Archive for Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Town Talk: Blockbuster to close 23rd Street store; more industrial zoning sought for area near Lecompton interchange; real estate agent warns of Craig’s List scam

March 23, 2011, 10:49 a.m. Updated March 23, 2011, 11:52 a.m.


News and notes from around town:

• First it was books that took a hit when Borders announced it was closing its Lawrence store. Now, it is movies. Officials with the Blockbuster video store chain have announced they’re closing their Lawrence store at 1516 W. 23rd St. Store closing signs are now up in the windows, and a manager told me she expects the store to close its doors for good in about four weeks. She declined further comment, and an attempt to reach a district manager for Blockbuster wasn’t immediately successful. The company, though, will keep its store at 4651 W. Sixth St. open.

The fact that a Blockbuster store is closing is not exactly a big plot twist. The company has filed for bankruptcy, and previously has announced that it plans to close 110 underperforming stores by the end of this month. Some creditors, though, have been arguing that Blockbuster’s finances are in such poor shape that it ought to abandon its plans to reorganize and instead liquidate its assets. Blockbuster is still seeking to reorganize, but this article indicates an auction date has been set for the company in early April. So, while the company says its West Sixth Street store will remain open, it looks like a situation worth watching.

In case you are keeping track, that’s two national retailers in the last couple of months that have announced they are closing underperforming stores across the country, and both times underperforming stores were found in Lawrence. I’m not too familiar with what levels of business Blockbuster did at its 23rd Street store, but the fact Lawrence’s Borders was considered an underpeformer was troubling to me. Just from observation, Borders seemed to do fairly good business — at least by Lawrence standards. But that could be a key qualifier there. How do Lawrence standards compare to national standards? What I’m trying to say here is that I can think of several national retailers in Lawrence that seem to do less business than Borders did. If national retailers continue to trim store totals, how hard will Lawrence end up getting hit?

UPDATE: I got in touch with an operations manager for the local Blockbuster franchise, and he said the store likely will remain open four to eight weeks. He said all the merchandise in the store will be sold, and that the location will be offering discounts. He also told me to look for a new tenant in the space relatively soon. Unlike some other Blockbuster locations, this one wasn't leased. Instead, the franchise company owned the real estate, and that factored into the company's decision to liquidate the store, said Ryan Wasinger, director of operations for the Blockbuster franchise. Wasinger said the site has drawn strong interest from three to four prospects over the last several months. He declined to comment on who may be going into the site.

"I don't foresee it sitting vacant for very long," Wasinger said. "That is one of the reasons we decided to liquidate the store. We feel like it is about as good as it gets location-wise in Lawrence."

• The area around the Farmers Turnpike continues to become more about the turnpike and less about the farmers. The city has received another request to annex and rezone property to allow industrial development near the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike. Property owner Steven Rothwell has filed applications with the city to annex 69 acres into the city and rezone it from agricultural property to general industrial property. The sites — 933, 939 and 943 N. 1800 Road — are in between two pieces of property that the city has done island annexations and rezonings for recently. The city in the past couple of years has annexed and rezoned about 155 acres immediately north of the Lecompton interchange, and then more recently annexed and rezoned about 55 acres near the intersection of the Farmers Turnpike and Queens Road. All the sites have frontage along Interstate 70 or else are just a stone’s throw from the turnpike interchange. Property owners in the area — which include longtime developers Duane and Steve Schawda — have argued the area is a prime spot for distribution centers and other businesses that need good access to one of the key interstates in the country. Thus far, the annexations and rezonings haven’t had much trouble winning approval from planning commissioners or city commissioners. But a group of neighbors in the area have fought the proposals both at City Hall and through the courts.

That doesn’t appear likely to change anytime soon. The neighborhood group — the Scenic Riverway Community Association — has filed another lawsuit against the city within the last week. The lawsuit is challenging the city’s rezoning of the 55 acres near the Farmers Turnpike and Queens Road extended intersection. Attorney Ronald Schneider said the suit alleges the rezoning is unreasonable and illegal. As we previously reported, the neighborhood group also has taken action in Douglas County District Court to appeal the Douglas County Commission’s decision to allow the city to annex the property.

