Archive for Thursday, June 28, 2012

Town Talk: New Census estimates show Lawrence still growing a little less than 1 percent a year; Panera Bread set to expand; skatepark improvements wrapping up

June 28, 2012, 9:58 a.m. Updated June 28, 2012, 2:14 p.m.


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News and notes from around town:

• When it comes to population growth, this much can be said about Lawrence: It is just part of the pack anymore, but at least it’s not Topeka.

The U.S. Census Bureau this morning released its latest population estimates for cities, and Lawrence was like a host of other communities in the area. It has had about 1 percent annual population growth since the 2010 Census.

Here’s a quick look at a short list of area cities and towns. The population total is the Census Bureau’s best estimate of how many people lived in the city on July 1, 2011. (Yes, it includes students, even if they moved home for the summer.) The numbers in parentheses indicate how many new people have been added to the population since the Census count, which was on April 1, 2010. The percentage listed is the annual growth rate.

— Lawrence - 88,727 (1,084, 0.98 percent)

— Eudora - 6,217 (81, 1.05 percent)

— Baldwin City - 4,569 (54, 0.95 percent)

— Lecompton - 632 (7, 0.89 percent)

— Olathe - 127,907 (2,035, 1.29 percent)

— Manhattan - 53,678 (1,397, 2.13 percent)

— Tonganoxie - 5,065 (69, 1.10 percent)

— Topeka - 128,188 (715, 0.44 percent)

A few things stand out from the list.

  1. Not much has changed for Lawrence since the 2010 Census. Lawrence’s annual growth rate from that Census was right at about 0.9 percent.
  2. The Census Bureau still says we have quite a bit fewer people than the city of Lawrence estimated. City planners were estimating that in 2010 we had 91,464 people. The Census Bureau is still looking for those folks.
  3. Manhattan is what we thought we were going to be. It is the standout in terms of population growth. In the early 2000s, that was the role Lawrence was expected to play. Back then, Lawrence officials were predicting an annual growth rate of 2.2 to 2.7 percent. Now, they have backed their projections off to 1.5 percent. As the numbers show, we still have a ways to get there.
  4. We’re still not Topeka. The Capital City has gotten some positive attention from Lawrence leaders for its economic development efforts, but it is still struggling to grow much on the population front. Even though Lawrence has slowed down considerably from its heyday, it is still growing at a rate twice that of Topeka.

I’ll play around with these numbers more, and create some additional lists for you later in the day. As many of you know, I like numbers. I’ve gotten a kick out of the population numbers because they have kind of fueled a mystery. Just how many people do live here?

I’ve heard several people say it is important for the city to get that figured out. Is the Census Bureau right or are the city’s planning estimates right. Figuring it out is more than just an academic exercise. The city is trying to figure the right time to build a $55 million sewer treatment plant. It would like to have the plant online near the time the city reaches a population of 105,000 people. City leaders certainly don’t want to be late on that, but they don’t want to be early on it by a decade either.

That could happen. Consider this: If the Census Bureau’s numbers are right, and we continue to grow at a little less than 1 percent a year, it will take 18 years for the city to grow to 105,000 people. The city’s recently completed sewer study is projecting Lawrence will reach 105,000 people in just six years.

That’s a big difference with big money on the line.

• There is one place where growth is easier to predict. Panera Bread Company at 520 W. 23rd Street is on the verge of expanding.

An employee at the restaurant confirmed Panera will temporarily close on July 2 to begin an expansion into the GNC space that is next door. An employee at the GNC space confirmed it is moving into a vacant space next door that used to house a hair salon.

The musical chairs will cause both businesses to be closed for awhile. Panera is hoping to re-open by early August. The same goes for GNC.

As for what Panera plans to do with the extra space, I’m not sure there. Company officials weren’t quite ready to go into details about how the new store will be different, but I’m hoping to get an update soon.

UPDATE: Eric Cole, a vice president with the franchise that owns the Lawrence Panera Bread, told me this afternoon the changes mainly will be to expand the dining area of the store.

Cole said the store is temporarily closing because it will involve entire remodel of both the interior and exterior.

"It won't look anything like it looks today," Cole said. "It is a brand new design package for Panera."

He said to expect lots of dark hardwoods, new color schemes and "warm" artwork, in addition to a new building facade.

He hopes to have the store open by Aug. 2.

• If you are like me and population estimates and bread bowls both produce spikes in your adrenaline levels, then perhaps you will want to visit the city’s two new renovated skate parks to burn some of it off.

City officials have announced major renovations to the Centennial Skate Park and the Deerfield Skate Park are basically complete. The city next week will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony to highlight the improvements — which include new surfaces and several new ramps and trick riding areas.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 5:30 p.m. on Monday at the Centennial Skate Park 600 Rockledge Road.


