Another try

City officials should work with a major national retailer on what seems like a reasonable compromise to locate a new store in Lawrence.

July 28, 2011


Lawrence is fortunate to have another chance to attract a Lowe’s home improvement store to the city.

The fact that developers for the project also indicate that Lowe’s doesn’t plan to seek any special taxing districts or other public incentives makes the project that much better.

In October, Lawrence city commissioners rejected a plan to build a Lowe’s store near Sixth Street and Folks Road, saying the property wasn’t an appropriate location for a big box store. They were concerned with how close the store would be to Free State High School and that the project was a major departure from the original pedestrian-friendly plans for the Bauer Farm development at that location.

At that time, commissioners suggested Lowe’s consider locating its store on property already zoned for retail development at Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. Lowe’s continues to contend that property is too far away from residential development and now is seeking approval of a compromise site near the intersection of Sixth Street and Congressional Drive.

Like the earlier site, the new location would need to be rezoned to accommodate the store. It currently is zoned for apartments and would need zoning for commercial retail. About five acres of the 17-acre site would be reserved for future apartment development.

The loss of apartment land isn’t significant for Lawrence, which many would argue already has more apartment developments than it can support. The new location isn’t as far west as city commissioners and planners might prefer, but it is adjacent to another big-box retailer, Walmart, and has existing streets and other infrastructure to support such a development.

It’s the city’s responsibility to carefully review the physical impacts of this project, but officials shouldn’t venture too far into a guessing game about what the Lawrence retail market will bear. During discussions last year, members of the city planning staff cited some figures that indicated retail space in Lawrence was growing faster than the city’s population and per capita incomes.

An attorney supporting the earlier Lowe’s proposal, however, also pointed out the decline in retail sales in Lawrence, presumably because local shoppers are traveling to Topeka or the Kansas City area to visit stores, perhaps including Lowe’s, that aren’t available here. Other local government and business leaders also have expressed concern about the loss of retail sales in Lawrence and how the city might attract new retailers.

The bottom line is that Lowe’s believes it can be successful in Lawrence or it wouldn’t be working this hard to locate here. It’s true that it will provide some added competition for similar stores, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for local consumers.

City officials shouldn’t rubber stamp the new Lowe’s proposal, but they should take reasonable steps to try to help this popular retailer bring its store, jobs and tax revenue to Lawrence.


Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

Does the World Company have financial interests in that area?

How much will this cost the taxpayers? This equation is always left out of the discussion.

When Home Depot is forced out of business who will move into that very large building which by the way cost taxpayers $2 million for a new street design? That building will set empty for years. Look at the Riverfront Plaza and Tanger Mall = big time losses for taxpayers.

Lawrence,Kansas cannot support two large Home Improvement Stores so Lowe's wants to force Home Depot out of business.

Considering this is more about locals selling real estate than improving the quality of life for taxpayers why not set up a hostile buyout.

Let's have Lowe's do a hostile takeover of that Home Depot location. The polls show that over 600 HD customers will jump ship which no retail operation can withstand.

Concentrate on doing taxpayers a favor for once. Large empty retail locations are a drag on taxpayers.

alittlecurious 6 years, 9 months ago

Which polls are you referring to? Please cite!

LogicMan 6 years, 9 months ago

Lowe's and Home Depot are competitors -- one won't sell to the other unless forced to through liquidation. HD isn't going to give up this town without a fight. So give it up, merrill, and get out of the way of progress and of those who do the real work (e.g. the many people who buy construction materials at this store; would do good for the economy, you, and all others to get your hands dirty too much more often).

City: Damn the torpedoes from nattering naysayer anti-progress-ives like the above. Full speed ahead on this one.

Getaroom 6 years, 9 months ago

Merrill: Normally I appreciate your insights and comments however at this juncture in the towns economy and the general outlook for future economic growth I must say your opposition is misplaced. This is a time to look forward, not backward and Lowe's is a far better run organization than HD has ever been and including their facilities. Their coming would create a healthy competition between the two and provide much needed jobs, although not all that many. Already Lawrence residents drive to either KC or Topeka to spend money at Lowe's so let's at least keep those dollars here, which helps toward paying salaries and some tax base (albeit small).

tomatogrower 6 years, 9 months ago

If I thought that bringing in Lowes would mean more competition, and lower prices, then I would be thrilled. But we have a lot of gas stations in this town, and they don't bother to compete. The prices are not set locally, and you can never bargain in any of these stores.

Bob Forer 6 years, 9 months ago

you are comparing tomatoes and cucumbers. Poor analogy.

grimpeur 6 years, 9 months ago

The nearest properly-zoned parcel is at 6th and SLT. Why, after shooting themselves in the foot by failing to follow the rules, are they back with another equally inappropriate proposal?

"Too far from residential?" Are you kidding me? Next to apartments whose inhabitants are not doing any home improvements? Yea, sure...I'd like to know how many of their customers they expect to walk to Lowe's. Please stop with this straw man justification.

Build this Lowe's. But build it where it belongs: next to K10.

wdl 6 years, 9 months ago

There is not enough of a customer base in this city to support two home improvement centers. Although when you visit HD there is a lot of foot traffic and it appears to have a lot of activity. These one and two item shoppers are not what keeps the HD or Lowe's in business. They help cover overhead for sure, but they aren't the ones who put the real dollars in the till. Contractors and builders are the ones who do the heavy lifting in this area of profit structure. Other articles in the LJW would indicate we are in a real building slump, a depressed real estate market, and the general state of the economy is in question right up to our federal government. The real question for me is why would you allow another building supplier to come to town only to watch them both struggle to make it. It will cost us (tax payers) a lot when one or both go belly up. Its not the right time!

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