Archive for Monday, August 1, 2011

Town Talk: Bert Nash land purchase may open door for outdoor wellness area; Jos. A. Bank rumored for downtown; city fees set to increase

August 1, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

• Last week J-W reporter Karrey Britt broke a story about how the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center is close to finalizing a deal to purchase the VFW property at 138 Ala. St. in the Pinckney neighborhood. The leader for Bert Nash — which has its offices nearby in the Community Health Facility at 200 Maine — said the purchase of the 13 acres is for “future plans and a strategic direction.” But he declined to give any more details. Well, I don’t have anything official to report, but I can tell you the talk that has been going around town. If you remember, local real estate leader John McGrew long has had a desire for an outdoor wellness campus. Originally he proposed building it on parts of 125 acres owned by the school district and the city near the eventual intersection of the South Lawrence Trafficway and Kansas Highway 10. The long-range plan for the project included walking trails, a pond, a special baseball field for players with disabilities and other features. But school district officials balked at the idea, and cut off talks with McGrew.

Now there is talk that the 13 acres of VFW property could be used to house a scaled-down version of what McGrew envisions. The property already includes a pond and some walking trails, but it largely has been closed to the public. McGrew has advocated that a outdoor wellness area is an important health issue for the community. He is the founder of the group Outside for a Better Inside that advocates children need to spend more time outdoors. He previously has said he can envision an outdoor wellness center being used by local groups such as the school district and Lawrence Memorial Hospital to teach classes and provide activities related to healthier living. The property is well-situated in some regards. It is just down the street from LMH. And although it is smaller than what McGrew originally proposed, it is near the city’s Burcham Park and the Kansas River, which provides more opportunities for public outdoor space.

Who knows what other plans Bert Nash has for the property, since the organization isn’t talking. The site certainly is large enough to house a new headquarters building, if the organization ever runs out of room at its current spot. Bert Nash also has an ownership interest in a private medical software firm that may need space at some point in the future. It will be interesting to see if public officials seek more details about Bert Nash’s plans. The organization isn’t planning to use public money to fund the $825,000 purchase price for the property. But Bert Nash does receive significant amounts of public funding, in addition to being housed in a publicly owned building.

• Also in the category of nothing official but lots of talk: Rumor has it that Jos. A. Bank is the retailer that is set to take over the old Talbots location at the northeast corner of Seventh and Vermont streets. Allison Vance Moore, a broker for Colliers International, previously confirmed she has a letter of intent for the space. But she hasn’t made any announcements about the retailer, other than to say that she believes it will excite folks in Lawrence. I had heard the new retailer previously described as a general merchandise retailer, which is not how I would describe Jos. A. Bank. As its web site says, it is an expert in men’s apparel. So, I wouldn’t necessarily consider the case closed on this one, but I’m passing it along anyway because I’ve heard the rumor from multiple sources that are pretty well plugged into the real estate and development industry. Jos. A. Bank does have several stores in the Kansas City area. It has four in Kansas City, both in malls and freestanding stores, and also has one in Lee's Summit, Mo. I’ll be keeping an eye on it. Unlike many of you, I still have the pleasure of wearing a tie five days per week.

• Lawrence city commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday will do more than just approve the 2012 budget. They’ll also consider raising several fees for 2012. I expect one of them to at least draw some formal opposition from the local construction industry. City staff is proposing to raise the system development fee that is charged to all new homes constructed in the city. The one-time fee — which is paid at the time of construction — is designed to help the city cover some of its costs for providing infrastructure for new development. The city is proposing to increase its fee for a standard home by $340, or an increase of about 11 percent. The new fee will be $3,370.

Bobbie Flory, executive director of the Lawrence Home Builders Association, told me the 11 percent fee increase is tough to swallow during a time when the construction industry has been hit hard by the economy. Some communities — Eudora is the one nearest Lawrence — actually have been reducing their development fees in an effort to spur construction.

It will be interesting to see if commissioners back off the proposed fee increase. And if they do, then will they back off the proposed increases for city water and sewer rates? Certainly, not just builders have been hurt by the economy. Both of those monthly fees are set to go up — although, not by 11 percent. As previously reported, staff members are proposing that water and sewer rates each increase by 2 percent for 2012.

• Getting a traffic ticket in Lawrence also could end up costing you more, thanks to the 2012 budget. The city is proposing to increase court costs at Municipal Court by $7, bringing the total to $60. A standard traffic ticket in Municipal Court carries a fine of $80, meaning the new total for fines and court costs would be $140. As for how that compares to other places, it is higher than some but lower than others. Overland Park and Olathe both have totals fines and fees that are less than $130, but Douglas County District Court charges a total of $168.50.


wowiekt08 6 years, 10 months ago

I was really hoping the old Talbots would become a mini Forever21. That place would thrive in Lawrence. But what do I know about retail?

jgier 6 years, 10 months ago

Is there such a thing as a min Forever21? ; )

Terry Sexton 6 years, 10 months ago

Score! posted by me on July 21st :

"ll guess that the Talbots spot will become a combination barbecue/barbershop with curly fries piled high & $8 haircuts...or possibly a well known clothier for men."

