Archive for Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Town Talk: Zarco expansion plans for Compressed Natural Gas station; Dunkin’ Donuts begins work on second location; Lawrence Perkins avoids closure

Plans for an expanded Zarco station at Ninth and Iowa Street.

Plans for an expanded Zarco station at Ninth and Iowa Street.

June 22, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

• As we reported earlier this week, plans are in the works for a major expansion of the Zarco convenience store at Ninth and Iowa streets. Once completed, the project may give you the chance to fuel up your vehicle for $1.50 per gallon. No, the plans don’t include a time machine. But at the moment, they do include Lawrence’s first retail Compressed Natural Gas fueling station. Scott Zaremba, Zarco president, confirmed to me that he wants to find a way to make compressed natural gas a feasible fuel alternative in the city. I got the sense that the CNG station is not a done deal. Zarco would feel more comfortable going forward with the CNG idea if a business or organization would step forward and convert its fleet into CNG vehicles. There might be a few private businesses that would consider that (it can cost $5,000 or more per vehicle for the conversion), but my guess is the city of Lawrence will be asked to take a hard look at the possibility. The city last year passed on the idea of converting its public transit fleet over to CNG — in part because building a fueling station for buses would have been expensive. But the city has lots of other vehicles — everything from police cars to trash trucks — that it soon will be buying that could be candidates for CNG. With his location at Ninth and Iowa streets, I’m sure Zaremba will try to convince nearby Kansas University to consider a switch as well.

Price will be the selling point. CNG isn’t sold on a per gallon basis like gasoline. (Usually it is sold by the cubic foot.) But you can compare the two. Just look at how much energy a gallon of gasoline produces and then determine how much CNG it would take to provide the same amount of energy. (I’m not doing the math this early in the morning.) But, according to Zaremba, you’ll currently pay about $1.50 for the CNG equivalent to a gallon of gas.

If the idea takes off, it probably will be for users who are driving their vehicles primarily around Lawrence, since CNG stations are hard to find in other communities. If the CNG idea doesn’t work out, Zaremba said he may consider replacing it with an electric car charging station.

As for other details of the project, plans call for the former BP station at 914 Iowa to be expanded by about 500 square feet. The existing Zarco station then would be torn down. The new store would include a drive-thru for a new coffee and sandwich shop, plus the site would feature a larger “tunnel-style” car wash. Plans — which were developed by Lawrence architect Paul Werner — also would eliminate two of the four curb cuts along that stretch of Iowa Street. Zaremba — who also owns the adjacent Earth Friendly Fuels station at Ninth and Iowa — plans to green the project up by using solar panels on the roof of the store’s building.

Zaremba hopes to get moving on the project soon. The plans currently are under review by the city’s planning staff.

• Folks hoping for a new convenience store south of Lawrence on the new U.S. Highway 59 should be prepared to wait a bit. As we reported in May, Zarco has filed plans to rezone property on the east side of Highway 59 and just north of County Route 460 for a convenience store. That is near where Zarco operated a station for years before the Highway 59 widening took that spot. But Zaremba tells me that while the rezoning is moving forward, the store likely won’t for another two years or so. He said he wants to wait until the road project is entirely finished and then monitor traffic patterns before making a final decision.

A picture on the sign at Sixth and Michigan streets announcing a new Dunkin' Donuts for the location.

A picture on the sign at Sixth and Michigan streets announcing a new Dunkin' Donuts for the location.

• Brace yourselves, doughnut lovers. It really does appear that Dunkin’ Donuts is going to build its new location on the northwest corner of Sixth and Michigan streets. I began reporting back in 2008 that Dunkin’ Donuts was going to add a second location in the city, and then kept waiting and waiting. But now people tell me that a sign is up at the site and grading of the property has begun. (I haven’t driven by yet this morning, but will later.UPDATE: I've seen it with my own eyes now, and have added a photo of the rendering that is on the sign at the site.) Local Dunkin’ Donuts owner Sonny Patel previously has said that the store would take six to seven months to build. Patel’s existing store at 521 W. 23rd Street will remain open.

• If bacon, eggs, hashbrowns and banana cream pie is more your style for breakfast, you dodged a bullet in Lawrence recently. Last week the Perkins chain filed for bankruptcy protection and closed 27 stores in the process. Lawrence’s store was not on the closure list. At least not yet. The only Kansas store the company closed was its location on State Avenue in Kansas City. But the company — which also owns Marie Callender’s — said the “process to identify under-performing stores will continue through the chapter 11 case.” I have no insight into how the Perkins location in Lawrence does. To show you how old I am, Perkins used to be a “hot spot” for the late-night studying crowd when I was at KU — or so I’m told. Only half of the phrase “late-night studying” applied to me.


