News and notes from around town:
• A project to replace the Dillon’s near 19th and Mass. with a larger, more modern store is set to take another step forward. The grocer has submitted new renderings for the project along South Massachusetts Street. City commissioners had insisted the company come up with a new design for the store after saying the previously submitted designs had too much of a warehouse feel to them.
Most of the focus has been on the store’s western elevation, which is the one that runs along Massachusetts Street. A before and after version are to the side. (Click on them and they get a little larger. Also, I'll make them larger when I correct some technical issues. You can also see all the new drawings here.) See if you can tell the difference. The main difference is at the southern corner of the west elevation. Commissioners wanted that corner to look more like the northwest corner in order to give the building facade more balance. The new design also incorporates some awnings over the smaller windows in the center of the western front.
What none of these renderings really gives you is a sense of just how close to the street this new store is going to be built. Commissioners approved several variances that allow the store to build much closer to the street than is normally allowed. Those variances allowed Dillons to rotate the orientation of the store so its main entrance and parking will be on the north side. Here’s a rendering that does give you a perspective of how close the store will be to the street. Note, I think other parts of the perspective may be out of date. It doesn’t appear that it includes some of the changes to the southwest corner. But it does make clear that the stretch of Massachusetts Street north of 19th is going to have a different feel to it.
Overall, the new store will be about 43,000 square feet, up from the current’s store’s size of 32,000 square feet. It will feature several new amenities including a Starbuck’s, a drive-through pharmacy, a larger organic food section, and a larger deli/hot food area. Commissioners are scheduled to consider the new renderings at their July 26 meeting.
• At about 9:45 a.m. today, I’ll host a roundtable discussion about downtown’s future with four prominent property owners/retailers in the area. Thanks to all of you who provide me some topic suggestions this weekend. We’ll have a live blog of the discussion so you can follow along as it happens or read it later at your convenience.
The four individuals who have agreed to participate are:
- Doug Compton, president of First Management Inc. and owner of multiple downtown properties.
- George Paley, a former downtown retailer who now owns multiple buildings throughout downtown.
- Bob Schumm, a city commissioner and a longtime restaurant owner who also owns commercial property downtown.
- Earl Reineman, vice president of Weavers Inc., the largest retailer in Downtown Lawrence.
In a few weeks (the timeline is still a little shaky) look for a broader article on downtown that examines ownership patterns along Massachusetts Street, how property values have changed and other issues surrounding the downtown.
• Lawrence long ago lost is Furr’s Cafeteria, but it hasn’t lost the idea of becoming a destination for retirees. (Hey, don’t throw stones. I liked Furr’s too. Where else could you mix spaghetti and meat balls with tacos on the same plate?) City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday will consider creating a new Senior Retiree Attraction Task Force. The task force would come up with a set of recommendations for the city and county commissions to consider in regards to attracting retirees. The idea of the city focusing more on attracting retirees has come up before. Mayor Aron Cromwell campaigned on the issue more than two years ago, and now newly elected Commissioner Hugh Carter has focused on it too.
A new report from the Senior Council of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce lists several reasons the city ought to get into the retiree game. The report found that the market for individuals 50 years and older is the fastest-growing and the wealthiest market in the country. The 50-plus market has 77 percent of the country’s personal financial assets, 80 percent of the savings deposits and 50 percent of all corporate stocks owned by individuals. The reports suggests the community would see an increase in its tax base through the sales and property taxes generated by the new residents. It also said charitable giving would increase and that, ultimately, job numbers would grow to support the new residents.
The report recommends that the community follow a model used by the state of Alabama to attract retirees. That would include having a task force that could create a marketing plan for the community and designation of some group — such as the city or the chamber — that would be responsible for advertising the community and working with retirees who want to locate here. The task force, as currently proposed, would have 12 members, including one city commissioner and one county commissioner. Half of the board would be appointed by the City Commission and half by the County Commission. The task force would be expected to create recommendations by the end of this year.