Archive for Friday, October 8, 2010

Lost opportunity

The Lowe’s denial is another sign of Lawrence’s loss of fire and imagination.

October 8, 2010


At one time, not too many years ago, Lawrence was a city that other communities wanted to emulate. It was “on fire” and looked to as a city of opportunities. The city and Kansas University combined to provide an environment of excitement, optimism, enthusiasm and forward thinking.

Unfortunately, that fire and imagination have died. Only a few infrequent sparks remain of what once defined the city.

The headline out of Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission meeting could have read: “What’s new?”

Once again, the city turned down an opportunity to attract a major retailer that would have provided employment opportunities, increased tax revenues for the city and an attractive building in the Bauer Farms development on West Sixth Street. Lowe’s is considered one of the nation’s blue-ribbon retailers in the big-box category and would have attracted new shoppers to Lawrence.

The cards were stacked against Lowe’s when the city planning staff recommended the project be denied. For example, at Tuesday’s meeting, a city official said he could not think of any commercial development in Lawrence that was bigger than the 600,000-square-foot node that the addition of Lowe’s would create at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive, apparently conveniently forgetting more than 2 million square feet of development in the 31st and Iowa area and approximately 1.3 million square feet in Lawrence’s downtown.

For several reasons, proponents of the Lowe’s project were unable to make a complete presentation showing the uniqueness and attractiveness of their proposal. Even so, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference.

The end result was that Lawrence lost Lowe’s, at least for the present time.

On the surface, Lawrence looks like a great retail market. In this case, the Lawrence site was one of only two locations between Chicago and New Mexico that officials had approved for a new store.

How long will it be before Lawrence and KU again stand out as an exciting, forward-looking, enthusiastic and welcoming combination with excellent visionary leadership?

In the meantime, how many opportunities will have passed by?


kitten 3 years, 6 months ago

Um...back when Lawrence was a city that other communities wanted to emulate, a city that was "on fire," there wasn't a Lowe's, a Gap, an Abercrombie & Fitch, an American Eagle Outfitters, a Pita Pit, a Border's, a Starbucks, a Best Buy, a Target, two Wal-Marts, etc. etc. etc.

It's correct that only a few infrequent sparks remain of what once defined the city. The rest have been buried under the avalanche of corpro-sameness that make Lawrence impossible to differentiate from the zillions of strip-malled, big-boxed cities across the nation.


independant1 3 years, 6 months ago

Don't know what prompts Lowe's to want that parcel in particular. There are references to their market studies.

But it doesn't really matter, if any buyer has money and wants to spend it a particular way they should go for it.

If refused zoning change, they may be pursuaded by city to change their choice of locations.

The city made a decision, it may not get a new Lowe's unless city offers some incentive for making Lowe's alter their proposal. This could end up more expensive for city to get the new store at alternate location.


George Lippencott 3 years, 6 months ago

Why will these people not move a mile? It really is not about money, taxes or jobs. It is about mutual respect. The city offered a location close enough to not really impact planning by Lowe's. Lowe's seems to want to cram it down our throat. That gets my back up. Build it where offered or lose my business forever.


Beer Guy 3 years, 6 months ago

When you spend $50,000 in one month at Home Depot the employees start to hide in the corners every time you need help loading a truck. Home Depot needs the kick in the butt that a Lowe's would provide.


gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 6 months ago

Why does Merrill hate the working class?


Steven Gaudreau 3 years, 6 months ago

Journal World,

Can you put up one of your voting buttons and ask your readers if they wanted a Lowes at the 6th & Wak location?


Steven Gaudreau 3 years, 6 months ago

Does anyone know the names of business Lawrence has turned down, made to change the company's size, or a company that left for greener pastures? Here's what I remember:

  1. WalMart - made smaller and useless
  2. Lowes - No
  3. Cracker Barrel - No to sign height
  4. American Eagle - No tax incentive
  5. PGA - moved, not sure why
  6. Berry Plastic - ?
  7. SLT Project

Any other's?


