Entries from blogs tagged with “Town Talk”

The story behind that strange looking building at 31st and Louisiana streets; SLT wins national award for sustainability

There is grass growing on the roof, total spending is more than $70 million, and the project necessitated digging a nearly 50-foot hole. And at the end of the day, most people still don’t know what they’re looking at. No, this isn’t another apology about a failed do-it-yourself swimming pool project. Instead, I’m trying to answer a question readers keep asking: What the heck is that odd-looking structure at 31st and Louisiana streets.

As we have reported several times before, it is not as exciting as you may hope: It is a city-owned sewage pump station. Well, maybe it is exciting. It certainly is one of the more unique projects in town. I spent some time recently getting briefed by city utilities engineer Melinda Harger on the project. So, knowing that you all are looking for interesting small-talk to make at upcoming holiday parties, here are some fun facts about the funny-looking building.

First, you should know that the pump station is part of the largest project in town that most people have forgotten about. As we’ve reported, the city is building a $74 million sewage treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River. But for city residents, most of that construction has been out of sight, out of mind. The sewer plant is in a remote area — if you drove south of O’Connell Road until you hit the Wakarusa River, you would find the plant site. (You’d also be wet. There’s no bridge there.)

But crews are now in the final stages of the multiyear project. Harger told me current plans call for the plant to begin operations in February. She also told me that it looks like the project is going to come in under budget. Tentatively, spending is tracking closer to $72 million. There is an asterisk, though. For much of 2015 when the city was bidding the project, officials thought it would be about a $70 million project. Bids, though, came in high. But now, actual costs are coming in a bit lower.

Yes, I know. As you are standing around the punch bowl, people are going to want to hear more details about this pump station. Well, tell them it is kind of like an air-traffic control tower — except for sewage. (Then, just for kicks, offer to refill their punch glass.) But the pump station, once it becomes operational, will be a key piece of city infrastructure. Lawrence sewage takes a very winding path to get to the city’s current treatment plant in eastern Lawrence. Think of sewage being generated near Sixth and Wakarusa, for instance. It doesn’t travel through downtown Lawrence to get to the sewer plant just east of Eighth and Delaware. Instead it goes south, all the way toward 31st Street, before it then starts to turn east. Near Louisiana Street it starts to turn back to the north toward the sewer plant in eastern Lawrence. This new pump station will have a feature that will allow the sewage to keep on flowing to the existing plant in eastern Lawrence, or it can go into another pipe and be pumped to the new treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River.

In case you are confused, the new treatment plant isn’t going to replace the existing plant. Lawrence is going to be a two-sewer plant town. Yeah, it is a big deal. I probably should have led with that.

The thing you have noticed about the pump station building is its funny shape. Most of that is related to the city’s decision to build a green roof for the building. That simply means there is soil atop the roof. It currently has some grass on it, but Harger told me the site eventually will be full of native grasses.

The roof, however, is not the most interesting part of the building. That designation is reserved for the part of the building you can’t see. While the building looks small, it actually stretches 45 feet below ground. That’s comparable to a multistory building on Massachusetts Street, except it is all underground. The city had a webcam on the construction site. You can view a time-lapse of the webcam here. If you like construction projects, it is pretty cool. All the underground work does help explain the price tag for the pump station. It cost about $7 million, Harger said. The $7 million price tag is part of the estimated $72 million cost for the entire Wakarusa plant, which includes all the piping, pump stations and other equipment needed to make the plant functional.

As for what is in the building, Harger said it is basically just an electrical room, with a hoist that reaches down to the bottom of the pit so that the pump can be removed if it ever has to be replaced. So, there is not a version of an air-traffic controller deciding whether sewage is cleared for landing at the south Wakarusa plant or the eastern Lawrence plant. That’s all done via computer.

If there were such a job, it would be a thankless one. But that describes many of the jobs in the city’s department of utilities. Even though they oversee two critical functions — water and sewer service — they don’t get much recognition for the important work they do. They are not as visible as police, fire or even the trash truck crews. When they do their jobs well, they don’t give you much to talk about. Be thankful for that because as people keep reminding me, there really aren’t many good reasons to talk about sewage at a holiday party.

In other news and notes from around town:

While we are talking about construction, the Kansas Department of Transportation announced today that the South Lawrence Trafficway won a national award. It was for timely completion. Actually, anybody who followed the project knows I’m kidding. (For those of you not in the know, half of the project was completed in the 1990s, while eastern half got stalled with legal, environmental and funding problems until it opened late last year.)

Instead, the project won a gold medal award from the American Concrete Pavement Association. The six-mile, $183 million project did use a lot of concrete. The project also won a Sustainable Practices Recognition Award from the association for its efforts to protect plants and animals in the adjacent Baker Wetlands.

That award won’t be universally touted in Lawrence. The project’s impacts on the Baker and Haskell wetlands were major causes behind the lawsuits and delays. However, the project did end up getting built with several features designed to alleviate those impacts, including large sound walls that separate the wetlands from the road.

Reply 1 comment from Larry Sturm

Is the city preparing to put stop signs at traffic circles and roundabouts across Lawrence?

A reader asked me a question about four new stop signs in town, but I think what he really was asking was: Is the city of Lawrence trying to make the heads of motorists explode?

The four relatively new stop signs are at the intersection of 18th and Indiana streets, which is between Lawrence High School and the KU campus. The stop signs are unusual because the 18th and Indiana intersection already has a traffic circle. If you are not familiar with the nomenclature, a traffic circle is a smaller cousin to a roundabout. If you are not familiar with a roundabout, you must be particularly adept at finding other things to argue about because roundabouts have been a prime argument topic in Lawrence since shortly after the wheel was invented.

Stop signs at the traffic circle at 18th and Indiana streets.

Stop signs at the traffic circle at 18th and Indiana streets. by Chad Lawhorn

Traffic circles and roundabouts are not designed to have stop signs. In fact, one of their primary purposes is to control traffic at an intersection without requiring traffic to unnecessarily stop and create long lines of vehicles waiting to get through the intersection.

But in recent months, city crews installed the stop signs at the 18th and Indiana traffic circle. That has caused some people to wonder whether this is some sort of test case by the city. Is it preparing to put stop signs at the dozens of roundabouts and traffic circles that exist across the city? Is Vladimir Putin somehow behind all this?

Well, maybe just a few of us have that last question, but it is safe to say many people would be upset if stop signs started showing up at roundabouts across the city. Well, no need to worry.

Amanda Sahin, transportation engineer for the city, told me the stop signs aren’t a test case, and city engineers understand that normally stop signs and traffic circles/roundabouts don’t go together. But she said city officials heard a compelling case this summer for why the stop signs ought to be installed. There is a Lawrence High student who lives in the neighborhood who is visually impaired. He travels through that intersection every day. His mother asked the city to please put up the stop signs and crosswalks in hopes that they would draw more attention to the need for motorists to be cautious at the intersection.

The stops signs were approved for only a one-year period. The LHS student is a senior, so his daily walks to the high school are set to come to an end. At that point, the city will review the stop signs and could remove them. We’ll see. Traditionally, removing a stop sign from a neighborhood can be politically perilous. As odd as it may sound, most residents don’t care how commissioners vote on a $100 million-plus city budget, but if they take out the stop sign that they think is slowing down traffic in their neighborhood, you’ve lost their vote for good.

The whole thing is kind of an interesting situation. I suppose some people could find it odd that the city would make changes to its street system based on a single pedestrian. But I suspect there are many people who feel good about it. Those stop signs are a reminder that Lawrence still is a small town at heart. A mother worried about her son can still get city government to do something to lend a helping hand. Even if you don’t like big city devices like traffic circles and roundabouts, you may still like that small-town spirit.

Reply 6 comments from Ken Lassman Mikeg Sue McDaniel Gregdivilbiss Curtis Lange Scott Batson

The top Uber destination in Kansas is in Lawrence; here’s a hint, it serves beer

Lawrence is known for many things: A basketball shrine. A downtown that evokes Norman Rockwell. An island of blue progressives in a sea of red conservatives. But, of course, if you want to peer into the soul of a community, there is really only way to do it: Check where we Uber. Apparently, Lawrence’s soul is thirsty.

Uber recently released information about top destinations in each state in 2017. According to a recent article by USA Today, the top destination in Kansas, indeed, was in Lawrence. It was . . . the Jayhawk Cafe, at 13th and Ohio.

Readers from across the country may think that sounds like such a quaint little university shop. By all means, if you have visitors in town, send them down to the Jayhawk Cafe and tell them to order a double latte. They are likely to get at least half of that order. Those of us in Lawrence know the Jayhawk Cafe really isn’t a cafe at all. Rather, it is better known as The Hawk, one of the most raucous college bars in Lawrence, which, at times, has had an unfortunate reputation as an underage gathering spot.

The Jayhawk Cafe sits at the corner of 13th and Ohio streets, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.

The Jayhawk Cafe sits at the corner of 13th and Ohio streets, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. by Nick Krug

So think of that for a moment: The place that Uber drivers go most often in the state of Kansas is a college bar in the Oread neighborhood. (By the way, the bar is surrounded by student housing. I wonder how many times an Uber driver just takes someone across the street.) It should be noted that the Uber figures did exclude airports, transit stations and convention centers, although I rather doubt that the Topeka airport could compete with The Hawk.

Lawrence is not alone in having a robust Uber bar scene. There were at least 10 states where a bar was the top Uber destination. (My favorite was Arkansas’ JJ’s Grill & Chill in Fayetteville. The photo used by USA Today showed what looked to be a fairly empty building with a Porta-John out front. So, put an asterisk next to that one. Its popularity may be more about Arkansas plumbing.)

In case you are wondering about our neighbors, Nebraska’s most popular destination was a Lincoln bar, Barry’s Bar & Grill. And, all kidding aside, obviously if Uber is helping people not drink and drive, that is a valuable thing. Maybe there should be more states where a bar should be the top Uber destination.

As for other neighbors, Busch Stadium in St. Louis was the top Missouri destination. Coors Field in Denver was tops in Colorado. The River Spirit Casino in Tulsa was the No. 1 spot in Oklahoma. And while I know Iowa doesn’t technically border us, I have to pass theirs along: the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

I’m confused about what constitutes a good night out in Iowa (unless there is a tractor pull every night at the fairgrounds, in which case this would make perfect sense.) More than likely, though, I’m just confused. Uber constantly baffles me. It calls itself a “ride sharing service,” yet despite some pretty strong hints, I’ve never once gotten the driver to pay his half of the fare.

