Entries from blogs tagged with “Town Talk”
There’s a trade in the works that sounds mighty familiar from my youth: Trading books for bats and balls.
I have received confirmation that University Book Shop, 1116 W. 23rd St., is on the way out, and Jock’s Nitch sporting goods is on the way in.
Scott Ozier, a store manager for Jock’s Nitch, told me the company will be vacating its space at 916 Massachusetts St. in order to offer a more full-line sporting goods store in the much larger space on 23rd Street.
“This will allow us to carry a lot more sporting goods,” said Ryan Boler, another manager at the company, which has eight stores in eastern and central Kansas and another five in Missouri and Oklahoma. “There is a need for it in Lawrence. There are not a lot of options in Lawrence right now, and we think the location on 23rd Street will make it easier for people to get to.”
The Jock’s Nitch store at 837 Massachusetts St. will remain open. That store serves as the company’s KU fan shop store, focusing on apparel and other team merchandise rather than sporting goods.
The new store on 23rd Street will be more than twice as large as the company’s store on Massachusetts Street.
Ozier said the new store can handle a larger line of products in all categories, but he said the soccer section is expected to expand significantly, and more football gear is expected during season as well. In addition, the company will start running a team center out of the store, selling custom apparel to youth and high school teams.
Ozier said he hopes the store can be open by April 1. The company’s store at 916 Massachusetts has been closed all week, but reopened today to begin a moving liquidation sale. The store is marking down items 25 percent to 75 percent in an effort to reduce the amount of merchandise that the company will have to move. Ozier said the store will be open through the holidays, but likely would close in early 2013, and then reopen a few months later on 23rd Street.
No word yet on when the last day for the University Book Shop will be. It does not come as a surprise that UBS is leaving the location. We reported earlier this year that the building was on the market. Plus, the owners of UBS also own Jayhawk Bookstore, which has a prime textbook selling location right on the edge of the KU campus.
• I know talk of a sporting goods store will cause people to wonder about whether one of the big box retailers, like a Dick’s Sporting Goods Store, is eyeing Lawrence.
That rumor certainly has been around for awhile, but so far it has remained just that — a rumor. The former Sears building at 27th and Iowa has been a rumor hub for such developments. Dick’s has been mentioned as a possible tenant for that location, but my understanding is that the long-term future of the Sears building is uncertain because Sears’ parent company and the Los Angeles real estate company that owns the building haven’t yet agreed how to dispose of the remaining time left on the building’s lease.
The latest rumor I’ve heard — and I haven’t yet confirmed it — is that a local car dealership plans to move into a portion of the building while it does major work on one of its dealership buildings. I’ll check on that and see if there is any truth there.
As for big box stores, though, I’m pretty certain Lawrence is getting some serious looks from a few. I don’t know all the names yet, but Menards sure seems to be mentioned a lot these days. We had reported there may be some interest in converting the former Gaslight Mobile Home Village into retail space, now that a deal for an apartment complex has fallen through at that location. But I’m pretty certain there are other locations Menards and other big box stores are looking at.
Certainly, there is the retail area the Schawda’s are trying to develop at Sixth and the South Lawrence Trafficway, which they hope will get a boost from the proposed KU/city sports park. But I’m going to be keeping a close eye on the South Iowa Street corridor. I think there is a lot of momentum building in the southern Lawrence area.
Do you think it is coincidence that it is building about the same time folks think the South Lawrence Trafficway will be completed?
I’ll let you know when I hear more solid details.
If you are a follower of the political process in Lawrence, tonight might end up being an interesting evening.
It sounds like a shake-up is in the works at the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods. The group has its meeting where it elects its officers at 7 tonight in the ground floor meeting room of the Hobbs Taylor Lofts Building at Eighth and New Hampshire streets.
It looks likely that longtime LAN chair Gwen Klingenberg is facing a major challenge to keep her leadership position with the organization. Sources tell me a strong push is being made to install Laura Routh, a longtime City Hall observer and frequent critic of the police department, to the top spot.
In fact, the effort may be so strong that Klingenberg may not even seek another term. One source told me that she essentially had resigned her seat leading up to tonight’s vote, but I haven’t been able to confirm that with Klingenberg.
Routh, however, did confirm to me that she is seeking the position.
Some of you may be wondering why you care at this point. That’s understandable. LAN doesn’t always garner a lot of attention, but it has been one of the major political players at Lawrence City Hall in the past. As the largest neighborhood organization in the city, it has an ability to muster forces for or against any number of projects.
Within the last decade LAN has held considerable sway with the commission at various times. How much sway it holds today is debatable, and that may be what this change in leadership is partially about.
A member who called me up about this potential change, said there is a split in the organization currently. One group, it appears, is seeking more aggressive advocacy from LAN, while another group is concerned that if such aggressiveness is perceived as being confrontational with City Hall that it will make it more difficult for LAN to get things done.
Routh stopped short of saying that her platform as president would involve amping up the aggressiveness of the organization. But anyone who has watched City Hall much recognizes that Routh is not hesitant to challenge commissioners and call them out on issues.
“I’m a pretty known quantity,” Routh told me. “I’m a pretty direct person. I think people know that about me. But my intention is to serve as the membership desires."
LAN runs a pretty open ship. Its meetings are open to anyone interested in Lawrence neighborhoods, but only members of the organization can vote.
Watch out Tiger Woods. It looks like I may soon start getting paid to golf, too.
Plans have been filed at Lawrence City Hall to revive a unique apartment proposal that would include building a new nine-hole golf course in northwest Lawrence. (More on how that benefits my pocketbook in a moment.)
In fact, the plans have expanded since they first were filed back in late 2007.
Fayetteville, Ark.-based Lindsey Management has filed a proposal to build a 630-unit apartment complex that will front a new privately owned nine hole golf course at 251 Queens Road.
If you are having a hard time picturing that location, it is just a bit east of another little project that has been in the news — the proposed Kansas University/city of Lawrence sports park and recreation center.
The project would be on about 81 acres on the north side of Sixth Street, basically stretching from Queens Road toward George Williams Way. The project would run behind, or north of, the recently constructed Hunter’s Ridge Apartment Complex and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church.
The company bought the land several years ago after it filed its original plan in 2007. But back then, the project was slated to be a 480-unit apartment complex.
The development, though, will still have room for a nine-hole golf course, and that is what really makes this apartment proposal unique. Lindsey operates apartment complexes across the Midwest and the southern U.S. that are connected to golf courses. According to the company’s Web site, in some communities residents' monthly rent provides them unlimited access to the golf course. In other communities, residents of the apartment complex get highly discounted green fees.
I’ve got a call into Lindsey officials for more details about their Lawrence plans, but haven’t yet heard back.
Some of you may be familiar with the company’s golf course and apartment projects. The company operates the Derby Golf & Country Club and the apartments around it, and also the Shawnee Golf & Country Club and those apartments.
The company also operates golf/apartment complexes in Columbia, Mo., and Springfield, Mo., in addition to projects in Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama.
As for the Lawrence golf course, the plans filed at City Hall indicate it will be more than your typical, short executive golf course but probably will play a little shorter than, say, Eagle Bend.
