Archive for Friday, December 23, 2011

Town Talk: Speculation growing that American Eagle Outfitters to close Lawrence store; Argenta finalizes deal at KU incubator; North Lawrence roadwork on tap; bike lane vs. parking on Conn. St.

December 23, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

• Well, this may not end up being a very good month for folks who like national chain stores and closets full of the hippest names in clothing. Earlier this month we reported that the Old Navy store on South Iowa Street will be closing after the holiday season. Now, I’m getting what I believe to be is reliable information that American Eagle Outfitters will close its downtown store sometime after the holiday shopping season as well.

A manager at the store, 619 Mass., referred a question about the store’s closing to a company spokesperson. The company has not returned my phone calls for several days now. I also made an inquiry with a representative of the local landlord for the building and never heard back. So, take it for whatever you think it is worth, but it looks like something to keep an eye on.

American Eagle Outfitters came to Lawrence in November 2000, shortly after a deal to build a major distribution center for the company on farm ground near the East Hills Business Park fell apart.

• On a happier note for the local economy, there is news that a deal we reported on previously indeed has happened. In August, we reported that a New Zealand-based animal health care company, Argenta, was planning to sign a lease to locate in the biosciences incubator building on KU’s West Campus.

Local biosciences leaders are now reporting that the lease has been signed and Argenta will be moved into the facility by Jan. 1.

As previously reported, the company plans to eventually have 27 scientists working at the facility. Plans call for the firm to hire four to five positions a year until it reaches the total of 27. The average salary of the new jobs is expected to be $74,000 per year.

That number alone makes the project a significant one for Lawrence, but the impact the deal will have on the Bioscience & Technology Business Center makes it doubly important. With Argenta, the incubator facility now is 83 percent full. It houses eight companies, and 63 employees are based out of the center. All that has happened since the center opened in 2010.

The incubator facility is about four years ahead of its own schedule for filling up space, and that means 2012 will be a year where local bioscience leaders become more aggressive in trying to secure funding for expansion of the incubator. The city in 2012 budget already has committed $500,000 to a new project. It is expected to commit another $500,000 in its 2013 budget. Look for the Douglas County Commission to do the same. But an expansion likely will be a $7 million to $8 million project, and the Kansas Bioscience Authority likely will have to be the major funder if the project is going to happen. The state authority jumped at the chance to help fund the current incubator facility. 2012 may be the year where we find out if there is Part II to the story.

• File this under the category of cleaning out the notebook. When I recently wrote about street maintenance work scheduled for 2012, I neglected to mention one major street that is expect to have work done on it. North Second and North Third Street from the railroad overpass all the way to the northern city limits will get a special type of repaving sooner rather than later. The city plans to have the road microsurfaced sometime during the first three months of 2012. If you’re not familiar with microsurfacing, it has become the city’s new friend. It is a way of repaving a street without milling up all the old asphalt. Crews fix any major potholes or other issues and then put a thin coat of protection over the entire road. The city loves it because it is cheaper than a traditional repaving. A traditional mill and overlay costs about $14 per square yard. A microsurfacing costs about $3 per square yard. But you probably don’t care about any of that, but maybe it will improve your mood when you start dodging orange construction cones in North Lawrence early next year.

• One other road-related issue: Folks who park along Connecticut Street from 12th to 15th streets may want to keep an eye on City Hall. The city will be repaving that stretch of street in 2012, and as part of the project they will want to explore the idea of adding bike lanes to the road. But the city acknowledges it will have to figure out something with on-street parking in order for those bike lanes to work. No word yet on what that may be, but it is an issue that likely will emerge in the coming months.

• Well, that’s it for Town Talk in 2011. I’ll be out of the office next week picking up the shards that are left from my post-Christmas bank account. Town Talk will return after the New Year. (Assuming I get all the eggnog out of my system.) Thanks for taking the time to read this column and send me tips this year. It has been fun. I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season.


bearded_gnome 6 years, 4 months ago

Merry Christmas Chad!

this is a very good column/blog, and your writing in it is always done in a friendly and chatty style.

please do publish land transfers/sales in this, a great idea.

lgreen17 6 years, 4 months ago

More road work in North Lawrence? I thought we were done with traffic backed up to the turnpike for a while....NOT good news Chad!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

I think the repaving on 3rd St. is primarily to repair the damage done when the intersection at 2nd and Locust was closed for reconstruction-- and 3rd St. was in pretty bad shape even before that project.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 4 months ago

glad for the work to be done on N. 2nd and N. 3rd.

repaving that stretch of street in 2012, and as part of the project they will want to explore the idea of adding bike lanes to the road. But the city acknowledges it will have to figure out something with on-street parking in order for those bike lanes to work. No word yet on what that may be, but it is an issue that likely will emerge in the coming months.

