Archive for Monday, August 27, 2012

Town Talk: Plans filed for $5M apartment complex near Sixth and Wakarusa Wal-Mart; Dillons on Mass. seeks to park cars on grassy lot for another two weeks; The Merc buys its building at 9th and Iowa

August 27, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• What do you get when you have a vacant piece of ground next to a Wal-Mart on a busy state highway? In Lawrence, the answer is: More apartments.

As we’ve previously reported, an idea to build a Lowe’s on the property just west of the Sixth and Wakarusa Wal-Mart has fallen by the wayside.

That means the plans for the property revert back to what seems to have become the default answer in Lawrence: More apartments.

Plans are now in for at least one apartment development on the 18-acre site. Lawrence architect Paul Werner has filed plans with the city to build 88 two-bedroom apartments on the northern 6 acres of the site.

The $5 million project — dubbed Camson South — will consist mainly of two-story apartment buildings and a clubhouse.

There will be more apartments on the way. Werner tells me he is drawing up plans for 280 one-bedroom apartment units that will be on the southern part of the lot.

My understanding is that the two projects are being developed by different groups, but both are local development companies. No confirmation yet on which development groups are involved.

It would seem the new apartment project surely will help spur more business at the existing retailers near the Sixth and Wakarusa intersection. But the retailers may want to make sure they are geared up for apartment living (back in my day that would have meant futons, beer bottle art and, well, the supplies to create beer-bottle art).

In addition to the two apartment projects mentioned above, there are two other apartment developments already under construction (or concluding) in the northwest corner of the city. Work began in late 2008 on a $28.5 million project to build 108 one-bedroom apartments and 192 two-bedroom apartments along Sixth Street between Stoneridge and Queens.

Work also is underway on a $8.3 million project to build about 130 living units at 204 Eisenhower Drive, which is just north of Wal-Mart.

So, basically, in that short stretch between Stoneridge and Wakarusa, there soon will be 948 new living units hit the market. Yes, it is accurate to say that Lawrence is in the midst of another apartment boom — don’t forget there are about 1,000 living units slated for the former Gaslight mobile home park east of 31st and Iowa. Just think of the art possibilities.

• I’ll tell you what else is booming: Interest in the new Dillons store at 17th and Mass. If you went to its ribbon-cutting ceremony two weekends ago, you know what I’m talking about. The parking lot looked a lot like a slow-motion NASCAR race — lots and lots of cars going around in circles.

Well, interest must still be high because Dillons is asking to extend a city permit by two weeks that allows the company to park cars in a grassy lot south of the store.

Dillons has been using the grassy lot behind the Kwik Shop at 1846 Mass. for overflow parking for its employees and vendors. Originally that parking arrangement was set to end on Sunday, but now store officials want to extend it to Sept. 9.

Dillons previously has said the extra parking is needed during the store’s grand opening period because about 100 extra employees are expected to be on site during the busy period.

The new Dillons is unique for many reasons, but one of them is that the city did approve a smaller than normal parking lot for the store. During the store’s first day, that parking lot was swamped. But I drive by the location frequently, and I see quite a few parking spaces available during the day. But during those times the grassy lot is often full of vehicles and I’ve been told on-street parking on New Hampshire street — which runs behind the store — has increased significantly.

Based on what I’ve heard, Dillons doesn’t have any plans for making the grassy lot situation a more permanent solution. If you remember, Kwik Shop — which is owned by Dillons — has filed plans to build a new store on that grassy lot. Those plans are still on file at City Hall, and are currently being reviewed by city planners.

It will be interesting to see how the parking situation plays itself out once some of the new shine wears off the store. Early in the process of building the new store, Dillons officials were in negotiations with a local group to buy the small brick apartment building on New Hampshire Street that's adjacent to the store’s parking lot. That would have allowed for more parking. But those discussions fell apart. Right now, I think neighbors are happy enough to have a new modern store that they are willing to put up with some on-street parking on New Hampshire Street.

• Dillons, however, is not the only grocer in town that has exciting news. The Merc has completed a $1.7 million deal to buy the building that it has long rented at 901 Iowa St.

