, have been quoting a statement made by a consultant with the PlaceMakers group that was in town earlier this year.

During one of those presentations, the consultant said Lawrence had more retail space per capita than the Dallas/Fort Worth area. They point to that - along with numbers that show Lawrence retail sales per square foot are lower than regional averages - as evidence that the city's retail market is overbuilt or at least on the verge of becoming so.

In the other camp are candidates James Bush, Rob Chestnut and Mike Dever, who have expressed concern that Lawrence is losing sales tax dollars to Topeka and Kansas City because the city doesn't offer enough shopping options to keep consumers in town. They have pointed to a 2005 study commissioned by the city that shows the community is losing shoppers to Topeka and Kansas City, and that the city's retail market is not close to being overbuilt.

A proposal that would require retail projects of 50,000 square feet or more to go through a "retail market analysis" before being approved by the city has been proposed by planners but has yet to win City Commission approval. The policy suggests that if the new development would push the city's overall retail vacancy rate above 8 percent, city commissioners would be justified in stopping it.

The general election is April 3. Voters will determine the winners of three at-large seats on the commission. Here's a look at what the candidates have said on retail-related issues.

James Bush

Bush, former pastor of Lawrence's First Southern Baptist Church, said he's not convinced that the city's retail market is overbuilt. He said, for example, that comparing the Lawrence market with what is going on in the Dallas area is not very useful.

He also said he does not support the idea of using the proposed retail market analysis for all new large retail projects because the analysis is too inflexible.

On the health of downtown's retail market, Bush said it needs a boost. But he said he thought high property taxes, not too much retail in town, were a major reason some downtown retailers are struggling.

Rob Chestnut

Chestnut, chief financial officer for Allen Press, said he's skeptical of claims that the city's retail market is overbuilt. He said comparing geographic areas is problematic, and using per capita figures is tough to do in a city like Lawrence because it is hard to accurately account for what effect the student population has on the market. Instead, he looks at retail vacancy rates, which he believes are strong.

Chestnut does not support the proposed retail market analysis idea. He said he thought entrepreneurs, rather than city officials, were more likely to "be in tune" with what the market needs.

On downtown, Chestnut said he thought its retail market was "pretty healthy," but is changing to include more entertainment uses. He said he was confident downtown Lawrence would continue to be a destination for shoppers and visitors.

Mike Dever

Dever, owner of an environmental consulting firm, said he did not think the city's retail market was overbuilt. Instead, he said there was some vacant retail space in town because it no longer was in the right location, including the former Riverfront and Tanger outlet malls.

Dever said he did not support the retail market analysis approach that has been proposed. He said going "strictly by numbers" was a poor way to evaluate the benefits of a project. Instead, he said each project needs to be looked at individually.

Dever said the city should encourage more living units downtown, which will spur more retail development.

Boog Highberger

Highberger, an incumbent commissioner and attorney for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said he has seen retailers struggling as a result of an overbuilt market. He particularly points to the per capita numbers related to retail square footage and sales per square foot as evidence that the city is overbuilt.

Highberger said he supports a retail market analysis of larger retail projects, in part, because it is called for in Horizon 2020, the city's comprehensive plan. He said the city has an "obligation" to protect retailers from overbuilding and the blight that comes with it.

On downtown, Highberger said the community needs to remember the benefits gained in the 1980s by fighting the "Cornfield Mall" in south Lawrence. He said such policies to protect downtown have played a key role in keeping it vibrant. He said that did not mean the city should not allow new retail development outside downtown, but rather means the city "must be careful in how we do it."

Carey Maynard-Moody

Maynard-Moody, a retired school social worker, stopped short of saying retail is overbuilt until she could see more statistics. But she said she is concerned that new retail outside downtown could compromise downtown's vitality.

Maynard-Moody said she supports a retail market analysis for new projects but said she would like to see what other communities are using before acting on the type of analysis that has been proposed for Lawrence.

On downtown, Maynard-Moody said encouraging more people to live downtown would be a good way to help existing retailers. She said she is concerned about the health of downtown, in part, because of escalating rents charged to retailers.

