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Archive for Saturday, April 27, 2013

Simons’ Saturday Column: Menards again reveals city’s stunted retail thinking

April 27, 2013

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Here we go again.

Menards, a large home improvement company, wants to build a 190,000-square-foot store on West 31st Street, just east of the Home Depot store.

As soon as Menards officials announced their plans to enter the Lawrence market, the usual debate opened up about what stores should be allowed to build in Lawrence, where they should be located, whether the city was prepared to accommodate the store, whether the store would pose too much competition for other retailers, whether the salaries of employees would meet Lawrence’s requirements, whether a store (particularly one located on the south edge, or any edge, of town) would have a negative impact on the almost-sacred downtown Lawrence area and many other questions that raised concerns about allowing a new large business to enter the Lawrence market.

It’s happened time and time again in recent years, and Menards officials are likely to get the same cold shoulder other retailers have experienced.

The Menards situation comes at a time when sales and sales tax figures indicate Lawrence is not setting the retail world on fire. There also is a concern about the number of retail dollars being lost to the nearby Legends shopping area and stores in Johnson County and Topeka.

It’s interesting that various Lawrence officials claim to know far more about retailing than officials associated with highly successful national companies. Our local experts, with no cash on the line, seem to know more about the feasibility of a store in Lawrence than those who are making the costly investments. It would seem those staking their own money and careers on a project would have far more concern about the success of a store than Lawrence’s Monday morning quarterbacks, who base their rejections and analysis on their own negative reasoning.

Maybe one way to generate more retail sales and make Lawrence an even more attractive place to work, live, play and retire would be to have a wider selection of stores offering a wider variety of products at competitive prices.

In past years, the major argument used to refuse a Menards, or similar store, in the South Iowa Street area would have been to say it would hurt downtown Lawrence. Now, however, there are city commissioners, city officials and, apparently, planning officials who once fought hard to oppose such efforts but now are encouraging retailers and others to locate their businesses near the Rock Chalk Park development at the far northwest corner of the city.

Retail developments surrounding Rock Chalk Park are sure to drain sales from downtown Lawrence.

Some time, some way, Lawrence needs to get its act together on how the city is to expand its retail environment. Will city officials acknowledge that currently there isn’t the space “downtown” to handle current and future retail demands? Or maybe it would be wise to figure out a way to make downtown Lawrence more accommodating to some large retail operations.

The area currently is dominated by restaurants and bars, and it is unlikely the downtown “footprint” — bordered by the Kansas River on the north, South Park on the south and the Old West Lawrence and East Lawrence neighborhoods on the west and east — ever will be allowed to expand unless there is new thinking in City Hall.

There is no simple answer, but the city’s policies in recent years have been guided by questionable vision, questionable expertise, selfish business interests or political motives and have not presented a welcoming, enticing or favorable climate to encourage new industry, new retail and new residents.

Complacency or an attitude of “we don’t need to be cooperative with developers or competitive with other cities” has handicapped and stunted Lawrence’s growth.

Maybe the current Menards situation will open some eyes at City Hall and on the City Commission.

Comments

paisley 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I agree with Dolph on this also! This City is loosing it's appeal to many folks and businesses to boot. Wake up Lawrence! I stayed because it was a nice town...35 years ago. Not so much any more.

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workinghard 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Note to commissioners-take today's Menard ad and go to Home Depot and find those items at those prices. Go ahead, see what happens.

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jhawk1998 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Here, here! I agree. I am still upset that Lawrence rejected Whole foods and I will be shopping there in Topeka instead of close to home.

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Dan Blomgren 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Government get the hell out of the way! Let our economy run on its principles of unrestricted fair competition. I'm sure Menard's spent a ton of money on feasibility studies ensuring they could survive against Home Depot right next door before spending the money to build a 190,0000 sq ft store, and employing 250 people. The city seems more concerned about limiting commercial development saying the population isn't big enough to support it than they are concerned about growing the size of the city so that we can support it! With that type of thinking this city will never grow!

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oneeye_wilbur 11 months, 3 weeks ago

No one, not even Dolph complained about 2020 pan when Oread was down zoned and it was zoned for stuff according to 2020, now the uses got eliminated in 2006.