Reply 3 comments from Bob Smith Clark Coan Monty Scott

So long to the Yacht Club; longtime night spot to become home to new bar and homestyle grill

Pull in the anchor. It sure appears that the longtime Lawrence bar the Yacht Club is gone for good. A Topeka businessman has bought the building near Sixth and Wisconsin streets and will be opening a new bar and grill concept in early January.

The new place will be called the Bar’N Grill, matching the name of the popular establishment owner Dave Kruger has in west Topeka. Lots of people in Topeka simply call the place The Barn. While it doesn’t have a full-on country motif, Kruger said the establishment is meant to have a more relaxed feel than a bustling club.

“It is kind of laid back and comfort food,” Kruger said. “Almost everything is handmade and hand-breaded. It is not frozen straight off the truck and thrown into the fryer.”

The Yacht Club, 530 Wisconsin St.

The Yacht Club, 530 Wisconsin St. by Nick Krug

Expect food to be a bigger part of the operation than it was at the Yacht Club. Kruger said at least half of his business at the Topeka establishment is food sales, while the rest comes from the bar side of the operation.

Traditional chicken-fried steak and pork tenders are among the more popular items, Kruger said. But the variety of the menu also is a selling point. There is a steak night on Mondays, tacos on Tuesdays, and soups — think chicken noodle, gumbo, potato, and ham and bean — are big items in the winter. Chef specials also are a regular feature, including — based on past menus — fried deviled eggs, rib tips, lasagna, po’boy sandwiches, and chicken and waffles.

Kruger said the restaurant will be open for lunch every day, and plans call for a brunch buffet on Sunday mornings. As you are perhaps figuring out, Kruger is trying to attract a crowd that goes beyond just the college students, which was the primary crowd for the Yacht Club.

“Our customer base in Topeka is a wide variety,” Kruger said. “You’ll have kids sitting in high chairs, you’ll have grandmas and grandpas, and at night we have a lot of students too.”

Or, another way Kruger put it: “We’re fine with Buicks in the parking lot.”


While the name will change, don’t expect many changes to the building, 530 Wisconsin St. The Yacht Club long ago had moved away from any nautical theme it ever had. (I can attest that a Thurston Howell III impersonation hardly drew a laugh anymore.) In recent years the building had been remodeled more into a ranch style with lots of stone and wood, which suits The Barn concept just fine.

But do expect the TVs to remain for sports and, importantly, the big basketball scoreboard that always has the final score from the KU-Memphis national championship game in 2008. Kruger said he also may put the old Yacht Club sign up on one of the walls to pay homage to what ended up being a longtime bar in Lawrence. I’m not sure when the Yacht Club first opened, and anybody who was actually there probably is in no condition to remember it. But, based on personal knowledge, the bar had at least a 25-year run in Lawrence, although the last few years saw it go through several closings and openings. It probably hit its low point when it was the site of a much publicized altercation between KU basketball star Josh Jackson, a KU female basketball player and others.

Kruger said he decided to buy the building and get into the Lawrence market because he has several staff members with longtime experience in the bar and restaurant industry that could run the place in a way to make it successful and stable.

“For me, the whole place is really about comfort more than anything else,” Kruger said. “I just want a place where people can sit there and be comfortable for awhile and not worry about who comes in the door or anything else.”

Reply 2 comments from Melissa Kounelaki Samuel Brown

City explains why abandoning old bid process may be good for some projects; 3 examples of bids that saved Lawrence millions

Estimating isn’t easy. For example, my estimate of 200 pounds of chicken wings for my Kansas City Chiefs playoff watch party might end up being a bit high. Don’t get me wrong, I can always find a use for 200 pounds of chicken wings, but sometimes wrong estimates can cost millions of dollars. That’s what has some people concerned as the city starts talking about moving away from its practice of using sealed bids for major construction projects.

In the last few days we’ve written a couple of articles about how the city may build the proposed $17 million police headquarters building using a process that deviates from the standard sealed-bid procedure. I’m going to write about it again because I’m getting some phone calls from concerned citizens, city officials want to better defend the idea, and I’ve dug up some other examples of cautionary tales about relying on architect/engineer/builder cost estimates rather than a robust bidding process.

Example No. 1: Rock Chalk Park. This was in yesterday’s Town Talk, but it is kind of the classic example. The city originally wasn’t going to bid the construction of the recreation center. It had two estimates from two architects that said the recreation center would cost between $18.4 million and $20.7 million. The city was going to enter into a complex public-private partnership to build the center for a price based off those estimates. The public balked. The city went through a bid process. The low bid came in at $10.5 million.

Sports Pavilion Lawrence at Rock Chalk Park

Sports Pavilion Lawrence at Rock Chalk Park by Mike Yoder

Example No. 2. VenturePark. In 2013, the city was building roads, water and sewer lines to convert the former Farmland Industries property into VenturePark. Engineers estimated the work would cost about $9.5 million. When the city bid the project, the low bids totaled about $5.5 million.

Lawrence's Venture Park is pictured in June 2017 at the corner of O'Connell Road and Venture Park Drive.

Lawrence's Venture Park is pictured in June 2017 at the corner of O'Connell Road and Venture Park Drive. by Nick Gerik

Example No. 3. Baldwin Creek Sewer project. In 2008, the city embarked on a large sewer line project in northwest Lawrence. The city decided to forgo the bid process. It negotiated a contract with a designer and a builder to construct the sewer project for $3.6 million. Depending on who you listen to, at some point the city either figured out or were told by others in the construction industry that they were about to pay way too much for this sewer project. So, the city canceled the contracts and put the project out to bid. The low bid came in at $2.1 million.

All of those projects point to the advantage of a traditional bid process. However, city officials are increasing their efforts to defend the use of alternative processes. Indeed, as I stated yesterday, there are some advantages. In talking this morning with city utilities engineer Melinda Harger, she said one of the biggest advantages is more input from builders during the design process. Think of it in terms of a home improvement project I’m sure we’ve all experienced. You design a closet only to discover during the building process that your plans didn’t include an opening for a door. (That’s awkward, especially when you are building from the inside out.)

A builder reviewing the plans from the beginning is likely to catch inconsistencies, have recommendations for alternative materials, or have different ideas on how to accomplish design elements. That collaboration can result in a better quality project, a more timely project, and sometimes even a more affordable project, city officials say.

But that still leaves questions about how the public will be protected from estimates that are out of line, or contractors who simply see an opportunity to charge more than warranted. But Harger said there are some ways the city can protect itself. The library expansion project of a few years ago is an example. It used a bit of a blended process. The city didn’t accept sealed bids to select the architect or general contractor. It instead requested proposals and made a decision based off of experience and qualifications. But when it came time to build the project, the general contractor was required to get sealed bids from all subcontractors. The City Commission had the power to review and approve those bids. That ensured that a good portion of the project was subject to sealed bids. One other advantage is it gave the City Commission much greater ability to select a locally based general contractor. That often becomes a political consideration. City commissioners like to be able to say they are giving work to locally based companies.

In talking with Harger, I think that is the type of process the city would like to do with the police headquarters building, but they haven’t come out and said that yet. That leaves open the possibility that the city could use a different model that is more a true design-build process. That involves the city selecting a builder and an architect up front, and then agreeing to a maximum price that is determined via estimates from the builder/architect. That’s the type of process that members of the public seemingly have concerns over. Harger said she understands why the public may be leery of that process.

“I don’t see that being the norm,” Harger said of such design-build options. “If we have other options, that is not the path we would want to take. With this community, we want to be as transparent as possible.”

How often the city uses that type of process probably will be key. It will be interesting to watch whether city commissioners take a stand on this. Several of them have their seats, in part, due to outrage over how the Rock Chalk Park project was handled. Tonight’s vote by the City Commission won’t decide the issue. It still will be several weeks before city staff makes a recommendation on what type of process it wants to use for the police headquarters building.

But staff members are raising this subject for a reason: They clearly envision a future where more projects are built in ways that don’t use the standard bid process. City commissioners will set the tone tonight.

Reply 1 comment from Neal Kingston

3 questions — and a few answers — about the looming $17M police headquarters building

Building a $17 million police headquarters building is way above my skill level, but I do know that a project that large in Lawrence inevitably will create some questions and concerns. Those questions and concerns are starting to become more evident as the City Commission gets closer to deciding a site for the project — and possibly suspending the city’s traditional bidding process. Here’s a look.

• Do Lawrence residents trust the city to do big projects without going through a bid process? The answer back in 2013 was “no.” The city was beginning to build the recreation center at Rock Chalk Park, and the plan was to suspend the city’s normal bidding process in favor of a negotiated deal. Residents objected, and the City Commission ultimately used a bid process for the recreation center.

But now city staff members are floating the idea of doing large projects like the police headquarters through a process that doesn’t involve traditional sealed bids. There are several alternatives to the traditional sealed bid process. One is where you put out a request for architects and builders to submit proposals and qualifications. The city makes its decisions about who to use based on qualifications, references and other such factors. Before the project begins construction, the city and architects/builders settle on a price for the project. At that point, if surprises come up, the architects/builders bear some of the responsibility and costs in dealing with them. Under the standard bidding process, such surprises usually end up being the city’s problem to solve.

City Manager Tom Markus told me that is one of the aspects he doesn’t like about the traditional bid process. He thinks some of these alternative approaches allow for more collaboration between the city, the architects and the builders to ensure the project comes out the way everybody expected.

Certainly, such an approach has some advantages. But it seems there is a potential disadvantage to moving away from the sealed bid process. What happens when your architects simply produce an estimate that is too high? Does the city end up overpaying for a project?

Go back to the Rock Chalk Park project in 2013. The city had two estimates from architects for what it would cost to build the recreation center: One was $18.4 million, and the other was $20.7 million. But when the city went to bid the project, all the bids came in at $13.5 million or less. The winning bid was $10.5 million. The architects just plain missed. If the city is not going to take bids, it should figure out how to protect itself in those types of situations.

• Is the Overland Drive site the right place to build the headquarters? As our Sunday article reported, staff members are recommending the project be built on city-owned property at 5100 Overland Drive, which is behind the Walmart near Sixth and Wakarusa. The other finalist is a city-owned site at Venture Park on the eastern edge of Lawrence near the Douglas County Jail.

