News and notes from around town:
• When Old Navy closed its Lawrence store in January, it created a whole lot of speculation about what would replace it in the Pine Ridge Plaza near 33rd and Iowa streets. We speculated back then that Ross, a discount clothing retailer, was the leading candidate.
Come to find out, the speculation was right. Ross Dress for Less has filed a development plan at City Hall to revamp the front facade of the Old Navy building and to expand the store’s loading dock. (Should I be worried that my wife also has hired a contractor to expand our home’s loading dock, after hearing about this new store?)
An official with California-based Ross did not return a phone call, so I don’t have a projected opening date for the store. But the location — which is right next to Kohl’s — has all the necessary zoning and parking in place, so it is just waiting for an administrative approval from the city to start the construction. I would guess the store will be open by late summer.
As for what Ross is, well, it is new to Kansas. The company currently doesn’t have a store in Kansas, and also isn’t in the Kansas City Mo. market yet.
According to its Web site, it looks like the company is basically a discount department store. It advertises itself as offering savings of up to 75 percent compared to department store prices. It looks like the retailer has a heavy emphasis on clothing, some shoes, some home decor, and some accessory items for the kitchen and bath.
• News of a new place to shop in Lawrence sets off a certain type of celebration in my house, but I have to admit it is not quite as wild as the celebration Lawrence had when the Jayhawks reached the Final Four.
The trip to the National Championship game created much merriment, and also created a bunch of extra work for city employees. Everyone from police officers who provide crowd control to maintenance workers who did downtown cleanup got in on the action.
The city now has put together numbers on city expenses related to Final Four activities. In total, the city spent $179,786 on additional wages and supplies. Here’s a look at some of the specifics:
— Personnel costs: $147,772 in additional wages. Of that, $111,218 was paid to police officers who worked additional shifts. Fire and Medical employees received $25,782, although about $12,000 of that will be reimbursed by Kansas University to compensate the city for staffing the watch parties at Allen Fieldhouse. Parks and Recreation wages totaled an extra $5,874, while Public Works checked in at $4,898.
— Various equipment and supplies: $19,011.
— Vehicle costs, such as fuel: $5,515.
— Rentals of portable toilets for downtown: $4,745.
— Loss of flowers and shrubbery in downtown: $1,638.
— Additional landfill charges to get rid of all the trash from the downtown parties: $1,105.
We won’t really have a feel for the increased revenues the city sees from all the celebrations until sales tax and liquor drink tax reports for the time period are released in May.
But the city’s coffers will be rewarded nicely. In 2008 when the Jayhawks won the title, the city’s drink tax revenues — which comes from the 10 percent tax charged on liquor at bars and restaurants — increased by $270,000 for the year. The city’s sales tax collections also increased by $781,275 in 2008. Not all of those totals can be attributed directly to KU’s appearance in the Final Four, but I have no doubt the city will reap significantly more than the $180,000 it spent to supervise celebrations.
• One place where a party is not underway is at the Kansas Bioscience Authority. As has been well-reported, that organization is under fire from the Brownback administration. The turmoil surrounding the organization may end up having a very big impact on Lawrence.
As we have previously reported, plans are in the works for a $10 million expansion of the Bioscience and Technology Business Center incubator on KU’s West Campus. As expected, city commissioners on Tuesday formally agreed to give another $500,000 to the proposed expansion. That brings the city’s contribution to $1 million over the last two years. Douglas County also has made a 10-year pledge of $1 million for the project.
When the original incubator facility was built, the largest contributor of dollars to the project was the Kansas Bioscience Authority, giving about $7 million, I believe. When expansion talk first surfaced, the KBA was expected to be a major player in the funding again.
But last night Matt McClorey, the leader of the local center, told me he’s not sure that’s in the cards any longer.
“We have talked to the Bioscience Authority, and it is just unclear whether they are going to be able to participate,” McClorey said. “We’re going to have to work through where we can get additional funding.”
Kansas University is the most likely source, it would seem. KU was a major partner in the first incubator project, providing the land for the center and other assistance.
McClorey said he’s had some discussions with the university about providing a significant amount of funding for the project.
“I feel optimistic,” McClorey said. “No one can say with 100 percent certainty what will happen, but I know the university sees a lot of value in what we’re doing with the incubator project. I think they’ve been excited by the results.”
The incubator building on West Campus is fully leased at the moment, which is about two years ahead of projections. Currently, more than 75 technical-oriented jobs are located at the incubator center.
• McClorey also confirmed that Archers Daniel Midland has signed a lease to locate in the city-county bioscience expansion facility near Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. We had reported in October that ADM — a Fortune 500 company — was considering opening an office in Lawrence as part of its collaboration with KU’s Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, which has been studying ways to use biomass to create alternative fuels.
McClorey said ADM’s presence likely will start with a couple of employees, but could grow from there. The company is expected to move into its new space in July.