The locally operated natural foods and grocery cooperative bought the building from owners Sharon and Bill Elkins. The Merc had been renting the building since 2001.

“Ten years ago we couldn’t even dream of owning, but this shows that ambitious goals are possible,” said Rita York Hennecke, general manager of The Merc.

The purchase also includes the adjoining space that houses Alvin’s liquor store. Alvin’s will continue to operate the space and has a long-term lease for the property.

Now that The Merc owns the building, it plans to make improvements to the energy efficiency and environmental sustainability of the building. There’s no doubt that will remain a focus of the group. The current president of The Merc’s board of directors is Eileen Horn, who also is the sustainability coordinator for the city and county. She’s been making energy improvements at a host of public buildings around town.

The Merc plans to have a party this fall to celebrate the purchase.

The Merc purchase appeared to be the biggest commercial deal in the most recent list of weekly land transfers from the Douglas County Register of Deeds. But click here to see the complete list.


Hooligan_016 5 years, 10 months ago

Overbuilt on apartments as it is, but hopefully these will be connected to the surrounding area and promote some sort of walkability.

Orwell 5 years, 10 months ago

Sure – if the only place you want to go is WalMart.

Erin Graham 5 years, 10 months ago

Hey guys, you know what we need??? --More-- apartment complexes!!! Let's advertise them ALL to students, too! Jesus....

I just moved away from that nook of town. When my family and I first moved to that general area, it was quiet and well managed. By the time we moved, we may as well have been living at The Reserve... A lot of people move out that way to get away from the concentrated population of idiots. And they pay a hefty price every month to do so. In the past year, especially, it took a turn for the worse.

I know there are multiple companies managing properties in that part of town.. But if they're, collectively, having trouble managing what's already there, how the h*ll are they going to manage ~1000 more units?
I feel bad for the people who've actually bought their homes on Eisenhower Dr.

At least the construction for the one at 6th and Stoneridge looks pretty solid. As in, it's not one of the many complexes in town that were "built in a day". So I guess that's a plus?

joes_donuts 5 years, 10 months ago

That Lowe's the city turned down really looks good now. What did everyone expect when land zoned for apartments has apartments build on it (and the developer tried to get it approved for a Lowes and was denied)?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

There was only one proposal turned down, and it wasn't at the site discussed here. And it was turned down because it didn't meet the zoning conditions that were worked out with a wide variety of stakeholders, not just developers looking to make fast buck.

It was strictly Lowe's decision not to put a store at this site west of Wal-Mart, and that had nothing to do with what Lawrence did or didn't do.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 10 months ago

Menards stores aren't bad if you're doing small projects. They're like larger Ace Hardwares, so they lack some of the larger departments like Home Depot or Lowes. But they seem to do well up in Minnesota where I'm from.

joes_donuts 5 years, 10 months ago

City made exceptions for Dillons because they are a big corp., and now that intersection is going to turn into a nightmare for traffic and the neighborhood. They need to do something about the parking problem, and fast. As for the traffic problems, we are just going to have to live with it due to the awful design. Once again Scott McCullough leaves another nasty planning footprint.

Hooligan_016 5 years, 10 months ago

Traffic will decrease as the "newness" wears off. That particular Dillon's was designed as a neighborhood grocery store, it is not intended to cater to people driving from the other side of town.

It's so nice to be able to walk there and not have to fight my way through a ridiculous parking lot (like the old store)

guppypunkhead 5 years, 10 months ago

Family Video has been gone for years, and the big liquor store has been there for at least 2.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

"City made exceptions for Dillons because they are a big corp.,"

Lowes is a big corporation, too. Just sayin.

Jean Robart 5 years, 10 months ago

do they prohibit left turns out of the parking lot onto Mass St? They should

classclown 5 years, 10 months ago

Population of Lawrence, Ks - 87,643
Number of apartments in Lawrence, Ks - 103,875

mdlund0 5 years, 10 months ago

I wonder what that second number actually is. Or is that it? Any references? or do we the citizens need to go out and manually count?