Markus said one of the key attributes for the Overland Drive site is its proximity to the Investigations and Training Center near Bob Billings and Wakarusa. It is just a couple minutes drive between the two sites. Markus said that’s important because the ITC will continue to be used by the police department. I’m not sure the public has fully grasped that fact. The city may spend $17 million to build a new police headquarters facility, but the patrol division and the investigations division are still going to be in separate buildings, at least initially. When the city proposed a $28 million police headquarters facility in 2014, that building would have housed all the divisions of the police department. That was a major selling point. Having patrol and investigations in separate buildings was tremendously inefficient, voters were told. But voters rejected a proposed sales tax to pay for the building.

This time there is no sales tax vote. The city will pay for the building through higher property taxes. But the price tag is smaller too. Thus, you don’t get as big a building. Markus has said he expects additional phases to be be constructed that would allow for patrol and investigations to be housed in the same building. But he offered no estimate on when that may happen. Until then, being close to ITC is important.

But there are some selling points for the other site near the Douglas County Jail. The biggest may be that it has greater potential to someday serve as a joint facility for the Lawrence Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Markus mentions such a joint facility occasionally, but I’m not sure there is really much likelihood of such cooperation.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug told me that he thinks it would be at least 20 years before the Sheriff’s Office would need to look for office space beyond its current home at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center near 11th and Massachusetts.

The Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St.

The Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St. by Mike Yoder

But he also said that a site near the Douglas County Jail, rather than in northwest Lawrence, would be preferable for any joint facility. That’s because the sheriff’s office doesn’t want to have its personnel spread out over three locations. It has to be at the jail, which it runs, and at Douglas County District Court, which it provides security for. A logical solution would be to build a police headquarters building at the site of the jail, but Weinaug said the 17-acre site doesn’t have enough room to accommodate both the jail and a police headquarters facility.

That may be true, but it is worth noting that an idea that was formed in the 1970s seems to be collapsing. Back then the city and the county saw a future where the police department and the sheriff’s office would benefit by being in the same building. The current Judicial and Law Enforcement Center was built. Conveniently, the courtrooms are located there too. The building’s size hasn’t kept up with the needs, but as we look toward the future, it seems the city and the county are struggling over how those two organizations can benefit by being together. It feels like a step backward.

• Has the police department outgrown downtown? Another possibility is that the new police headquarters could be built downtown, keeping it near the courts and the sheriff’s office, plus the patrol division would continue to have its office in the busiest area of our community.

Weinaug confirmed that the current Judicial and Law Enforcement Center really is designed so that another two to three floors could be built atop it. “That is not an urban legend,” Weinaug said. “It is absolutely true.”

You probably would have to build a parking garage in the lot next to the Judicial and Law Enforcement center, because parking already is very tight in the area.

Such a project, though, undoubtedly would be more complicated and maybe more expensive. But it is worth noting that it represents the type of infill development city leaders currently seem to favor over the type of greenfield development at the Overland Drive site.

I haven’t, though, picked up on any interest by city officials to seriously pursue a downtown project. Markus seems to favor a campus idea because it would be easier to expand in future years. However, if your concern is that the police department ought to have some sort of facility downtown, that still could happen. Markus told me he’s interested in exploring the idea of a downtown “substation” that would house a patrol group dedicated to the downtown area.

Plenty to keep an eye on, which is usually the case with a project of nearly $20 million.

Reply 1 comment from Clara Westphal Floyd Craig

Lawrence sales tax collections among the best in the state; city on pace to collect more than budgeted in 2017

As the holiday shopping season begins and the year ends, the general rule in some households is to ignore all financial statements (and turn off all the lights and be very quiet if a man from the bank comes to the door.) But that shouldn’t be the case at Lawrence City Hall. With just one more month to go, a key city financial indicator — sales tax collections — looks pretty good.

The city recently got its November sales tax check from the state. It was 5 percent — or about $100,000 — larger than the November 2016 check. Even though the check is for November, the money represents sales that were made more in the September time period. So, thus far, the overall Lawrence economy made up for any downturn in KU football attendance, which theoretically should pump sales tax dollars into the city.

The more important numbers, though, are the year-to-date figures. Barring something dramatic with the December check, Lawrence once again will see its total sales tax collections grow — and by a pretty respectable amount. That hasn’t been the case with other major retail areas in the state.

Through November, Lawrence sales tax collections are up 2.5 percent. That’s not as robust as last year, when Lawrence had the highest sales tax growth rate of any major retail area in the state. Collections grew by 5.5 percent in 2016. This year, Lawrence will have to settle for having the highest growth rate of any community outside of Johnson County. Here’s a look:

— Lenexa: up 7.1 percent

— Shawnee: up 4.5 percent

— Olathe: up 2.7 percent

— Lawrence: up 2.5 percent

— Topeka: up 0.7 percent

— Overland Park: up 0.7 percent

— Saline County (Salina): up 0.1 percent

— Kansas City, Kan.: down 0.4 percent

— Sedgwick County (Wichita): down 0.9 percent

— Riley County (Manhattan): down 1.8 percent

Lawrence has seen sales tax growth every year since at least 2012. Not only has there been growth, it has been historically impressive growth. From 2011 to 2016, sales tax collections have grown by 23 percent. That’s better than the 21 percent growth rate compiled from 1997 to 2002, which were considered some of the heyday years for Lawrence growth and development.

If you are looking for something to dampen the enthusiasm, it is worth noting that the second half of 2017 has been weaker than the first half of the year. That may not be a great sign for 2018.

Regardless, barring something unexpected, Lawrence City Hall leaders should be pretty pleased with 2017 sales tax totals. The city is on pace to have a budget surplus in the sales tax category. If the December check comes in at about an average level, the city will collect about $1.6 million more in sales taxes than it budgeted for 2017.

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., Thursday, July 7, 2016

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., Thursday, July 7, 2016 by Mike Yoder

But City Hall leaders quickly will point out some other categories are coming in below budget. One of those is use taxes, which is a cousin to sales tax. It is a special tax you pay when you buy an item from out of state and aren’t charged a sales tax. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, the city’s 2017 budget called for a pretty large increase in one particular type of use tax. That particular increase hasn’t materialized — although use taxes have gone up, but not as much as budgeted. That shortfall means combined sales and use taxes for the city are on pace to come in about $800,000 higher than budgeted in 2017.

Still not a bad way to end the year. It sure beats sitting in the dark.

Reply 2 comments from Clara Westphal Melinda Henderson

New wireless internet service expands to Lawrence, with TV to come; Baldwin City company gearing up for Lawrence gigabit launch

The two tallest things in small towns across Kansas are the grain elevators and the tales the farmers tell at the grain elevators. The benefit of a big city is you can get lied to at so many more places. But Lawrence residents soon may find living near a grain elevator still has its advantages. If you live near a Lawrence grain elevator, you likely have a new option for internet service, and soon for cable TV too.

An internet service company based in the small town of Iola has recently expanded into Lawrence. Kwikom Communications earlier this month installed wireless internet equipment on two sets of Ottawa Co-op grain elevators in Lawrence — the elevators in North Lawrence and the elevators in southeast Lawrence near 19th and Haskell.

The equipment atop the grain towers is equipped to serve thousands of homes with wireless internet service currently, and the company hopes to add cable television service by early next year.

“The simple rule of thumb is if a person can see the tower from their house, they can usually get our service,” said Zachery Peres, vice president with Kwikom Communications.

Dark skies roll over a North Lawrence grain elevator on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

Dark skies roll over a North Lawrence grain elevator on Thursday, June 16, 2016. by Nick Krug

The company doesn’t limit itself to grain elevators. Peres said it has a deal with the city of Lawrence to locate on a water tower near Rock Chalk Park. He said that will make service available to large parts of west Lawrence, likely by the end of January. Once that project is complete, he estimates about two-thirds of Lawrence will be able to access the service, with the southwest part of Lawrence being the area least served.

The company offers several internet packages starting at $55 per month for download speeds of up to 5mbps all the way to $105 per month for download speeds up to 25 mbps. The company also touts that it has no data caps. Peres said the company has the ability to offer super-fast gigabit service to businesses — that is the speed that Google Fiber brought to Kansas City — although I don’t have pricing details on that service.

Kwikom’s system, though, is different than Google Fiber or other providers you may be familiar with. It doesn’t involve burying fiber optic cable to your home. Instead it uses the equipment atop the grain towers to send your signal over a wireless connection. Peres said that causes many people to equate the company’s system to internet service provided by satellite television providers, like Dish Network or DirecTV. Those services, at times, have reliability problems when the weather turns bad. Peres, predictably, says that is not a problem with Kwikom.

“The biggest difference is you are connecting to a tower that is usually no more than 12 miles away,” Peres said. “In the city, it is usually no more than a mile or two. With a satellite, you are thousands of miles away. The signal with our system is just a lot stronger.”

A group of riders head east along a straightaway parallel with 23rd Street during the Tour of Lawrence Haskell Criterium on Saturday, June 27, 2015 at Haskell Indian Nations University.

A group of riders head east along a straightaway parallel with 23rd Street during the Tour of Lawrence Haskell Criterium on Saturday, June 27, 2015 at Haskell Indian Nations University. by Nick Krug

I’ll leave it to all of you to sort through all the technical differences between satellites, fiber optics and other such systems. What is interesting to me is that internet competition seems to be increasing in Lawrence.

Peres said he and his partners have found an efficient way to spread internet availability. The company — which was formed through the merger of two smaller companies in 2010 — has deals with grain elevators across eastern Kansas, and its service territory now includes about 8,500 square miles.

The company is using several of its smaller markets to beta-test its television service. Kwikom has a deal in place that allows it to provide most of the popular cable networks — the ESPN family, HGTV, Food Network and others — but it is still testing the technology needed to deliver the channels to the home. Peres said he hopes to have the service available in Lawrence by the middle of 2018.

• • •

There is at least one other new development on the internet front in Lawrence. Baldwin City-based RG Fiber has begun burying fiber optic cable in eastern and central Lawrence as part of a plan to offer gigabit service next year.

RG has had plans in the works for a couple of years, but it first focused on providing gigabit service to Baker University in Baldwin City. That project is now complete, and about 80 percent of Baldwin City now has access to RG Fiber’s gigabit service, Mike Bosch of RG told me. Not only that, the incumbent internet and cable TV provider in Baldwin City has made new investments that allow it to offer gigabit service, meaning there are parts of little Baldwin City where residents have a choice of gigabit internet providers.

