Archive for Friday, July 22, 2011

Town Talk: Olive Garden may not be done on South Iowa; LED lighting place in downtown; commercial nursery looking to expand near Baldwin Junction

July 22, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

• Perhaps just like the restaurant’s breadsticks, you get more than one chance at landing an Olive Garden in Lawrence. Several sources at City Hall have told me that officials with the development group at 27th and Iowa have indicated they’ll likely file a new plan for a project that would include an Olive Garden restaurant.

The restaurant would be on the same site — the northeast corner of the intersection — as previously proposed. That previous proposal created quite a bit of controversy because it was asking for a tax rebate to help the finances of the development. The sources I talked with all said the new plan is not expected to ask for any such city incentives. Instead, there was some talk that the development group was exploring a federal tax credit program that could be of assistance. Not sure what that tax credit would be, and the sources weren’t clear on that point either. So, take that piece of information for what you want. I haven’t yet seen an official site plan filed at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning office, but I’ll be keeping my eyes out for it. The sources I talked to weren’t particularly surprised by this latest development. They sensed all along that Olive Garden had a strong interest in the Lawrence market.

I would think an Olive Garden project that doesn’t seek any city incentives would clear City Hall without much problem. The site already has much of the zoning it needs. The major portions of the property previously were a pizza place and a Chinese buffet. (Two restaurants. Not a combination pizza/Chinese joint. Ah, to dream the impossible dream.) I haven’t yet caught up with a representative for the development group. If I hear anything from that end, I’ll let you know.

• As Lawrence and Manhattan battle to win a $100,000 contest to see which community can do the best job of saving electricity, here’s a business that we ought to get extra points for. Downtown Lawrence now is home to a company that specializes in LED lighting. The LED Source has opened up in office space at 10 E. Ninth Street. Adam Ritchie, owner of the local franchise, said Lawrence stuck out to him as a market that could use a store like his.

“This is the type of place to have this type of business,” Ritchie said. “It is a green friendly and an aware type of place, which is important because there have been a lot of mis-education with LED lighting.”

Ritchie said many people confuse LED lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs and some of the drawbacks that come with CFLs. Both are longer lasting and use less energy than traditional bulbs, but LEDs don’t have some of the slow warm up issues and other drawbacks.

But they do cost a lot more than a traditional light bulb. An LED bulb may cost you around $60. But prices are coming down as the bulbs become more mainstream, and Ritchie said part of his job is to educate people how the bulbs eventually pay for themselves.

He says a typical 50-watt Halogen light bulb will last about 2,500 hours. To get the same amount of light, you could use a 9-watt LED that would last about 40,000 hours. Ritchie estimates the energy and maintenance savings (hey, if you’re a business you’ve got to pay somebody to change it, or perhaps change many of them) equates to about $20 per year.

Ritchie’s business works with both homeowners and businesses, but he said he expects a lot of his sales to come from the commercial market because the paybacks are often quicker.

“But if you have a house with a lot of landscape lighting, they pay off quickly in those situations too,” he said.

If we really wanted to gain extra points in this competition ( and we do, since the winner receives a $100,000 grant) we would point out as I have previously reported that Lawrence also is home to an LED research and manufacturing firm at the bioscience and technology incubator on KU’s West Campus. They ought to just send the $100,000 now.

• The old Baldwin Junction intersection soon may be growing some new jobs. Lawrence-Douglas County planners at their meeting on Monday will consider a request to allow a commercial greenhouse to expand just south of the intersection where the old Highway 59 intersects with U.S. Highway 56. Applied Ecological Services has plans to take over an existing greenhouse operation at 1271 N. 222 Road and add about 20,000 square feet of space to the operations in the near term and perhaps up to 60,000 square feet by 2025.

Based on the company’s Web site, the firm provides all sort of consulting and design services for things such as green roofs, rain gardens, prairie and savanna restoration, streambank protection, wetland restoration and a host of other topics. According to the materials provided to planners, the Baldwin site would focus on producing plants needed for their projects.

But the company asking for approval to add a small retail nursery business at the site. That part of the business, though, is not expected to be developed until after 2015. The application before planners also would clear the way for the property to house multiple employees. Phase one of the development, expected to occur before 2015, would allow 20 employees. Phase III of the project, expected to occur before 2025, would allow up to 40 employees.