Bozup 3 years, 6 months ago

Maybe the Lowes should go into North Lawrence. Maybe it could revamp the retail area. Studies could be done till the day we all die but it will always be a huge gamble. But instead going off and building in new areas we should think about the dead zones areas that we have already created. Heck guarantee that one day someone said the Tanger strip mall would be there forever with plenty money to the city! what a epic failure that was. Now that anyone driving east going west 1-70, the first thing they see is a half empty strip mall! That doesn't represent a city with forward looking! Think we lost fire ,imagination, excitement, optimism, enthusiasm and forward thinking to big box stores to begin with. Why lose alittle more to another box?


JackRipper 3 years, 6 months ago

Merrill spreads the truth again as usual. Some how things in my life aren't changing because the developers in this town haven't managed to pull an other minor fortune from screwing the city. Why is it people who have such a lovefest with the big box stores are living in this power deprived town when only 30 miles east or west they could indulge their consuming craziness at will. Thankfully my tax dollars are working since I'm not as stupid to live in a cul de sac out west with many miles of feeder roads that need to be cleared in the winter before starting to go one by one to clean out each cul de sac. Just a quick pass by the snow truck and walaa, just like in the past, things are good.

Why the demand for these stores? Now that people can't play the flipping game and realize they may be stuck in the crap that was built by the same developers trying to profit from changing their plans and promises now will have to live in stuff that was built so cheaply that home repairing will be the new need in US America? What is great is ya'll wanted it too. Now live with it.


oneeye_wilbur 3 years, 6 months ago

I wish the JOurnal World would have a contest for folks to enter and have them name 5 persons of leadership in the community. The winner gets a ONe year subscription to the J/W.

Everyone I have asked for the past 5 years CANNOT come up with one name of a real leader in the community. NONE.


Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

"Sprawl subsidies are also built into the development process itself. Most new, sprawling development costs more to build and service than the taxes or fees it generates. When a new residential or commercial development is built outside of an existing community, roads, sewer systems and water lines have to be built.

As the development expands, it requires schools and emergency services. Where does the money for all this come from? In most cases, neither the developers nor the new residents pay their full, fair share - it is the rest of us who make up the difference. The bottom line is that new development is costing us money."

The city's current budget can be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments.

If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be increasing taxes and user fees. Growth should be paying for itself but instead existing residents keep being asked to pay more.

But with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality = tax dollar money hole.

If the "bedroom community" were such a great revenue generator Lawrence residents should be receiving annual tax dollar refunds after 27 years.


Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

Sprawl increases the cost of running the city = higher taxes and user fees

Sprawl Costs Us All


Suburban sprawl has been rightly blamed for many things: destroying green space, increasing air and water pollution, fracturing our neighborhoods and forcing us to drive gridlocked roads for every chore. But there is one consequence that usually goes unmentioned - sprawl is draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

Sprawl is the result of over five decades of subsidies paid for by the American taxpayer. These range from the obvious to the obscure and include big projects-like the billions we spend on new roads as well as smaller ones-like the tax-breaks that encourage businesses to move to the edge of town. We've subsidized sprawl at such a basic level for so long, that many people believe the status quo is actually fair and neutral. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of sprawling development.

How we subsidize sprawl:

* building new and wider roads
* building schools on the fringe
* extending sewer and water lines to sprawling development
* extending emergency services to the fringe
* direct pay-outs to developers

How do we subsidize sprawl? Through an array of state, local and federal programs-and through incentives built into the develop-ment process itself. The biggest federal contribution to sprawl is the billions of dollars spent on building new roads. Over the past 50 years, we have built almost 4 million miles of highways. This massive network of roads has done more than speed us from point A to point B - it has reshaped the landscape by opening up rural areas to suburban development and it has reshaped our society by making the car king. Travel by car has become not just another option-in too many places, it has become the only option.

Other federal programs are also encouraging sprawl. For years we have subsidized construction in flood plains while making it far too easy to destroy critical wetlands. This encourages the destruction of open spaces and adds to the pressure to sprawl.