Those cases are in addition to lawsuits related to the 155 acres just north of the interchange. The neighbors have lost two rulings in Douglas County District Court, but the cases remain alive on appeal to the Kansas Court of Appeals. That appeal likely will stretch out for several more months.

The lawsuits aren’t much of a surprise. The neighbors during their last trip to City Hall indicated a lawsuit was likely if the city wasn’t willing to compromise some on the zoning issue. The neighbors said they could live with the area being annexed and rezoned, but not to such a heavy industrial zoning category. Instead, they asked the city to rezone the area to a lighter industrial zoning category. City commissioners and the property owner — in this case, a group led by the Schwadas — weren’t interested.

• In a previous Town Talk, the question came up about how much the city and the county had spent defending themselves in these annexation and rezoning lawsuits. I now have some numbers to report. The city has spent $59,384 since 2008 defending the annexation and rezoning of the 155-acre site. The county has spent about $20,500 on the lawsuit related to the annexation. Both those totals continue to grow as the case continues on appeal. The totals also will start growing as litigation costs mount for the new lawsuits.

Of course, there’s no word on how much the neighbors are spending on the cases, but the group is not without resources or knowledge of how business works. One of the plaintiffs in the cases is Jim Haines, the former CEO of Westar Energy who now lives in a beautiful historic home along the Farmers Turnpike.

• According to a reader of Town Talk, area renters should be on the lookout for a Craig’s List scam. Kris Devlin, a local real estate agent, said someone is running a bogus listing on the website under her name advertising a house for rent. The listing instructs people to send an email with several pieces of personal information if they are interested in the house. It also gives them the option of sending money through Western Union to “get the deal of a lifetime.” Devlin said as soon as she learned about the ad, she flagged it and it has been removed from the site. But she said she has received “numerous” phone calls from people who said they sent their information to the email address. No word of whether anybody actually sent money.


Scott Morgan 3 years ago

No dog in this hunt, but observations just the same. One, Miracle Video a business I just began using last Fall may be the best video business I've ever used. The staff were always helpful giving a less than modern movie buff selections which were always right on.

Until reading comments today did not know they were known for porn.

Borders did seem busy, and a nice building to boot. All this is meaningless when sales tickets are added up. Shopped there a dozen or so times, and purchased very little myself. I do the e-book thingy. My better half buys 30-30 books a year and hasn't made a purchase at Borders for years.


Richard Heckler 3 years ago

Corporations and developers do not save money for taxpayers or big government.

TOO many corporations want to privatize the state. Yet it is the corporations that are responsible for fraud against government and OUR tax dollars.

For example:

The trouble with elected officials they go to the CEO"s of any industry and developers for advice!!!! too often!!!! Then the elected officials walk away still uninformed.

One answer to problems such as this: CUT OFF special interest financing of elections! YES even at the local level.

Our government is always claiming the USA is about democracy. In that case allow the citizens to practice democracy by allowing citizens to vote on these issues in 2012:

Let's demand a new system and vote in Fair Vote America : Demand a change on the next ballot.

Let's have public financing of campaigns. Citizens cannot afford special interest money campaigns for it is the citizens that get left out. Let citizens vote on this issue.


Lacy Mohler 3 years ago

Border's is a favorite hangout spot--but apparently people use it like a library and never actually purchased anything. Now they can move over to an expanded library with a fancy parking garage.

Hate e-readers. I'd rather hold the book. No batteries required.


BigPrune 3 years ago

It is easy to surmise the Blockbuster franchisee closing to sell or lease their location on 23rd because they own the property, whereas their other location is most likely leased, perhaps it remains open until their lease runs out?

Borders may have had a profitable store in Lawrence, but not profitable enough to stay open, so the under performing stores dragged it down. and the larger markets stores stay open. Then again, like a lot of businesses downtown, it may have done poorly because of its poor location. That's why Hobbs sits empty for how many years now, 7? Borders obviously has enough parking, so if it closed it was because of location.


TheWhirl 3 years ago

It's terrific that another developer is going to be allowed to rape what was once a very pastoral setting out long the Farmer's Turnpike. This is why we need a 90% top marginal tax rate to discourage the greed that is destroying this country.