“It has worked the way we have wanted it to,” Bosch said. “I had a person just the other day tell me they moved to Baldwin City because it has gigabit fiber. That was probably the ninth or tenth person in small Baldwin that has told me that.”

Chad Meyers, operations field manager for RG Fiber of Baldwin City, installs gigabit-capacity cable to the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity just off the Baker University campus in January 2016.

Chad Meyers, operations field manager for RG Fiber of Baldwin City, installs gigabit-capacity cable to the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity just off the Baker University campus in January 2016. by Elvyn Jones

Now Bosch wants to get into the Lawrence market. Crews currently are burying conduit and fiber in the areas near 11th and New Hampshire streets, 11th and Haskell, and southward toward 23rd Street. As part of a license agreement, the city of Lawrence will get use of some of the fiber that is being installed, which can be used for everything from connecting city buildings to synchronizing traffic signals.

RG Fiber already has a major stretch of fiber that connects to a national distribution network near Venture Park in eastern Lawrence and runs south all the way to Baldwin City. The fiber that is being installed now will broaden that network. The final piece of the puzzle will be the “last mile” fiber that actually involves bringing the fiber optic cables to people’s homes and businesses.

Bosch said he is going to decide where to install that fiber based on demand from potential customers. The company through its RG Fiber website is allowing people to sign up for service currently, but it will launch a campaign in January, he said.

“We have said we want to build where people want us to go,” Bosch said. “But certainly I’ve said we would like to build our first project in East Lawrence. This work we’re doing now will allow us to put as much as fiber in East Lawrence as we would ever want.”

Unlike the Kwikom model, RG’s service won’t be wireless, which — predictably — Bosch said is an advantage. Again, I’ll let you sort out the technical pros and cons.

RG Fiber offers plans beginning at $60 a month with speeds of 50 mbps for both downloads and uploads. Residential plans that offer gigabit speed for both downloads and uploads are about $120 month. Bosch said the company recently has reached a deal with Nokia that will allow for speeds of up to 10 gigabits. That service is expected to debut next year.

• • •

One last piece of news related to Lawrence internet providers. Midco, the largest of the internet and cable TV companies in town, announced Wednesday morning that it has opened its new Lawrence office. It has moved from the former Riverfront Mall in downtown and is now located at 2000 W. 31st Street, which is in the shopping center with Home Depot and Best Buy.

Importantly, the company’s press release confirmed that Midco is still on track to offer gigabit internet service to residential customers in 2018.

All of this is quite a turnaround from a couple of years ago when there was concern among several Lawrence leaders that the city was going to get left behind in the gigabit age. There were companies requesting incentives from the city to build gigabit fiber, and there was even talk about the city building and operating its own internet utility.

None of that happened, but development in the private sector has continued. It will be interesting to see where we are in another year. There are questions in both directions — private sector development is significant in Lawrence, yet Google’s experience in Kansas City raises questions about how the gigabit fiber model works.

Reply 8 comments from Linda Aikins Charles L. Bloss, Jr. Richard Heckler Michael Kort Mallardj8 Steve Johnson Lristh1230 Jake Davis

Downtown breakfast spot reopens with new bar, new dinner service and tales of what to do with 2,000 pounds of green chilies

Here is a bit of holiday trivia for you: When you order a southwest dish and get both green chili sauce and red chili sauce, the combination is called Christmas. I call it a $22 dry cleaning bill. Either way, a longtime downtown restaurant that is in the chili business temporarily closed its doors but now is open again with a bit of a new look.

Global Cafe, 820 Massachusetts St., has been closed for the past two months. It recently reopened, and the big change is the restaurant has added a full bar. At first, that may confuse you because Global Cafe is known primarily as a breakfast spot that closes at 2 p.m. I would tell you two things: 1. Don’t judge. 2. The restaurant will soon extend its hours and begin offering a dinner menu. Expect the dinner menu to expand upon the idea of global cuisine.

“Since we are a global cafe, we can really do dishes from wherever we want,” said Kate Gonzalez, co-owner of the restaurant.

Case in point: The kitchen staff currently is fascinated with some Indian dishes and curries, so the restaurant plans to offer some of those as dinner specials when the restaurant debuts its evening hours, which likely will be in early December.

Gonzalez said the plan is for the dinner menu to include some of the restaurant’s most popular breakfast and lunch dishes. (Yes, breakfast for dinner.) The dinner menu will be supplemented with weekly or daily specials that feature entrees from faraway places.

There will be one other regular addition to the dinner menu, though: Gulf shrimp. Gonzalez said the restaurant has reached a deal with a company that will supply fresh shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico.

“We’re going to do peel-and-eat shrimp at the bar,” Gonzalez said. “We’re just trying to bring something different.”

At the bar, things get even more different. The restaurant — which did the remodel, in part, because it has been open for 10 years — has long been known for its green chili sauce. (More on the adventure behind that sauce in a moment.) Now it will use some of its green chilies to serve unique Bloody Marys and margaritas. The bar is stocking green chili-infused vodka and green chili-infused tequila that will be used in the cocktails. The bar also will have four taps for local beers, and at least for awhile one of them will be a green chili-infused beer by the Lawrence Beer Company.

Global Cafe employees work behind the new bar at the restaurant, 820 Massachusetts Street, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. The restaurant, which had been closed for two months for renovations, recently reopened and will soon add dinner service.

Global Cafe employees work behind the new bar at the restaurant, 820 Massachusetts Street, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. The restaurant, which had been closed for two months for renovations, recently reopened and will soon add dinner service. by Nick Krug

So, what’s the deal with all the chilies? Well, Gonzalez and her husband, Rafael, go to great pains to gets the chilies, so they definitely are going to use them. Gonzalez told me that every September the couple drives a U-Haul truck down to New Mexico where a farmer fills it with about 2,000 pounds of fresh green chilies.

But the fun is just beginning at that point. Upon arrival in Lawrence, the roasting begins on a device that looks a bit like a 55-gallon drum hooked up to a motor that rotates it around propane burners. The drum will hold about 30 pounds of chilies, and it takes about three minutes for the roasting process to be completed.

The fun is still not over, though. Large numbers of friends and family gather for about a week to remove the chilies from the roaster, cut off their stems, remove their seeds and prepare them to be frozen to be used throughout the year.

“Yeah, it is a really big deal,” Gonzalez said.

The green chili sauce is used for popular dishes such as huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos and other Latin American dishes, such as arepas, which are Venezuelan-style dense corn cakes that are topped with a variety meats, cheeses and sauces.

Previously, the only type of sauce available at Global Cafe was the green chili sauce. But now the restaurant has found a good supplier for red chilies (no, it doesn’t involve another trip to New Mexico,) so red sauce is now on the menu.

That, of course, means you can have Christmas all year long. Or, at least, until you run out of clean shirts.

Reply 1 comment from Richard Heckler

Fast-food hamburger restaurant, with a Mexican twist, coming to 23rd Street

There is a lot to unpack in this box: Hamburgers and tacos on the same menu, but perhaps one less chance to talk like a pirate in Lawrence. Shiver me timbers. What is ye talking about matey? Plans have been filed for the fast-food restaurant chain Jack In The Box to take the place of the Long John Silver’s/A&W restaurant on 23rd Street.

If you are not a fast-food connoisseur (I’m not because I could have eaten two hamburgers in the time it takes me to spell “connoisseur”) you may not be familiar with Jack In The Box. The restaurant chain is prevalent in many parts of the country, but not in Lawrence. The KC metro area has seven of the restaurants, including nearby at The Legends district by the Kansas Speedway and in Olathe.

Courtesy: Jack in the Box Inc.

Courtesy: Jack in the Box Inc. by Chad Lawhorn

What makes Jack In The Box stand out a bit from the fast-food crowd is it won’t confine itself to just one fast-food genre. Instead, it has both hamburgers and fast-food Mexican on its menu.

On the burger front it has a couple of premium burgers that they call Ribeye Burgers, including a fancy one with Havarti and grilled onions. The menu includes about a dozen other hamburgers including some served on “butter buns” and a few served on sourdough bread.

On the Mexican side of the menu, it really is more of a taco menu rather than full-fledged Mexican fare. For instance, it doesn’t have burritos or the most Mexican of dishes — tater tots with celery salt. (Batten down the hatches, landlubbers. It is Tuesday and I’ve got Potato Oles on my mind.) The taco menu includes about four different varieties, including one called a Bacon Ranch Monster Taco.

Of course, the restaurant has chicken on its menu. As we’ve found out in Lawrence, chicken is really more of a way of life than a menu item. Perhaps that was Long John Silver’s downfall — it brought fish to a chicken fight. (If you believe in the local food movement, though, Long John Silver’s was for you. They have deep fried Twinkies on their menu. Twinkies are made in Emporia, which is considered local to me, especially when deep fried is involved.)

I can’t say with certainty that we have seen the end of Long John Silver’s in Lawrence. It is always possible that it will relocate in Lawrence. I’ve got a call into the restaurant to find out. If Long John Silver’s doesn’t reopen in Lawrence, it will be the end of a longtime Lawrence restaurant. I’m pretty sure there has been a Long John Silver’s the entire 25 years I’ve been in Lawrence.

If you are unfamiliar with the location, the Long John Silver’s/A&W restaurant is at 1501 W. 23rd St. Plans filed at City Hall call for the current building to remain in place, but to be completely remodeled. Also look for parking lot and landscape improvements as part of the project. No word yet on when Jack In The Box may open, but I would guess the construction will take several months.

Reply 4 comments from Scattered Betty Bartholomew Clara Westphal Mark Kostner

New local meat market opens in west Lawrence with fresh beef, pork, lamb, area cheeses

Not all meat is the same. For instance, I’ve eaten bacon where I have known the name of the pig that it came from. (After the first year in 4-H, the kids learned why naming the pigs maybe isn’t the best idea.) But all throughout the state there are rural communities where families are eating beef and pork that was raised on their farm or maybe the next one over. Now, a new west Lawrence business aims to bring that type of meat to area residents.

Heartland Meat Market opened recently in the Orchards Shopping Center at Bob Billings and Kasold. As you might imagine, it is not your typical small-town meat processing shop, because there is no slaughtering of animals going on in the Orchards Shopping Center.

