News and notes from around town:
• As we previously reported, the owners of Tortas Jalisco in West Lawrence want to open a Mexican restaurant in downtown. That deal, we’re told, has now been completed. The restaurant has signed a lease to go into the former Teapouro Tea & Espresso location at 712 Mass., says Allison Vance Moore, a commercial real estate broker with the Lawrence office of Colliers International. I wasn’t able to get in touch with owner Angel Alvarez, so I’ll bring you more details later. Previously, Alvarez told me that he wasn’t simply going to recreate Tortas Jalisco, 534 Frontier Road, in the downtown. The new restaurant certainly will feature Mexican cuisine from his native Jalisco region, but Alvarez said he wants to focus on different dishes so he is not competing with himself. When we last talked, he was thinking about one of two concepts — an upscale Mexican restaurant or truly authentic taco stand style of operation. I don’t know which one he has landed on, but Moore, who served as a broker on the deal, said it is her understanding that the new restaurant will be serving breakfast on the weekends. She said she believes the restaurant should open by mid-June.
• For the second day in a row, I’ve heard a pretty optimistic outlook about Lawrence’s commercial real estate scene. Moore is one of the more active commercial real estate agents in the city, and she said activity is really starting to pick up among potential retail businesses looking to get started in Lawrence. She said that includes interest among national retailers who are looking for larger spaces. That could be good news for the now-vacant Borders property in downtown. Moore said a potential user that would need at least 15,000 square feet has begun to look around Lawrence. No word yet on the name of that business, but Moore said she thinks the Borders location will get plenty of looks in the near future.
“My guess is something will happen pretty quick on that property, or else, unfortunately, it will sit for a couple of years,” Moore said.
She attributes the uptick in activity to an improving economy and a sense by retailers that Downtown Lawrence is moving down a path where residential and 24/7 type of uses will become a bigger part of downtown.
• Unless you’re a fisherman, it usually is not a good idea to re-open a can of worms. At least that seemed to be the philosophy Tuesday night among city commissioners. New City Commissioner Bob Schumm at the end of Tuesday night’s meeting made an unusual procedural motion. He made a motion for reconsideration of an issue related to the plans by Dillons to rebuild on south Massachusetts Street. Commissioners largely approved those plans last week. But Schumm said he voted incorrectly on the portion of the plans that allowed a drive-through pharmacy along New Hampshire Street. Schumm was among four commissioners who voted for a right-of-way agreement that would allow the drive-through. He made that vote after speaking out against the drive-through idea earlier in the evening. But Schumm said he voted for the right-of-way agreement because he thought there was going to be another opportunity to vote against just the drive through. There wasn’t, and thus on Tuesday Schumm asked for the right-of-way issue to be reconsidered so he could change his vote. His fellow commissioners declined to go down that path. His motion died for lack of a second. Although Schumm said he wouldn’t try to lobby any commissioners to change their votes, other commissioners said they were concerned if the item came before the commission again that it would reopen a whole other round of debate on a topic that they considered settled. Schumm’s opposition to the drive-through, though, will be noted in the City Commission’s minutes.
• If you love good, unique barbecue, this Saturday should be circled on your calendar. The Lawrence Sertoma Club will be hosting its annual BBQ cook-off in Broken Arrow Park beginning Friday evening and running through Saturday. The event is limited to 48 teams that will compete for $4,800 in 48 categories. The competition is a sanctioned event, which means its grand champion will be eligible to compete in the American Royal Cook-off in Kansas City, which is one of the most prestigious BBQ competitions in the country. But for most of us, the real fun comes as part of the People’s Choice Awards. From 11 a.m. to about 2 p.m. on Saturday, the public is invited to the competition to sample BBQ, and then vote for their favorites. There is a $6 fee to take part in the tastings, and beware that once the meat is gone, it is gone. All the money raised from the event is used by the local Sertoma Club to help send children with hearing and language issues to a special communications camp.
Note: If BBQ isn’t your thing, the Wakarusa Township Fire Department also will be having a traditional pancake breakfast at the event on Saturday morning. The Fire Department is adjacent to Broken Arrow Park, which is located at 31st and Louisiana streets.