There’s a new vision on tap for the area that once was counted on to be Lawrence’s hot retail area.
Plans have been filed at City Hall to convert large portions of the former Tanger Factory Outlet Mall in North Lawrence into indoor mini-storage units.
“We’re just trying to do something to encourage some more business activity over in North Lawrence,” said Topeka investor Kent Lindemuth, who has signed a contract to purchase the roughly 100,000-square-foot shopping center along Interstate 70 near the East Lawrence interchange.
Lindemuth said he may convert up to 40,000 square feet of the center to mini-storage units. He said switching to the mini-storage business would not prompt any modifications to facades of the buildings. Customers would access units from the rear of the buildings.
The project will require the entire center to be rezoned from a planned commercial development district to more traditional commercial strip zoning.
The rezoning could open up some possibilities beyond mini-storage. Sandra Day, a planner with Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department, said the current zoning places restrictions on the number and size of bars and restaurants that can locate in the center. The new zoning would expand those uses.
Lindemuth said he’s open to a variety of development options in the center, but he doesn’t envision it returning to a mall-like setting anytime soon.
“We’ll try to encourage of mix of retail and office over there,” Lindemuth said. “We think the storage business will give people an opportunity to come over to an area of town that they may not be doing business in right now.”
Tanger Factory Outlets were built in 1993 and once housed upward of 25 stores. But by 1998, the property was up for sale. By 2003, the last of the mall’s original retailers had closed, and the focus had changed to attracting office users.
Lindemuth — who owns about 100 commercial properties across northeast Kansas — said he wants to keep the current tenants in the center, which include the corporate headquarters for the security firm Protection One, the local Kansas driver’s license office and a customer service center for a national home oxygen business.
Lindemuth is purchasing the property from I-70 Business Center LLC, a local group led by Lawrence businessman Bo Harris, according to filings with the Kansas Secretary of State’s office. Terms of the pending deal were not disclosed.