Archive for Friday, February 24, 2012

Town Talk: Plans filed to add new retailers next to Walmart on South Iowa; homeless shelter seeks $200,000 of annual funding from city, county; former Lawrence radio host lands gig in San Diego

February 24, 2012


News and notes from around town:

• Something interesting is brewing on South Iowa Street that apparently will bring a pair of new retailers to the area. Which retailers, though, is still a mystery.

Plans have been filed at Lawrence City Hall to build a 5,600-square-foot retail building basically in a portion of the Wal-Mart parking lot that fronts Iowa Street. I believe it will be in the portion of the parking lot closest to 33rd and Iowa street, but let me double-check that because my notes have gotten a little cloudy on that point.

Regardless, it appears the building is set to accommodate two retailers. The plans didn’t list any tenants, but one of the spaces is designed to have a patio, which suggests some type of food service.

Officials with the Kansas City commercial real estate firm R.H. Johnson & Co. are involved in the deal. That’s one of the more interesting parts of this. R.H. Johnson & Co. is the company involved in buying the Golf USA building on the northeast corner of 33rd and Iowa streets, and then immediately had struck a deal to bring in Mattress Firm to the site. Perhaps, R.H. Johnson & Co. has had several national retailers express interest in the South Iowa corridor. As far who, though, I don’t have a clue. I could have guessed for 10 years and never come up with the name Mattress Firm. I’ve got a call into a broker at R.H. Johnson & Co. If I hear something, I’ll you know.

But couple this with the reports that I hear the Sears building is receiving very strong interest, and it appears South Iowa retail has some momentum. Even with the loss of Old Navy, I’m hearing that shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a negative. I’ve heard that Old Navy has been decreasing the size of its stores in many markets. Perhaps, I’m told, Old Navy asked for some type of concession from its landlord, given that it had more space than it really felt like it needed. My understanding is the landlord, however, wasn’t interested in that because it had multiple other parties interested in locating on South Iowa Street.

Anyway, let the guessing games begin.

• As you well know, the Lawrence Community Shelter has completed its public fundraising campaign to build its new homeless shelter, which will be out by the Douglas County Jail in eastern Lawrence.

But there is still the matter of running the shelter once it is completed, and shelter leaders are now asking for new funding from both the city and the county. The shelter has submitted a request seeking $100,000 from both the city and the county. Shelter leaders want the two groups to make a special, unbudgeted appropriation for 2012, and then they would like the funding included in future annual budgets of the city and the county.

The shelter has submitted a projection that estimates it will have a $97,500 operating loss in 2012, if the city and county funding isn’t received. In case you are wondering, the organization has an operating budget of about $727,000 per year. The organization has accumulated some reserve funds over the years, but the letter indicates those are being used to renovate the shelter’s new building. The shelter estimates it will receive about $125,000 in donations from individuals that will go toward funding operating expenses. It also receives $20,000 from fundraisers like its Chocolate & Tea event, $40,000 from the United Way, and $18,000 from religious entities.

The shelter does currently receive operational assistance from the city and the county. The county is budgeted to provide about $15,000 for operating expenses in 2012, according to the shelter’s budget. Looking at the city’s 2012 budget, about $57,000 in general fund money is slated to go to the shelter and another $36,000 from alcohol tax revenues the city collects. The shelter also receives about $35,000 in Community Development Block Grant money, which is federal money but is administered by the city.

How much of the projected shortfall is the result of increased operational expenses that come with a larger building isn’t clear, especially since the organization won’t be in the new building until later this year. But shelter leaders are emphasizing that the true reason for the increased costs are the rising numbers of individuals and, particularly, families in homelessness.

Shelter leaders said in 2009 they served 629 individuals, 14 families and 24 children. By 2011 those numbers had grown to 685 individuals, 44 families and 75 children.

City commissioners will formally receive the request at their meeting on Tuesday, but they're not expected to act upon it. Instead, they'll ask staff members to prepare a report.