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 10 months ago

What is the occupancy Rate for rental properties in Lawrence? If it isn't in the High 90's we Don't need another apartment complex.Enrollment at KU has gone Down. The population in Lawrence IS NOT rising. Very few jobs being created to bring in "Occupants". Another fabricated"loss'" so a developer can right it off as a tax Break.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

"What is the occupancy Rate for rental properties in Lawrence?"

Whatever it is, it's dropping fast.

hipper_than_hip 5 years, 10 months ago

As per the Planning Dept, the City doesn't track occupancy rates. Instead it relies on the market to decide whether building more apartments is a good idea or not.

irvan moore 5 years, 10 months ago

i wish they would build a new trailer park instead

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

Welcome to the worst planned city in the midwest.

My sympathies to those families who own homes on the Northwest section of Lawrence. You're getting it as bad as we are on the Southwest side. Soon you can look forward to a reduced diaper/baby supply aisle so Hyvee and Dillons can accomodate the Ramen Noodle cravings of students. Good news, though, in 5 years there will be a new apartment complex somewhere else that all the students will move to. The bad news, the 5 year old apartments will turn into slums.

Fire the planning commission.

mdlund0 5 years, 10 months ago

Not sure who is going to live in these apartments, but it likely won't be students. Students want to live near campus so they can get to class and reside in the campus atmosphere. Most are not interested in living as far as humanly possible away from it.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 10 months ago

True story. Except for Legends Place and the Grove, students don't live much farther west than Kasold. And the ones who do live out that way have money. Currently, there is no KU bus route that goes down 6th street or down 15th past Kasold. So you might get a few rich kids who don't care about the lack of fellow students. Personally, I feel awkward going past Monterey. Most of us are smart enough to realize that we don't belong in that part of town. So I cannot imagine that these apartments are for students. More likely they're for the young professionals that can't afford Johnson County but want the luxury condo. And JackMcKee, I don't think it's just students that impact the lack of products at Hy-Vee. That store on Clinton Parkway has hardly anything. You'll probably have better luck at the 6th street store, just saying.

Alceste 5 years, 10 months ago

Actually, what Lawrence needs are several more bars which sell beer, spirits, wine, and cereal malt beverage. Far too few across the board. The community must come together on this critical shortage.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 10 months ago

Kudos to the Merc and its Staff. I remember when they were a tiny store on 7th and Arkansas, I think. Then they were at 9th and Miss, where the Cork and Barrel is now. If you want to talk about a Local Success Story, There you Go. Great Job Guys! Keep up the good work.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

"I remember when they were a tiny store on 7th and Arkansas, I think."

Actually, between Alabama and Maine, on 7th.

Yes, a true success story to which many hundreds of people have contributed. As happens to all coops as they grow, the current membership of several thousand strains the applicability of the term "coop", but it's still a valuable asset to the community.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for the Location correction. It had been awhile. The concrete and Galvanized metal building really stuck in my mind. Someone said they were designed and built by Dan Rockhill. I have seen several of the houses he built here in Lawrence. Very Distinctive Architecture.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

Rockhill renovated the old Merc building, and built a new one on the corner lot to the east, where the Amazing Grains bakery used to be.

I'm not a big fan of Rockhill's design aesthetic, but I respect that architecture students get actual hands on experience in construction. It's amazing how many architects have no concept of what it takes to actually build something.

One of the oddest details on those buildings was the walls of the bathrooms that didn't extend to the floor. Maybe he was just trying to promote intimacy.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 10 months ago

Very Good! Thanks for the info!I agree with you on the aesthetic. A little too industrial.

George_Braziller 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm not a fan of Rockhill's designs either. I think the worst is the the horrific structures that went in around "The Enchanted Cottage" on Tennessee. It's been about 20 years since those were constructed and they still look like half finished farm outbuildings.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 10 months ago

A little to Industrial for my taste. I was being polite. It is His Style Though.

jafs 5 years, 10 months ago

Unfortunately, as they've grown, they've become much more of a high end health food store, and much less of a "co-op".

