Archive for Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lawrence city commission’s rejection of Lowe’s plan spurs debate on location

October 7, 2010


About two minutes.

That’s how long it takes a motorist to travel from Sixth Street and Folks Road to the interchange of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

It also may be the difference between Lawrence having a new Lowe’s home improvement store and missing out on the retailer for years to come.

That was the message coming out of City Hall as city commissioners Tuesday night rejected a plan that would have allowed Lowe’s to build at Sixth and Folks, an area zoned for residential development. Commissioners instead tried to convince Lowe’s to locate at Sixth and the SLT on property already zoned for big-box retail.

That idea fell flat, and Lowe’s left the meeting giving the impression it may be several years before it comes back to Lawrence with another plan.

One day later, the question floating around town was: Can two minutes really make that much of a difference?

Maybe, maybe not.

“I think the major retailers that are out there looking right now — and there are very few — probably would say that (Sixth and SLT) site is a little early,” said Doug Brown, an agent with Lawrence-based McGrew Commercial. “The big boxes that are looking right now are looking for ‘A’ sites. They’re looking for the corner of Main and Main, and that is all they are looking for.”

That’s what Lowe’s officials told commissioners. A representative for Lowe’s told commissioners that the Sixth and SLT site was too far removed from major neighborhoods and wasn’t close enough to existing commercial.

“That will be a great retail site someday,” said John Petersen, an attorney for Lowe’s. “But it won’t be a good retail site in 2011. It won’t be a good one in 2012.”

That’s not what city commissioners wanted to hear. The city has pinned a lot of its retail hopes on the Sixth and SLT site. It is the largest, vacant property that’s zoned retail in the city. It can accommodate two big-box retailers of 175,000 square feet a piece, plus more than a half-dozen smaller retailers.

Not surprisingly, the developers for the Sixth and SLT site are disputing Lowe’s claims that the property is still several years away from being an attractive retail site.

“We like Lowe’s and want to work with them, but right now, Lowe’s is talking from a script,” said Steve Schwada, a Lawrence businessman who is part of the development group that owns the Sixth and SLT site.

Schwada said he was optimistic the site would be part of Lawrence’s “near future,” and said that it was being actively looked at by retailers.

He declined to disclose retailers looking at the site, but there’s been speculation in the community that Menards, another home improvement retailer is looking for sites in the area. That speculation has been fueled by Menards submitting plans for stores in Salina and Manhattan, which would be the company’s first foray into Kansas.

On Wednesday, not everyone was certain that Lowe’s was done looking at Lawrence. Brown said Lowe’s has had Lawrence on its radar screen since the mid-1990s and the company once put an offer on a site between the Wakarusa River and the South Lawrence Trafficway along South Iowa Street, but the deal ultimately fell apart.

“There are other sites out there for Lowe’s,” said Brown, although he said many of the sites aren’t currently zoned retail. “But they haven’t liked those sites as well as they like this one.”

A Lowe’s representative did confirm to commissioners that site plans had been prepared for three other Lawrence locations recently, but upper management had not approved any of those sites. Further details on those sites weren’t offered.


mikeisthename 7 years, 7 months ago

I have always thought that when a big box retailer and the city get together, the big box retailer always seems to get what they want while Lawrence just says "Okay". Just an opinion. However with this I think Lawrence is not giving in this time. Sixth and Folks should be a residential area and the city is sticking to that. The SLT areas for retailers will someday be huge. Those retailers that go there are going to take a huge risk, but get a huge reward. Lowe's doesn't want to do that. Too bad, so sad. We all move on. Next.

Shardwurm 7 years, 7 months ago

Too bad, so sad. Tax revenue and jobs out the window. We don't need any of that around here for sure.

kansasmutt 7 years, 7 months ago

Location is #1 when locating a business. If you give in and build in a crap location you end up with empty unused buildings, like the city of Lawrence has now. Lawrence has forced so many BS regulations and site add ons to so many businesses , it henders growth and kills business. If it were apartments in a commercial area, they would have rezoned it in a heartbeat. HEY LOWES , look into east Lawrence, like around the Noria Road area, or on east out of the City limits, becuse youl kick Home Depot`s a^s .

Lindsey Buscher 7 years, 7 months ago

Gotta flip that around to make it a true statement...

