News and notes from around town:
• Look for more changes out on South Iowa Street when it comes to car dealers. The race between dealerships to see who can spruce up the most and create the loudest sizzle seems to still be going on. Officials with the Briggs Auto Group have filed plans at City Hall to build a $1.5 million showroom on the current site of its Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler dealership just north of 31st and Iowa streets.
But when the project is all said and done, the site won’t be home to a Dodge dealership. Instead, Briggs’ Nissan dealership will be getting the prime placement along Iowa Street. The Dodge dealership will move farther west and occupy the space that Nissan currently has on West 29th Terrace, said David Hamby, an engineer with BG Consultants who is doing the site design work for the project.
The project will involve tearing down the two existing buildings on the site that are left over from its days as Jim Clark Motors. One 20,000-square-foot building will replace the two buildings, giving the property more room to park cars, especially along busy Iowa Street.
Hamby said construction probably will begin in the spring. The project is just the latest for Briggs Auto Group, which has expanded its operations from Topeka and Manhattan to become a major player in the Lawrence market. Briggs recently opened a newly constructed Subaru showroom at 2233 W. 29th Terrace, which is just north of its Dodge dealership. Briggs this fall also got a $200,000 building permit to remodel a portion of the former Jack Ellena Honda spot at 2957 Four Wheel Drive to serve as an auto body repair shop.
And Hamby says there is at least one more major project in the works. When the Dodge and Chrysler dealership moves to its new location at 2300 W. 29th Terrace, that project will involve either constructing a new showroom or extensively remodeling the existing building.
Briggs — who bought the former Jim Clark Motors business in October 2010 and worked to convince Chrysler to reopen a dealership in Lawrence — hasn’t been the only car dealership spending money on South Iowa Street. Dale Willey undertook a major renovation and expansion of its showroom when it became the new Chevrolet dealership in Lawrence, and before that Jack Ellena Honda did a major facelift of its showroom along Iowa Street.
All told, competition among South Lawrence car dealers has provided a multimillion-dollar boost to the construction industry in recent months.
• Back in August, we reported on a plan for Laird Noller Hyundai at 2829 Iowa St. to do a major facelift of its facility, but work was slow to start. Well, work is underway on the site now. The city has issued a $1.2 million building permit for the property. As previously reported, the project basically will double the size of the existing facility, and especially increase the amount of space for service work at the location. No word yet on when the project is expected to be completed.
• The area near Clinton Parkway and Crossgate isn’t done creating discussion at City Hall quite yet. Last week, the city commissioners rejected a proposal to expand the Remington Square Apartments onto about five acres of vacant land at the intersection. Neighbors cheered the decision because they believe there are too many apartments already next to their single-family neighborhood. But the development group — led by Lawrence businessman Tim Stultz — was left baffled by the decision, because the vote went against the recommendations of a recently approved district plan for the property. The Inverness Park District Plan was approved for the property in September, and it clearly anticipated apartment development on the five-acre site.
Well, at Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting, Commissioner Bob Schumm said the whole situation left a bad taste in his mouth. But Schumm doesn’t want to reopen the debate about whether apartments should be located on the site. Instead, Schumm said the City Commission should reopen discussion about the Inverness Park District Plan. He said that since the City Commission rejected the apartment development, the plan probably ought to be changed to reflect that the city does not expect apartment development to occur on the property in the future.
It will be interesting to see what other changes may be discussed. Residents of the neighborhood surrounding the Inverness Park site had lobbied for a significantly different Inverness Park District Plan. Some commissioners said they at least wanted to hear more of what neighbors had to say about the recently approved plan. City commissioners agreed to discuss the issue in January, although they did not set a specific date.