Steve Jacob 3 years ago

That Blockbuster survived longer then most. Sure the prices was to high for to long, but service was good. Guess the only way to have a rental video store anymore is have other stuff going on (Hasting's, Liberty Hall) or porn (Family Video, Miracle Video).


igby 3 years ago

Craig's list is a waste of air. If you run an add, you get bombarded with spam and hassled by people who do nothing but scam on anyone who runs an add. If you inquire or respond to an add its a scamer trying to sell someone else's property that they stole or don't even have. I never met anyone that was named craig, that was not a pos. Lol.


Bob_Keeshan 3 years ago

That Craigslist scam has been going on in town for some time. Getting the listing removed only works for a period of time, after a few weeks the scammers are able to list your home as a "rental" again.

I know of people who have had college students pull up to their driveway with a truckload of stuff, wondering why there were still people in the house.


boxers_or_briefs 3 years ago

That blockbuster building would be perfect for the homeless shelter.


Kontum1972 3 years ago

i just threw up on meself....urpppppppppp


nytemayr 3 years ago

Yes, it is the "most people don't " that is having the major negative impact on retail store closings. Yes, online sales have been around for years, like cancer, its brand new when the doctor tells you about it.

If you are in the "I prefer to shop at stores that are locally owned and operated" then please ask your locally owned and operated Lawrence store to hire the 86 people losing their jobs due to these two store closings and pay more than $8 per hour.

BestBuy is next.


oneeye_wilbur 3 years ago

wilbur would suggest blockbuster would have closed earlier but it was cheaper to pay the lease and muck along.

Now with it closed, it is time for that entire area on 23rd to be considered for demolition and rebuild with fewer curb cuts and have one big box store. Lawrence has no planning department.


jhawkinsf 3 years ago

Personally, I prefer to shop at stores that are locally owned and operated. There are too many corporate stores here. I hope the owners of the properties being vacated keep that in mind when they rent out their properties in the future.


nytemayr 3 years ago

Most Bluray and dvd players can get NETFLIX or BlockBuster now-days.

BestBuy will be the next company to go out of business because of online sales.

The city should be aware that most people today can buy major electronics and appliances online at a lower cost with NO SALES TAX and FREE SHIPPING.

Even Wal-Mart will ship free to any of their stores but the store killing issue is NO SALES TAX is being charged by many on-line retailers.

On a $1,000 item Lawrence sales tax is about $86. On-line you buy the same item for $900 no sales tax, free shipping, free return shipping. Do the math see the future!


consumer1 3 years ago

HOw many millions are the local taxpayer ponying up for a new library where people won't read books?


bolshavik_vw 3 years ago

yeah well that is why I get my stuff at Hastings and Half Price Books. Along with CD Trade Post. Looks like I am going to have to check out the stuff at Block Buster when it goes on Sale.


Adrienne Sanders 3 years ago

Borders and Blockbuster are both closing/ having problems b/c of their overall business model, not b/c of a few "underperforming stores". People don't physically go to a store and rent movies very much anymore. They're also moving away from buying physical books and Borders didn't offer any kind of e-reader and passed all their potential online business to Amazon. I wouldn't worry about other chain stores closing unless they too offer things that people don't actually use anymore.


kuhusker 3 years ago

Don't believe the official line about Borders closing "underperforming" stores. Borders has closed a solid 2/3 of all their national stores - and not all of those were doing poorly. A major driver in decisions about what stores to close was the real estate market. In places where the landlord was willing to cut the store a break, they stayed open, and in many other places, an otherwise well-performing store might be closed due to the fact they got locked into a really bad monthly rent when the economy was better and the landlord won't renegotiate.

If you are curious to find out more, there's a lot of good "inside" gossip and info at the I Work At Borders blog at


CreatureComforts 3 years ago

No big surprise that Blockbuster is closing. Honestly, I'm surprised both are staying in business. These days, it's just so hard for a standard movie store to stay around, unless they office something different or unique like many of the smaller, independent ones. Netflix is so dominant, and their streaming options grow exponentially. Add Redbox, which while it lacks amazing content is quick, easy and cheap for new releases, and...well, it's not a big surprise to me.


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