If the City gives in allows developers to build in a crap location you end up with empty unused buildings, like the city of Lawrence has now. Lawrence has been hoodwinked by so many BS developers such as the ones who brought us Riverfront and Tanger the City is forced to eat real estate when bad business fails.

ou812mr2 7 years, 7 months ago

Good job Lawrence! You really know how to piss someone off! This is a great chance to bring more jobs, revenue and people to Lawrence. You dont have to be a developer to realize that the SLT is years before its time. If the SLT is so great right now dont you think we would already have a gas station and bank on all four corners of it? Get real!

intheknow 7 years, 7 months ago

Oh, Amen to that! Our biggest tax base in Lawrence is currently the homeowners. Not big businesses. Want a new library? Want a Children's museum? Want better parks? Want better public transportation? All of these are paid by TAXES. Businesses pay big taxes to the city. Lawrence shoots itself in the foot every time there is an opportunity to allow a big business to come here. We are so bent on keeping the small-town 'artsy' feel of Lawrence to the detriment of those they aim to please. The 'artsty' community can hardly afford to live here anymore. Wake up, Lawrence, and smell your own self-righteous pride.

Sue McDaniel 7 years, 7 months ago

2 minutes? I do not think so ! Maybe at 75 with green lights
And passing a lot of empty farm land!!!

ferrislives 7 years, 7 months ago

That's exactly what I was thinking. Apparently the commissioners have never driven that "2 minute" drive themselves.

Please understand though, I don't think that 6th and Folks was a good location for that store, especially considering that it was never zoned for it.

ferrislives 7 years, 7 months ago

I meant "was not" a good location. Sorry for the snafu.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

It's been a few months since I drove west of Wakarusa on 6th. Are there really that many stoplights out there now?

Chad Lawhorn 7 years, 7 months ago

Hi: Before putting the 2 minute estimate in the story, I drove the stretch from Folks to the site near the trafficway at 6 p.m. Thursday. It was just over two minutes. I hit a green light at Wakarusa and had to stop briefly for a red light at Congressional. I averaged about 45 miles per hour. Chad Lawhorn Journal-World

nobody1793 7 years, 7 months ago

How long does it take if you stop for a smash burger? ;)

vermont 7 years, 7 months ago

I just drove it, it's about two minutes.

ou812mr2 7 years, 7 months ago

In addition, the city and KDOT have screwed up by building and not finishing the SLT they want everyone else to share the tears they shed. As far as i'm concerned they (city & KDOT)can drown.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

You can whine about the SLT all you want, but with regard to this development, it's 100% irrelevant.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

"You're just not very smart are you Bozo"

Way to put forward a rational, well-supported argument. (btw, I'm a rocket scientist.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

This isn't about location, location, location- at least in the sense that there is only one that would work for Lowe's.

This is primarily a matter of a major corporation having made its choice, and not wanting peons on city and planning commissions questioning it. And it probably doesn't hurt that the local developers, desperate to cash in on that property now rather than later, have offered them a sweetheart deal, which happens to includes an additional 1% sales tax that both they and Lowe's would split.

skinny 7 years, 7 months ago

Build it at 6th and Folks Road. I am tired of having to drive to Topeka to get stuff!!

deec 7 years, 7 months ago

I am amused that people keep posting how they drive to Topeka or the KC metro to patronize Lowe's, but can't bother to drive two extra minutes to the alternate site in Lawrence.

cowboy 7 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

kenmckenzie 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm surprised that the city is rejecting Low's. Look at the money, (tax increase's, or income), job's that they are giving up. Plus the construction business that they'll be losing. Have you ever noticed, that Low's always build near a Wal-mart, with in site distance of each other. This mornings paper said that they have looked between the Wakarusa River and the South Lawrence Trafficway on south Iowa, (near the other Wal-mart). Does Wal-mart own Low's? Makes you wonder, doesn't it.

Angela Heili 7 years, 7 months ago

IMO we need a Sam's or a Costco here. I hope they are looking at Lawrence!

Chris Ogle 7 years, 7 months ago

kenmckenzie, good point concerning locations of Lowes/Walmart....... Maybe it's because Lowes knows that Walmart (like it or not) does seem to have a successful business model, which include good locations. Why not follow that model??

Kelly Johnson 7 years, 7 months ago

I don't think it would have been a good fit at 6th and Folks Rd. The 6th and SLT area would be a good place for it. It's not like they'd lose business to Home Depot just because you have to drive a couple minutes west to get to the store - it would still be faster than driving all the way over to 31st for Home Depot. And some people on the south side might decide a trip down the SLT to get to Lowe's instead of HD woud be worth their while. When we had to go to Topeka to get to either store, we always chose Lowe's over HD and I would probably do the same now here in Lawrence. If there really is a correlation between Walmart locations and Lowe's, they'd still be in the general vicinity of the Walmart, too.