JackMcKee 5 years, 3 months ago

Thank your "leaders" of the last 15 years for the fact that Lawrence stopped growing. Lawrence is now the place people want to visit, but not live. How can a town so full of smart people keep electing the same idiots to City Commissioner spots and retain a moron like Corliss. It's time to clean house. If you see a name associated with the MT/library run them out of city government.

average 5 years, 3 months ago

Um, we're growing faster than the state of Kansas (0.7%) and exactly as fast as the US as a whole (1%).

How fast do you think we should be growing? And why should we expect it to be much different from those national trends?

JackMcKee 5 years, 3 months ago

Manhattan is leaving Lawrence in the dust. Of course, Manhattan isn't run by a bunch of nitwits.

average 5 years, 3 months ago

Well, yeah. Manhattan/JC are getting the fruits of some fairly intense 'economic stimulus spending'. Of course, that could dry up any day.

Tongie and Eudora's growth rate are within statistical noise of being the same as Lawrence's (and the nation's). Leaving, yes, Olathe is growing faster than Lawrence. Check. Meh.

I hear that years of rampant 5% growth rates have turned out exceptionally well for Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Tampa.

JackMcKee 5 years, 3 months ago

Olathe and Eudora also beat Lawrence. Places that the refined artistic Lawrence types stick their noses up at. Nope, Lawrence needs a new direction.

JackMcKee 5 years, 3 months ago

And of course, more apartments is the answer. Nothing gets people to want to live in a community more than tons of flipping apartment dwellers. I'm so glad I invested in a nice home in this city.

Mark Kostner 5 years, 3 months ago

In this economy Lawrence is lucky that it grew at all and not shrunk. Students are still going to KU despite the economy and that's been fortunate. Business is tough and in a lot of places empty storefronts abound. If Lawrence is growing it's doing quite well. If we ever emerge from the Great Recession Lawrence will boom again. It's the kind of place people want to be.

JackMcKee 5 years, 3 months ago

Sometimes I wonder if people who post here even have the first clue about what's going on in the world.

Lawrence is not going to grow. Just a few reasons.

  1. no good jobs
  2. high taxes
  3. declining KU enrollment
  4. high cost of living relative to surrounding areas
  5. poor shopping
  6. bad city leadership
  7. high cost of fuel for commuting

JackMcKee 5 years, 3 months ago

and an entertainment district ain't changing any of that

matthew2600 5 years, 3 months ago

and the solution is commenting five times on every story for no reason

JackMcKee 5 years, 3 months ago

Like I've said before, attracting high growth, good paying jobs, aka the tech indistry to Lawrence. The focus of city "leaders" is stuck on development. Blame Fritzel, Compton, the whole lot. The things that paid off for Lawrence 20 years ago simply aren't there anymore. Repeatedly trying to recreate that boom is insanity. We have a serious problem with group think in this city. The same people have been making policy for too long.

JackMcKee 5 years, 3 months ago

Just as an example, I liked the idea someone posted about attracting wind turbine manufacturing to the Farmland site. That made a lot more sense than the idea, I assume it was Cromwell's, to put a solar/poo power plant on the site. Cromwell is just an idiot that married into wealth, not much different than the Kansas Governor.

Jean Robart 5 years, 3 months ago

LOVE Panera Bread and looking forward to seeing their new and improved store. Glad to see they're expanding the dining area--it is no cramped now.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

Ah, the growth fetish.

For the vast majority of folks, there is nothing to be gained from a growing population. A shrinking population presents the problems of fewer people having to maintain infrastructure built for a larger population. But population growth is really only essential for certain business interests whose business model is essentially a Ponzi scheme.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 2 months ago

I would love Panera's expansion to include expanding the amount of fresh baked bread made daily. The last three times I have attempted to buy a loaf of sourdough I have been told "sorry, we're out for the day". Typically this has been around noon each time. It seems like simple economics-if there is a demand for goods that you can't meet, you're leaving money on the table. Not a big deal in the realm of worldly problems but a frustration that should be easily fixable by good restaurant management

KU_cynic 5 years, 2 months ago

Lawrence has transitioned from a town in which population growth drove expansion of the tax base and resultant government spending to a city where government bureaucrats (Corliss), developers, and myopic do-gooders (supporters of the eMT, new library, rec center, etc.) now expand government spending and "investment" in the hope that population growth sufficient to pay for it will follow -- a risky "if we build it they will come" mentality. Lots of gambling with other people's money.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

The bus system and the expansion of the library were necessitated by population growth that's already happened (which also came with an increase in physical size, making a bus system essential for many, many residents.) This growth also means we could use a new rec center on the west side, but one on the scale of Holcomb or the E. Lawrence rec center, not the gargantuan monstrosity currently under consideration.

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