David Schauner

Schauner, an incumbent commissioner and general counsel of the Kansas National Education Association, said he's convinced the city's retail market is "underperforming." He said he is seeing more vacancies in downtown now than at any point in the last seven years.

He said average wages in Lawrence are significantly below the statewide average, which he said might mean the city can't support as much retail as some other communities. He also expressed concerns about the quality of the 2005 city report that suggested retail was not overbuilt.

Schauner supports the proposed retail market analysis but said its findings should not be the only reason a project is denied. He said if the city does not require additional analysis, he's concerned that Lawrence's retail market may become like Topeka's, where the western side of the city retail market grew at the expense of its downtown.

Comments

Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

THE FREE MARKET IS SOCIALISM FOR THE RICH. The public pays the costs and the rich get the benefit-markets for the poor and plenty of state protection for the rich. There is no such thing as a "free market." Never has been. Never will be. In fact, the government has always interceded in the economy, most consistently on the side of large corporations against the interests of the majority of American citizens. The important question, then, is not whether or not the government should intercede in the economy, but, rather, on whose behalf they should act and toward what end.

Michael Capra 7 years, 8 months ago

look at all the biz that have left town or have said no because the way they were treated.All do to Rundle,Boog,Schauner We have lost millions in jobs sales taxes and property taxes the list gos on.As for walmart could care less its the way the city went about telling all involved no now once again 900.000 in legal fees

900.000 will feed how many kids for a year

20 million wasted on roundabouts, will feed how many

6 million on studys,will feed how many kids

250.000 place makers to tell us how to build 400.000 dollar homes in clusters ..that who can afford..

Michael Capra 7 years, 8 months ago

Merrill blowing smoke, the sales tax we collect is 42 percent of the citys budget and your group says no to more biz and you wander why are taxes go up.If you say no then your sales tax and property tax go though the roof so tell me what have the three stooges done for our city NOT A DAMM THING

VOTE Dever,Chestnut,Bush if you want common sense back

Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

Most every retail business in town knows what retail impact students carry. It is no secret. A "retail market analysis" or "economic impact studies" are not new tools just getting a slow start in Lawrence, Kansas.

=================================

Do ciitizens really want Wal-Mart to build another grocery store in the 6th&Wakie area if Dillons or HyVee go out of business as a result? This would produce no net gain in jobs or tax revenue for our city. These stores put their money at risk long before hundreds and hundreds of homes became the order of the day. Don't other small business owners in the 6th and Wakarusa area deserve some respect for filling in spaces, generating revenue and providing employment?

Economic and Retail Impact Studies shed light on these important matters.

================================== First Mangement people were sponsors of the special interest "Emergency Party" fundraiser for Dever,Bush and Chestnut. They also want to build a new Wal-mart on their property at 6th & Wakarusa. ================================== Not wanting to know how new retail developments impact existing retail business/tax revenues/employment seems irresponsible at the least.
================================== Not wanting to know whether or not new housing developments will further increase residential personal taxes is also quite irresponsible.

blackwalnut 7 years, 8 months ago

How would a #2 Wal-Mart result in a net gain in tax revenue? I think the #2 Wal-Mart would mostly draw business off the #1 store, and any increase in revenue would just draw from Hy-Vee, Dillon's, and the other existing store in town.

I don't want any more retail at 6th and Wakarusa, but if Lawrence is to gain another big box discount store, let it be a CostCo or similar store that would give competition to Wal-Mart and Target (monopolies are bad) and also give shoppers a variety of choices. If a store offers something different, THAT will encourage dollars to stay in Lawrence instead of marching off to Kansas City.

How about at CostCo at some other location along 6th or 23rd or 15th streets? 6th and Wakarusa has as much traffic as it can handle, with the high school there and the new retail going in on the NE corner cornfield.

Sorry, but I have no tears for businesses who leave in a huff because the taxpayers don't subsidize them enough. It's a free market, and they must compete. If they fail, it's because they aren't offering buyers what they want.

blackwalnut 7 years, 8 months ago

P.S.