Jeff Cuttell 7 years, 7 months ago

The city shoots themselves in the foot each time they deal with national companies wanting to come in. Think about jobs and tax revenues for once. Let Lowes go where they want and don't cave to the spoiled brats living in NW Lawrence. Then Menards might come in on the SE side. They give the better service and have better prices.

I come from North of here, where Menards is king. I'm very disappointed in Home Depot servicewise and Lowes is ok.

Cindy Yulich 7 years, 7 months ago

· City rejects Lowe’s proposal October 6, 2010 ·

· City to look into boosting retail October 6, 2010 ·

Interesting that these two headlines occurred on the same day.

flyin_squirrel 7 years, 7 months ago

Anyone opening a business, has a choice as to where they want to open. Unfortunately our city and Horizon 2020 think they can dictate where a business will want to open. The city has a choice to accept that or reject it, and the business has a choice to find another spot or another city. In this economy cities across the country are bending over backwards to attract new business, and I would be willing to bet Lowe's heads down the road to a city that wants them.

As for 6th and Folks being zoned for residential, who in their right mind would want to build a new house that close to a busy intersection?

flyin_squirrel 7 years, 7 months ago

Also, anyone find it interesting that two weeks after the city purchases Farmland to develop it, they turn down another development across town? When government gets into private business, our private business becomes the governments business.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

With that description in mind, you're exactly the kind of person government is looking for. Apply now!!!

HuskerNLawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

I am all for either store coming into Lawrence but not at that location. Too close to Freestate HS and would just make that area look big, boxy, and would remove the neighborhood feel away from the area. I would rather see that area developed with smaller unique stores or even an out door mall feel to it, like a smaller version of Legends.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 7 months ago

As long as the miniscule part of the population that bothers to vote in city elections continues to vote for these pin headed clueless idiots for city commission, we are going to get this sort of city government . 5 fawning idiologues that continue to bow and scrape to the core-less city manager, who pay homage to their purchasers of yard signs, are not there in the interests of jobs, tax revenue, business progress.They are only interested in keeping their notions of utopia. We will continue to have miserably inefficient and useless city government. This is what you ge by not voting and not knowing just who thes individuals really are.

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 7 months ago

I remember when they built that big Wal Mart way out south where nothing was and it quickly went out of business.

Huge missed opportunity for Lawrence.

Danimal 7 years, 7 months ago

Lawrence fails again! The zoning argument is a bunch of BS. Of the four corners at 6th & Folks at least two are commercial, one is residential, and of course the NW corner is vacant. It's amazing to me how the city of Lawrence will rollover for almost any plan a local developer comes up with, but remains hostile to larger national chains and franchises. That Lowe's would have employed at least 50 people, not to mention the construction jobs to build it and the tax revenue it would bring in. It's too bad that Lawrence has so much potential that will never be realized because of its leadership.

notyourmom 7 years, 7 months ago

Menards! Yeah! I want a Menards! I never have been a Lowes or Home Depot fan, but Menards is awesome!! I hope they want to come here, and build in a place were the community wants it to be. Lowes will be fine without Lawrence, and Lawrence will be fine without Lowes.

shadowlady 7 years, 7 months ago

Huh!!!!!!! The city of Lawrence, will find a way to keep them out too!!!!!

Keith 7 years, 7 months ago

Does Lowe's believe that only people in the neighborhood will shop there, or are they a destination for anyone in town looking for building/remodeling materials? If the former, they'll never make a profit, if the latter, they're blowing smoke about needing THAT location.

Shardwurm 7 years, 7 months ago

Seems that the investors have the ear of the Commission. I'm certain they lobbied hard for the city to turn it down as they're trying to jump-start their own location and have a ton of money sunk in it that they are not recovering.

In this economy with falling tax revenues and no jobs it's funny to me that the city would knuckle under to local investors and deprive itself and its citizens of an opportunity like this.

jesse499 7 years, 7 months ago

Not to long ago Cracker Barrel wanted to build in Tanger mall Oh no you can't put a tall sign next to the turnpike so they went to Topeka sorry Lawrence.By Tanger mall to Lawrence city fathers run off more then the ever bring in and its never going to change.

Kash_Encarri 7 years, 7 months ago

So not allowing Cracker Barrel to locate at Tanger led to the outlet malls demise?


jesse499 7 years, 7 months ago

Sure didn't help there would have been something there to help draw people not only from Lawrence but people on the turnpike stopping to eat and Hay lets look at the mall do you think just maybe that would have helped.

jesse499 7 years, 7 months ago

Sure didn't help there would have been something there to help draw people not only from Lawrence but people on the turnpike stopping to eat and Hay lets look at the mall do you think just maybe that would have helped.

jesse499 7 years, 7 months ago

Sure didn't help there would have been something there to help draw people not only from Lawrence but people on the turnpike stopping to eat and Hay lets look at the mall do you think just maybe that would have helped.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

The local real estate/development community is always putting the fear factor on the table.

