South Lawrence may soon have a new landmark.
Lawrence city commissioners unanimously expressed support for a proposal by the Briggs Auto Group to build a 75-foot-tall wind turbine in the center of the Lawrence Auto Plaza near 31st and Iowa streets.
The plan also calls for parking about 20 vehicles in the right-of-way along Iowa Street to make the Auto Plaza more visible to potential car buyers. The project is expected to attract attention beyond even Iowa Street.
“Lawrence will get national attention from this development,” said Russ Briggs, owner of Briggs Auto Group.
The project will include a new multimillion-dollar showroom for Nissan, which will be along Iowa Street near where the Chrysler dealership is currently located. Briggs said the project also will include a new Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep showroom on the site of the current Nissan location, which is on the western edge of the Auto Plaza. Briggs said the Nissan Corporation is providing significant funding for the project, which will help promote their new line of electric cars.
The wind turbine will be used to generate a portion of the electricity for Briggs’ property, including six electric charging stations that will be installed at the Nissan dealership.
Commissioners on a 5-0 vote directed staff to continue working with Briggs, but the project will have several more steps before it can be finalized.
Planning Director Scott McCullough said the city and Briggs will have to have discussions with the Kansas Department of Transportation about displaying cars along Iowa Street. The project calls for cars to be parked in the current stretch of green space that is between Iowa Street and the frontage road that runs along Iowa Street in front of the Auto Plaza.
The city is uncertain whether KDOT or the city controls that stretch of green space. The project also will require converting West 29th Terrace, which runs down the center of the Auto Plaza from a public street to a private street. That will allow vehicles to be parked in the median of the street, and also perhaps will allow for signs to be hung from street light poles.
Commissioners said they were more comfortable privatizing the street — as long as agreements are in place that ensures the public can still use the road — rather than creating the precedent that city median could be used for commercial purposes.
Commissioners though were told that allowing the vehicles to be parked along Iowa Street likely will generate requests from other businesses that want to increase their visibility.
“While we applaud what Mr. Briggs and his company are doing, we do not want to have others forgotten in the process,” said Jane Eldredge, an attorney who represents several local businesses. “We would hope and expect to have similar treatment for those who follow.”
Briggs hopes to have the entire project completed by October of 2013.