I suspect all of this is subject to change, but here’s what I garnered about the course from the plans on file at City Hall: Hole No. 1, 333 yards; No. 2, 254 yards, plays partially over about a half-acre lake; No. 3, 100 yards; No. 4, 250 yards, plays over a portion of what looks to be an approximately 3-acre lake; No. 5, 487 yards, plays over a portion of the same lake; No. 6, 112 yards, plays through a narrow alley of trees; No. 7, 487 yards; No. 8, 123 yards; and No. 9, 333 yards.
In addition, the project will include a two-story clubhouse and a large natural area. The plans show 13 acres in the center of the property will be designated as a “tree preservation area.”
Based on the company’s Web site, it looks like in other communities the golf courses do sell some limited memberships to folks who don’t live at the apartment complex. Opening the course to public play was part of the plans in 2007. Either way, it will be new competition for the city’s existing five golf courses — two at Alvamar, Lawrence Country Club, the executive Orchards Course and the city-owned Eagle Bend.
It will be interesting to hear what has caused Lindsey officials to restart the project that was previously put on hold due to economic conditions. Just a month ago, developers of another large apartment complex proposed for the Gaslight Village Mobile Home Park in south Lawrence, pulled the plug. They said they didn’t see the demand in Lawrence, although that project was exclusively targeted to students.
This project may be more of a mix of students and retirees. From the plans, about two-thirds of the apartments will be one-bedroom units while the remainder will be two-bedroom units.
Perhaps the recreation center and sports park is spurring some new interest, or it might be the company has been encouraged by the other development happening nearby.
As I mentioned, this project will be next door to the recently completed Hunter’s Ridge Apartment Complex, which has about 500 living units. In addition, we’ve reported on two apartment projects that are either under way or have filed plans for the area north of Sixth and Wakarusa. Plus, plans have been filed for a new residential development near the southeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. In addition to about 30 single-family homes, it includes about 50 duplexes and 85 new apartments.
So the Sixth Street corridor is showing signs of growth. But, at the moment, apartments rather than single-family homes are dominating the action.
As for how this latest golf project will help my pocketbook, that’s easy. With all those apartments so close to a golf course, it seems a given that my friends at Kennedy Glass or some other window repair shop will pay to send me and my buddy out on the course, armed with our reliable hook and slice.
I’ll be playing through from your living room in no time.
Almost anybody who follows the Lawrence business scene can tell you that local entrepreneur Doug Compton has a growing enterprise.
That never will be more evident than next year when groups led by Compton begin work on a pair of multistory buildings at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
But what may not be as evident to the general public is that Compton also has a growing banking enterprise. A new deal has recently put that on display.
De Soto-based Great American Bank on Nov. 30 finalized its purchase of Lone Summit Bank of Lake Lotawana, Mo., which now will become a branch of Great American Bank. That’s significant in Lawrence because Great American Bank is owned by First Financial Bancshares Inc., a Lawrence-based bank holding company that is led by Compton.
First Financial Bancshares also is the holding company that owns Lawrence Bank and its two locations in the city. But it has been Great American Bank that really has been the aggressively expanding enterprise at First Financial. In 2009, Great American Bank purchased First Bank of Kansas City at 39th and Main from the FDIC.
Travis Hicks, Great American’s president and CEO, said in a statement that the bank’s growth strategy is likely to continue as the “bank will continue to look for opportunities to expand throughout the market.”
Also expect some activity from Lawrence Bank in the near future. The company will be getting a brand new facility as part of Compton’s plans to build a multistory apartment and office building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire. Lawrence Bank currently has offices in the former Black Hills Energy building that is on the site and will be demolished as part of the project. Plans for the new building show a bank and drive-thru lane occupying a good part of the first floor of the new building.
According to a September filing with the FDIC, First Financial Bancshares had about $128.2 million in assets. With this latest deal, the total is expected to grow to about $155 million in assets.
According to records with the FDIC, the company has grown its assets by about 30 percent since late 2008. The latest FDIC report shows the bank holding company had net operating income of about $1.3 million, up from about $565,000 in 2008.
Compton, according to the most recent annual report from the Kansas Secretary of State’s office, serves as president of the bank holding company. Other directors of the company include Lawrence residents Jeff Hatfield, Les Dreiling and Hicks.
Milton’s may not be coming back to downtown Lawrence, but a full-fledged breakfast restaurant is slated for its spot at 920 Massachusetts St.
And it will have a strong Milton’s connection.
Manda Jolly, a former general manager for Milton’s, has inked a deal to open The Roost in early 2013.
Jolly said the restaurant and its menu won’t be a replica of Milton’s — which closed last month — but it will be a place to get a traditional breakfast, and some of the menu items will be very recognizable to fans of Milton’s.
“I understand that there were things that people grew to love and need from there,” said Jolly.
(I’m working to get her to write my doctor a note to prove to him that I indeed do need sausage gravy.)
Jolly said The Roost will focus on breakfast, lunch, pastries and something she calls “inspired cocktails.” (That sounds a bit redundant to me. Almost every cocktail I’ve had has inspired me to have another.)
Jolly is opening the restaurant with three other partners — she is not yet releasing those names — but she said one of the partners has opened and managed several bars in Lawrence. She said The Roost will be more committed to having cocktails and spirits be a part of the restaurant than Milton’s was, which had a liquor license on and off during its existence. But at the moment, Jolly said the restaurant won’t have regular evening hours. (Don’t fret, I’ve heard cocktails at lunch can be very inspiring and darn right transformational at breakfast.) Instead, The Roost will be available for rent for evening events, and Jolly said the restaurant also will host a few special evenings per year.
The former Milton’s space will get a major makeover to accommodate The Roost. Jolly said the name for the restaurant comes from her family’s farm just outside of Speed, Kan., which is near Phillipsburg, which is near Stockton, which is near . . . (In Western Kansas, we could play this game all day, but it always ends the same. It is east of Denver.) The family farm’s name is The Roost, and Jolly said the restaurant space is going to take on a little bit more of that type of feel with some old barn wood incorporated into the design and more natural elements such as exposing some stone walls.
When all of it comes together, is still a bit uncertain. Jolly at this point is only committing to “early 2013” as an opening date.
“I don’t want to give up on January yet, but it won’t be early January,” Jolly said.
Jolly started at Milton’s as a hostess on the day the restaurant opened in 1997. Jolly worked there pretty much for the next 11 years, rising to the rank of general manager. When she left the restaurant four years ago, she tried to buy Milton’s then, but the deal never quite happened. The idea, though, never did fully leave her.
“I love mornings,” Jolly said. “I’m used to that. Milton’s served as a major hub of the community for a long time. It always has been the best job I ever had.”
Well, it looks like dreams of Lawrence perhaps having the most picturesque Planning and Development Services offices in the country have been dashed.
There had been quite a bit of speculation in certain real estate circles that the city of Lawrence was close to buying the Abe & Jake’s Landing building that is immediately east of City Hall.