The company is not new to the area. Its Web site currently lists an office in Oskaloosa (it is headquarters are out of Wisconsin.) The company several years ago had an office in Eudora along Kansas Highway 10.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission will consider approving a conditional-use permit for the project at its 6:30 p.m. meeting on Monday at Lawrence City Hall.


Scott Morgan 2 years, 8 months ago

How about a local company Go Chicken Go, love the yellow gravy. UMMMMMMMMMM


oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 8 months ago

Popeye's Chicken................19th and Haskell pads are for sale, build new.

In and Out----------tear down Cadillac Ranch and build new!. Watch McDonald's owners complain.


Kris_H 2 years, 8 months ago

It's funny to me to read "my family goes from Lawrence to KC or Topeka to shop."

I live in Topeka and come to Lawrence to eat. :D

Not interested in the OG, we have one of those in Topeka I never go to. I would rejoice more at seeing some new, unique local place there, because those are what keep me coming to Lawrence.


cummingshawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Golden Corral, yummy, Lawrence would get the sales tax revenue instead of Olathe, and lower my carbon emissions!!


ljwhirled 2 years, 9 months ago

Doh! You mean they really didn't need the tax subsidy and could make the project work without it?

This kind of hurts the credibility of future developers who say "It won't happen without a subsidy!"

Just say no. If the project was a good project, it will move ahead. If not, it won't.

No more spending through the tax code. Spending should be spending. If it can't be justified as an expenditure, it shouldn't be on the table as a tax subsidy.


Carol Bowen 2 years, 9 months ago

This approach is more palatable. Pun intended. The developer is still dependent on assistance. Hope it works out for them.


Floyd Craig 2 years, 9 months ago

why not put a golden coral in not those joints darn I dont care for either one of those dumps


Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

Developers always trying to get into our tax dollar pockets. The less they donate to our cookie jars the more local taxpayers contribute to make up for the loss.

The answer is still no! Go to the bank and stand on your own two feet!

If the bank will not finance the project then it is a rotten deal for taxpayers!


Gene Wallace 2 years, 9 months ago

They had better hurry with the Olive Garden. That corner is turning into a Used Car Lot and Baby Tree Emporium.


notanota 2 years, 9 months ago

I don't plan on eating at Olive Garden, because I'm not into the food, but I've got no beef with them if they're not getting city or state tax credits to build there.


cobaltblue 2 years, 9 months ago

I have said it before and I will say it again... POPEYES!


Stain 2 years, 9 months ago

If Olive Garden gets a subsidy from the city I'll never go there, or to any other in that chain.

I mean it.


Stain 2 years, 9 months ago

If Olive Garden gets a subsidy from the city I'll never go there, or to any other in that chain.

I mean it.


irvan moore 2 years, 9 months ago

remember when you could just buy plain old food? Red Lyon. Stricks, Tin Pan Alley, Drakes, i miss the good old days, heck, i even miss Furrs..


KSChick1 2 years, 9 months ago

Atchison has a combination KFC/Taco Bell


fromlarryville 2 years, 9 months ago

I think the city should encourage and help more businesses come to lawrence! Most weekends my family members shop in Topeka or KC. This would help the local economy so the city would quit trying to get all it's tax money from homeowners property tax! And downtown would continue to thrive if the empty spots didnt have such outragous rents! Its downtown Lawrence not Rodeo Drive! Just a thought. Dont get me wrong I love Lawrence and would like to see it continue to thrive and grow, just need to keep some of the money in town!!


oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 9 months ago

Tax credits for speeded up Depreciation and employee tax credits. The competition is coming to Lawrence for restaurants.


Tammy Copp-Barta 2 years, 9 months ago

(Two restaurants. Not a combination pizza/Chinese joint. Ah, to dream the impossible dream.)

Isn't there one of those in Eudora???


LogicMan 2 years, 9 months ago

Olive Garden: Great news! Build it soon, and we will come often. Also squeeze a Red Lobster on the site?


consumer1 2 years, 9 months ago

Chad, I always enjoy the way you combine stories, and also your writing style.


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