Lowe's may not come to Lawrence for years - so what!!!! People have been into home improvement for 80 years long before the big box stores were around.

WE have: Home Depot - Taxpayers were forced to spend more than $2 million in street re-design. How many more millions does anyone want to spend?

MC Cray Lumber - a friendly place to shop. 1516 W 6th St

Cottins and other Hardware stores.

Go shop at all of the above and create new jobs,more tax revenue and economic growth. That's all it takes.

Lowe's is not necessary. AND with all of the anti tax talk now they are okay with a special sales tax that would help Lowe's pay off this project then pocket that sales tax as profit till death do us part.

Why do so many want to pay an extra sales tax to bail out a development group that made a bad business decision?

Has the local commercial real estate industry lost all touch with reality? I say absolutely. These people believe it is up to the taxpayers to guarantee the local developer/real estate industry a profit on their risky speculation. I say no way jose' These people and our local Chamber of Commerce are all about wreckanomics.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

"David Cay Johnston then boggled the crowd with a blunt assertion: "We pay billions of dollars in taxes that never get to the government." Much of the sales tax we pay at big box stores and shopping centers is diverted to the large companies that own the stores. It's just one of the many swindles these chains have learned to perpetrate against city and county governments. This is so effective that the Cabela family, which owns a chain of big-box sporting goods stores, receives 137% of its profits from taxpayer subsidies. If they couldn't work this scam, they wouldn't be in business at all."

Sprawl Costs all of US ======================================

By Kim McClure

July 24, 2009

To the editor:

The July 14 editorial asks, “What’s downtown going to look like five, 10 or 15 years from now?” The answer can be known, and the picture is not pretty.

Lawrence has enough spending to support about 4.1 million square feet of retail space, but the City Commission permitted developers to expand the supply to over 5.5 million square feet.

Lawrence has too much retail space chasing too few vendors, which means that many stores go empty, especially in the older shopping centers like downtown.

The surplus development has stalled redevelopment plans downtown and has pushed the vacancy rates so high that disinvestment and blight now threaten. Investment, both public and private, is wasted. The taxpayers’ $8 million parking garage stands largely empty. The Hobbs-Taylor building and the 600 block of Massachusetts should be the top performing spaces in the community, but they have significant vacancies.

The recession has contributed to the problem, but had we properly managed our growth we would be much better off.

The developers’ short-term gain is now our long-term loss. Managed growth would have prevented much of the problem and would have protected and enhanced our downtown.

It will take many, many years to absorb this surplus space and, until this happens, it will be hard for downtown to compete. We can only look forward to many years of high vacancy and disinvestment. We need a City Commission that knows how to pace the growth of supply so as to protect our unique downtown.

McClure is from Lawrence

intheknow 7 years, 7 months ago

Lawrence has the potential to spend more, supporting more than the 4.1 million sq ft of retail space. However, big ticket items are purchased out of town where the tax rate isn't pushing 9%. How do we lower taxes and get spending back in our town? Allow businesses like American Eagle to build their distribution center here. That would not take any retail business from our local business, but the 600+ jobs went south to Ottawa. Guess what? Their Boys and Girls club is flourishing due to the generous support of AE. Are sustainable wages necessary in a town teeming with college and high school students looking for part-time employment? Not really. Open your eyes, Lawrence, and see what 20 years from now holds. High taxes on residents. Minimal tax base from businesses. This is just bad business for big box stores and local small businesses alike.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

bump for no Lowe's !

They could buy out the Home Depot location...

Carol Bowen 7 years, 7 months ago

In general, we do not need more retail. We can barely sustain what we have, and retail certainly does not provide good jobs. But we could use something like Lowe's for consumer choice and for jobs. On the other hand, we should not let developers plan our community. I suspect we did not disappoint Lowe's, we disappointed the developers. I, for one, commend the commission on their decision.

fancy80 7 years, 7 months ago

It does seem as though someone is in the Schwada's pocket. Rural homeowners didn't want the Berry Plastics warehouse built in their neighborhood because they didn't want semi's cruising up and down their road, and all we heard about was "screw the home-owners, we have to do this because Lawrence could lose 10 new jobs, if we don't." Now, we have the chance to add a Lowe's and 120 jobs, and the story is "but the home-owners....think of the children...hey, Lowe's there's an Excellent piece of property on the other side of the high school, just two minutes away. Let's move you there. We'll put you in touch with Mr. Schwada...

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