The city was interested in the building as a home for a combined office for its Planning and Development Services Department. Currently, the building permit and code enforcement portion of that department is in the former Riverfront Mall, while the planning portion of the department is in City Hall. The city has long wanted a combined office so it can have a “one-stop shop” for builders and developers doing business with the city.
And what a stop that would have been. If you have forgotten, the Abe & Jake’s building is one of the more unique in the city. The old 19th Century industry building sits along the south bank of the Kansas River and has huge windows overlooking the Kaw.
But it appears the deal is not to be. Mayor Bob Schumm confirmed to me that the city had been working for about four months on a potential purchase. But after architects brought back estimates on what it would cost to renovate the 24,000-square-foot building — which has about 50-foot-high ceilings in most places — the city recently backed away from the deal.
Schumm said he doesn’t see much chance the city will pursue the building in the future, and he said the city currently is not looking at any other locations for a joint Planning and Development Services office.
The deal would have come with an interesting twist: The city would have been buying a building it already owns. The building and property came under the ownership of the city when it purchased land in the area for City Hall. But the city in the 1990s granted Lawrence businessman Mike Elwell a low-cost, long-term lease on the building, in exchange for him making about $2 million worth of improvements to what had become an eyesore of a building.
Elwell’s lease on the building runs into 2087. The city really would have been purchasing that lease.
Elwell has made no secret that he wants to sell his rights to the building. We reported in January 2011 that the building — which basically has been an event venue and nightclub since Elwell finished the building in 2002 — was on the market for $1.3 million.
At the time, Elwell said he was receiving some interest from hotels and others who wanted to use the building as a small-scale convention center and events venue. But he said the slow economy was holding back those sort of deals. It will be interesting to see what eventually lands at Abe & Jake’s.
The fact the city was contemplating a deal for the property also brings up an interesting point. According to my sources, the city believed it could purchase and perhaps renovate the building without having to raise any taxes.
If so, this is just another reminder of how unique of a financial position the city is in. It has access to cheap money through the bond market that is lending money at historically low rates, and the city’s bond and interest fund has very sizable reserves at the moment.
Let’s do a little back-of-the-napkin math on all the projects the city has or plans to do without raising taxes: $25 million for a recreation center; about $7 million in infrastructure for the future business park at the former Farmland Industries site; let’s estimate $3 million for the Planning and Development Services offices; and then there is the approximately $300,000 per year the city says it has to cover the expected operational shortfall of the proposed recreation center. That $300,000 per year probably could finance about a $4 million bond.
That’s just off the top of my head, and the amount comes to $39 million the city can put toward a project or projects without having to raise taxes. I wonder how many folks realize how unique of a time period Lawrence city government finds itself in these days.
More on that another day.
City Hall on a Tuesday night is sometimes a good place to see an odd sight.
That may be the case tonight. When Lawrence city commissioners meet for their regular weekly meeting, Mayor Bob Schumm is scheduled to be wearing odd attire.
Schumm will be decked out in team gear from West Virginia University. The folks at city hall in Morgantown, W.Va. — home of West Virginia University — proposed a wager with Schumm. If KU won last Saturday’s football game between the two universities, Morgantown mayor would wear KU gear to his council meeting. If West Virginia won the game, Schumm would wear Mountaineer gear.
The folks at Morgantown offered a similar wager to all the other Big 12 communities. I suspect it was just their way of saying hello to their new conference neighbors and perhaps generating a little interest among conference residents about Morgantown. On that note, I wonder how many KU fans made the trip to Morgantown last weekend, and what they thought of the place. If you went, let me know your thoughts below.
In case you missed it, KU fell just a bit short on Saturday, losing 59-10. Schumm told me he has a yellow West Virginia shirt that he’ll be sporting at the meeting.
“I told them I would wear it, but I never said for how long,” Schumm said.
Schumm ought to just take his lumps and feel lucky. I’m surprised that blowout loss didn’t trigger some clause in the wager that required Schumm to wear the entire Mountaineer mascot uniform.
Though that may not have been all bad. I think the Mountaineer mascot comes with a musket and moonshine. (West Virginia officials may dispute the moonshine part of this, but anybody who has seen their atmosphere at a football game would confirm moonshine has to be involved.) I don’t know how much the musket would add, but I’m pretty sure the moonshine would improve most City Commission meetings.
This one is a lot like me staring at a weight bar with about 200 pounds on it: There are more questions than answers.
But I’ve been getting several calls from members of the Lawrence Athletic Club about what the future holds at that facility.
As we reported in March, Wichita-based Meritrust Credit Union filed a lawsuit in Douglas County District Court seeking ownership of the Lawrence Athletic Club, 3201 Mesa Way, after it alleged LAC owner Rick Sells and his corporation Junkyard’s Jym defaulted on a $2.4 million note.
According to Douglas County property records, Meritrust indeed owns the real estate of the athletic club. That is as expected. The court records indicated Sells did not contest the credit union taking over ownership of the facility. The ownership issue, though, was clouded because another group — The Caspian Group, which is led by longtime Lawrence landlord George Paley — won a nearly $400,000 judgment against Junkyard’s Jym in Douglas County District Court last year, which stemmed from a lease dispute at another location. Sources tell me, though, that a settlement was reached that resolved any claim The Caspian Group may have had against the LAC property.
Even though Meritrust took over ownership of the facility, it never had an intention of running it. What several sources said happened is that Meritrust worked out an agreement with Sells to continue operating the club that he founded nearly 30 years ago.
But now there are questions about whether that relationship will continue. I’ve heard from upwards of a dozen folks now that talk around the club is that either an ownership change or at least a change in the operations of the club is imminent.
Then, there is one other sign that is a bit curious. It is an actual sign. Meritrust has put up a sign next to the club’s entrance advertising the credit union. The sign doesn’t say anything about pending changes, so maybe Meritrust is just seeking to advertise itself to club members. But the sign wasn’t there a few days ago. It popped up shortly after speculation started spreading across town that something was up at LAC.
I’ve put in multiple calls to Sells and stopped by the club to see him over the past several days, but have had no luck in getting a comment from him. An employee at the club declined to comment. An attorney for Meritrust also did not return a phone call seeking comment. A manager with the local Genesis Health Club also didn’t return a phone call seeking comment. I called Genesis because there has been speculation that the large Wichita-based health club chain is set to take over operations of LAC. But that very easily could be false speculation. Genesis’ name frequently comes up anytime there is speculation about a health club in the region.
Certainly speculation is a stock I trade in here at Town Talk. Normally, though, I don’t print speculation regarding businesses that may be faltering. I don’t feel it is fair to report unconfirmed information that could negatively impact the livelihood of a business’ owners and employees.
But I have given the operator of the business ample opportunity to simply say there is nothing to this, and I’ve given the owner of the property opportunity to respond as well. And, importantly, I think the nature of a health club business makes it a bit more imperative that consumers be informed of any potential changes. So often health clubs operate on multi-month memberships that are many times pre-paid.
Unfortunately, I’ve covered several health club closings or ownership changes over the years, and the issue of what happens to a person’s membership to a club often ends up being a sticky one.
Anyway, take all of this for whatever you think it is worth. As I mentioned, there are more questions than answers.
