Archive for Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lawrence City Commission accepts incentives application for downtown grocery and apartments

A rendering shows a proposed grocery store and apartment building at 700 New Hampshire St.

A rendering shows a proposed grocery store and apartment building at 700 New Hampshire St.

August 16, 2017


After some discussion about an uncommon part of the request, the Lawrence City Commission ultimately voted to accept the incentives application for a downtown grocery and apartment project.

Apart from Mayor Leslie Soden, who dissented, commissioners voted at their Tuesday meeting that the city should accept the application and move forward with related studies and analysis, which will be funded by the developer.

“I’m a big believer in allowing processes to work,” Commissioner Lisa Larsen said. “And I’m not interested at all in circumventing that process, so I’m in favor of moving it through the process.”

As part of the incentives application, a development group led by Lawrence businessman Mike Treanor is requesting a special financing district, bond agreement and a $2.25 million loan from the city to help complete the project. The loan would help the grocer, Price Chopper, pay for tenant finishes for the store.

City Manager Tom Markus told commissioners that the request for a loan from the city was unusual. Markus said that although he thinks a grocery store downtown is a huge asset, he said “the bar is pretty high” for the city to be convinced that a loan is a the way to go.

“We will put this project through the same financial paces that any project would have to go through,” Markus said. “And just because I think the city finds this desirable is not a measure of how much the incentive is or isn’t. It will come down to the finances and the analytics that the city does.”

Bill Fleming, an attorney who represents the development group, told the commission that the loan is needed to make the project work.

“There’s a lot of things that we’re trying to do to make the numbers work too, but at the end of the day the grocery store has to make a reasonable return on their money,” Fleming said. “Otherwise they’re not going to be interested in doing the project.”

The $26 million project would be located at Seventh and New Hampshire streets on the site of the former Borders bookstore. The plan is to tear down the old bookstore and replace it with a three-story building with an underground parking garage. The ground floor of the building would house a Price Chopper grocery store and a pharmacy, and the upper two floors would house 69 apartments.

During public comment, some residents said that although they would like a grocery store downtown, they weren’t supportive of the large scale of the mixed-use building being proposed. Soden also questioned the size and why the city would consider providing a $2.25 million loan.

“It’s not sustainable if it needs incentives to go through,” Soden said.

In other business, the commission:

• Voted unanimously to conditionally approve the site plan for the former Jayhawk Bookstore, 1420 Crescent Road. The site plan changes the building’s use from general retail sales to fast-order food, which would allow walk-up service restaurants that derive up to 45 percent of sales from alcohol to locate in the space going forward. The commission added several conditions to the site plan, including requirements that the patio must close at 10 p.m., the prohibition of outdoor speakers, and the limitation of alcohol sales until 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. McLain’s Market, a Kansas-City based bakery, coffee shop and restaurant, plans to locate in the property.

• Unanimously approved new sign code regulations, which will delete and replace the current regulations. The changes regulate sign use by zoning districts and other land conditions, ensuring the city's sign code is in line with a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that says regulations for signs must be content-neutral.


David Holroyd 10 months, 1 week ago

When does the roof work start on the mausoleum or is it all talk. Probably just talk!

Andrew Applegarth 10 months, 1 week ago

It's the law, not the sign, that has to be content neutral. It basically means that you can't pass laws that say fast food restaurants have these sign restrictions, car dealers have these sign restrictions, grocery stores have these sign restrictions, etc. They can pass laws that say these are the sign restrictions along highways, for example, but it has to apply to all of the businesses located along a highway exactly the same.

Richard Heckler 10 months, 1 week ago

Reckless planning/spending is draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

Why does city government protect the real estate industry executives instead of taxpayers?

There is one consequence that usually goes unmentioned - developers are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

How can local government increase rates, fees which are essentially taxes in addition to increasing taxes then give away these taxes to a for profit industry?

Reckless spending is the result of over four decades of subsidies paid for by the local taxpayer. The subsidies range from the obvious to the obscure.

Reckless spending definitely wastes our tax money. This project represents economic displacement which prevents solid and consistent economic growth.

Economic displacement prevents economic growth.

Where does the money for all this come from? It is the largest group of stakeholders in the community aka the taxpayers who make up the difference.

The bottom line is that new development is costing the largest group of tax paying stakeholders money.

