Developer says parking is ‘last piece’ for downtown grocery plans; goal is to begin construction this fall

Pictured is a rendering of the northwest side of a proposed downtown grocery store at 700 New Hampshire St.

Developers leading the downtown grocery store project say they aim to begin construction by the fall and that the final detail that needs to be figured out is the parking.

“We’re excited that we’ve got almost all the pieces in place,” Lawrence businessman Mike Treanor, of Treanor HL, told attendees at the Downtown Lawrence Inc. meeting Wednesday. “That last piece is how we get that parking paid for.”

The plan is to construct a mixed-use building on the site of the former Borders building, 700 New Hampshire St., with a Price Chopper grocery store on the ground level and about 70 apartments above. Plans also call for an underground parking garage, and Treanor said that tax rebates requested from the city would help pay for that element of the project.

Treanor spoke to members of Downtown Lawrence Inc. about the proposed grocery store project as well as the conceptual plans for the redevelopment of the former Journal-World printing plant, 609 New Hampshire St. Attendees at the meeting included dozens of downtown business owners, and several had questions about how the projects would affect parking and traffic flow downtown.

Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard provided an update on both projects as well as the city’s plans to develop a new downtown master plan. Stoddard told attendees that the city saw a grocery store downtown as a valuable asset, but that the city wanted to make sure the right amount of parking was provided. Originally, developers proposed 160 spaces, but the city has requested that 340 spaces be provided, which it calculates would meet the demand for the grocery store and apartments, as well as replace public parking spaces that would be converted to private spaces.

Treanor said the downtown grocery development, which is in a federally designated food desert, is also seeking a New Markets Tax Credit for the project. Treanor said that this year the development was in a much better position to receive those credits but that the project needed to be under construction this fall.

The economic incentives request for the downtown grocery store project must still be considered by the city’s Public Incentives Review Committee and the Lawrence City Commission.

Other updates provided at the meeting included:

• Treanor said they have also purchased the former Reuter building. He said the plan was to restore the building and that a tenant was currently being sought. The multistory limestone building sits on the corner of Sixth and New Hampshire streets and previously housed the Reuter Organ Company.

• The city put out a request for proposals for the downtown master plan, and Stoddard said the city had received 12 proposals from prospective consultants. She said a recommendation regarding the consultant would go to the City Commission this summer, and the master plan would be developed in the later six months of 2018. She said the plan would look at density and height limits and whether the city should go higher than the current limits. Other elements will include what the relationship will be with the Kansas River and whether the city’s surface parking lots downtown should be used for development.

• Treanor and David Greusel, of Convergence Design, presented the conceptual plans for the downtown conference center. Those plans call for a conference center, hotel, public plaza, and a 12- to 16-story apartment and condominium building.