Now, back to this heavy weight bar. Here’s my No. 1 question: Why did I ever believe my wife would help lift this thing off me?
There hasn’t been much news lately about whether the city has a new plan to buy the Santa Fe Depot in East Lawrence, but there is news about the Lawrence woman who has been leading that charge.
Carey Maynard-Moody recently received Amtrak’s Champion of the Rails Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The Champion of the Rails Award is one of the top awards Amtrak gives to citizens who support the idea of rail travel.
Maynard-Moody won the award for her role in founding Depot Redux, a Lawrence citizens group that does everything from providing basic cleaning of the depot to lobbying for the 1950s-era building to be preserved and restored.
The depot certainly has gotten more attention from Amtrak since Maynard-Moody and her group has come on the scene. Recently, Amtrak spent $1.7 million to install a new ADA-compliant platform at the Lawrence station.
“Of my 40 stations, about 20 of them needed platforms,” said John Bueschel, Amtrak’s district manager of stations. “Lawrence would have never had this platform or the new lighting, if it were not for Carey putting the station on the map.”
Passenger numbers at the station have been growing as the station has gotten more attention. In 2007, 3,732 passengers got on or off the train in Lawrence, which stops twice daily at the station. At the end of 2011, the number had grown to 6,608.
City officials also have been taking more notice of the station. Several city commissioners have expressed support for renovating the station — if they can find a low-cost way to do so. Taking ownership of the station wouldn’t be difficult. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway owns the station, and has indicated a willingness to sell the building — but not the land it sits upon — for a nominal fee of a dollar or so.
But city officials have expressed concern that once it takes ownership of the building, there will be several repairs that the city won’t be able to avoid. In total, those repairs could run several hundred thousand dollars, and commissioners have been reluctant to own the building without knowing where that money would come from.
Earlier this year, officials with the city’s transit system said the station — which is at Seventh and New Jersey streets — might make a good central station for the city’s bus service. But in July, transit officials recommended against the idea because they said further study revealed the site wasn’t really large enough to accommodate the number of buses that would be the station. Several neighbors also had objected to the plan.
At that point, even some of the stronger supporters on the City Commission said they they’re not sure how the city can justify taking over the building, unless some sort of secondary use is found for it.
“Right now it is used only as a train depot a couple of times during the night,” City Commissioner Aron Cromwell said in July. “The rest of the time it is empty. That is not enough use for us to justify purchasing and maintaining the building.”
At that time, city commissioners basically were hoping somebody from the public would come up with another feasible use for the building, because they didn’t have any off the top of their heads.
That was in July, and waiting for another use to emerge still seems to be where the project is at.
Some restaurants hang dollar bills from their walls, while others hang windows from their ceilings.
What? You haven’t heard of that? It is the thing at downtown Lawrence’s newest restaurant, Loopy’s, which is on the ground floor of the 901 Building at Ninth and New Hampshire.
If you remember, we reported back in September that a trio of restaurant and marketing executives had teamed up to sign a deal to locate a new restaurant/wine bar in a corner of the multi-story apartment and office building.
Well, the business is having its soft opening today and expects to roll out its full menu and bar later this week. But what it already has in great supply are windows. There are dozens and dozens of windows suspended from the ceiling and hanging from the walls of the restaurant.
Billy Pilgrim, a Lawrence marketing executive and one of the co-owners of the business, said the design fits in well with the restaurant’s goal of becoming a Lawrence original. “I don’t think there is anything quite like it in Lawrence,” Pilgrim said.
For one thing, it may be the only restaurant in town that has about a hundred people living directly above it. Pilgrim thinks a restaurant that intersects with where people live is going to have a bit of a different feel than an ordinary restaurant and bar.
As for the food, that’s being handled by the other two partners in the business: David Lewis, the founder of the recently closed Milton’s restaurant; and longtime Lawrence chef Sula Teller, who also happens to be married to Pilgrim.
The menu has breakfast — which will be served from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. — lunch/dinner, and late-night options.
On the breakfast side, you’ll be able to get everything from “daily porridge” — no word on whether you have to share a table with a bear — to lots of take-out items like granola, breads and pastries to slightly more complex items like a frittata or apple frangipani, which are stuffed apples with roasted nuts, toast and butter. The place also will offer a full-line of coffees, including espressos and lattes.
Lunch and dinner items include a large dose of flatbreads and pizzas. The menu includes about a dozen pizza items, including classics such as sausage and pepperoni to ones such as sweet potato and speck ham. The menu also includes salads and soups.
The happy hour and late-night menu will include the pizzas, but also will have a variety of fruit and cheese trays, gourmet olives, and plates of smoked salmon and trout. Of course the hour wouldn’t be all that happy unless some adult beverages also were offered. The restaurant will have a well-stocked wine cellar, and the menu I’ve seen lists about 35 craft beers coming from as close as Free State Brewery to as far away as places such as California, Colorado, Canada and Belgium.
As I mentioned, the restaurant is rolling out its offerings in phases. Pilgrim told me many of the menu items are available today, but the full-line of offerings won’t be available until later this week.
Knology set to drop WGN, RFD TV and other networks from cable lineup; Baker files plans for $1.2 million wetland education center; study finds Lawrence has among the lowest development fees in the region
News and notes from around town:
• Oh my. Fans of Cubs baseball and country music are in for a shock. Lawrence’s Knology cable television system is set to drop several channels, including the Cubs’ WGN network and RFD TV, a network that shows country music and programming aimed at a rural audience.
Knology’s top Lawrence official confirmed to me that the company is in the process of dropping WGN from its cable lineup effective Dec. 31.
But there are other changes coming before then. Beginning tomorrow, Knology will drop RFD TV, Family Net and the TV Guide Channel, which shouldn’t be confused with the guide button that is on your cable remote. That on-screen guide will continue to be in place.
Debra Schmidt, system manager for Knology Kansas, told me the decisions have been difficult but are part of a much bigger picture of what is going on in the cable industry.
The big players in the cable industry — think ESPN and Food Network and such — are gaining more and more leverage over cable companies all the time. The big programming companies bundle their popular networks together with their less popular networks and require cable providers to take the whole bunch or none at all. As a result, fees that the cable companies must pay to the big-time programmers have been increasing.
Schmidt said in order to control costs, Knology has had to make some tough decisions about dropping some smaller cable networks that don’t have such leverage.
The folks at RFD TV are not taking the decision sitting down. An executive with RFD TV recently flew into Lawrence to discuss the issue with Lawrence city commissioners, and the mayor did send a letter to Knology asking it to reconsider its decision to drop RFD TV. But Schmidt said the change will continue as planned.
Two other channels also will be dropped from the system beginning tomorrow: Blue Highways, a network that features older music and tends to lean towards the Americana side of things; and Family Net TV.
It looks like some of the shows on the networks are available for viewing on the Web sites of the networks.
• Here’s another sign that the South Lawrence Trafficway actually is going to get built, and no this one doesn’t involve icicles in Hades. (Don’t worry, though, that still applies to the Cubs and the World Series.)
Baker University has filed plans at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department to build a $1.2 million wetland education center near the wetlands that the university is creating as part of the mitigation efforts for the South Lawrence Trafficway project.
