Lowe’s asks for indefinite deferral of request to build west Lawrence store

New lows in the economy may mean no Lowe’s for Lawrence.

The national home improvement retailer has asked for an “indefinite” deferral of its request to build a 145,000-square-foot store at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Congressional Drive.

Lawrence architect Paul Werner, who has been working with the Lowe’s on the site that is just west of the Walmart at Sixth and Wakarusa, said he’s not yet ready to declare the project dead. But he said he can’t say with certainty that it is going to move forward either.

“Lowe’s is following the economy like everyone else,” Werner said. “I think they want to get through the end of the year and then take another look at it.”

Werner said the corporate group for Lowe’s that studies new store openings met in late September — one day after one of the major declines in the stock market. The group then decided to pull back on the project. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Lawrence store was the only project the company put on hold or whether other projects also were delayed.

In recent weeks, questions have emerged about whether Lowe’s would seek a special taxing district or some other sort of public incentive for the project. Werner said it is his understanding that such incentives have become common for Lowe’s in other communities, but he does not think the incentive question was the key point in the decision to put the project on hold.

“Obviously, an incentive would help,” Werner said. “But I don’t think that is a big factor in this. I think it is more just corporate wanting to get through the end of the year and reassess.”

Lowe’s proposal marked the second time in the last year the company had an attempt to build in Lawrence. In late 2010, city commissioners rejected a plan by Lowe’s to build on a site near Sixth Street and Folks Road. But city commissioners had indicated they felt more positive about this new proposal, which would have moved the store farther away from Free State High School.