The only entity that prospered was Fritzel , thanks to a sandy deal with KU on some vacant lots.

The rules changed in 2006, and the commissioners know it!

So why can't the rules change now for Menards....it's not 2020 yet Toto!

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mikekt 11 months, 3 weeks ago

By the way, when Payless Cashways Lumber/hardware Stores went Federally Bankrupt, as a chain, in Kansas City, the two OP Stores, as i recall, were snatched up pretty quick once the dust settled from the Bankruptcy .

The one at 103rd and Metcalf Ave became a Walmart Neighborhood Grocery ( only ) store and their larger, newer store and lumber side lot, at 135th and Old Metcalf Ave became an Large Ford Automotive Dealership.

Their Lenexa Ks store at 87th & I-35, was bought by another lumber / hardware dealer, who was doing the same old business there, the last time that I saw it .

The Builders Square ( similar to HD, Lowe's, etc. ), people went out of business in OP, around 95th and Antioch, near Oak Park Shopping Center . The building became something else........and nobody......as far as I know..... died from it happening !

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mikekt 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Gee........what happened to the large sears store at 27th & Iowa St, when Sears downsized into a catalogue store a few blocks north ?

Is that building vacant ? Are weeds or drug dealers taking over the parking lot ? Are homeless squatters living there now ?

Answer.....HARDLY !!!!! Go look for yourselves !!!!!

Competition is the economic name, of the real game, in the real world..... & as long as Menard's is limited, out of fairness, in size, as Home Depot appears to have been (?) by the city , then so what ?!

The corner grocery store,.....Boo-Hoo..... was replaced by the predecessors to Dillons and Hy Vee, who are now competing with Walmart and Target, who sell more than groceries, to draw in customers .

The consumers do vote, on things......with their bucks !

Nobody owes Home Depot a monopoly and nobody is going to 33rd and Iowa, to draw straws, to see which big store will close and leave town......Walmart or Target ? Or should Penny's or Kohl's pack their bags.

I am sorry, but the 1900s are gone,.... and I am not sure that it is realistic to expect to see street cars, horse travel, corner groceries, small hardware stores, neighborhood lumber yards, etc., just a block from your home unless you are just lucky or cursed.....whichever it is to you .

If you had to start from scratch today and build the KU Campus it would never get built because some bird that prefers hilltops, to wet lands, probably used to live their and would be disturbed by it all.......and somebody else would be yelling, that you were going to put K-State, Wichita, Pittsburg, Fort Hays State, Washburn, Countless Community Colleges..... and The Lord Only Knows Whom else, out of business with your New KU College !!!!

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none2 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I think people are being big hypocrites on this topic. First of all, 10 or so years ago, Home Depot came to this town and the city gave them all sorts of restrictions on their size, etc. It isn't a full size store due to the city's requirements. Are these people begging for Menard's going to come back and allow Home Depot to expand back to their original plans? It is rather unfair to say Menards can build whatever size they want, but another company is still required to stay within their restrictions made about 10 years earlier. That isn't a question of whether Home Depot can compete or not, it is a question of a double standard. Limit the established stores, but give free reign to the new?

As for Menard's, I find it hard to believe that people get excited about a company with some of the things they have done with their employees and the environment. I'm not talking about not hugging trees, nor about union employees or living wage. Rather just some sleazy practices.
If you don't like red tape, then change the laws. However, until they are changed, they should play by the same corporate rules that their competitors have to abide by. You can read up on their problems if you read through the wiki on them:

As for Lowe's, no one said they couldn't come to Lawrence. They simply said they could not build where they were not ZONED for such a store. For those that honestly think that Lowe's would have been financially disadvantaged by building a bit further west on 6th Street, you definitely are not one of those who is willing to drive to Topeka to use Lowes. To claim people have to drive 25 plus miles to get to Lowes in Topeka because they don't like the other stores, but would not drive one extra mile further west on 6th to a Lawrence Lowes store is purely illogical.