Rather, some of the owners of Heartland also own Bowser Meat Processing in Meriden in nearby Jefferson County. The slaughtering and other processing steps happen at the Meriden facility, but the Lawrence store is selling the beef and the pork.

Linda Hayes, manager of the Lawrence store, said all the beef and pork come either from livestock from the personal stock of Bowser or from area farmers that the owners know and trust.

“We’re selling fresh meat,” Hayes said.

On the beef side that includes hamburger, T-bone and strip steaks, roasts, brisket and several other cuts. The shop sells both grass-fed beef and grain-fed beef, which will help determine how lean the beef is. On the pork front, there’s ground pork, chops, pork butts and several other cuts that will get a barbecuer excited. The shop also sells some lamb and is investigating getting into the goat business.

The business has several products it makes in-house, including breakfast sausage, bacon, beef sticks, beef jerky, bratwursts and other items. The shop also stocks cheese made by the Alma Creamery.

In the next several weeks, the shop hopes to get some additional equipment that will allow for more custom orders. The shop is working to get a meat-cutting bandsaw that will allow Hayes to cut meat to order, meaning you can specify the thickness of your steaks, chops and such.

The folks at Bowser are betting more people are ready to start eating homegrown meats. The Bowser folks have opened stores in Holton, just outside of Wichita in Yoder, and in Manhattan, Hayes said.

But what’s the difference between homegrown meat and the more traditional meat that comes from large processing plants?

“People tell me that they like that it is fresh and tender,” Hayes said. “And they really like that it is not shipped in from faraway places.”

Personally, I’ve noticed meat that is raised on a local farm to often have less fat than commercially raised animals, although my son once did raise a 320-pound hog. (That’s not bragging, by the way. When they try to put a saddle on your hog at the fair, you probably aren’t going to get a blue ribbon.) Of course, many of you already know about locally raised meat. Several vendors at the Lawrence Farmers Market sell local meat, and I think some grocery stores stock a bit of it too. Plus, you don’t have to go very far to find traditional, small-town meat processing shops. De Soto, Overbrook and Ottawa, for instance, all have them. But Heartland Meat Market certainly is making more of a retail push in Lawrence than most.

The store, 1420 Kasold Drive, is open Tuesday through Saturday but is closed Sundays and Mondays.

• The meat most of us are making plans for is turkey, with Thanksgiving quickly approaching. With that in mind, I’ll be out of the office next week. (It takes some time to get the block and tackle pulleys in place to move the turkey.) So, look for Town Talk to return the last week of November. Everybody have a safe and happy holiday.

Reply 2 comments from Floyd Craig Jay Reynolds Michael Napier

Latest income numbers show Lawrence still in Kansas’ bottom tier

Douglas County residents, it is time to compare ourselves with our neighbors again. And then mutter under our breath. Yes, new federal numbers are out measuring our incomes, and Douglas County again is stuck on the basement level.

Out of Kansas’ 105 counties, 30 have per capita personal income numbers of less than $40,000. Douglas County is still one of them, according to the new 2016 statistics released today.

But don’t get too despondent. For one, per capita personal income numbers aren’t a perfect measure of success, especially in a college community. The old theory goes that per capita numbers in college communities look worse than they really are because a lot of students in the community don’t have much in the way of income. Many are beer rich but cash poor. True enough, but that argument can become a crutch. It also is true that one of the best ways to raise incomes is to attract high-tech jobs that require highly educated people. What county in Kansas is smarter (or more modest) than Douglas County? That’s what I thought. Yet our incomes are still in the lower tier.

However, probably a better reason to take heart is that we are moving in the right direction. In fact, we are oh-so-close to breaking into the $40,000 club. Here’s Douglas County’s 2016 stats: Per capita personal income of $39,440 compared with the Kansas average of $47,228. That doesn't look so good, but our incomes grew by 1.6 percent in 2016, which is far better than the 0.5 percent growth rate of the state as a whole. In 2015, Douglas County incomes grew by 4.9 percent, also well above the statewide average. Over the last two years, we’ve even outpaced Johnson County’s income growth rate. (Don’t buy that new SUV quite yet. Johnson County’s per capita incomes are still more than $25,000 higher than ours.)

How do we stack up with some of our other neighbors? Here’s a look at per capital personal income numbers, which, by the way, basically measure all the income that individuals — not businesses — receive. That’s everything from paychecks to Social Security checks. But don’t confuse these numbers as an “average salary” for county residents. It is not. These numbers are for every man, woman and child in the county. But the numbers do give an idea of relative wealth of individuals in a county.

— Douglas: $39,440, up 1.6 percent

— Franklin: $38,371, up 1.3 percent

— Jefferson: $41,432, up 3.1 percent

— Johnson: $66,063, up 1.5 percent

— Leavenworth: $40,194, up 1.2 percent

— Osage: $39,372, up 2.8 percent

— Riley: $39,592, up 2.3 percent

— Shawnee: $44,504, up 3 percent

— Wyandotte: $30,508, down 15.8 percent

No, I don’t know what has happened to Wyandotte County, but the numbers are stark. Its per capita income in 2014 was more than $42,000, and it has plummeted in the last two years.

Less stark but still concerning are numbers in Sedgwick County, home to Wichita. Per capita incomes are still strong at $49,213. But while other counties were growing the past two years, Sedgwick County declined both years, down 1.7 percent. Next to Johnson County, Sedgwick County is the most important engine in the Kansas economy, so those numbers don’t bode well.

Other numbers in the report are troubling for Kansas. As has been the case for a long time, the counties with the highest income levels aren’t really what you would think of as economic powerhouses. Instead, they are very sparsely populated counties that rely primarily on agriculture. People move out of the county, but the ag land remains, meaning the ag income gets distributed among the smaller number of locals. The result is higher per capita income, but it isn’t a recipe for a healthy economy.

Lane County is a good example. It has the highest per capita income in the state at $76,238. If you aren’t sure where Lane County is, you’re not alone. Dighton is its county seat. It also is the county’s lone city. There are about 1,600 people in the county, and the population dropped by 18 percent during the last decade. A lot of “high ranking” counties in the state have similar stories.

That’s why it probably is wiser to compare Lawrence with some other similar communities. Here’s a look at how Douglas County’s per capita personal income numbers compare with the metro areas of some other college communities in the region:

— Boulder (University of Colorado): $63,707, up 1.6 percent

— Austin (University of Texas): $51,566, up 0.9 percent

— Iowa City (University of Iowa): $47,574, up 1.1 percent

— Fort Collins (Colorado State): $47,117, up 2.2 percent

— Lincoln (University of Nebraska): $45,511, up 1.5 percent

— Columbia (University of Missouri): $43,292, up 1.5 percent

— Manhattan: (KSU): $41,852, up 2.2 percent

— Lawrence (KU): $39,440, up 1.6 percent

— Morgantown (University of West Virginia): $39,024, down 0.8 percent

— Lubbock (Texas Tech): $38,568, up 0.6 percent

— Ames (Iowa State): $38,469, up 0.4 percent

— Waco, Texas (Baylor University): $37,755, up 2 percent


See the latest plans to build large student apartment complex around Lawrence day care

It sounds like it should be a reality television show: a day care surrounded by a college apartment complex. (Next on the Discovery Channel: Diapers and Debauchery.) But it soon may just become reality in southern Lawrence.

We reported in September that a concept plan was being floated around town that Gilbane Development — a large, national student apartment company — would build a major apartment complex on largely vacant ground near the southwest corner of Clinton Parkway and Crestline Drive.

The twist with the project has been that the largely vacant ground does include a Lawrence day care, the Lawrence Child Development Center at 2333 Crestline Drive. Instead of purchasing the property, the company had proposed building the apartment complex around the day care. But again, this was all a concept plan, and there was talk the development company would work out a deal with the day care.

Well, actual plans have now been filed at Lawrence City Hall, and the apartment project is still proposing to build around the day care. The plans show the complex surrounding the day care on three sides. The plans also get specific about how large this complex would be: 206 apartments with 560 bedrooms.

The plans call for two four-story buildings to be built on the property — one north and one south of the day care. Directly behind the day care will be a parking lot — the plan calls for just over 580 parking spaces — and an outdoor basketball court. The basketball court is nearly adjacent to the day care’s playground, although the two would be separated by a retaining wall and fencing. (I’m not sure what the kids will learn from college-age pick-up basketball games. Middle-aged pick-up basketball games, on the other hand, would teach them the benefits of never passing the ball, Bengay and defibrillators.)

I chatted with Ken Prost, the director of the Lawrence Child Development Center. He said he still has concerns about the proposed project.

“We’ve been talking to them trying to get some straight answers, but we haven’t been able to get any real response,” Prost said.

I’ve got a message into a spokesman for Gilbane but haven’t heard back. When I last chatted with a Gilbane representative in September, he said the company had offered a fair market value price to buy the property of the day care center.

Prost didn’t get into any such offer when I talked with him, but he said the day care is open to moving or to staying on the site if Gilbane can help make some improvements to insulate the day care from the apartment complex.

“We are only against the project because it is a risk to our children, our parents and our business,” Prost said. “If I can tell my parents that Gilbane has their children’s interest at heart, then I can probably assist them.”

We’ll see whether a deal is forthcoming. If not, it will be interesting to watch this project move through the City Hall approval process. City commissioners ultimately will have to approve a rezoning of the property before the project can move forward.

In some ways, the project seems to be what City Hall leaders say they want: dense residential development on an “infill property” that is in the city limits. If you are having a hard time picturing Clinton Parkway and Crestline, it basically is a block west of 23rd and Iowa streets. And to boot, the company has not requested any financial incentives for the apartment complex, meaning that the new development would add several million dollars to the city’s property tax base.

But a room full of angry day care parents will complicate the approval process. Plus, there is perhaps a growing segment in the community that has started to push back on new apartment construction. It should make an interesting early test for the new City Commission.

Here’s a look at the site plan proposed for the development, plus a couple of renderings that give you a general idea of what the new buildings — they’ll be a little more than 40 feet tall — would look like.

Courtesy: Landplan Engineering/City of Lawrence

Courtesy: Landplan Engineering/City of Lawrence by Chad Lawhorn

Courtesy: Landplan Engineering/City of Lawrence

Courtesy: Landplan Engineering/City of Lawrence by Chad Lawhorn

Reply 10 comments from David Holroyd Michael Kort Ron Holzwarth Ophelia_shorn Richard Heckler Alex Landazuri

Popular noodle shop moving to Massachusetts Street; south Iowa Street restaurant closes

Add a fancy ramen noodle maker to the sights you soon will be able to see in downtown Lawrence. (Fancy ramen noodle maker? In college, I guess that meant I’d actually be wearing something other than my pajamas while boiling the water.) Now, I know it means something different, and it soon will be on display as a Lawrence noodle shop moves its business to Massachusetts Street.