Frank A Janzen 5 years, 10 months ago

Initially the Merc was downtown in the area of 615 Mass., where Quinton's is now. Just a small coop. Then it moved to 7th Street, then to 9th and Miss, where Cork and Barrel is now.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

And I believe that it was in that building that the seeds were sown for what would eventually lead to or become Central Soyfoods and Wheatfields Bakery.

And Chuck Magerl (Free State Brewery) was also a member of the Merc management collective.

Loretta James 5 years, 10 months ago

turner use to sit on alley between alabama and missouri i think

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

As I noted above, it was between Alabama and Maine, and, yes, it was Turner grocery before it became the Merc (in 1978, I believe.)

FlintlockRifle 5 years, 10 months ago

Lowe's, would have been a lot better than more apartment to watch deteriate in a few years, look good for just short period of time, then down hill

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 10 months ago

Ask the city commissioners. It's not there job to protect business. Free market will determine which apartments will survive and which will become vacant eye sores. By the way where did the apartment numbers come from? I could use that information. Thanks class class clown. We had a Planning Comissioner who believed we should not build single family homes because our life styles were changing to apartments. But how many do we need to rent equal to a house payment?

Bob Forer 5 years, 10 months ago

More new apartments means increased vacancy rates for the older apartment complexes in town, which will lead to further neglect, deterioration and blight for those older buildings. Allowing the free market to control new apartment starts is absurd. Rents are high in Lawrence, which makes it very profitable to build new apartment units, as long as they attain full or near full occupancy rates, which they invariably are able to do, as renters would rather live in a brand new shinny apartment than a thirty year old one. The losers are the owners of the older apartment complexes, their residential neighbors, and the taxpayers. there is simply insufficient influx of students and new residents to support the additional units.

Scott Morgan 5 years, 10 months ago

The losers are we in the area. As other older apartments drop in rent and rentees, the area becomes less safe.

irvan moore 5 years, 10 months ago

the city commission goes after single family property owners with blighted property in residential areas but creates blight and crime in apartment complexes caused by overbuilding, like jack says, worst city commission ever

hipper_than_hip 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm thinking the city commission and planning commission take their marching orders from the city manager.

irvan moore 5 years, 10 months ago

i think in this case that might be backwards, corliss serves as city manager only as long as the commission wants him

jj14 5 years, 10 months ago

The parking at the new Dillons is HORRIBLE. I'm not talking about finding a parking place...I'm talking about the size of the driving lanes - WAY TOO SMALL. I have been to the new Dillons 4 times, (and have always found a parking place) and have seen TWO WRECKS - both were when people were simply backing out of their parking space and backed into a car parked behind them. It's too small, you can't maneuver. You can barely back out of your space without hitting cars behind you. When turning a corner lord help you if someone is coming the other way, you both can't fit. Someone has to reverse, and if there are people behind you, traffic jam. On Sunday it wasn't even that busy and they had a person "directing traffic" - I can only assume they are getting big time complaints about the small driving lanes.

Windemere 5 years, 10 months ago

Agree - even small cars are tough to drive in that lot. Not good.

gatekeeper 5 years, 10 months ago

Although the lanes are a little narrow, it's hard to believe that anyone that can use their mirrors and knows how to back up a car can't get out without hitting cars behind them. I've been to the new store a couple times and never had an issue with getting out of my space. One of the problems in Lawrence is too many young, inexperienced drivers.

Windemere 5 years, 10 months ago

So what do we think the apartment investors are thinking? Sure, maybe some renters will shift from older, less updated units to these new units (but surely the rents on the new units will be higher, reflecting that they are new construction). But some will decide they just can't afford it. Hard to imagine there will be a mass exodus from the the East/campus side to these new West side apartments. Maybe it will spur the owners of the somewhat rundown units to spiff them up a little. That may be a good thing. Perhaps some houses that are now split into apartments will be changed to (revert to) single family homes. Many people want older single family homes near campus.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 10 months ago

People in KCMO say they cannot afford to live in Lawrence,Kansas because wages in Lawrence suck. As gasoline prices rise commuting will begin to suck even more.