I also agree with earlier posts in other articles on this topic. Some are just so sure they will get everything they want with a new store. They won't. Even if you just LOVE store "X", they most likely won't have as much as they would put in Topeka or Johnson County, because we ARE smaller. So there will still be times that people drive elsewhere. Just think of the Walmart-lite in northwest Lawrence. Do you think people have given up going to the south Walmart when the lite store doesn't have what they want? That was caused by the city's meddling, but the same ideal applies: people want what they want an won't be happy with a smaller store compared to the bigger markets.

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thelonious 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Well, let's just put a new Mendards AND a new Lowes AND maybe a new Sutherlands just for good measure right there next to Home Depot and let them duke it out - yessir, comeptition and all that, and when the dust settles, we'll have three large empty shell buildings on 31st east of Iowa where we can warehouse all of the homeless unemployed who were let go from the three loser stores...is that what you want?

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James Minor 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Dolph Simons articles sometimes make me question his thinking. But today's article is correct in all respects. Lawrence is in need for retail growth and jobs. Unfortunately, the Lawrence City Commission is inept in understanding the needs for Lawrence and the problems our community is facing. Just think we just elected these bozo's and we have to deal with their limited knowledge for the next two years. Lawrence needs to make a note on the commission's decision and when they come up for election ---- don't vote for any of them!!!

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Richard Heckler 11 months, 3 weeks ago

With expanded dumb growth comes more crime and higher cost of living. Nobody moves to Lawrence hoping it will grow into what they left behind. The only SOLID industry Lawrence has failed to develop is the higher education industry. Lawrence is 25 years behind in bringing on on Vo-Tech campus. Students are good money for Lawrence.

"Maybe one way to generate more retail sales and make Lawrence an even more attractive place to work, live, play and retire would be to have a wider selection of stores offering a wider variety of products at competitive prices."

Nonsense. This as always is about selling real estate not improving the quality of life or making sensible market decisions. Lawrence,Kansas is a small town with only so many retail dollars available simple as that just like any other market. Saturated markets are business unfriendly.

The economy sucks because of the GOP in Washington D.C. and the GOP in Kansas. And those two GOP sponsored home loan scams were not too bright as millions upon millions upon millions of unemployed document.

People have moved to Lawrence for years knowing there are not shopping centers on every corner which is quite pleasing frankly. Who needs that? People also moved here realizing if what cannot be found in Lawrence can be found in KCMO/JOCO metro which is fine and dandy. Lawrence can never replace the KCMO metro.

The writer has likely lived here for decades without a shopping center on every corner and has yet to move.

The message ; Quit thinking Lawrence can be the KCMO/JOCO metro and get real. The only SOLID industry Lawrence has failed to develop is the education industry. Retail is not a solid industry especially when developed under the illusion Lawrence can be the KCMO metro.

Menard's wants to move in next door believing Menard's can put Home Depot out of business.

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buffalo63 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I would love to have Menard's next to Home Depot. Could have a visit from the NASCAR # 27 Menard's car. Also give some competition to Home Depot. Bought whole house carpet from HD and their contractors installed it wrong. Since they were independents, got no satisfaction from HD. They couldn't even tell who they were. We continually find what we need at Menard's. (In Topeka)!

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Grégoire Guillaume 11 months, 3 weeks ago

If you want a Springfield Mo go move there!!! Keep Lawrence as a mecca of anti-stupidity that runs wild in the rest of the state. Why not let the Koch brothers put a fertilizer plant in your back yard.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I too rarely agree with Dolph, but he is right on with this one.

Lawrence has been hostile to new development for as long as I can remember. A never-ending parade of city commission dolts has assured that this wil continue. Hardly anyone bothers to vote in city elections and a very small group of highly agenda-prone persons manage to pack the city commission with idiots.

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yourworstnightmare 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I hope Menard's opens here. I want to see this guy in their commercials in our market.

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OonlyBonly 11 months, 3 weeks ago

This place, Lawrence, is dead as a viable business community. New business unfriendly - unless trendy or research oriented. You don't want jobs for upper-lower class or even middle-class. I just returned, for a very short while, from a trip to Texas you silly people should go down there for a few days to see what them nasty businesses can accomplish.

