News and notes from around town:
• Add another $1.4 million onto the total renovations that will take place in the Lawrence Auto Plaza along South Iowa Street.
Briggs Automotive has filed plans at City Hall to undertake a $1.4 million expansion and renovation of the building that currently houses its Nissan dealership at 2300 and 2320 W. 29th Terrace. When the renovation is complete — likely by the end of the year — the new building will no longer house Nissan but rather will be the new home for the Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep/Ram dealership.
As we’ve previously reported, the Nissan dealership will be taking over the prime spot along South Iowa Street that for years has housed the Chrysler dealership.
Plans already have been filed to construct a new dealership building on that site, but work won’t begin on that building until renovations are made to the new Dodge building.
Plans for new buildings, though, aren’t the only thing on the horizon for the Lawrence Auto Plaza. Perhaps you remember, a wind turbine also may be gaining a place on the horizon.
Briggs officials in February put forth a plan to build a 75-foot-tall wind turbine in the center of the auto plaza. The turbine would tie into several electric car charging stations that will be part of the new Nissian dealership. City commissioners expressed support for the idea, but we’ll have to wait and see whether the wind turbine actually happens.
David Hamby, an engineer with Lawrence’s BG Consultants, told me they’re still working with city planners on the idea, but he said several questions had come up that he and planners are trying to work through.
Hamby and Briggs officials have been spending more of their time trying to work with the Kansas Department of Transportation on a plan to allow vehicles to be displayed closer to Iowa Street, which is also U.S. Highway 59.
The plans presented in February called for about 20 vehicles to be displayed in the right-of-way along Iowa Street to make the Auto Plaza more visible. The cars would be parked in the stretch of green space that is between Iowa Street and the frontage road that leads to the Auto Plaza.
Now, Hamby said, officials with Laird Noller Hyunadai — which has its dealership along Iowa Street on the northern edge of the Auto Plaza — also wants the ability to display cars between the frontage road and Iowa Street. That means there would be quite a few more vehicles than 20 parked along Iowa Street. In total, three dealerships likely would have vehicles displayed along what was once Iowa Street right-of-way — Briggs, Ellena Honda and Noller Hyundai.
Hamby said KDOT has expressed a willingness to relinquish the right of way (I guess a major widening of Iowa Street isn’t seen as very likely in the future), but the state wants to be paid for the right of way.
Hamby said the property currently is being appraised so negotiations can begin.
• Should I be worried that the credit cards in my wife’s purse seem to be smoldering? Maybe that is just the norm right now because Lawrence retail sales totals are continuing on a steady march upward.
A new report from City Hall confirms retail sales have increased for an eighth straight month compared to the same month a year ago.
In fact, the report indicates retail sales for the latest period were up an impressive 7.6 percent compared to the same time period from a year ago. The report represents the April sales tax distribution for the city, but because of the lag time in reporting sales tax, the numbers reflect sales that were made in from late February to mid-March.
May’s distribution should be an interesting one because it will catch a lot of the sales made during KU’s National Championship run. (Perhaps some of these numbers reflect that too. It is an inexact science interpreting these numbers because it largely depends on how quickly retailers send in their sales tax reports.)
Regardless, 2012 is off to a good start on the retail front. Through the first four months of the year, retailers in Lawrence have logged $442.4 million in sales. That’s an increase of 4.7 percent or about an additional $20.1 million in sales during the four month period.
Even once adjusted for inflation, the new numbers show 2012 retail sales are off to their best start since 2009. Here’s a look at the sales totals for the last five years. The numbers in parentheses are the sales in 2012 dollars. In other words, I’ve adjusted the sales totals for inflation.
— 2012: $442.4 million ($442.4 million)
— 2011: $422.3 million ($431.9 million)
— 2010: $406.2 million ($428.6 million)
— 2009: $421..4 million ($452.0 million)
— 2008: $421.1 million ($450.0 million)
— 2007: $401.9 million ($445.9 million)
— 2006: $403.1 million ($460.1 million)
• Double the fun. Town Talk got so full last week that I didn’t get in the weekly land transfers. So, brace yourself, you get two for the price of one today. Click here to see a list of land transfers as recorded by the Douglas County Register of Deeds for the last two weeks.