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News and notes from around town:
• If you want to drink a cold beer on a piece of public property downtown, you will have several opportunities — legal opportunities — to do so this summer. City commissioners at their meeting Tuesday evening will consider approving the necessary variances needed to allow alcohol sales at five upcoming events. They are:
- Arts Center Street P’Arty, May 27-28, 900 block of New Hampshire.
- St. John Mexican Fiesta, June 24-25, South Park.
- Americana Music Festival, June 25, South Park.
- Tour of Lawrence, July 1-3, various locations downtown.
- KC MS 150 cyclist event, Sept. 17-18, South Park.
• Since we mentioned the arts, now is a good time to provide an update on an effort to create a new arts and science incubator in the city. As we reported in February, a group of KU, arts and business leaders have come up with an idea to locate an arts, science and technology incubator at the currently vacant building at 506 E. 23rd Street. The incubator would provide affordable studio and gallery space for artists, but would be unique in that it also would be open to scientists and others who are working on new ideas. The theory is that putting multiple classes of creative people in the same building will produce exciting results. The update on the project is that it is still alive. The group submitted a grant application to the National Endowment for the Arts to do planning for the project. The city recently learned that the NEA wants a full proposal on the project. The city hasn’t committed itself to any financial participation in the project, but it has agreed to be the administer of the NEA grant, if one is awarded. The group, though, has gotten some key financial support. Longtime commercial landlord George Paley has agreed to donate the use of the vacant 23rd Street building — which is in the underpass area across from Haskell Indian Nation’s University — for the project.
• As previously reported, a California-based telecommunications company wants to put up some antenna-like devices in West Lawrence to boost wireless phone coverage in the area. City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday are expected to finalize the agreement that will also NextG Networks to do so. The city and the company have agreed to a franchise agreement that will allow the company to use city right-of-way in exchange for the city receiving a piece of the company’s Lawrence revenues. The franchise agreement calls for the city to receive 5 percent of the company’s gross revenues, and the city will receive $500 per year for every city light pole or traffic signal pole the company uses for its equipment. As part of the deal, the city also will get use of two strands of fiber optic cable for its future communication needs. The franchise agreement also provides a more detailed description of where the company will install its fiber optic cables and its antennas. The installation will begin at an existing cellular tower at 31st and Nieder and then proceed north along Iowa to 25th Street. It then will travel west to Lawrence Avenue, north to Clinton Parkway, west to Kasold Drive, and then to 22nd Street, ending at Heatherwood. As far as what these things may look like, you can see some pictures from other communities here.
• No, Lawrence isn’t the oil capital of the Midwest or even Kansas, but thanks to some of the engineering talent at KU and the Kansas Geological Survey on West Campus, there are some oil industry businesses in the city. One of them is getting a little more visible. Improved Hydrocarbon Recovery, LLC has rented new office space in the building at 901 Ky. The company is a consulting firm that helps drillers figure out new ways to go after oil and natural gas. Martin Dubois, a former employee at the Geological Survey, owns the company. He’s had it based out of his home for several years, but moved to an office space after hiring a new geologist to help with a growing workload.
The company is an example of the type of economic development activity that Lawrence seems well suited for, but often doesn’t receive a lot of attention from the public. Dubois said Lawrence is well-situated to be a town for professional types of businesses that do business elsewhere because Kansas City International Airport is an easy drive from Lawrence. Plus, the university provides new talent for consulting companies, and often the companies are run by former professors or university types.
Allison Vance Moore of the Lawrence office of Colliers International, served as a broker on the office deal.
• While on real estate matters, I also hear that the Hobbs Taylor Lofts building at Eighth and New Hampshire Street is getting a little closer to full. Moore confirmed to me that an existing Lawrence law firm has agreed to take 3,000 square feet of space on the building’s second floor. That will completely fill the second floor space of the building, which houses condos, offices and, it is hoped, retail in the future. Much of the ground floor space is still vacant. Moore said the owners of the project would like retail on the ground floor but also are open to office uses. Moore could not yet release the name of the law firm that is moving to the space. If I crack the case, I’ll let you know.