Archive for Thursday, December 8, 2011

Town Talk: Rumors of Starbucks looking to build in northwest Lawrence; city and convenience store exploring options for compressed natural gas; how about a bicycle fleet for city workers?

December 8, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

• File this in the category of unconfirmed, yet stimulating — stimulating as in full of caffeine. Speculation is growing that Starbucks is close to signing a deal to build a new store in northwest Lawrence. I believe the company is looking at a site that is between Taco Bell and the new Burger King that is under construction in the Bauer Farm development along Sixth Street, just east of Wakarusa Drive. So in other words, kind of in front of the Free State High area. What I hear is that the location — which would be part of a larger retail building that would house other tenants — would include a drive-through. I may be wrong here, but I think that would be the first drive-through location for Starbucks in the city. I also may be wrong — but my bank statements seem to back me up here — that if my wife were to cut herself, she would bleed Hot Salted Caramel Mocha.

• If you’ve sat through a Lawrence City Commission meeting, you might agree that compressing things is not exactly the city’s specialty. But, the city is going to get into the compressed natural gas business — at least in a small way. The city plans to move ahead with a pilot project in 2012 to convert one F-150 pickup truck in the Public Works Department to run on compressed natural gas. The city wants to make the $10,000 conversion — it thinks it will get grant money for about half the cost — in order to get some real-life data about how well a compressed natural gas vehicle works.

If the city likes how the vehicle performs, there are several possibilities for the city to make significant conversions. The city’s trash trucks are real fuel guzzlers, and of course, several cities have converted their transit bus fleets over to natural gas.

Finding a way to fill up vehicles that use compressed natural gas has been the tricky part. But now Black Hills Energy has a compressed natural gas fueling area for its vehicles. The city could probably swing a deal to buy CNG from there.

• Probably the larger development to watch, for fans of CNG, is what’s going on up at Ninth and Iowa. As we’ve previously reported, Scott Zaremba, leader of the Zarco convenience store chain, has purchased the former BP station that is just south of his Zarco station at Ninth and Iowa.

Zaremba plans on remodeling and expanding the BP building. He’ll then demolish the existing Zarco building, which will give him room to add several more features, like a larger car wash, more fueling pumps — and yes — a compressed natural gas fueling station.

Zaremba had the CNG station in his plans when he filed them with the city several months ago. I checked in with him recently, and he said the CNG idea is still something that he is planning to do. But the idea is going to take some careful study. That’s because adding a CNG fueling station that could function much like a regular gasoline pump, will be about a $1 million investment.

Zaremba said he’ll be watching the city’s pilot project closely because if a fleet of city vehicles were to switch over to CNG, that would make his idea more feasible.

If Lawrence gets a fueling station, it will be interesting to see if the CNG idea catches on with both environmentalists and tight-wads alike. Zaremba said the market prices for CNG have been “cheaper than gasoline by a long shot.” Natural gas also burns cleaner than gasoline, which helps with greenhouse gas concerns. Plus, large discoveries of U.S. natural gas reserves makes it more likely that CNG will be a domestic product for years to come.

But, so far, the price of converting a vehicle from running on gasoline to CNG is significant. Zaremba agreed that it often will run about $10,000 for even a standard passenger car. Then there is an issue of fueling stations. If Lawrence had one, that would take care of your local driving needs, but could you leave town and feel comfortable that you would find a place to fill back up?

One step at a time, folks.

“The one thing that is certain,” Zaremba said, “is we don’t have anything in the carbon world that is easy.”

Zaremba got his site plan for Ninth and Iowa remodeling approved by the city last week. He hopes to get started on the project by spring.

• Speaking of not easy, agreeing to serve on the city’s Peak Oil Task Force might fall into that category for some folks. It ended up being quite a commitment. The group began meeting in 2008 to come up with a report that summarizes how the community should react to a declining supply of cheap or affordable oil in the future. The task force wrapped up its work this fall, and city commissioners are tentatively scheduled to discuss the report at their Tuesday evening meeting.

The report comes up with some fairly broad strategies that include: building bicycle and pedestrian friendly streets; more mixed-use developments that encourage walking; greater use of public transportation; and more emphasis on reducing trash that must be hauled away by inefficient trash trucks.