There is only about 68,000 permanent residents in Lawrence,Kansas so I'm told. The other 20,000 or so residents are part time and gone 3-4 months out of each year.

"It would seem the new apartment project surely will help spur more business at the existing retailers near the Sixth and Wakarusa intersection. But the retailers may want to make sure they are geared up for apartment living (back in my day that would have meant futons, beer bottle art and, well, the supplies to create beer-bottle art)."

Interesting perception. I say this constant over loading of the market is to present the facade that a lot more people are living in Lawrence which of course will be a lie. Why?

Well I say there are some real estate/developer types who are still trying to steal retail from Kansas City metro and Topeka. But as usual they get the cart before the horse.

Where are the jobs that can sustain one comfortably without food stamps and rental assistance? Here and there but are not considered readily available ever.

People in KCMO say they cannot afford to live in Lawrence because wages in Lawrence suck.

As usual the cart before the horse syndrome proceeds to spell wreckanomics for Lawrence, Kansas. Maybe we'll see some big local names seeking bankruptcy protection? A privilege the reckless development industry has that student loan holders do not have.

Baur Farms is a retail failure. Tanger Mall was retail failure. Riverfront Plaza was a retail failure. Lowes was a potential retail failure. The second Wal-Mart might be as well.

I say all of these millions of rental roof tops are to present the facade to "might be" new retailers that more than 68,000 permanent residents are in Lawrence,Kansas. Which might be viewed as fraud. No matter the appearance there are STILL only so many retail and rental dollars in Lawrence,Kansas.

People in KCMO say they cannot afford to live in Lawrence,Kansas because wages in Lawrence suck. As gasoline prices rise commuting will begin to suck even more.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 10 months ago

The very large problem in Lawrence,Kansas

What does the 9th and New Hampshire proposal teach us about out development controls?

Lawrence lacks proper development controls. The absence of proper controls prevents the City from reviewing major projects and allows developers to dictate the pace of growth. This is a mistake.

The problems with the 9th and New Hampshire proposal are a text book example of failed planning.

Quick history:

The City approved zoning on the 900 block of New Hampshire for the Downtown 2000 project. The Downtown 2000 project failed. It was supposed to pay for one-half of the New Hampshire Street parking garage. When the project failed, the taxpayers had to pick up the tab for the garage.

Despite the failure of the project, the zoning lives on at the site. This permits the developer to proceed with a hotel without normal planning review. If the developer wants to build a 3-story hotel and does not want subsidy, it can be built without planning review.

The proposed hotel never went through the Planning Commission and as such, the community at large and the neighborhood in particular was not given the opportunity to weigh in on the strengths and weaknesses of this project.

The only reason that the project is going before the City Commission is because it happens to be located adjacent to historic properties making it subject to review by the Historic Resources Commission (HRC), and the project failed to win HRC approval.

More educated food for thought:

jmadison 5 years, 10 months ago

Will the Merc building still be on the tax rolls? Is the Merc a non-profit entity with tax exemption status?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 10 months ago

We've subsidized local profiteers at such a basic level for so long, that many people believe the status quo is actually fair and neutral. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of local profiteers driving development.

But there is one consequence that usually goes unmentioned.... developers are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

msezdsit 5 years, 10 months ago

The Merc has completed a $1.7 million deal to buy the building that it has long rented at 901 Iowa St.

Maybe with this type of success some other whole food stores will come to town. The Merc desperately needs some competition. I have only lived here a short while but it seems like I've invested heavily in their building. To bad the place that opened on 23 street didn't make much of an effort to be viable competition to this place.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

Like it or not, their prices are already comparable to any further competition that might come to town.

msezdsit 5 years, 10 months ago

certainly hyvee and dillons aren't trying to compete on price. However, if there were competition, it might lead to more reasonable prices like it or not.

jafs 5 years, 10 months ago

Wild Oats was noticeably less expensive.

And, Natural Grocers on 23rd is also less expensive.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

"Wild Oats was noticeably less expensive."