The growth of suburban sprawl, though aided by federal spending, is also the product of decisions at the state and local levels. The corporate enticement game-played by everyone from governor to county supervisor-encourages commercial development far from cities and towns. Over the past few decades, corporations have become increasingly skilled at playing one community against another in an effort to wrest greater perks from state and local governments. Big-box retailers and isolated business parks are unwittingly subsidized by our own tax dollars.

What's Inside


LJ Whirled 3 years, 6 months ago

Must not have greased the right palms.


JustNoticed 3 years, 6 months ago

Pretty simple minded. Try to understand that the resulting sprawl and blight harm the entire community, not just a failed business.


flyin_squirrel 3 years, 6 months ago


Why does KU need you teaching your classes when some of those same classes are offered at JCCC and KSU? It is because people want choices. And hopefully one of those other University's will have a job opening soon for you, so you will get out of Lawrence.


Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

What makes this site a risky venture for any new retail and taxpayers?

  1. It was a bad business decision in the first place. It is not the taxpayers responsibility to bail this land speculation deal out of trouble.

  2. Sprawl Costs all of US

  3. America Is Over Stored This decade's building frenzy produced a bumper crop of new retail space. But the occupants haven't materialized.


  1. 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


jafs 3 years, 6 months ago

An underlying assumption among many, including the author of this editorial, seems to be that continuing growth and development are uniquely positive things.

That's debatable at best.


WilburM 3 years, 6 months ago

Maybe the right store, but definitely the wrong site.


Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

North Lawrence is looking for a well furnished hardware store in Tanger Mall ( one of the other retail failures).


Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

Maybe Lowe's should buy out the Home Depot location withOUT any special tax incentives?


Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 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

Westlake Ace Hardware - (785) 865-2622

Cottin's Hardware & Tool Rental - (785) 843-2981

Gragg's Paint Co - (785) 842-2710

Sherwin-Williams - (785) 843-8820

Ernst & Son (785) 843-2373 -

Lawrence Decorating Center www.lawrencedecorating.benmoorepaints... - (785) 842-0107

Westlake Ace Hardware - (785) 843-8484 -

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.

Maybe Lowe's should buy out the Home Depot location with any special tax incentives? Why do big box stores and city hall think taxpayers should pay for a business to locate in Lawrence? Have we lost all sense of fiscal responsibility?


Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 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."


poolside 3 years, 6 months ago

The city kicked itself in the butt when it allowed an area that could charge higher taxes. What business who has to charge more and still woo customers wouldn't ask for a different tax break? You are right that we say we are open and then slam doors in faces. But I we will keep doing so because no one learned from WalMart. But at least it will provide jobs for new law grads. As for location, I personally hate big box stores, and I am grateful Lowe's will not be across the street. But I would still welcome the company. Had Roommakers not just turned that property back to beautiful I would have recommended that spot.


LogicMan 3 years, 6 months ago

Real estate agents everywhere should be turning over every stone in town to find a better site for Lowes! We want them, just not there or with that higher sales tax.

More potential sites to consider: the trailer parks behind JCP, and the one next to ... home depot! Also the land behind the south walmart. Or maybe sears.


independant1 3 years, 6 months ago

If the plan just won't allow the Lowe's where Lowe's wants to build, then modify the plan, it's a good opportunity knocking. And shouldn't 'the city plan' be reviewed from time to time for modifications? Negotiate, give something/get something from Lowe's in return. It would benefit the city. Business, especially big business, is known for community involvement and philanthropic support.


BrianR 3 years, 6 months ago

Two Wal-Marts but no second 'home improvement' store?

I like the Lowes in JOCO and often go there instead of the Home Depot, which I really don't like. Another bad move, Lawrence.


grammaddy 3 years, 6 months ago

So, just because we're not getting a Lowe's, we're no longer a city of opportunities?Give me a break.


Gandalf 3 years, 6 months ago

Don't forget the CID taxing authority Lowe's demanded as a bribe to come. The answer is still no!!


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