• For those of you wanting to keep up with a one-time Lawrence voice, there is news about Chris Merrill, the former talk-radio host on Lawrence’s KLWN. About a year ago, Merrill left KLWN to take a high-profile radio gig on KMBZ radio in Kansas City. Well, the Kansas City blog Bottom Line Communications, along with other radio trade publications, is reporting that Merrill will be leaving KMBZ to take over a talk radio program in San Diego on the KOGO station. If I’m reading the blog correctly, it appears Merrill will continue to do his KMBZ show, from San Diego, for the next four to six weeks while a replacement is found.

Who would have thought that one of the things Lawrence would have produced is a conservative talk radio host?


Hooligan_016 6 years, 2 months ago

It will be interesting to see what the proposal is ... but using that (currently and pretty much always unused) parking area is definitely a positive.

Alceste 6 years, 2 months ago

Where is the KU school of social welfare with respect to providing support and "leadership" to the homeless shelter's funding needs? Why are no acadamicians working on obtaining grants using them fancy academic like things these people put after their names?

Are social workers, anymore, just a group of 2nd career losers looking for a cake walk and to push "the little people around"? No more community organizing or grant seeking and writing, eh? Funny how things work out.....

Scott Morgan 6 years, 2 months ago

The answer mi amigo is blowing in the wind, or check out Dillon's 23rd st customer service area . on the 2nd to 5th day of the month.

Govt. bennie days.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 2 months ago

Where is the KU school of social welfare with respect to providing support and "leadership" to the homeless shelter's funding needs

a few stay, most go.....

back home in Lenexa, Wichita suburbs, or Greater JOCO have babies, recollect how wrong they were while we in Douglas County deal with progressive social programs effecting the University enrollment, quality of schools, and property values.

How can anyone ask this question when Lawrence has become a well known freebee hangout for deadbeats.

honestone 6 years, 2 months ago

We have the give us more give us more give us more give us more give us more give us more money

no_thanks 6 years, 2 months ago

Just wait. The library, the Lawrence Community Theatre, the Lawrence Community Shelter, and many other entities that are expanding their operations will not be able to financially support the increase in overhead costs. These are fine organizations, but the decision to expand without the funds to support such expansion will be a drain on our tightening City/County Budget. But, maybe all the economic development activity resulting from the investment in Heritage tourism will provide enough money to cover the requests.

peartree 6 years, 1 month ago

Relatively speaking, 200K is the same as hiring 2 or 3 average city FTE (when you include taxes and benefits). Versus serving 600+ people, including lots of children? Not as much money as it seems.

seriouscat 6 years, 2 months ago

"in 2009 they served 629 individuals, 14 families and 24 children. By 2011 those numbers had grown to 685 individuals, 44 families and 75 children."

That's a 300 percent increase in the number of homeless kids. : (

hoshi 6 years, 2 months ago

San Diego is NOT liberal. It is quite conservative and has significant racial issues. He will fit in just nicely.

Jean1183 6 years, 2 months ago

"Annual funding"

Just as we said all along.


News_to_me 6 years, 2 months ago

I'm sure Mr. Merrill had some socially redeeming qualities, but his conservative venom coming over the airwaves was not among them. Tough to listen to, especially his endless rants about "the mustache bandit." In Lawrence, Kansas, he was a red pimple on the blue butt of society. Perhaps now, I can listen to the local radio station again.

News_to_me 6 years, 2 months ago

I haven't been able to listen to KLWN, so I have no opinion on Kim Murphree. But I do like cheeseburgers.

irvan moore 6 years, 2 months ago

wow, what a surprise, now loring wants even more money.

seriouscat 6 years, 2 months ago

Damn that Loring requesting more money for the increased homeless population!

Why doesn't he just ignore homeless people like I do! People who need help ought to be ashamed of themselves...destitute people in Japan have it right...

JackMcKee 6 years, 2 months ago

Please let it be a pizza place or Mexican joint.

rumor_man 6 years, 2 months ago

I've heard it's a Hooters. Don't they serve some of each?