But usually the most interesting items in these reports are the more specific ideas that are recommended. None of this means any of these ideas will ever be implemented, although some certainly might. Regardless, they do give you a good idea of some of the thinking behind the report. Here’s some that caught my eye:

  1. Encouraging government employees to telecommute, when appropriate.
  2. On-board solar panels for vehicles. Those panels could power devices such as radios, computers and air conditioners, and thus improve fuel mileage.
  3. A bicycle fleet or “industrial tricycle fleet” for government workers who simply need a way to get around town.
  4. Greater use of recycled asphalt for city streets.
  5. Take greater steps to “preserve high-quality soils for agricultural uses” and “carefully weigh the long-range costs and benefits” of extending new infrastructure such as streets and sewers into undeveloped areas. That’s the type of policy that can lead to some fairly long land-use discussions at City Hall.
  6. More fruit and nut trees in city parks.
  7. Development of an agricultural-related business incubator that could train people in the practices of sustainable farming.
  8. Create special “green tax abatements” to attract companies in the renewable energy industry.
  9. Solar panels in selected city lots that could power battery charging stations for hybrid vehicles.
  10. New codes that would regulate building heights and tree heights in a manner to make solar energy on residential and commercial structures more feasible. A sidenote here: Mayor Aron Cromwell does own a solar energy business, but he didn’t serve on the task force.
  11. Reduce the number of required parking spaces for automobiles at commercial developments. Businesses could qualify for even greater reductions if they entered into a formal program to buy bus passes for employees, for example.

You can read the entire Peak Oil Task Force report — all 56 pages of it — here.


Boston_Corbett 3 years, 10 months ago

Get in line for your overpriced coffee, with an extra "sneaky sales tax" on the top.

puddleglum 3 years, 10 months ago

boy you said it!

Too bad they are locating themselves in the compton tif-royalty fund area.... I'll continue to buy across the street at dillons, thankyou very much. (and use my dilons card for each purchase, too.)

CLARKKENT 3 years, 10 months ago


Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 10 months ago

CNG comes from the USA, and we won't run out for at least 100 years.

Gasoline is made from crude oil that mostly comes from the Middle East, and really soon, there's going to be a really big war there and then we won't be able to get crude oil from there any more.

Clear enough?

And in 100 years, other alternatives will have been found, I'm sure.

beeline 3 years, 10 months ago

Isn't there already a Starbucks across the street in the Dillon's store?

Hey, City. Google 'CNG Study' and see that plenty of states, cities, and fleets have already studied this. This is not the Show-Me state. Read. Decide. Maybe it is a good idea. But, don't spend a ton of money studying it.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 10 months ago

I was by there this morning. There is one there, all right.

CreatureComforts 3 years, 10 months ago

Starbucks would make sense in a higher income area like that. I think it would do really well.

Is the Caribou in Hy-Vee on 23rd open yet?

somedude20 3 years, 10 months ago

Waiting on the Caribou Barbie to arrive

frankfussman 3 years, 10 months ago

I go to La Prima Tazza, next to Liberty Hall.

asixbury 3 years, 10 months ago

Caribou in Hy-Vee on 23rd is still not opened....I've been waiting on it too.

TongiJayhawk 3 years, 10 months ago

1) The supply comes from the USA, not Middle East. 2) Emissions are considerable less

What are the alternatives for an automobile that is realistic?

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 10 months ago

Go Honda! Go Natural Gas! (Someday maybe the car manufacturers here in the USA will be able to catch up with Honda, but it might be a while.)

Megan Tugman 3 years, 10 months ago

Yes! Please bring a drive through Starbucks to that area! The in store ones at Dillon's tend to really depend on whatever Dillon's flunky is there for the day.

pace 3 years, 10 months ago

In Lima the taxi's used compressed gas and could revert to gas. The modification allowed for either fuel. It certainly made a difference in air quality.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 10 months ago

Yup, my Dad's pickups were that way. We ran on propane because it was so cheap, and if we ran out of that, we flipped a switch, and then we were running on gasoline instead.

We could go a long, long ways if both of the tanks were full!

LawrenceAttorney 3 years, 10 months ago

We have a perfectly wonderful (and local) coffee shop, J & S Coffee, directly across the street from that location. We do not need the Wal-Mart of coffee coming in and driving out local Lawrence business.

