News and notes from around town:
• Hopes of turning a former Eudora elementary school site into a major new retail area along Kansas Highway 10 will have to wait a little longer, it appears. As we reported earlier this year, the city of Eudora and the Eudora school district sought proposals for how to redevelop the 15-acre site of the former Nottingham Elementary and the district’s former football stadium, which are near the town’s major K-10 interchange.
Well, the deadline for proposals has passed, and Eudora City Administrator John Harrenstein told me that no developer submitted an official offer for the property. But he said several Kansas City-area firms did express quite a bit of interest and gave the city some good feedback.
“They said that we’re absolutely right that this is the best piece of property in Eudora, and it will develop commercially sometime,” Harrenstein said.
But Harrenstein said the consensus of the development community was that now may not be the right time. Harrenstein said there were concerns about whether the community’s population — about 6,100, according to the Census — was large enough to support such a major commercial center.
“They’re not willing to bank on growth like they used to,” Harrenstein said.
But developers said there is some potential to attract commuters who travel by the site daily on K-10. But to do that, developers said the city and school district may need to relocate a pair of baseball fields that sit right along K-10. The site of the ballfields would provide the best visibility from K-10 for a major retailer. The ballfield site, however, was not part of the property the city and school district was shopping to developers.
Harrenstein said the city council and school board would need to meet in the near future to discuss what they heard from the development community, and determine next steps. Harrenstein said several real estate firms are interested in obtaining exclusive rights to market the property for the next several months. Harrenstein said the city also could consider establishing a Tax Increment Financing district for the property to show developers that the city is serious about remaking the site. The TIF district would allow a portion of new property and sales taxes at the site to be used to improve the infrastructure in the area.
He said developers did not recommend selling off small portions of the site because that would make it more difficult to become a major commercial area in the future.
Despite the lack of immediate plans, Harrenstein said he was upbeat about what the city heard.
“What we heard is that it is a great area and it will happen,” Harrenstein said. “I think it was a good exercise.”
• File this in the category of City Hall chit-chat, but interesting nonetheless. City leaders are keeping an ear out for a Statehouse idea that would complete the final leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway, but with a twist — the road would be a toll road. The thinking — as I’ve heard it — is that the state will be challenged to find funding for all the projects on its list for a Comprehensive Transportation Plan. So, if there are some projects that would lend themselves to tolls, state leaders want to consider it. My understanding is that no formal proposal has been made, but it is worth watching. It also will be interesting to watch how local leaders respond. Would they fight the toll idea or just be happy to get funding for a project that has lingered longer than nearly any in Lawrence?
• Local theater lovers can now start making their plans for a new year of performances. Theatre Lawrence — formerly known as the Lawrence Community Theatre — this morning announced its lineup of shows for its 2011-2012 season, which will be its 35th. The season starts in September. Exact dates for the productions will be announced later. Here’s a look at the lineup, roughly in the order they will be shown:
- Forbidden Broadway, a musical revue that serves as a tribute to some of Broadway’s greatest stars.
- White Christmas will be the theater’s holiday production. The show features scores from Irving Berlin.
- Bloody Murder, a comedy that spoofs the classic Agatha Christie murder mystery genre.
- Becky’s New Car, a comedy about how a socially inept millionaire stumbles into a car dealership and offers to change the life of one of its middle-aged, middle-management female employees.
- Steel Magnolias, the classic comedy/drama about the ladies of Truvy’s beauty salon.
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the Biblical saga and musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice.
Season ticket sales will begin in May.