The plans call for a 10,000-square-foot wetland education center that will have a large display area, two classrooms, a kitchen, a gift shop and office space. The project also calls for a 3,000-square-foot maintenance building for the property. The project is set to be built near the main entrance of the wetlands area, which is at 1365 North 1250 Road.
Roger Boyd, Baker’s director of the wetlands, told me he expects the new building can accommodate up to 170 people at a time for presentations and other related activities. Baker is betting that the education center will draw interest from the general community, but particularly will be a popular place for school field trips.
“The display area will have a lot of exhibits about what to look for when you are out here, and about why wetlands are important,” Boyd said.
Baker already has moved a new house to the site, which will provide a place for the resident manager of the wetlands to live. I believe the house came from just east of Haskell Avenue and was one of the handful of houses that are in the path of the trafficway.
The wetland center and the restoration or creation of about 300 acres of new wetlands are being funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation to compensate for the loss of about 60 acres of wetlands that will be lost to the SLT project. As part of the mitigation plan, Baker will receive about $9 million as an endowment to manage the wetland property.
Baker, Boyd said, hasn’t yet received that money, but is expected to in fall 2013. Boyd said the university wants to begin the planning and approval process now so construction on the center could begin in March 2014 with an opening in fall 2014.
“I’m still pinching myself,” said Boyd, who has been officially overseeing the care of the wetlands since 1982 and has been wrapped up in all the legal wrangling of the SLT project. “I’m still having a hard time believing that it actually is going to happen.”
• While we’re talking about projects that have taken a long time to develop in Lawrence, there is a new study out that refutes some perceptions about Lawrence’s business-unfriendly environment.
A group of business students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Society for Industrial Office Realtors have released a new report that looks at the amount of fees cities in the area charge for commercial and industrial development projects.
Lawrence ended up being one of the clear-cut bargains in the area. Lawrence had the third lowest fee total in the office building category and the second lowest total in the industrial building category.
In both cases, the fees charged in Lawrence were more than $200,000 less than what were charged in the most expensive communities. Interestingly, the highest fees charged were in two communities often touted as being more business-friendly than Lawrence: Overland Park and Lenexa.
The authors of the study submitted actual architectural site plans to the planning department of each city, and asked the department to provide a fake invoice for fees that would be due on the project. The first project was for a $9.6 million, 60,000-square-foot office building on a 10-acre site. Here’s a look at the total development fees for each community:
— Blue Springs, Mo.: $98,092 l — Columbia, Mo.: $46,801 — Gardner: $145,428 — Grandview, Mo.: $92,479 — Independence, Mo.: $79,179 — Kansas City, Mo.: $130,751 — Lawrence: $48,057 — Leawood: $98,181 — Lee’s Summit, Mo.: $130,991 — Lenexa: $261,318 — Liberty, Mo.: $117,091 — North Kansas City, Mo.: $122,411 — Olathe: $188,972 — Overland Park: $248,773 — Riverside, Mo.: $37,760
The second project was for a $10 million, 100,000-square-foot warehouse industrial building on about 15 acres of property. Here’s a look at those fees:
— Blue Springs, Mo.: $100,919 — Columbia, Mo.: $71,894 — Gardner: $199,423 — Grandview: $86,091 — Independence, Mo.: $185,869 — Kansas City, Mo.: $134,650 — Lawrence: $48,768 — Leawood: $110,962 — Lee’s Summit, Mo.: $115,729 — Lenexa: $334,873 — Liberty, Mo.: $160,887 — North Kansas City, Mo.: $169,282 — Olathe: $267,881 — Overland Park: $337,482 — Riverside, Mo.: $44,360
This group did the same study in 2010, and the results were much the same: Lawrence was near the bottom in terms of fees charged.
The findings could be spun a couple of different ways in Lawrence. One is that leaders could tout how aggressive Lawrence is in trying to attract business to the community. But another viewpoint might be whether Lawrence is charging too little for development fees, causing general taxpayers to subsidize a service that is supposed to be supported by fees. The city has done some studying on that question and doesn't believe it is the case. Many of the fees — especially in Johnson County — are impact fees for roads, parks and even art that Lawrence simply doesn't charge.
The entire study raises an interesting question: How much do development fees play into the decision making of developers? I haven’t done all the math, but I suspect many of these communities with higher fees have had higher job growth rates than Lawrence has. I know many of them have a greater percentage of business and industry as a part of their tax base than Lawrence does.
So, how does this play into the mantra that Lawrence is unfriendly to business? Well, if you hear people saying that Lawrence charges outrageous fees — and I hear that sometimes — you might want to take those comments with a grain of salt.
But it also is worth remembering there are a couple of different types of development processes in Lawrence. The one studied here is for a developer that is proposing to build on a shovel-ready site. There are a few shovel-ready commercial and industrial sites in Lawrence, but it would be interesting to see how our inventory stacks up against other communities. My guess is we have less.
Often, development of any size in Lawrence requires a developer to rezone a piece of property to fit his or her needs. When people think of some of the more high profile business squabbles or rejections in Lawrence — such as Wal-mart of several years ago, Lowe’s more recently or plans for an industrial park near the Lawrence Municipal Airport — those often had zoning issues attached to them.
So, what I’m saying here, is I don’t think this study is going to end the debate about whether Lawrence is adequately business-friendly enough. Imagine that — a debate in Lawrence continuing on.
• Town Talk is taking a day off tomorrow, and I plan on debating no one. (Although that will require me hiding from my family all day in my basement, but I’m willing to give it a try.) Town Talk will return on Monday.
National boutique Francesca’s Collections coming to downtown; nearly 3,000 runners slated to participate in Saturday’s Ugly Sweater Run; organizers planning to bring Color Run back for 2013
News and notes from around town:
• It appears another growing, national specialty retailer is targeting downtown Lawrence.
It looks like Francesca’s Collections is preparing to move into the long vacant space at 742 Massachusetts St. If you are having a hard time picturing that spot, it is just north of Teller’s restaurant.
I haven’t gotten confirmation from the company about the deal, but the retailer has filed for a sign permit at Lawrence City Hall. That’s usually a pretty good indication a deal has been sealed.
At first I was very excited about this news, but that was mainly because I misread the permit. I thought it was Fraschilla’s Collections, as in Fran Fraschilla, former St. John’s University basketball coach and current ESPN college basketball commentator. Just think of the wonders that man’s collections would include: Super industrial strength ear plugs to block out Dick Vitale, as well as tips on how to stay on Bob Knight’s good side. (Tip No. 1: Never meet Bob Knight.)
But no, this is Francesca’s Collections. I don’t know who Francesca is, but I’m sure there will be plenty of people excited about her entry into Lawrence. According to its Web site, the retailer is a traditional type of boutique that offers women’s clothing, bags, shoes, jewelry and a few gift items.
The company has at least four locations in the Kansas City metro area, including at Oak Park Mall, Town Center Plaza, and Country Club Plaza.
The deal continues a recent trend of growing national or regional retailers targeting downtown. Off the top of my head, there have been White House Black Market, Ten Thousand Villages, and if you remember, we reported last month a store called Earthbound Trading Company is coming to downtown, although we haven’t yet seen official word of which spot they will be taking.