Ramen Bowls has signed a deal to move from its longtime home at 125 E. 10th St. to a new location at 918 Massachusetts St. The restaurant is moving into the space that briefly was home to Harold’s, a restaurant that was trying to make its name by selling fried chicken, doughnuts and whiskey. (I think at least one of those three items also was part of my fancy ramen noodle recipe.)

Shantel Grace, a co-owner of Ramen Bowls, told me the restaurant is moving because it has outgrown its space on 10th Street.

“Our kitchen is less than 250 square feet currently,” Grace said. “What they work through is pretty crazy. We had so many customers who didn’t feel like they could come for lunch because they didn’t want to wait in line.”

The new restaurant will be about 3,000 square feet, or about double the restaurant’s current space.

In addition to more seating and a larger kitchen, the extra space will allow the restaurant to showcase a piece of equipment you don’t see every day: an authentic Japanese ramen noodle maker.

Ramen Bowls makes all of its noodles from scratch using a rather large stainless steel machine that cranks out about a thousand 5-ounce noodle servings every six hours. The restaurant currently has to rent a separate space to make its noodles. That will change, however, with the new restaurant.

“In the new space we will move the noodle maker out front so people can see what the process looks like,” Grace said.

The restaurant also will use the extra space to house a larger bar area. Grace said Ramen will partner with its sister company, Luckyberry Juice Cafe at 845 Massachusetts St. Grace is part of the ownership of that approximately 3-month old business. The bar at Ramen Bowls will use cold-pressed juices made at Luckyberry for specialty cocktails. Grace said she is working on a cocktail with dark rum, cold-pressed grapefruit and rosemary. Plus, she said the bar would have a variety of tiki cocktails that will use the Luckyberry juice.

The juice isn’t the first time the two businesses have partnered. Luckyberry has a soup bar that is stocked with soups that are made by the kitchen staff at Ramen Bowls, Grace said.

Ramen Bowl’s pending move from 10th Street, however, will end one cool idea: rooftop dining in downtown Lawrence. As we’ve reported, Ramen Bowls was working with its landlord on 10th Street — Lawrence businessman Jeff Shmalberg — to add a rooftop bar and dining area to the building.

But that idea was slow-moving, as it required a hefty amount of engineering work to win approval from City Hall. However, city planners were open to the idea, which maybe wouldn’t have been the case five or 10 years ago. Ramen Bowls and Shmalberg, though, hadn’t yet settled on a plan that was cost effective. Grace said Ramen Bowls won’t be trying to create a rooftop area at its new location.

“We were so excited about it, but the fear was that it would be pretty seasonal,” Grace said. “Logistically it was a bit more involved than we thought. We decided that the difficulty outweighed the cool factor. But I think somebody will do it, someday, and it will be a big hit when it happens.”

As for the pending move, Grace said she hopes Ramen Bowls will be operating in the new location in early December.

In other news and notes from around town:

• While we are talking about restaurant news, add another one to the list that has closed after trying Lawrence for a fairly short time. Which Wich has closed its location at 2540 Iowa St., which is the strip mall next to Applebee’s. The restaurant, which opened in the summer of 2016, was a sub sandwich shop. Its calling card was the unique way you ordered your sandwich. You took an empty paper bag and a Sharpie and then started marking on the bag the various ingredients you wanted on your sandwich. I like my sandwiches really big, so I would give them one of those large paper yard waste bags. Maybe that is what scared them off.


Plans filed to bring gas station, retail, offices along a portion of the South Lawrence Trafficway

We’re soon going to have another test of how — or whether — city leaders want land along the South Lawrence Trafficway to develop. Plans have been filed for a new office, commercial and gas station development near the Haskell Avenue interchange of the SLT.

Specifically, the project is proposed for the northwest corner of 31st and Haskell Avenue. Some of you may remember the property from years ago as the former LRM concrete plant.

A group led by Lawrence businessman Scott Zaremba has filed plans at City Hall. The group is proposing that the property be rezoned from its current heavy industrial zoning category to a lighter industrial zoning category. That lighter industrial zoning category would allow for a variety of commercial uses, including fast-food restaurants with drive-thrus, smaller-scale retail stores, banks, office uses and other similar types of businesses.

The zoning also includes gas stations and convenience stores, and that is a business that Zaremba is in. He runs the Zarco fueling station businesses in Lawrence. A concept plan calls for a gas station to be built as part of the project. Any time a gas station project is mentioned in Lawrence — especially along a major highway — the question of a truck stop comes into play. Zaremba, though, indicated his current thinking is more of a traditional gasoline station/convenience store type of project.

“That is not in the plan today,” Zaremba told me when I asked about a truck stop.

Instead, Zaremba said he hopes to have a development that can serve as an eastern gateway to Lawrence. Haskell Avenue isn’t exactly the eastern edge of Lawrence, but the Haskell interchange and the 23rd Street interchange are the two most eastern interchanges along the South Lawrence Trafficway.

“I want to make it one of those places that highlights what the city has to offer,” Zaremba said.

Currently, a specific development plan hasn’t been filed for the project. Rather, the ownership group is asking for the rezoning and has provided a “concept plan” that has been developed by Lawrence-based Paul Werner Architects.

That plan shows the gas station and seven other buildings on the property. Two of the other buildings are strip retail centers that could house multiple stores. One is next to the gas station along Haskell Avenue, and another is on the southern part of the site next to 31st Street. The two largest buildings are listed as office buildings, and three other buildings are the right size to be fast-food restaurants.

Courtesy: City of Lawrence and Paul Werner Architects

Courtesy: City of Lawrence and Paul Werner Architects by Chad Lawhorn

But concept plans are meant to change. If the zoning is approved, it is likely that the concept plan will be changed, perhaps significantly, depending on what businesses are interested in the property.

In total, the site is just under 9 acres. It includes what has become a kind of funky piece of ground after 31st Street and Haskell Avenue were rebuilt following the SLT project. If you have driven in the area, you’ve likely noticed there are now two roads named Haskell in the area. The new road is called Haskell Avenue, but there is a short section of the old Haskell Avenue that continues to exist just to the west of the new road. That is called Haskell Lane. In between Haskell Avenue and Haskell Lane is a triangular piece of ground that is covered by a stand of timber. The concept plan calls for Haskell Lane to be removed. That would allow for the timbered piece of ground to be connected to the old concrete plant property, providing about 9 acres of contiguous space for the new development.

It will be interesting to watch whether city leaders approve the plans. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission will consider the rezoning issue at its Wednesday evening meeting. The rezoning, however, ultimately will have to win approval from the City Commission before it can move forward.

Other plans to redevelop property along the trafficway haven’t been moving too quickly through the approval process. The large shopping center proposed for south of the SLT and Iowa Street interchange is the primary example. Another example is a large apartment complex proposed for west of the Bob Billings and SLT interchange. (That project has been really quiet of late. I do hope to get an update.)

This 31st and Haskell project is slower than either one of those, but I’m sure many developers will be watching how it turns out. In developers’ file cabinets, there's no shortage of plans to develop along the bypass. (Granted, some of the plans are in Latin because that was the language of the day when the SLT first started construction. For newcomers to town, it took a really long time to build the SLT.)

It will be particularly interesting about whether this idea of creating an eastern gateway to Lawrence is embraced. If so, then you have to wonder whether that is a green light for some projects to be proposed near the 23rd Street interchange of the SLT. Probably not. I think most people believe the political winds at City Hall aren’t favoring developments that would be built on the edge of town.

Someday they may, though, and it is worth remembering who owns one of the premier sites near that interchange: the Lawrence public school district. The school district owns the site outlined in blue on the map below. It is immediately west of where 23rd Street and the SLT split. The city of Lawrence owns the large, vacant piece of property in the lower left corner of the map.

Combined, the two could create some really interesting prospects for a statement-making type of project in Lawrence.

Reply 7 comments from Clark Coan Notwhatyouthink2 Melanie Birge Ken Easthouse Wakarusaguy Ken Schmidt Deborah Snyder Brett McCabe

From plantains to pikliz, Haitian cuisine served near Ninth and Iowa streets

Fritz-Gerald Esperance grew up in Haiti, came to America as part of a singing group, attended the University of Kansas, and learned something about American food.

“I started eating American food, and I gained 30 pounds in a few months,” Esperance said.

Indeed, immigrants often don’t read the fine print. America: Land of the free, home of the brave (and capital of the elastic waistband). Esperance began making and eating Haitian-style food again, and now, years later, he’s opened a Haitian restaurant in Lawrence.

Barbara Guster and Fritz-Gerald Esperance at their restaurant, Taste of Haiti, 925 Iowa Street.

Barbara Guster and Fritz-Gerald Esperance at their restaurant, Taste of Haiti, 925 Iowa Street. by Chad Lawhorn

Taste of Haiti opened earlier this year at 925 Iowa St., but opened a bit quietly. It mainly has been serving food to customers at Empire Billiards, which is next door to the restaurant. But Taste of Haiti has its own dining room and entrance for people who don’t want to go to a pool hall to eat their Haitian cuisine.

Or maybe you do want to eat Haitian cuisine in a pool hall. Or maybe you already have been eating Haitian cuisine and don’t know. I’m guessing many Lawrence residents aren’t familiar with the style of food.

You’ve probably had one dish: Beans and rice. You may think of that more as Cajun/New Orleans fare, but where do you think the New Orleans cooks came from?

“People sometimes think we must be a New Orleans or Cajun style of restaurant, but Haiti is the source of many of those recipes,” said Barbara Guster, who is a co-owner of the restaurant. “But New Orleans changed the recipes.”

For example, many of the New Orleans dishes feature red beans and dirty rice. Taste of Haiti serves an “island rice” that is black beans and white rice. Another of its unique side dishes is something called “pikliz.” That’s a spicy coleslaw that includes pickled cabbage, several varieties of peppers, some garlic and onion and lots of white vinegar.