When they first opened, they made a concerted effort to undercut the Merc, and since they could purchase at prices that were considerably lower than the Merc could, they did sell for less, for awhile. This was their MO-- move into a town with a coop or other natural foods store (often right across the street,) undercut them till they went out of business, and then jack their prices. But Merc customers were very loyal, and by the time WO left, their prices were more or less the same as what the Merc was charging.

I haven't been into Natural Grocers yet, but from what I hear, they have a number of loss leader items, but on most items they aren't any cheaper than the Merc, and have a much smaller selection of goods to offer.

jafs 5 years, 10 months ago

Since you haven't been there, and I shop there weekly, who's more likely to be right about this?

They do have a smaller selection, but their prices are noticeably lower on most items that I get there now, including peanut butter, bulk grains and legumes, etc.

If you're interested in saving money and still buying high quality healthy food, you might want to check them out.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

I'll check it out, but I've talked to a number of people who have reported what I said in my previous post.

jafs 5 years, 10 months ago

That I can't explain.

Everything I buy there is either the same or less expensive than the Merc, except of course when things are on sale.

And, NG has sales as well, of course.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

Aside from a few staples, mostly from the bulk section, I rarely buy anything that's not on sale.

I'll check out NG, but I expect I'll continue to buy from the two locally owned groceries, the Merc and Checkers, even if it does cost a few pennies more on some items.

msezdsit 5 years, 10 months ago

Agree jafs, I just wish they would have put in a larger store so they could carry more product. They seem to have decided that since there is usually a higher mark up on vitamins and supplements that they would emphasize this area over food items. They also should be able to be cheaper than the merc because they too, as did wild oats, buy at a much greater volume. However, I'm not sure that is much of factor do to shipping costs. The merc seemed to always preach about how much healthier their food was and how much they were just looking out for "your health" at the expense of their profit margins (as compared to more conventional grocery stores) Over the years their standards have moved in the direction of more conventional grocery stores ie, food coloring,tolerance for additives, packaging, marketing etc, than in the direction of a pure health food store. I guess they figured that was a way to survive one and be more profitable.The merc kinda traded away a lot of their advantages over the competition by trying to model themselves after the competition

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

HABA (health and beauty aids) and vitamins and supplements have the highest profit margins of any items these stores sell, by a wide margin, and they have almost indefinite shelf life, so I'm sure that's largely behind NG's decision on product mix-- that and the fact that I believe that this is their only store in this area.

There used to be a number of natural foods distributors, including two cooperative warehouses. Now there is really only one, United Natural Foods, Inc., This is the Merc's main distributor, and they also supply NG and are the main distributor for Whole Foods (who bought up Wild Oats a few years ago.)

jafs 5 years, 10 months ago

I can get virtually everything there that I used to buy at the Merc, and I kind of like the smaller size of the store.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 10 months ago

There is one consequence of helter skelter aimless growth that usually goes unmentioned by the local media,city hall and elected officials - local profiteers are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

Accountable Development When taxpayers' money is used to subsidize private business, companies must be held accountable for creating family-wage jobs and other benefits for the community. We research and promote best practices.

Corporate Subsidy Watch The worst subsidies are often special deals offered to single companies. Good Jobs First keeps an eye on corporations that frequently go to the public trough, and we critique the most egregious giveaways.

Green Jobs Economic development needs to be sustainable as well as accountable. We monitor government efforts to promote the creation of green jobs to make sure that these are also good jobs.

Smart Growth for Working Families Suburban sprawl – and the harm it causes cities and workers – is often brought about by subsidies. Learn how smart-growth alternatives can create better jobs, expand commuter options and make communities more liveable.


In the pages on each state and the District of Columbia reached by clicking on the map below, you will find essential information on subsidy practices and controversies. We hope this information will serve as ammunition for groups that are trying to make economic development more accountable and to prevent subsidy abuse.


CHEEZIT 5 years, 10 months ago

Where's the person who comes on here and says "If you don't like it, move!"?

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 10 months ago

The retreat from east to the mass numbers of relatively new, new, and being built has already started.

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