• I don’t know if Francesca’s plans to sell ugly holiday sweaters, but you’ll have a chance to see plenty in downtown this weekend.
As we previously reported, an event called The Ugly Sweater Run is coming to downtown Lawrence. But we now have more details about the run. It is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday with the start/finish and celebration area slated for Watson Park. City officials believe the 2 p.m. start time will ensure all the horses from the Downtown Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade — which starts at 11 a.m. — will be cleared from the area. (Although it would be interesting to see how a 1,000-pound-plus draft horse reacts to a man in a lime green sweater adorned with candy canes, snow flakes and phrases that involve “ho, ho, ho.”)
But the big news is just how many people want to come to downtown Lawrence and run a race wearing an ugly sweater. Bob Sanner with the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau said 2,200 runners already have signed up for the event, and a favorable weather forecast has organizers hopeful the event will hit the 3,000 mark.
If this crazy event sounds a bit like the oddity that was The Color Run in September — an event in which runners wore white shirts and then got sprayed with colored corn starch — you are correct.
The same company that organized The Color Run is organizing the The Ugly Sweater Run, which also will be happening in nine other cities across the country.
Evidently the company thinks Lawrence is a good running community or else it has figured out that if you offer to sell beer outside afterward, locals will come to about any event. (Samuel Adams is the event sponsor of the Ugly Sweater Run, if that tells you anything about the post race celebration planned for Watson Park.)
Sanner confirmed race organizers are planning to bring The Color Run back to Lawrence in 2013. Organizers tentatively have set the date for Sept. 14. This year’s Color Run race drew about 7,000 runners to downtown.
Lecompton and Downtown Lawrence’s Christmas parade both garner national media attention; Lawrence ranks low in new per capita income report, while Manhattan soars
News and notes from around town:
• Forget the fiscal cliff, forget the Middle East conflict, heck, even forget Black Friday (I wish I could). The national media finally has found a worthy place to sink its teeth into: Douglas County.
Lawrence and Douglas County have received a pair of high-profile articles from the national media in recent days.
At the top of the list is little Lecompton and its tireless top-hat-clad promoter. If you have ever been to an event in Lecompton, chances are you either met or at least saw Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society. Well, now so too has The New York Times.
The Times last week ran an article on Lecompton and Bahnmaier’s efforts to get the town of about 600 people national recognition as Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” hits the big screen.
The movie is based on the book “Team of Rivals,” which mentions Lecompton and the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution that set in motion a series of political events that would culminate with Lincoln’s election.
Bahnmaier has been contacting media outlets throughout the state and region, urging them to take a look at Lecompton’s history.
As he told The Times, Lecompton should not play second fiddle to more well-known Civil War sites such as Fort Sumter, Gettysburg or Appomattox.
“None of those places would be important had the events not occurred here in Lecompton,” Bahnmaier told The Times.
The article is a good primer on Lecompton’s importance in the broader picture of the Civil War and Lincoln’s rise to power. But even more than that, it is just nice recognition for a man who has devoted himself to ensuring Lecompton’s important role in national history is not forgotten.
By the sound of things, Bahnmaier has gotten fairly excited about the surge in national interest in Lecompton. The Times’ article revealed that Bahnmaier routinely dines on a turkey sandwich at Kroeger’s Country Meats in Lecompton. But on a recent afternoon, “he was so excited about the possibility of national coverage of the town’s history that he allowed himself a quarter-pound cheeseburger.”
Now, that’s pretty excited.
The second recent article has organizers of Lawrence’s Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade excited. The parade will make its way down Massachusetts Street for the 20th time at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
The folks at USA Today named the parade as one of “10 Great Places to Put a Spin on the Christmas Spirit.” The article promotes the parade as one of the few places where you can still get that old-fashioned Christmas feel.
Lawrence, however, has some interesting competition. One is The Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The hotel is Christmas themed all year round. It features a singing Santa and a nearby gift shop that has “tens of thousands” of holiday accessories.
That sounds like pure Hell. It may be the only hotel in the country where Norman Bates visiting your shower may improve your stay.
Then there is something called Dickens on the Strand in Galveston, Texas. It involves people dressed up in the Victorian clothing of Dickens’ era. It also includes something called “bed races.”
No thank you. My wife had me train for one of those once. It involved me on a roll-away cot, my basement stairs and her giving me a big push.
I knew there was a reason I never liked Dickens.
• There is a new report out that probably won’t cause Lawrence to garner any national headlines. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its estimates for 2011 per capita income in each of the country’s 366 metro areas.
Lawrence isn’t likely to land on any “best of” lists in this category. The Lawrence metro area — which is all of Douglas County — has a per capita income of $33,379, which ranks it 271 out of the 366 metro areas. There is good news though. Lawrence’s per capita income grew in 2011, which was not the case in 2010. In fact, for the first time since 2007, every metro area in the country saw an increase in per capita income. Lawrence’s per capita income grew by 3.5 percent for the year. Nationally, however, the average metro area saw its per capita income grow by 4.3 percent. If those are the Joneses up ahead, we’re not keeping up.
I’ll tell you a community that is, though: Manhattan. Our friends in the K-State capital now have an average per capita income of $43,593. That’s right, folks in Manhattan have about $10,000 more in per capita income than folks in Lawrence. (This is normally where I would make some sort of math-related joke involving Wildcats, but it appears they understand math better than we do.) Manhattan’s per capita income growth rate was 6.4 percent in 2011, and the city now has the 55th highest per capita income of any metro area in the country.
And you thought the beating we took on the football field was bad.
Lawrence leaders long have pointed to the city’s role as a university community as a drag on per capita income. There are certainly many university communities that suffer from low per capita incomes as the result of students who drag down the average. But anymore, it seems there are just as many university communities that have diversified their economies and have negated the downward income pressure create by low-earning students.
Here’s a look at several communities. Some are university towns, while others are not. I mainly picked regional communities and others I thought you would be interested in:
— Lawrence: $33,379; 3.5 percent growth — Ames, Iowa: $37,429; 6.1 percent growth — Austin, Texas: $40,455; 3.9 percent growth — Boulder, Colo.: $51,893; 3.7 percent growth — Columbia, Mo.: $37,350; 4.1 percent growth — Iowa City, Iowa: $41,277; 6.1 percent growth — Jefferson City, Mo.: $35,453; 3.2 percent growth — Joplin, Mo.: $31,408; 3.9 percent growth — Kansas City Mo./Kan.: $43,062; 3.9 percent growth — Lincoln, Neb.: $39,018; 4.8 percent — Lubbock, Texas: $34.573; 1.9 percent growth — Manhattan: $43,593; 6.4 percent growth — Oklahoma City, Okla.: $40,002; 5.9 percent growth — Omaha, Neb.: $44,470; 4.4 percent growth — St. Joseph, Mo.: $34,189; 4.8 percent growth — Springfield, Mo.: $33,302; 4.1 percent growth — Topeka: $37,765; 5.2 percent growth — Tulsa, Okla.: $42,236; 6.8 percent growth — Waco, Texas: $33,943; 2.7 percent growth — Wichita: $38,568; 4.4 percent growth
Chestnut likely to file for seat on City Commission; expanded rental registration up for debate at City Hall; sidewalk umbrellas and sandwich boards may draw new city regulations
News and notes from around town:
• Who’s ready for another election? Well, it doesn’t matter, you are getting one anyway. The end of the presidential election typically marks the beginning of the local campaign season for city commission and school board races.