One more time economic displacement prevents economic growth.

Richard Heckler 10 months, 1 week ago

Lawrence is a small town yet has 15 grocery stores. 9 of which are like next door to each other. 5 are in the northwest corner and 4 in the southeast corner. Can we say no planning whatsoever? I say contact the owners of Tanger Mall and ask them to use their money to create space for a grocery store. Then provide a grocery store with owner provided incentives = new concept.

"Bill Fleming, an attorney who represents the development group, told the commission that the loan is needed to make the project work.

“There’s a lot of things that we’re trying to do to make the numbers work too, but at the end of the day the grocery store has to make a reasonable return on their money,” Fleming said. “Otherwise they’re not going to be interested in doing the project.”

When developers say they cannot make money on a project without the reckless spending of our tax dollars to guarantee them a profit the answer to that situation is " hey developer don't build it"

For the past 25 years Lawrence has been over building residential and retail based on what might happen = speculation. Lawrence is not that big. Lawrence has been building and blowing tax dollars as if Lawrence has a tax base of the Kansas City metro.

Excellent paying jobs have taken a back seat to over building residential and retail. This must be supply side wreckanomics.

Want to improve the lifestyles for all of Lawrence in every neighborhood? Dedicate millions of tax dollars annually to the Walkable Community and Compete Streets Project. Yes put the taxpayers tax dollars in the tax payers neighborhoods. Thank you.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 months, 1 week ago

" grocery store has to make a reasonable return on their money," He isn't talking about making a profit here, he is talking about making a gigantic profit. For these corporations making a nice little profit, providing a service and jobs isn't enough. It's not just money, it's more money. And guess who pays to make sure they make more money? You and me.

Louis Kannen 10 months, 1 week ago

My Tuesday, 15th post,

“This bakery will serve alcohol, but with this concept's other locations, alcohol represents less than 3 percent of revenue. If you look at the other locations, this is nothing like a bar." ON a major University Campus..."less than 3 percent...nothing like a bar"...??? I will 'Respect'-fully posit the title of Aretha Franklin's 1983 hit single, "Who's Zoomin' Who"

Kevin Kelly 10 months, 1 week ago

New watering hole on the way to and from sports events! Can't wait for the happy hour and game day specials!

Clara Westphal 10 months, 1 week ago

Lawrence taxpayers just got stuck in the eye with a sharp stick again.

David Holroyd 10 months, 1 week ago

When is the roof going to be replaced on the Mausoleum? Was it talk? Can we trust the commission to fix a roof? Toni Wheeler said $10,000 was going toward the roof.

That is a pittance to the 2.25 million to Price Chopper.

Mayor Soden,,,what about the roof?

Chad , can you find out and also check on the amount of revenue that is coming from the parking meters surrounding HERE. Money is supposed to go to "affordable housing". Stuart Boley apparently doesnt care and he was an IRS auditor. If anyone should be able to figure it should be him.

MAUSOLEUM.......what about it? Was it a fib when the city commission said they would put a roof in on it?

Mr. Markus should be ashamed of himself....the city manger doesn't even care. He only leads the commission into bad Price Chopper.

Fix the roof first. Simple things first.

David Klamet 10 months, 1 week ago

Any city must evolve and modernize over time. This, however, is not the direction I want to see the downtown go.

Even more, the city and the taxpayers should not be financing projects that line the pockets of developers. Private projects should be financed privately unless they provide something important to the community. This is an excuse to build more upscale housing downtown, not something that benefits the public in general.

A grocery is one of those things that is sorely needed near downtown. A project limited to that MIGHT be something deserving of financial support by the taxpayers.

The message I hear from the affluent backers of this project is: We're going to screw you and you're going to like it!

Bob Smith 10 months, 1 week ago

Grocery stores have very slim profit margins. Nobody will make mega-bucks from a single location.

David Holroyd 10 months, 1 week ago

That roof must be a details of when to start. It would be so simple ,,just a donation of materials...labor from the Peaslee Center aka on the job training...and just think they could work at all hours because the "neighbors" are sleeping peacefully.

Why does it take so long? Is there glamour in it? Mr. Markus doesn' want to put on his resume that he got a roof replaced for dead people. What a SHAME.

And the commission,,,well I understand them...they too are sleeping.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.