My Maynard-Moody, Highberger, and Schauner signs were stolen from my yard in the neighborhood west of Wakarusa.

This doesn't reflect well on the other candidates.

Adrienne Sanders 7 years, 8 months ago

If they really want to stop people from going to KC & Topeka to shop, they should build a shopping mall. I hate malls, but honestly, that's where a lot of people go when they go out of Lawrence to shop.

SoundMind 7 years, 8 months ago

"P.S.

My Maynard-Moody, Highberger, and Schauner signs were stolen from my yard in the neighborhood west of Wakarusa.

This doesn't reflect well on the other candidates."

You know, you've said this in almost every single story that I've read this morning. I think we get the message - you think Dever, Bush, and Chestnut are stealing your signs. Have you contacted the police, yet?

Meatwad 7 years, 8 months ago

Chestnut is wrong. He thinks entrepreneurs, rather than city officials, are more likely to "be in tune" with what the market needs. The entrepreneurs are busy building a CVS on the corner of 23rd and Iowa because they feel that what the market needs is ANOTHER PHARMACY! Lawrence needs a third Walgreens (that's what CVS is)? We have plenty of pharmacies!

How do Chesnutt, Dever and Bush think Lawrence can support MORE retail? They think more retail is going to keep people from shopping in KC and Topeka. Maybe if (as some people wish) Lawrence would grow to the size of KC and Topeka, it could support more retail. I'm very worried that the if only the 'MORE MORE MORE' people vote, Lawrence will eventually have a lot of empty, boarded up buildings like Topeka.

Believe me, CVS does not care if they go out of business and have to sell their building. (or if they put Walgreens out of business). Chain stores will build and build and build and if some make it and some don't they don't care, the ones that make it will make up for the ones that don't, meanwhile our city is blighted and what's not blighted is 100% chain stores and we look like every other boring ugly sprawled out city. And that IS EXACTLY what some people want. If Lawrence grows to the size of Topeka, SOME people are going to get rich. And the pipefitters union are going to make money. Not most of us though.

I agree with the candidates that say they aren't against growth but the are against sprawl and they are against letting ANY and every retail chain store do anything they want unencumbered here.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

Do ciitizens really want Wal-Mart to build another grocery store in the 6th&Wakie area if Dillons or HyVee go out of business as a result? This would produce no net gain in jobs or tax revenue for our city. These stores put their money at risk long before hundreds and hundreds of homes became the order of the day. Don't other small business owners in the 6th and Wakarusa area deserve some respect for placing their money at risk, filling in spaces, generating revenue and providing employment?

Economic and Retail Impact Studies shed light on these important matters.

"I agree with the candidates that say they aren't against economic growth but they are against sprawl and they are against letting ANY and every retail chain store do anything they want unencumbered here."

Ditto

blackwalnut 7 years, 8 months ago

The comments in here about different stores prove we need variety in stores - not monopolies of a few brands.

altarego 7 years, 8 months ago

How about we have an election to decide which stores "we" need here in town and where "we" think they ought to go instead of spending time on this silly commision race. Then it's a simple matter of notifying the lucky property owners and investors and all the stupid customers who aren't shopping where they're supposed to shop as to what their new assignments are.

bearded_gnome 7 years, 8 months ago

so, now it is further revealed, Merrill is completely opposed to the free market, believing it "socialism for the wealthy." amazing. wonder where he got his economics edumication?

Posted by Obamillary ( anonymous) on March 12, 2007 at 10:41 a.m. ( Suggest removal)

Is Merrill a left wing computer software program that spams the forum with nonsensical left wing propoganda?

jafs 7 years, 8 months ago

The concept of a free market only works if there are NO government subsidies at all.

That would mean NO tax abatements.

Also it only works if there are not huge monopolies.

That would mean enforcing anti-trust legislation, which we apparently are not doing.

Unless we do the abovementioned things, we are not operating in a free market.

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