This year is no exception. The streets are starting to fill with scuttlebutt about who may run and who may not run in April’s Lawrence City Commission race.
It is likely one shoe will drop this week. I fully expect former Lawrence Mayor Rob Chestnut to announce that he will run for the City Commission. Chestnut chose not to see re-election after ending a four-year term on the commission in early 2011. After a two-year break, all the signs are pointing to him making another bid, but he hasn’t yet made an official announcement.
Chestnut was considered a bit of a budget wizard (is a wizard better than a wonk?) on the City Commission. He is the former chief financial officer for Lawrence-based Allen Press, and now holds the same type of position for a Topeka-based publishing company. The man loves numbers, and I suspect he’ll crunch many of them during a campaign that probably will have its fair share of questions about financial matters — ranging from possible water and sewer bill increases to big ticket items such as the proposed $25 million recreation center.
As always, there are three commissioners on the five-member City Commission whose terms are expiring — Mike Amyx, Hugh Carter and Aron Cromwell. None has made an announcement about whether he seeks to run again.
Indications, however, are that Amyx will run again. As for Carter and Cromwell, I think there is a less than a 50 percent chance that either of them will seek re-election. I’m not sure either of them feels like he is in a position that to make the time commitment for the next two to four years, which is the length of a City Commission term. (First and second place winners in the election get a four-year term. Third place winners get a two-year term. Over the years, I’ve heard many incumbents say they would run again, if they could be guaranteed to finish third.)
So, Amyx and Chestnut would make two, but don’t forget Scott Criqui already has filed for the office. Criqui — a human resources commissioner for the city who also was recently named interim executive director for Lawrence-based Trinity In-Home Care — started campaigning for the 2013 City Commission race roughly during the Hoover Administration. Well, not quite. He filed for office back in June.
As for others who may jump into the race, I know that Leslie Soden — the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association president who has led some of the opposition to the proposed hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire — has been contemplating a run. It will be interesting to see if she decides to run. She recently got a prime political appointment from City Hall when she was named to the new Joint Economic Development Council.
I would expect at least a couple more candidates will emerge. Two years ago, there were five candidates, and that was the smallest field in memory. Historically, there usually are eight or nine candidates, and sometimes we have been around a dozen.
• Here’s a topic that likely will be a campaign issue regardless of how city commissioners deal with it at their meeting this week: Rental registration.
As we previously reported, some neighborhood advocates are lobbying the city to expand its rental registration program to include all rental units in the city. Absent that, they would like to have at least all rental units 50 years and older be required to register, which would subject them to periodic health and safety inspections from the city.
Currently, only single-family zoned properties that are used as rentals are required to register with the city and undergo the city inspections once every three years. That accounts for only about 10 percent of the rental units in the city.
Commissioners are set to debate the idea at their Tuesday evening meeting. Commissioners will be presented with several sets of numbers related to a possible expansion of the program. They include:
— A program that would inspect all rental units at least 50 years old once every three years. The city estimates the program would add about 2,500 rental units initially. City staff members believe they would need to hire one new inspector and one new administrative assistant to staff the program. Total startup costs are projected to be about $86,000.
— A program that would inspect all rental units in the city once every three years. The city estimates the program would add about 18,600 units to the program and would require five new inspectors and two new administrative assistants. Total startup costs are projected to be about $370,000.
The city currently charges a $25 annual fee for rental units that are part of the city’s rental inspection program that covers only single-family zoned rentals.
The annual fee would need to increase to about $45 in order to cover the additional operating costs if the program is expanded to include all units at least 50 years old, a report from City Hall estimates. But due to economies of scale, the city estimates the current $25 fee would nearly cover the additional operating costs if all units in the city were inspected.
It will be interesting to see how much the city’s landlord community fights the proposal. I think they’ll need to put up a fairly stiff effort, if they want to ward off the new regulations.
Commissioners in the past have expressed support for expanding the program, but always have balked at the start-up costs. Given some of the city’s past spending decisions, it will be more difficult for the city to argue that it can’t afford the one-time start-up costs.
But commissioners also don’t have to look very far to see how contentious a political issue rental registration can become. The city of Manhattan in recent years passed a rental registration program, then a new slate of commissioners got elected. One of the first items repealed by the new commission was the rental registration program.
In Lawrence, it is difficult to think of a group that can be more politically influential than landlords and real estate interests, if they want to be.
• Some people sit on the Massachusetts Street sidewalks with a guitar. I think I may sit out there with a portable welder and an acetylene torch. There may be some business to be had.
City commissioners at their Tuesday meeting will consider adding new regulations cracking down on umbrellas attached to sidewalk dining areas in downtown.
Many restaurants in downtown have begun connecting large umbrellas to their sidewalk dining railings. The city has become concerned that the umbrellas often overhang the portion of the sidewalk still used by pedestrians. Many times the umbrellas hang so low that people run the risk hitting them with their heads. The city has received a few complaints from members of the public, and City Commissioner Aron Cromwell — who, not coincidentally, is the tallest city commissioner in recent memory — has mentioned it.
City staff members are recommending a new regulation that would require the lowest point of all umbrellas to be at least 80 inches above the sidewalk.
As I mentioned earlier, many of the umbrellas are mounted in special holders that are welded to the wrought iron railings of the sidewalk dining area. I really don’t know how much modification will be needed to those expensive railings. I’m mainly just looking for an excuse to sit with a lit acetylene torch next to some of the less talented guitar players in downtown.
• While they’re at it, city commissioners also are being asked to tackle the growing issue of sandwich boards and other signs that are showing up on city sidewalks.
During a recent trip down Massachusetts Street, the city found 35 such signs out on the sidewalks. Staff members are proposing a simple regulation that would prohibit any sandwich board that is larger than 32 inches wide or 48 inches tall.
The regulations also would limit businesses to one sandwich board per entrance. The city also is proposing that the signs be within 12 inches of the building, and that at least six feet of passable sidewalk be maintained.
A bigger issue may be that city staff is proposing that, once these regulations are passed, the city get more strict in enforcing the sign code downtown and at other businesses. For example, there are several businesses downtown that attach banners to their sidewalk railings advertising drink specials and such. Those generally aren’t allowed. The same goes for businesses that tie large bunches of balloons onto the railings and such.
Commissioners will discuss the proposed sign regulations at their Tuesday evening meeting.
But fear not, business owners, the new regulations don’t say anything about acetylene torches. Call me, and I’ll sit in front of your business for awhile. After all, what says red hot deals better than a lit acetylene torch?
