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?


FlintlockRifle 2 years, 1 month ago

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


Richard Heckler 2 years, 1 month 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.


uglyrumor 2 years, 1 month ago

People still listen to non-satellite radio?


LogicMan 2 years, 1 month 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?



geekin_topekan 2 years, 1 month 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.


Clara Westphal 2 years, 1 month 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.


lunacydetector 2 years, 1 month ago

i was hoping a gas station with convenience store


bornherelongago 2 years, 1 month 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.


kernal 2 years, 1 month 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!


JackMcKee 2 years, 1 month ago

Please let it be a pizza place or Mexican joint.


irvan moore 2 years, 1 month ago

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


News_to_me 2 years, 1 month 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.


Jean1183 2 years, 1 month ago

"Annual funding"

Just as we said all along.



consumer1 2 years, 1 month ago

There certainly is enough fodder happening in Lawrence to create a long list of conservative dialog.


FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 1 month ago

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

His experience with Berkeley of the Midwest Liberal Wheatbenders will make handling SD Liberalism a piece of cake.

Shout Air America!


seriouscat 2 years, 1 month 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. : (


honestone 2 years, 1 month ago

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


Alceste 2 years, 1 month 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.....


Hooligan_016 2 years, 1 month 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.


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