Now that the Rock Chalk Park deal is under way, it is likely City Hall officials and city commissioners will shift gears on their policies relative to encouraging and accepting proposals for new retail development.
Recent city commissioners and City Hall personnel have made it extremely difficult for retailers to receive approval for large developments outside the highly protected downtown area. They did not want to OK anything that might damage the strength of downtown.
Now, many of these same officials are openly talking about major retail development in the far northwest corner of the city adjacent to the Rock Chalk development. With the costs the city has assumed with its recreation center, it will be imperative the city start collecting greater sales tax revenue.
The Menards possibility looks much stronger today than it did a week ago, although several commissioners still may try to force the company to move from a South Iowa Street location to the area near Rock Chalk Park. In the last several years, commissioners have tried to get other retailers, including Lowe’s, interested in the northwest location but have been unsuccessful because retailers want sites surrounded by more residential development.
Now might be a favorable time for other major retailers who have indicated an interest in a facility in Lawrence to consider renewing their efforts — especially if those retailers are willing to build near the intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.
There’s a saying, “A tiger can’t change its stripes,” but it will be interesting to watch the changes of some city commissioners and city officials who have in the past been so vocal in opposing developments that might hurt downtown.