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 12 months ago

"CNG stations are hard to find in other communities"

My father used to fuel up his converted pickup trucks at the propane tank, commonly used to heat farm houses. And what a coincidence, that's where my brother fueled up his propane powered tractor, too!

devobrun 6 years, 12 months ago

March 2011 commercial price of 1000 cubic feet of natural gas is $8.66. Figure 120 cubic feet per gallon of gasoline. That's about $1.03 per gasoline gallon equivalent. Figure about 35 cents per gallon tax and you get $1.38 per gallon equivalent. Put in some costs and profit for Mr. Zaremba and $1.50 is a pretty good estimate.

Recent techniques have advanced to recover tight gas from previously ignored sources. There's lots of natural gas. And it is spread all over the country.

Let's go. Costs less, Domestic, 40% less CO2 output, The costs of $5k referred to in the article are for retrofitting. New vehicle CNG engines and fuel storage don't cost much more.

Sure seems more efficient to me to skip the conversion of natural gas to electricity, then feed electricity into vehicles. Go straight from gas to go, skip the battery.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 12 months ago

A clip: More Palm Trees Showing Up In KC Landscape. Trees Are Planted In Early Spring, Taken Out In Fall

They've been available in this area for quite some time. They are rather expensive, though.

shadowlady 6 years, 12 months ago

Well, speaking of restaurants, I'd still like to see an American food buffet here in Lawrence, like "Golden Corral", or that other steak house that is in Topeka on Wanamaker, I think it is called "Coyote Canyon"

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 12 months ago

A clip: A mixture of propane and butane, used mainly as vehicle fuel, is commonly known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG or LP gas).

Our pickups and the tractor ran just fine without the butane.

We're the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, I think we should start using it. Seems there's just to much trouble coming out of the Middle East!

average 6 years, 12 months ago

Sadly, the Civic GX Bob_Keeshan mentions above (the only production CNG car in the US) is only available from Honda in four test markets (LA, NYC, Salt Lake, and Oklahoma City) and only a thousand or so are available a year for non-fleet sales.

Perkins only closed stores that were company owned. The Perkins in Lawrence (along with the others in Kansas) is a franchisee. Perkins HQ really doesn't care if the Lawrence store is profitable. As long as they send in their franchise fee and keep the food to spec, they could lose all the money they want and HQ wouldn't shut it down. Now, the franchisee may look at other options if staying affiliated with a bankrupt chain slows business. But, since they aren't in the banquet hall reservation business and probably aren't that reliant on gift card sales, very little has really changed for them.

dogsandcats 6 years, 12 months ago

That's great about the gas station and all, but that location is pretty tough to enter and exit between the hours of say, 7am-7pm.

It's no surprise Perkins is filing for bankruptcy. When the economy tanks, people stop wasting their money on horrible food and bad service, and save up to treat themselves at a nicer place.

jackpot 6 years, 12 months ago

Is the double cut on drawing just one? Because I see three cuts 1 right side, two in the middle.

AnglNSpurs 6 years, 12 months ago

I would love to see Zarco back on 59! Hope it goes through someday. Does anyone know what happend to the burger king on 23rd? Is it being remodeled?

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 12 months ago

The Burger King on 23rd Street has closed. A new one is in the process of getting city approvals for a site in northwest Lawrence. Natural Grocers will open on the site of the 23rd Street Burger King.

Here are articles we have done on the subject:

Thanks, Chad Lawhorn Journal-World

footnote2 6 years, 12 months ago

Dunkin' Donuts on 23rd St. has a drive-through window but a small parking lot. Customers waiting to turn into Dunkin' Donuts, esp. to use the drive-through window, regularly cause eastbound traffic on 23rd St. to back up for minutes at a time at very busy times of the day. Will this kind of traffic mess on a public street also be in the plan for the new Dunkin' Donuts on 6th St.? Is the City going to require the new Dunkin' Donuts to have adequate space between 6th St. and the drive-through window to accomodate a lot of cars?

Clark Coan 6 years, 12 months ago

We're still waiting for Zarco to install the solar panels they promised the EPA in 2008. Chad, please check the status of this.

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