Hello, mom..? In yo' face!"

Renee Marsh 6 years, 10 months ago

Do we really want a Jos. A Banks? This store would definitely have a huge impact on Weaver's Men's store. Does anyone want to jeopardize our local department store?

jedifunk 6 years, 10 months ago

It's going to be like Borders ruining downtown all over again! How dearly I miss The Raven and The Dusty Bookshelf.


Noweigh 6 years, 10 months ago

"...jeopardize our local department store?" Seriously? Has anyone in this town heard of competition, competitive pricing, selection, etc.? Or is simply, "If I'm local, I'm entitled to a profit, short operating hours and legislation designed to keep my competitors out." Weavers has a solid, decades long reputation, if their customer base truly values the store, they will continue to shop there. Without competition over the years, downtown would stll be loaded with retailers that were open Mon-Friday 10-5pm., charging the max across the board.

Renee Marsh 6 years, 10 months ago

Weaver's Department Store is older than Macy's Department Store. It opened in 1857. There are only limited retail dollars in a community our size. Competition is fine but many people don't understand that in a race to rock-bottom prices we are overlooking many of the less tangible benefits of a local institution such as Weaver's. There are those who will shop with a national retailer that has larger buying power - just because they want to save a few dollars. Then those same people will miss Santa landing on Weaver's roof and will wonder what happened to Lawrence's old-fashioned downtown.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 10 months ago

How do you know that the "limited retail dollars" would not support another place that sells men's clothing? Have you done the research? Other than Santa, can you outline the less tangible benefits of shopping locally despite a higher price? I assume you've done the research and know that Weavers is more expensive or did you reflexively dust off that local vs. national argument?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 10 months ago

Now we know where the raises for the city employees is being funded from.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

The founder of the group Outside for a Better Inside can fund the whole thing. Remember John McGrew and the Chamber showed up at a City Commission meeting with a multi million tax dollar plan.

Where in the world did someone come with the notion that athletics is Wellness? Athletics damages the body such as major joints. Damaged for life. And can create heart problems.

There are plenty of articles around discussing the new flood of young people replacing damaged joints at age 55 and younger. Who are these people? Those running and jogging to stay in shape instead of choosing the lighter impact methods such as walking,biking,and swimming.

What about the pro and college athletes who must ingest pain pills to walk? What about all those surgeries? How is that Wellness? Perhaps this increases the cost of health care thus health insurance?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 10 months ago

The organization isn’t planning to use public money to fund the $825,000 purchase price for the property. But Bert Nash does receive significant amounts of public funding, in addition to being housed in a publicly owned building. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Guess they keep their money in a different pot than the taxpayers money. If Burt Nash has money to buy additional land, then they have money to help fund themselves. At a minimum, this 825K needs to be deducted from its entitlement for the ensuing year.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

If the city was wanting a Mo-Kan operation why not chase down Function Junction? A store that more of a population can afford to shop. Think functional downtown not dysfunctional thinking.

Jos A Bank ,like Talbots, must cater to those who like to spend more. Are there that many in Lawrence that will spend spend spend every day? I say it might be a bad choice. Some higher priced clothing stores bit the dust that located in the 600 block of Mass Street. Consumers would not support the River Front Plaza and it's over priced stores. High dollar stores need a huge consumer market = not in Lawrence.

Too bad the movers and shakers did not go after a Lego Store. Lego people keep these stores few and far between. The two we've shopped have been busy busy busy. St Louis was likely the nearest opportunity. They keep items in these stores that cannot be purchased any other way.

Too late for Lawrence to establish a destination point. Crown Center beat Lawrence to the punch. A Lego Store will making their debut soon. These stores are good go for ages 3 -101.

Our daughter has a cool Lego downtown project going.

pizzapete 6 years, 10 months ago

I think a men's clothing store is a good fit for downtown. I'll still shop at Weavers, but it'll be nice to have another option.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 10 months ago

"Unlike many of you, I still have the pleasure of wearing a tie five days per week."

You should view it as an honor in an era in which standards in almost everything have shamefully eroded.

ranger73 6 years, 10 months ago

I hope Bert Nash will refurbish the property versus tear it all down-at least some of it anyway-there is some interesting history surrounding the little cabin and pond behind the VFW...

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