Scott Morgan 6 years, 2 months ago

Owls are a protected species, Hooters can reside anywhere.

kernal 6 years, 2 months ago

Children should never have to live in a homeless shelter, but it's better they be with their parents in a local shelter than in a state run orphanage. I'm more than willing to step up to the plate and contribute for the Douglas County homeless, but I suspect only a minority of the people being sheltered here are actually Douglas County residents. Where are they coming from? Western KS, Kansas City? Out of state? Are their own communities unable to help or are there other reasons they've come to Lawrence? It's certainly not for jobs!

bornherelongago 6 years, 2 months ago

I'm pretty sure the shelter reported last year that over 80% of their guests are from Douglas County. I guess the rest are transients.

somebodynew 6 years, 2 months ago

And they get that number by asking them. What is the requirement to be called a Dg. Co. resident?? If they stay a week in a park then check into the shelter are they Dg Co residents?? My guess is yes for the shelter's purpose. It looks better when begging money from the governments.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 2 months ago

Yep, the habitual homeless know how to or better yet how not to answer questions. Living free without working does take some amount of brains. The dumb ones are in prison.

Don't think so, listen to the creative answers to do you want a sandwich when they beg for money.

My favorite is some version of no thanks sir, I need the money to............get to Kansas City....feed my sick wife, mother, car needs........for a long distance phone call about a job......

lunacydetector 6 years, 2 months ago

i was hoping a gas station with convenience store

LogicMan 6 years, 1 month ago

Since a gas station with alternate fuels was part of the original Walmart expansion plan, I second that!

Clara Westphal 6 years, 2 months ago

Loring is spending a lot of money on a few people. If they had given the money to these people by paying their bills directly to the utilities, landlord, etc., the 3 million plus would have gone a long ways.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 2 months ago

add booze store to the above list, it would save a great deal of street haggling just to open a homeless shelter account.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 2 months ago

Actually we could do a government surplus program for the Shelter getting rid of those awful Missouri and Kansas homegrown wines we all get for Christmas.

Solve two problems at the same time. Rid ourselves of bad wine, and keep the beggars off the street.

pace 6 years, 2 months ago

Then get congress to pass the job bill.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 2 months ago

One way to off set the daily costs would be to charge the guests a daily fee, say $3/night.

If there are perfectly able bodies at the shelter, bodies not in search of a daily fix then $3 is nothing.

LogicMan 6 years, 2 months ago

Any guesses about what restaurant needs about 2500 square feet and an outdoor seating area? And would be willing to locate in front of a Walmart?


Rae Hudspeth 6 years, 2 months ago

Doubtful. Fast food joints don't encourage hanging around having a smoke, which is the purpose of a patio. Liquor sales would be a given... Pollo Campero?

LogicMan 6 years, 2 months ago

Yet another mexican/hybrid joint? Let's hope not. We need variety, or failing that, a good old fashioned major chain fast food joint like KFC, Wendy's, etc. on south Iowa that serves lunch and dinner. That's what Walmart shoppers want too.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Further over building/flooding the markets is unfriendly to business no matter what. Taxpayers cannot afford any new retail that cannot pay its' own way 100%. For the next 50 years.

LogicMan 6 years, 1 month ago

"Taxpayers cannot afford any new retail that cannot pay its' own way 100%."

I don't see in the story where they are asking for tax breaks. So on that aspect, full speed ahead on these two new small buildings. A bonus to the city will be the increased property taxes paid on this parcel.

no_thanks 6 years, 1 month ago


Your broken record is getting old. Economic displacement, or as Schumpter calls it, creative destruction, occurs when an entrepreneur identifies a better way to bring products or services to market at a price that beats that of the competition. The building of space does not guarantee success, and thus does not necessarily displace anyone. Further, in case you are uninformed the developers bear the costs/risk for improving the ground (adding sewer, utilities, roads, etc...), not the City. And, the City is not having to add new policemen, firemen, or trash men to service the new retail space (of which the only new space I can think of is Bauer Farms). So, since taxpayers aren't on the hook for the building of retail space, why not change your banter, for which many would join you, in that taxpayers cannot afford many other social causes who decided to expand knowing full well that tax payers will be their back stop. This includes the Community Shelter, the Library, and Lawrence Community Theatre.

FlintlockRifle 6 years, 1 month ago

Best of luck Chris, you are a great neighbor, and will miss that booming voice at the cancer walks

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