News and notes from around town:
• Not everybody has given up on the idea of Lowe’s locating on the property just west of Wal-mart at Sixth and Wakarusa. Namely, the guy who has the property under contract still very much believes Lowe’s is interested in the community.
“We hope they’ll be back to the table in about a year,” said Nicholas Christifulli, a developer with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Vertical Holdings Company.
Christifulli stressed that he doesn’t yet have any deal in the works with Lowe’s, but he said getting the home improvement retailer on the site is still his main goal for the property.
If you remember, Lowe’s had filed for a rezoning of the property and the request was working its way through City Hall. But then in October the company announced it was indefinitely delaying plans for several stores across the country.
Christifulli said he’s been assured that the delay in Lawrence wasn’t related to the local market, but rather was just part of a larger corporate decision to re-evaluate expansion plans. Lowe’s now has a new director of real estate that is overseeing the area that includes Lawrence. Christifulli said he’s hopeful that Lowe’s will re-evaluate the Lawrence site in the near future.
“I don’t want people to get too excited because we don’t have a deal or anything, but I’m more optimistic about it than I have been in quite awhile,” Christifulli said.
The property, which is at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Congressional Drive, is zoned for an apartment complex/retirement community. But when that project fell apart, a regional bank took over ownership of the property. Christifulli has been working with the bank to redevelop the property for a big box retailer. Christifulli has been in the retail development business for about the last 25 years, and has developed about 23 million square feet of space in that time, he said.
So, take all of this for whatever you think it is worth. If you are in the retail development business, optimism is probably a requirement, but it seems like the site may be worth watching again.
• One national company definitely is showing an interest in Lawrence — or at least one Lawrence 3-year-old. Select bottles of Jones Soda have a label featuring the picture of Lawrence 3-year-old Cash McCoy. Seattle-based Jones Soda Company often runs a promotion where people can send in photos that they think should appear on the company’s soda bottle labels. A picture of Cash dressed in a variety of swim gear and holding a “super soaker” that is roughly the size of Texas was selected as a finalist. The picture was selected as the winner in an Internet contest last year, said Cash’s mother Amber Nickel.
Nickel hasn’t yet heard any official word from the soda company, but reports have surfaced that bottles with the Lawrence label on them have shown up for sale in parts of Canada. Thus far, none have shown up in Lawrence. If you want one, you’d be better be quick.
“Now is the time that I need to buy some stock in Jones Soda, because I have a suspicion we’ll be buying out our local retailers whenever they arrive,” Nickel said.
Nickel said she even plans to buy one case and save until Cash’s wedding day.
The photo was taken by area photographer Trina Baker. She’s been the one more in contact with the soda company. I’ve got a call into her, so perhaps she knows more information about when the bottles may arrive in Lawrence. I’ll let you know if I learn anything more.
In the meantime, Cash and Nickel (that sounds like a great cop show, by the way) are excited about the new found fame.
“I’ve been tickled pink by this,” Nickel said with a laugh. “I tell people Jones Soda today, Wheaties box tomorrow.”
• All you hipsters can grab a bottle of Jones and head on down to the Centennial skate park. As we have previously reported, the city has set aside about $125,000 to make improvements to the skate park. The process to spruce up the facility — which is located in Centennial Park near Sixth Street and Rockledge Road — will get started this week. The city on Tuesday will begin advertising for proposals from design firms interested in improving the park. The request for proposals makes its clear that repairing the old and cracking pavement is the No. 1 goal, but the city also expects its $125,000 to be enough to make some improvements to the ramps, jumps and other pieces of equipment at the park. The city also is asking any design firm to submit ideas for future phases of development of the park.
Proposals from design firms are due by mid-February, and the city hopes to have the project completed by May.
• Speaking of hipsters, you cool cats who actually have working radios in your car (the one in the F-150 has been broken for about two years now) may have noticed a change in the city’s radio scene. 105.9 The Lazer is no longer the Lazer. Instead, it is now known as 105.9 KISS-FM. According to the industry Web site Radio Insight, the station will continue to have a non-local host in the morning with Kidd Kraddick. The station continues to be owned by Great Plains Media. I’m not sure what type of music changes are on tap for the station, but according to Radio Insight, mid-day D.J. Beth B. will be moving over to Great Plains’ sister station Bull 92.9 and the mid-day D.J. for the Bull, Amber Lee, PD will be taking over the mid-day spot on KISS.
The changes come after Great Plains — which is based out of Cape Girardeau, Mo. — recently installed a new general manager for its Kansas stations. The Web site Radio-Info.com reports that Jay Wachs, a former sales director for a group of stations in Austin, took over in December as general manager for 105.9, 92.9 and 1320 KLWN.
UPDATE 11:10 a.m.: I just got off the phone with Jim Marchiony at KU Athletics, and he confirmed that the swtich-over at 105.9 did disrupt KU men's basketball coverage on Saturday. And it may impact tonight's game coverage as well. What happened is that 105.9 is running 105 hours of commercial free music as part of its new station launch. That apparently, Marchiony said, caused 105.9 to push the KU men's basketball game against Texas over to its sister station 92.9. Marchiony said the move caught KU officials by surprise.
"They do need to get permission from us for issues like that, and we're in the process of working that out right now," Marchiony said.
Marchiony said his office also is working to figure out whether tonight's game against Texas A&M; will be broadcast on 105.9 or on 92.9. Marchiony said KU's preference is for the game to be on its longtime home of 105.9.
Regardless, Marchiony said once this commercial-free promotion ends at the radio station, he expects the KU games to return to 105.9.
I've got a call into the new general manager at the radio station to find out more. I'll update you when I hear more.
UPDATE: 11:35 a.m.: Well, the situation has changed some. Jim Marchiony at KU Athletics just called me back and said he misspoke earlier. The game on Saturday was not broadcast on 92.9 FM. In other words, the Lawrence radio station that is part of the Jayhawk Radio Network didn't play the game on either one of its FM stations. (I assume the game was on its AM station KLWN 1320.) Marchiony said he doesn't know yet whether tonight's game will be on either FM station.
"I think they are thinking about putting it on 92.9, but that is still being talked about," Marchiony said. "That is not a done deal."
Marchiony said KU officials were caught off guard by the change. He said KU Athletics absolutely believes it is important that KU men's basketball games be broadcast on an FM station in the Lawrence market.
"We didn't know anything about this until the middle of the game on Saturday," Marchiony said. "A little advanced communication would have helped us a lot. But we'll work through it."
I still haven't gotten a call back from the folks at 105.9. Marchiony has said he'll let us know about the plans for tonight's radio coverage as soon as he knows. In the meantime, here's a list of all the radio stations that are part of the Jayhawk Radio Network.
UPDATE 12:30 p.m.: This just in from Jim Marchiony at KU Athletics: The KU men's basketball game tonight will be broadcast on 105.9 on the FM dial. Marchiony said he's been told by Great Plains Media — the company that owns 105.9 — that all future KU men's games also will be broadcast on that station.