News and notes from around town:
• It is becoming clearer that those of you holding your breath for a Lowe’s near Sixth and Wakarusa likely are going to be rewarded only with a face the shade of blue similar to the Lowe’s logo.
Plans have been filed with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning office that will take off the market the site once proposed for a Lowe’s store.
Lawrence architect Paul Werner has filed a pair of rezoning requests that would allow apartments and a small neighborhood commercial retail center to be built on the property.
The site is at Sixth and Congressional, which is just west of the Wal-Mart at Sixth and Wakarusa. Werner told me the property is under contract for the apartment development, but his filing at City Hall didn’t provide details about who the developer is or how many apartments units are planned.
Details about the retail portion of the project also weren’t included in the rezoning application. But it certainly won’t accommodate a Lowe’s. The neighborhood commercial zoning designation is for smaller businesses — barber shops, coffee houses, cell phone stores and a long list of other businesses designed to attract customers from the immediate area.
In the total, the apartment/retail project will be a significant one for the intersection. The site already has zoning on it that was designed to accommodate a 310-unit retirement community. The new plans are requesting a more standard type of RM-24 apartment zoning for 10.8 acres on the site, which would allow for a more traditional apartment type of development.
The retail portion of the project would sit on 1 acre right at the northwest corner of Sixth and Congressional. The request marks the second retail request for the intersection in the last couple of months. Planners also are considering a request for a similar type of neighborhood commercial center at the southeast corner of Sixth and Congressional Streets.
It has taken a little while to develop, but it appears the power of Wal-Mart is starting to attract other businesses to the intersection. It will be interesting to see if other lots immediately adjacent to Wal-Mart start attracting more interest. Those are the lots that are designed to handle national chain restaurants or smaller footprint national retailers, such as the ones that surround Target on South Iowa Street.
But it looks like the idea of another big box store locating on that stretch of Sixth Street is done. The Sixth and Congressional site was generally viewed as the most likely location to attract a big box store in the near-term. If you remember, Lowe’s originally had wanted a site a farther east in the Bauer Farm development, kind of in front of Free State High. But city commissioners balked at that. Lowe's then moved the project to the Sixth and Congressional site, but by that time the economy had soured and Lowe's ended up backing away from the project in its entirety. But people connected with the site had been holding out hope that Lowe's would come back to the site.
It seems the current thinking is big box development on the west side of town will be made to go to the Sixth and SLT intersection. The intersection already has the zoning in place — on the northeast corner — for big box retail. And soon — on the northwest corner — it may have a regional “sports village” that city leaders and developers alike are hoping will bring more traffic to the now largely undeveloped area.
• Speaking of large national retailers, there’s a rumor out there that a national sporting goods chain other than Dick’s is interested in Lawrence.
I’ve heard from a couple of sources now that a sporting goods chain is interested in taking at least a portion of the former Sears building at 27th and Iowa streets. For quite awhile, I had heard Dick’s Sporting Goods was the most likely tenant. Now, I’m hearing another chain is very much in the picture when it comes to the Lawrence market. Whether it is at the Sears location or not, I don’t know.
This is all just a rumor, so take it for whatever you think it is worth. Neither source had a name for me, but I’ve heard otherwise that Hibbett Sports has been interested in the Lawrence market for quite some time. I’ve never been to a Hibbett, but according to the company’s website, it has about 800 stores in 26 states. It looks like the store has a heavy emphasis on footwear and apparel but also has a pretty large selection of gear for baseball, basketball, football and soccer.
The company does have several stores in Kansas, including Topeka, Olathe, Manhattan, Salina and Emporia.
• Another week, another set of land transfers from the Douglas County Register of Deeds office. Click here to see the full list for the week ending June 18.
The weekly transfers does have one interesting retail-related note. As we have been reporting for quite some time, there is a deal in the works to add a new retail/restaurant site to the parking lot of the Wal-Mart on South Iowa Street. Well, it looks like that deal is becoming a surer thing all the time. The land transfers include a property sale from Wal-Mart to Iowa 33 LLC, which appears to be a group controlled by the R.H. Johnson commercial real estate firm out of Kansas City. So, the sale doesn’t provide any clues as to what businesses may be locating in the spot.
Also of note is a land acquisition made by Lawrence Memorial Hospital. It appears the hospital is continuing its practice of buying residential property near the hospital as it become available. The listings show Lawrence Memorial Hospital has purchased the house at 302 Mich. St. from Joe and Gina Keating. The house, it appears, is immediately adjacent to an LMH parking lot.
I don’t believe it has anything to do with this purchase, but LMH did recently file plans at City Hall to do about $150,000 worth of parking lot improvements. Some of the improvements are at the lot north of Fourth Street between Michigan and Arkansas streets. Plans call for removal of six parking islands, rebuilding three islands and restripping the lot. The design anticipates the lot will grow from 55 stalls to about 85 stalls. The hospital has filed plans to add 29 parking spaces along Arkansas Street. The hospital has the ability to add spaces along Arkansas Street because it actually got that portion of the street vacated several years ago in order to give the hospital more flexibility with parking. The project will include a new sidewalk for the area.