---one thing we can count on: whatever the solution, it'll clog up connecticut traffic, pushing more drivers to cut through on side/neighborhood streets, as so often has happened. probably solution will also be pedestrian unfriendly, again, as usual.

John Hamm 6 years, 4 months ago

"The average salary of the new jobs is expected to be $74,000 per year. That number alone makes the project a significant one for Lawrence," Why? 27 jobs at ~74k how about 54 jobs at $37k? Which would benefit the local economy more? I'm thinking more jobs at lower pay myself. Lawrence needs to stop worrying about being the "high-tech" capital of the world and work on getting jobs for Joe and Jane Doe!

livinginlawrence 6 years, 4 months ago

These sound like high quality jobs. Why complain?

asixbury 6 years, 4 months ago

The scientists filling those 27 positions would not work there for $ husband received almost twice that wage starting out fresh from college (he's a chemist). The workers who will be employed are very specialized and highly trained in their areas and deserve the wages they receive. I agree that more jobs would be great, but more under-paid jobs? Not going to help any one.

kochmoney 6 years, 4 months ago

54 jobs at $37k? Why not get 202,000 people to work for $10 apiece? Following your logic, that would be even better, right?

JackMcKee 6 years, 4 months ago

Neither Old Navy nor American Eagle can make it in Lawrence? Seriously? How long is Jos A Banks gonna last?

Dan Blomgren 6 years, 4 months ago

I'm betting they are already sorry for signing that lease. They'll be gone asap!

irvan moore 6 years, 4 months ago

it's ok, when banks is gone it will make room for another mexican restaurant

Scott Morgan 6 years, 4 months ago

Just FYI.......The Legends is on a record setting season for sales. ummmmm, wonder why Lawrence Old Navy and others are heading for the hills?

deec 6 years, 4 months ago

It's nice how all those taxpayer subsidies are paying off for the multinational corporations' profit margin. Use of eminent domain to seize private property, TIFs, STAR bonds, sales tax rebates, wildly reduced water and electric rates. Its good to be in the 1%.

lunacydetector 6 years, 4 months ago

remember where lawrence national bank used to be located on mass is the same place all those businesses have failed? i'm sure it isn't because it is sacred ground.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 4 months ago

No growth hippies have blighted the business atmosphere in Lawrence. (may contain hyperbole, but not much)

average 6 years, 4 months ago

Not sure how you make that leap. If there were 15 more strip malls in town and a third Walmart (not that the 'no-growth hippies' have had nearly that kind of clout... at the most 4 years, more honestly 2, a decade ago, out of the last 50 years of Chamber-buddy commissions), the Old Navy and American Eagle locations would have gotten substantially more sales? Huh? How does that theory work?

Outside a very small and shrinking portion of the town, you can wear 15-year-old jeans/t-shirt/flannel to basically anything in town. Grocery store to concerts to job interviews to most weddings. Exactly nobody cares. And while I find that to be one of the more appealing parts of living here, it makes it hard to sell 'this years' fashionable dissolving chintz from China for very much.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

It would be nice if down town problems were as simple as panhandlers. Face it while they might be annoying the larger facts are being ignored. Filling up downtown with more alcohol establishments will certainly not alleviate a panhandler situation. Nor will it be family friendly.

A few years of asking city commissions to perform a Cost of Community Services study fell on deaf ears. The reason concerned citizens were requesting such is because such would have provided data on which growth is paying back and which is not. After which our community could have developed direction that was in the best interest of all citizens aka the community.

Developer and friends are now wanting to convince all taxpayers that downtown Lawrence is done. Because keeping downtown alive has never been in their back door plans nor the Chambers I would speculate.

Remember this nonsense has taken place under the guidance of our Chamber of Commerce/real estate community who had absolute control for at least two decades, and do now, of the city and planning commissions.

So if the Lawrence economy is screwed... history can easily document who has led the negative charge for the greater part of the last 25 years.

Why does the development community want downtown to die?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

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

Flap Doodle 6 years, 4 months ago

You've copy/pasted this LTE at least a couple of hundred times, merrill. What do you think that is accomplishing?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

Face it Lawrence retail is planned and designed by Helter Skelter Inc that which follows the agenda of Economic Displacement. City Hall follows the lead of Helter Skelter Inc in spite of calls to change direction meaning take economic growth out of the hands of our local Chamber of Commerce.

Economic Displacement eventually puts even the retail giants out of business so it appears.

Economic Displacement = zero economic growth!

America is Over Stored. So is Lawrence,Kansas.

pace 6 years, 4 months ago

I never thought I would say this, but a roundabout at 11th and Conn. would probably be a good idea.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 3 months ago

okay! I'm now waving my cross at the monitor, and I've got a stake for the heart ... arggggggggggggggggh!

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