Esperance said one of the restaurant’s signature dishes is plantains with pikliz. Esperance said plantains are a big part of Haitian cooking. So, too, is seafood. The restaurant features both red snapper and shrimp, and not the frozen kind. The restaurant uses Gulf Coast shrimp and the red snapper is the type of fish that stares back at you, i.e. it is served with its head on.

The restaurant also has a dish called crescents, which I’m assured is not a creation of the Pillsbury Doughboy. (The doughboy should give immigrants a clue about American food. He is not slim.) Instead, these crescents are a Caribbean patty type of dish. Taste of Haiti has some that are spiced beef, some that are curry chicken and some that are vegetable. Look for some other authentic dishes soon. The restaurant is working on finding a supplier for fresh goat, which also is a staple in Haitian food.

In addition to the Haitian food, the restaurant does have a lot of American bar food type of dishes on its menu, given that a good amount of its business currently comes from the pool hall next door.

Esperance, though, does hope that the restaurant helps Lawrence residents understand Haiti a bit better. He hopes to get more Haiti artwork in the restaurant and just be a resource for the island nation, which suffers more than its fair share of natural disasters. Esperance called the island “earthquake friendly.” He estimated that he felt about four earthquakes a year when he lived in the country.

The restaurant is open from noon to midnight most days. It is a bit difficult to find. It is not in the main part of the Hillcrest Shopping Center, but rather is on the northern edge of the center, basically behind The Merc.


Election Day: Will voter turnout be higher? Will sales taxes win? Will women make history on Lawrence City Commission?

Let’s do an Election Day edition of Town Talk. No, that doesn’t mean you have to show me your photo ID before you can read the column. But, if you want to read the column in a small booth shielded from the view of others, I would understand.

Today, of course, is Election Day for school board and city commission races in Lawrence and Douglas County. I’ll try to update this column a few times today as new information emerges. But to get us started, here are some news and notes from the election scene.

A visitor arrives at the Douglas County Courthouse, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, as local residents fill out advance ballots for Tuesday's sales tax, city commission and school board elections.

A visitor arrives at the Douglas County Courthouse, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, as local residents fill out advance ballots for Tuesday's sales tax, city commission and school board elections. by Nick Krug

This is the first time we’ve had the city commission and school board elections in November. Normally, the local elections are held in April. State lawmakers changed the law with the hope that it would increase voter turnout. Today will be the best test yet. There is reason to believe that voter turnout will be higher, but I’m not sure how much it has to do with the change in month.

Instead, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew for the first time in a local election sent out a mailer letting residents know they could request an advance ballot that they could return via mail. Shew told us he received 5,500 requests for ballots, and as of Monday, almost 4,800 of them had been returned.

That’s a big number considering that only a little more than 12,000 people voted in total in the 2015 general election for school board and city commission races. Or, another way to look at, is that it only took 5,800 votes to get elected as a city commissioner in 2015.

We’ll see, but I’m thinking that voter turnout could be higher than in past city and school elections. If you are keeping track at home, 16.5 percent is the number to beat. That was the voter turnout in the 2015 elections that were held in April.

UPDATE 1 p.m.: If the hope was that moving the elections to November would produce crowds closer to what we see during presidential elections, that clearly hasn’t happened in Lawrence. I was out from about 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. I stopped by several polling places on both the east and west side of towns. Poll workers told me that crowds were steady, and certainly were better than the August primary. That primary election had only about a 10 percent turnout rate. But when I asked poll workers whether they thought turnout was much greater than past city and school elections we’ve held in April, most said it seemed pretty comparable. Of course, remembering April 2015 can be tricky for some of us. We’’ll know more once we see actual numbers. But I didn’t see any sign of lines or the type of crowds you see when we’re voting for a president or even a governor. However, because of the advance voting issue I mentioned above, it is still possible turnout could be significantly better than past years.

• This election has a special twist to it. In addition to the school board and city commission seats, voters also will decide the fate of three sales tax questions — a 0.3 percent infrastructure sales tax, a 0.2 percent sales tax for transit operations, and a 0.05 percent sales tax for affordable housing. The infrastructure and transit operations sales taxes exist currently, but are scheduled to sunset in 2019, so city officials are seeking their renewal for another 10 years. The affordable housing tax doesn’t exist currently, but rather is proposed the take the place of a transit capital improvements tax that is also set to expire in 2019.

In my role, I don’t believe in making public predictions about the outcome of elections, so I won’t tell you whether I think the taxes will win or lose at the polls. But I do think it will be interesting to compare these returns to the returns from the 2008 elections when the three sales taxes were approved by voters.

The comparison may provide interesting commentary on the mood of voters as it relates to taxes. In 2008, voters didn’t hesitate to approve the three new taxes. They were on the same ballot as Barack Obama, who was seeking his first term as president. Both Obama and the taxes rolled to victory in Lawrence.

The political climate is a bit different today. For one, turnout almost certainly will be less for this election than when the taxes were on the ballot in 2008. For another, voters are being asked to approve these three taxes at the same time they are facing their largest property tax increase in years. The city, the county and the school district all have approved significant property tax increases. Then, there is the question of whether Lawrence residents have fallen out of love with sales taxes. The last time the city tried to get a sales tax approved — in 2014 for a police headquarters building — the tax was rejected by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin.

But, as I noted, the more interesting comparisons will be how the vote totals for the three sales taxes compare to the 2008 vote. Here are those totals:

— 0.3 percent infrastructure sales tax: 73 percent to 27 percent

— 0.2 percent transit operations tax: 70 percent to 30 percent

— 0.05 percent transit capital tax: 69 percent to 31 percent

Those are some really big numbers to live up to.

• I believe today’s city commission election has a chance to be historic, in one way. Depending on the results, women could end up occupying three of the five seats on the Lawrence City Commission. I’m not sure when the last time that has happened, if ever. I’m going to spend some time today researching that bit of history in an attempt to be more definitive. I’ve covered the City Commission for the last 25 years, and I don’t recall at time that there have been three women on the commission. (Apologies if I’m forgetting.)

Leslie Soden currently is on the commission, and has a term that lasts for two more years. Lisa Larsen is on the on the commission and seeking re-election. She was the top vote-winner in the August primary election, which usually translates into good things in the general election. Jennifer Ananda also is on the ballot. She finished fourth in the primary election, which is one spot away from victory. Only the top three vote-winners get a seat on the commission. (The top two vote-winners get a four-year term, while the third-place finisher gets a two-year term.) But Ananda wasn’t far behind, and certainly fourth-place finishers in the primary have made their way into top three in the general elections before.

In terms of results from the August primary, they are listed below. Everybody starts over, however, in the general election. That said, however, the primary results do give you a good idea of how much ground candidates have to make up. This year’s results showed a pretty tight race among four candidates for the top three spots. The fifth-place candidate, Mike Anderson, was the top fundraiser for the general election, which sometimes can be a sign of momentum, but the results suggest he does have ground to make up.

Lisa Larsen: 3,743 votes

Matthew Herbert: 2,904 votes

Dustin Stumblingear: 2,798 votes

Jennifer Ananda: 2,572 votes

Mike Anderson: 1,695 votes

Bassem Chahine: 1,342

• If you have been aiming to research all the candidates — both city and school — and just haven’t got around to it, check out our online edition of the 2017 Voters Guide. You can see that here.

Reply 1 comment from Clark Coan

A once-popular retailer comes back to downtown Lawrence with a pop-up store for the holidays

For me, the early signs of the Christmas season are when the CEO of Mastercard stops by the house to check on my health. For the rest of you, it may be when merchants start opening pop-up stores — a relatively new trend of specialty shops that are open only for the Christmas season. Downtown Lawrence has a new pop-up store, though its name is familiar.

The unique, international gift boutique Ten Thousand Villages has opened a temporary store in downtown Lawrence. The retailer has reached a deal with Extra Virgin to locate in part of that store’s space at 937 Massachusetts St. Work is underway, and the Ten Thousand Villages store is expected to open any day.

In case you have forgotten, Extra Virgin is a store that specializes in high-end olive oils and balsamic vinegars. It will continue to have all of its regular offerings, but it has carved out some space in the back of its store for Ten Thousand Villages.

Some of you certainly remember Ten Thousand Villages. It had a store in downtown Lawrence at 835 Massachusetts St. for about four years. It closed at the beginning of this year after it struggled to pay the relatively high operating costs of a Massachusetts Street business. But it is using the pop-up model to keep a foothold in downtown during the busy holiday shopping season.

In this file photo from December 2012, Lawrence resident Kelsey Richardson looks over some of the fair trade items for sale at Ten Thousand Villages, 835 Massachusetts St.

In this file photo from December 2012, Lawrence resident Kelsey Richardson looks over some of the fair trade items for sale at Ten Thousand Villages, 835 Massachusetts St.

The store is a unique one because it is a nonprofit organization and it is a certified Fair Trade Retailer. That means it carries only goods that have been produced in a way that allows them to be labeled fair-trade friendly. Those requirements include that the people who produce the products are paid a living wage, work in safe conditions, and that no free or child labor is used in the production process.

As for what the shop actually sells, it is an assortment of items from Third World countries throughout Africa and South America, primarily. This shop plans to focus on items that include jewelry, scarves, baskets, bath and body products, wall art, textiles, sculptures and holiday decor.

The people who run the Ten Thousand Villages store in Overland Park are managing this pop-up location, but many of the Lawrence volunteers who used to staff the previous Lawrence store are expected to be on hand, Nathaniel Briggs, manager of Extra Virgin told me.

In terms of Extra Virgin’s role in all of this, Briggs said it made good sense for his business to partner with Ten Thousand Villages. The two stores shared a lot of customers, perhaps because both shops focused on imported goods.

“We always have people coming in asking what happened to Ten Thousand Villages,” Briggs said.

Extra Virgin also has added a line of fair trade items from Project Lydia, a locally based fair trade company that imports products from Uganda. Having a larger selection of fair trade items during the holidays just seemed to make sense, Briggs said. That is one of several product expansions the store has undertaken. The store also sells candied jalapeños, stuffed olives, holiday jams and some pastas.

It will be interesting to see if pop-up stores become more of a trend in downtown. It also would be interesting to see how that would be received by other merchants. Some may like it because it provides more shopping options in downtown during the busy season, while others may not like the idea of merchants only having a presence during the busiest time of the year, while year-round merchants do the hard work of keeping downtown on the minds of shoppers all year long.

