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?