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jafs 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Individual businesses may indeed make some sort of informed decisions about whether or not to locate in a town, and in a specific area.

Even if they're right that it would be good for them to do so, that doesn't mean it would be good for anybody else, or for the town as a whole.

That's why we need elected officials to keep their eye on the bigger picture.

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lawrenceloser 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Whatever policy the City uses, it needs to be consistent.

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Armstrong 11 months, 3 weeks ago

So is it stupid or crooked ? One has to wonder. Two reasons come to mind as to why business would be denied the opportunity to locate in a town. 1. A complete lack of understanding business equals revenue or 2. No kickback no permit.

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oneeye_wilbur 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Mr Simons, you may or may not know, but you will now: The planning department and Lyn Zollner ran off a development near the campus.

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grimpeur 11 months, 3 weeks ago

To the author: what were the other examples referred to by the phrase, "time and time again in recent years?"

Lowe's? They picked an inappropriate location. They knew it, the landowner knew it, and the developer knew it. So that was not the city's fault.

American Eagle? They picked an inappropriate location. Same deal.

So answer the question: which denied applications--other than Lowe's and American Eagle--would you offer as examples of the "questionable vision" of "various Lawrence officials;" to which officials are you referring; and would you care to directly address their specific reasons for denial?

Now Menard's? I think the Gaslight location would be OK as long as that is the last big development east of Iowa in the wetlands corridor. But not everyone feels that way. Clearly, many feel that no further development should be encouraged east of Iowa between Dg, Co. 458 and 31st. St.

On the other hand, despite the delays and expense caused by various Lawrence entities (who remain unnamed and whose justifications for the 32nd St. re-alignment remain hidden), the push for re-alignment may be precisely to encourage more development in that corridor. Who could have seen that coming?

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billybob1 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Another back-handed attempt to complain about the sports complex. Blah, blah, blah.

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smileydog 11 months, 3 weeks ago

lawrence leadership in a nutshell: say yes to marijuana, say no to the corporate pigs, man

clear thinking......obviously

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Stop_the_Madness 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Menard's will provide more jobs and tax dollars than the Gaslight Mobile Home Park.

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Floyd Craig 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I do agree with him its true but amyx needs to keep cutting hiar uh maybe hes not good at the either n the rest is disappointing as well menards would open more jobs cause it takes more then 2 or 3 to work there and to keep these places close to wages in Lawrence well there is some autoparts stores that dosent keep up with that they underpay the employees I think menards would be good for Lawrence and not 15 miles away wellnot that far but gees all the way out to k-19 bypass come on why so far ??????????????????

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LogicMan 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Can Menard's be fast-tracked by the City Commision? That is, not wait for the planning commissars report.

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Lawrence Morgan 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't often agree with Dolph C. Simons, Jr., but today I completely agree with what he has to say.

The town needs businesses of all types, and Lawrence's workforce needs the jobs. They can't be all high tech jobs. I work next to Google in Mountain View, California, and you wouldn't believe the kind of work force they hire - not only in high tech, but in cleaning all the buildings, the chefs and their kitchens, and the many other kinds of work which they inspire. And it is truly bike-friendly, which is not true of Lawrence.

The problem is that the tax proceeds of Google often don't flow back to the source. Not only does Lawrence need the high tech kind of work force (which it can do - and I will write more on that feature in a blog in the coming weeks) - but Lawrence also needs a highly functional community college and vocational school. And this should not be looked down upon - it should provide excitement, not the present small, dull setting. People are needed to take care of all kinds of things - from cars to knitting, and it should be for all ages. It should be an exciting place to go to and to be at.

It could make use of online classes, as well as instructors of all kinds. The present campus does not in any way inspire this vision.

And in my opinion - the sports complex which has been approved and the library should have been made smaller, with different branches, so that members from the entire community could take part. The sports complex as approved, in particular, carries a price tag which is unacceptable in today's economy.

There are many ways in which Lawrence needs to be more friendly with businesses. And this doesn't suggest changing the great things about Lawrence - the friendly downtown, for example. And there is no need for "gutting" anything- the town can build on what it already has, with the kind of friendly environment people need to be able to live in and visit Lawrence.

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