Either way, the deal with Ten Thousand Villages is the latest sign of success for Extra Virgin. It was almost seven years ago that Extra Virgin opened its doors in downtown, and I’m sure some folks wondered whether a store that focused only on olive oils and balsamic vinegars could make a go of it.

But Briggs said business has been good. There are probably several factors. There is the foodie movement, which has created an appreciation for higher-end ingredients. There is the health movement, which comes into play because olive oil has some advantages over other oils. And there is the fact Lawrence has a bit of an international population. Briggs said many people — but especially those from overseas — have come to recognize the standard olive oil sold in grocery stores isn’t anything like the fresh olive oil they experienced in their countries.

“We had several KU students who were from Lebanon come into the store,” Briggs recalled. “They tasted our olive oil, and said ‘this is what it tastes like when we make it ourselves.’”

The store does import its olive oil in a way to ensure both its purity and its freshness. On the freshness front, the store gets olives six months of the year from the northern hemisphere and six months of the year from the southern hemisphere in order to get the freshest olives.

Reply 2 comments from richard yeakel Ralph Gage

Anderson leads the pack in recent campaign donations, but most wallets stay closed this City Commission election season

We are in the final days of the campaign for three seats on the Lawrence City Commission. That means it is time to count the money. Campaign finance reports have been filed, and the big story is there is a lot less money to count.

We started to see the trend two years ago that the amount of money being raised by candidates was shrinking some. Candidates may be spending more time reaching voters on social media rather than fundraising. Plus, there have been some examples of where campaign donations probably have hurt some candidates more than helped. There’s certainly a subset of voters who view campaign donations from developers and others in the growth industry as a negative.

Whatever the case (I don’t think it is the Russians, by the way), campaign donations are down. Consider this: As you will see in a moment, the top fundraiser during this last funding cycle garnered a little more than $5,000. Ten years ago, there were two candidates (Mike Dever and Rob Chestnut) who each raised more than $20,000 for their primary election, then raised significant amounts for the general election. A shift has occurred.

Six candidates are vying for Lawrence City Commission seats this fall. At top, from left: Lisa Larsen, Matthew Herbert and Dustin Stumblingbear. At bottom, from left: Jennifer Ananda, Mike Anderson and Bassem Chahine.

Six candidates are vying for Lawrence City Commission seats this fall. At top, from left: Lisa Larsen, Matthew Herbert and Dustin Stumblingbear. At bottom, from left: Jennifer Ananda, Mike Anderson and Bassem Chahine.

Here’s a look at campaign totals for the reporting period that runs from July 21 through Oct. 26:

Mike Anderson was the top fundraiser with $5,693 in donations. The former television host picked up an endorsement from the local Realtors group, which comes with a $500 donation from its political action committee and also usually leads to other individual donations from that industry. Anderson has ground to make up. He finished fifth in the primary election, and only the top three vote winners in Tuesday’s election win a seat. During the primary, he raised $2,375. He now has a total for the season of $8,086. Among his top donors during this most recent period were $500 from the Kansas Realtors Political Action Committee; $500 from former City Commissioner Aron Cromwell; $500 from Michael Wasikowski, a military analyst from Lawrence; $350 from Lawrence developer Jon Davis; $250 from former arts center director Susan Tate; and $150 from former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who is a Lawrence resident.

City Commissioner Lisa Larsen raised $3,245. Larsen was the top vote-winner in the primary election. She raised a little more than $6,000 in the primary election, bringing her $9,370 for the season. Among her top contributors in the most recent period: $500 from Lawrence resident and teacher Philip Riehle; $250 from Lawrence attorney Jerry Harper; $200 from Lawrence restaurant and bar owners Rick and Nancy Renfro; and $400 from retired Lawrence resident Sarah Merriman. Also of note is that Larsen, a retired geologist who used to own her own business in Lawrence, is self-funding a good part of her campaign. She lists more than $2,300 of in-kind donations from herself to pay for advertising and other campaign expenses.

City Commissioner Matthew Herbert was third in fundraising with $3,050. Herbert, a Lawrence teacher and owner of a rental real estate company, was the second-place vote winner in the primary. He raised $5,025 in the primary season, bringing his total to $8,075. Among his top contributors: $500 from the Kansas Realtors PAC, which endorsed him; $500 from Michael Herbert, CEO of Delta Dental; $250 from Tom Carmody, president of an entertainment company; $250 from Tate, former director of the Arts Center; and $100 from Mike Bosch, who owns an area broadband fiber company.

Dustin Stumblingbear was fourth with $2,352. Stumblingbear, a retired Army veteran, was third in the primary election. He raised about $3,400 in the primary, giving him $5,758 for the season. Among his top contributors were: $500 from the United Transportation Union PAC; $200 from Lawrence attorney Jerry Harper and his wife, Nancy; $200 from retired Lawrence resident Stephen Ellsworth.

Jennifer Ananda was fifth with $1,977. Ananda, who works in KU’s Title IX office, was fourth in the primary election. For the campaign season she has raised a total of $2,791. Among her top contributors: $200 from Lawrence attorney Jerry Harper and his wife, Nancy; $125 from former City Commissioner Mike Rundle; $100 from Lawrence residents Steve Lopes and Lois Orth-Lopes; and $100 from Lawrence resident Daniel Poull.

Bassem Chahine raised $820 in the period, and $700 of it came from himself. Chahine, who owns a tobacco and importing business in Lawrence, finished sixth in the primary.

You can see the full reports for each candidate on the Douglas County Clerk’s site, located here. The election is Tuesday.

Related stories: Voter Guide for the 2017 Lawrence City Commission Election


Downtown Lawrence to get an old-fashioned soda fountain as part of major building renovation

Perhaps soon there will be brown and black cows in downtown Lawrence. Or maybe a hokie pokie cooler or a lime Ricky. If you have any idea what I’m talking about, you perhaps have spent some time being a jerk — a soda jerk, that is.

Brown and black cows, hokie pokie coolers and lime Rickys are all examples of soda recipes that were served at old-fashioned soda counters that were manned by “soda jerks” who made the concoctions by jerking on the shiny soda fountain handle. In the 1940s and 1950s, nearly every town had at least one of the soda fountains and a cadre of soda jerks to go with them. Today, both soda and jerks are still prevalent, but the combination somehow has faded away.

But, soon enough, downtown Lawrence will have an old-fashioned soda fountain and counter.

You maybe have noticed that Mass Street Soda no longer is located at its longtime home at 11th and Massachusetts streets. The building, which also used to house Englewood Florists (which moved to North Lawrence), is undergoing a major renovation. Mass Street Soda has moved to a new spot at 935 Massachusetts, which is where Jayhawk Spirit previously was.

The 935 Massachusetts location, however, is just a temporary spot for Mass Street Soda. It already has signed a lease to move back to the 11th and Massachusetts location once the renovations are complete. When the business returns — likely in the late spring or early summer of 2018 — it will have an actual soda fountain and counter.

Mass Street Soda store manager Maren Ludwig stocks the selection of root beer on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, at the shop's temporary location, 935 Massachusetts St. The store has relocated while its building in the 1100 block of Massachusetts Street undergoes a renovation.

Mass Street Soda store manager Maren Ludwig stocks the selection of root beer on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, at the shop's temporary location, 935 Massachusetts St. The store has relocated while its building in the 1100 block of Massachusetts Street undergoes a renovation. by Nick Krug

“It will allow us to do fresh soda,” said Lucas Thompson, owner of Mass Street Soda. “We’ll be making our own syrups.”

Currently, the shop just sells bottled soda, but lots of it. The store carries about 1,300 varieties of sodas during the summer, although the number can drop to a mere 900 during the winter, when specialty sodas get a little more difficult to come by.

“It is hard to bring soda in over the winter,” Thompson said. “It freezes during shipments.”

At the moment, the store has only 130 varieties of root beer.

The store will continue to have massive amounts of bottled soda in the future. But Thompson is excited about the soda fountain possibilities. He even recently traveled to New York state to an old pharmacy that still has a soda fountain. He learned a few tricks about making egg creams, which he said kind of taste like a carbonated chocolate milk. (My understanding is that La Prima Tazza, and perhaps some other local coffee shops, have egg creams available currently.)

Plans call for the soda counter to have four types of soda on tap at any given time. The flavors likely will rotate depending on the season. Thompson mentioned incorporating seasonal fruit into some of the recipes.

But don’t get the wrong idea about what type of place this is going to be. Soda counters sound like the type of thing that could get trendy and do to soda what baristas have done to coffee: require you to take out a home equity loan to have a cup.

“It won’t be super fancy or expensive,” Thompson said. “I won’t charge $6 for a cup of soda. It will be $2 or $3 for some soda. Our biggest market is families.” In addition to the locally made soda, Thompson said he’ll also have several other kegs of commercially made soda on tap as well. Expect the shop to have some ice cream available too, in order to facilitate root beer and soda floats.

The new project continues what has been a somewhat surprising run for Mass Street Soda. The business opened in 2014, and Thompson knows many people were wondering how a soda shop would make it in today’s world.

Well, there are lots of people who like soda, and even a larger number who like the idea of finely crafted items. Just as microbreweries have exploded in popularity because of the craft behind their products, some of that is happening in the soda world too.

Thompson now has three soda shops. In addition to the Lawrence store, he has one at The Legends shopping district near the Kansas Speedway and one in the City Market district of Kansas City. Both of those operate under the name KC Soda Co.

He gets his bottled soda from all over the country, and sometimes has to beg for it. He said many of the soda companies are small and produce sodas only a few times per year. They have limited quantities and aren’t always interested in selling to a shop in Kansas. That sometimes requires some unique deal-making skills.

“One guy told me no, and I told him it was my birthday,” Thompson said. “That worked.”

As for the renovations at 11th and Massachusetts, the building’s ownership group includes Lawrence landlord Dalton Paley, who said he and his partners plan to do a significant renovation that really highlights some of the historic character of the building.

I don’t have other details of the renovation. At the moment, I don’t believe the project has a tenant for the former Englewood space at the corner of the project. But Thompson said he thinks the renovation is going to be a game-changer for the 1100 block, which doesn’t get as much foot traffic as other parts of downtown.

“They are completely gutting the building,” Thompson said. “I don’t know everything they are doing, but I’ve seen enough to know it is going to be awesome when it is done.”

Reply 12 comments from Libtard_001 Megan Tugman Louis Kannen David Holroyd Jim Fisher Penny4mythoughts Clara Westphal Jayhawkluke Tadgh Renee Holl and 1 others