John Hamm 3 years, 10 months ago

Compressed Nat. Gas. vehicles. Leave it to the city to find an expensive way. CA (used to anyway) have a number of vehicles on NatGas - they would pull up to a house, take a meter reading, connect and fill their tank (if you can call it filling mileage was pathetic), take another meter reading and the bill would reflect a credit against what was used. NatGas just ain't the way, IMHO. No mileage whatsoever.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 10 months ago

Propane, which is a distillate of Natural Gas, worked just fine on my Dad's pickups. We used it for many years, for towing and all. The advantage was that it was so much cheaper than gasoline. The disadvantage was that the engine power was slightly less, but not by much. Maybe 20% or so, but that's just a guess.

The Propane pickups worked just fine for us for years and years. Also, many tractors run on Propane also. I learned the hard way about the only disadvantage of a Propane tractor - with the old ones, once the engine was hot, if you shut it down you couldn't start it again until it cooled down again. Never had that problem with any of the Propane powered pickups, though.

And in today's world, the terrific advantage is that Natural Gas comes from the USA, we have more Natural Gas than Saudi Arabia has crude oil. Very, very soon that will become a very important political issue.

It seems to me that someone such as myself that has driven a Propane powered vehicle for many hundreds of miles would know at least a little bit about it.

That $10,000 price for a conversion consists mostly of a massive kickback for someone, but I really don't know who.

Information on the differences between Natural Gas and Propane:

cowboy 3 years, 10 months ago

Peak oil task force recommendations......leaves me speechless , how many years did it take to come up with this list ? Stop wasting everyone's time and money and just hire a couple of young industrial engineers and turn them loose in the city's operations departments.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 10 months ago

"a pilot project in 2012 to convert one F-150 pickup truck in the Public Works Department to run on compressed natural gas. The city wants to make the $10,000 conversion"

What? My father has had a few pickups converted to run on propane, which is very similar to CNG. The most expensive one was a very fancy one in about 1992, and it included a very fine paint job on the tank to match the metallic blue of the brand new pickup.

It cost about $1,000 to have it done. The city is being taken for a roller coaster ride if they're going to pay $10,000!

"But, so far, the price of converting a vehicle from running on gasoline to CNG is significant. Zaremba agreed that it often will run about $10,000 for even a standard passenger car."

Again, What? Dream on! Another roller coaster ride!

Why not buy a brand new 2012 Honda Civic that runs on natural gas for $26,155 instead?

kansasplains 3 years, 10 months ago

Let's make the new Starbucks totally original.

There's a similar building made of shipping crates at the Presidio, in San Francisco, and it's very impressive.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 10 months ago

Some years ago I lived in a mobile home park and instead of a natural gas supply, I had my own propane tank. The guy that came to fill it drove a great big truck with a huge tank on the back, and I asked him how it was powered. He laughed, and told me they had a line from the big propane tank to the engine, and that's how the truck was powered.

I asked him, "Hey, how far could you go on a tank that big?"

He laughed and said, "I don't know, but at least to Los Angeles!"

But I bet he could easily get all the way back also, and then continue on to New York. And, I bet he could still get back to Kansas after that.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 10 months ago

Stock in a natural gas company would be a very good investment. But, the problem would be to find a reputable company to invest in.

Eugehne Normandin 3 years, 10 months ago

I think the 5 extra city employees for every job should push the trucks around. feed them beans to make natural gas

Dan Blomgren 3 years, 10 months ago

there is a local coffee shop across the street that hasn't updated their look since the day they opened. They did fine with no competition, and assumed they would never have any. Well now they have competition coming and are probably scared to death. You need more than brown pews to keep customers happy no matter how good you think your coffee might be. Business is down due to the Starbucks inside the Dillon's store opening, so just think what will happen when a Starbucks with a drive-thru opens across the street. I haven't been in there in years, but somebody told me they now sell ice cream too. I hope ice cream sales can cover their rent!

lunacydetector 3 years, 10 months ago

the peak oil task force jams smart growth or sustainable growth or whatever they're calling it these days right down our throats. how much money was wasted on this group, or preparing the 'report?' worthless.

plug in electric cars get their power from fossil fuels....from the burning coal to generate electricity plant on the kaw. what a joke!

lunacydetector 3 years, 10 months ago

the peak oil task force jams smart growth or sustainable growth or whatever they're calling it these days right down our throats. how much money was wasted on this group, or preparing the 'report?' worthless.

plug in electric cars get their power from fossil fuels....from the burning coal to generate electricity plant on the kaw. what a joke!

juma 3 years, 10 months ago

SB is just another corporate scam on an idea/product that anyone can do themselves. Buy a Krups espresso machine for around $85 and make your own espresso at home before leaving the house. Also, no rip-off sales tax crap.

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