Former Pachamamas building to become event gallery; downtown landlords looking at solar project for Mass. Street rooftops; park near 19th and Haskell set to honor firefighters, former Chief McSwain
• Let me just start with this: If I hit a golf ball into your wedding party, I’m sorry. But I hope you’ll let me play through. (I also hope you’re distracted enough that I’ll be able to steal a piece of cake.)
A wedding party along a beautiful Lawrence golf course is a service the country clubs in town have been offering forever and a day. But soon there will be another player in that market.
Longtime Lawrence financial planner Wayne McDaniel has finalized a deal to purchase the former Pachamamas restaurant building at 2161 Quail Creek Drive.
If you remember, before Pachamamas moved to its current downtown location on New Hampshire Street several years ago, it got started in a unique building behind the Hy-Vee at Clinton Parkway and Kasold.
The building backs up to part of the Alvamar Golf Course. (I think it backs up to the public course, but I get confused because with my swing I sometimes inadvertently play both courses in the same round.)
McDaniel plans to convert the building into Arterra Event Gallery. McDaniel said the business will host weddings, receptions, corporate events and anything else of that nature.
Work is starting now to remodel the inside to make it a bit more of a wide open space. Once that is completed, McDaniel said he expects the venue will be able to accommodate events of about 250 people.
McDaniel — who will continue to operate his McDaniel Knutson Financial Partners business — has hired a manager to run the day-to-day operations of the event gallery. He expects the facility will start hosting events in March.
McDaniel said the building, which has been empty for at least six years, has long intrigued him.
“I have always loved architecture and I have looked at that building for three or four years,” McDaniel said. “I would tell myself that I love that building, but I wish I could figure out some way to use it.”
McDaniel said upon some reflection he thought an event business would do well because the location is easy to get to, it has its own parking, and the building has a “rustic elegance” to it that should create a good ambiance for a variety of events.
I can only think of one potential downside to the location: It may cause my wife to start caddying my golf games. If she thinks there is a chance for cake, she’ll be there.
• An interesting place to be in future months may be atop the roof of Sunflower Bike Shop or Liberty Hall in downtown Lawrence. Both buildings are owned by groups led by longtime downtown landlords David and Susan Millstein.
The couple is working on an idea to put a large number of solar panels on their two buildings. Plans have been filed at City Hall for the Sunflower Bike and Outdoor Shop building, 804 Massachusetts St., and Susan confirmed to me that the Liberty Hall building also may be in the works.
According to the plans at City Hall, the Sunflower building could house about 60 solar panels on the roof. The only thing I know about electricity is that I’m not going to touch the red wire again, but I think that is a fairly sizable solar project.
Susan Millstein said David had more of the details and that the plans were still a bit in flux. But I hope to hear from him, and will pass along more details when I get them.
But it could be an interesting project for downtown. With the new hydroelectric power plant on the northern edge of downtown on the Kansas River, the area may have the makings to start marketing itself as a green energy district. (I’m not sure what a green energy district is, but it sure sounds like something you would market in today’s age.)
I’ve long thought the roofs of downtown buildings are destined to get more attention. I’ve thought it would be as rooftop dining areas, but perhaps it will be as solar panel fields. Or maybe they can be both. I could get a tan while I sip my cocktail.
• Town Talk will take a couple of days off for the Thanksgiving holiday and will return on Monday. But while we’re in the Thanksgiving mood, here is a brief item about how the city is getting closer to approving a project that would thank a group of public servants: firefighters.
Leaders with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department are set to forward a recommendation to city commissioners to use the park at 19th and Haskell to remember area firefighters.
The park currently doesn’t have a name, but rather is just a bit of an open field with some playground equipment and a basketball goal.
But the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is now recommending it be named Firefighters Remembrance Park. The idea came from Rachel McSwain, the widow of longtime Lawrence fire chief Jim McSwain.
The park is adjacent to the city’s firefighting training facility. Rachel McSwain said current Lawrence fire chief Mark Bradford had mentioned the idea to her at Chief McSwain’s funeral in 2008.
The plan is the park would have a plaque recognizing McSwain and his contributions to the city after serving 27 years as the city’s fire chief.
But in addition, other people will be allowed to make donations to the parks department to sponsor benches, trees or other park amenities in memory or recognition of firefighters. Each donation likely would come with its own plaque naming the firefighters being honored.
Parks leaders are finalizing some of those types of details and then plan to forward the recommendation for final approval by city commissioners.
Originally Rachel McSwain and her family had suggested naming the park after Chief McSwain. Parks and Recreation officials, however, pitched this broader idea to the family. When the city’s parks board recently gave its recommendation, a tearful McSwain said she was “thrilled” with the idea.
“All of the McSwain family has been very supportive of the idea,” Rachel said. “It is going to be great.”
Here’s hoping you all have a great and safe Thanksgiving, and that you get to thank everyone who is important to you.
City asked to provide monthly funding for arts coordinator; new report recommends water/sewer bill increases; city set to approve longevity bonuses
News and notes from around town:
• You might notice that Town Talk looks a bit different today. (Why is there a slightly shaven man staring at you, for instance?) Well, that’s progress folks. We’re switching this column and others over to our blogging platform. Hopefully, it will provide you an easier way to click on Town Talk and catch up on the posts that you may have missed. It also will provide us a better platform to build some new gizmos and gadgets in the future.
But all of this is a work in progress, so I hope you’ll bear with us. Case in point: On this page currently you’ll see some really old Town Talks. That’s a glitchy thing. (Sorry to get so technical on you.) Soon enough, those old Town Talks will be replaced by newer Town Talks, and then you’ll be able to click on one page and scroll from top to bottom and see the newest Town Talk and ones from the past several days. In the meantime, take advantage of our free time machine and catch up on what was going on back in 2010.
Case in point No. 2 in the glitchy category: A few hundred of you have signed up to have Town Talk delivered to your inbox each weekday. For the time being, those daily e-mails will be replaced by a couple of e-mails per week reminding you that you can find all the Town Talks on this page. We hope to get the daily e-mail feature back up and running in the future. Another option for those who are interested is to friend me on Facebook. I plan to be more faithful in posting a daily link to Town Talk on that page each day at noon.
• In honor of the Mona Lisa-like portrait that now adorns this page (wait a minute, that might not be as flattering a description as I had hoped), let’s talk a little art.
City commissioners at their meeting tonight will be asked to spend a few thousand dollars on a couple of art projects. Here’s a look: — The Lawrence Arts Center is asking the city to come up with $300 per month to help fund a part-time coordinator for the Final Fridays arts events that takes place the last Friday of each month in downtown. The city’s Cultural Arts Commission has been providing $300 a month for the coordinator position for the last couple of years, using some essentially leftover funding in its budget. But that pot of money has dried up, and now city commissioners are being asked to come up with the $300 out of the city’s general till. Susan Tate, executive director of the Lawrence Arts Center, told me it is “absolutely vital” to have a coordinator for the monthly events. That’s because many of the art showings for the events happen at non-traditional gallery spaces, such as coffee shops, retail stores, or vacant buildings. Connecting artists with those spaces takes, well, coordination.
The Lawrence Arts Center and Downtown Lawrence Inc. already each provide $300 per month for the coordinator position. That funding arrangement will continue, Tate said.
— The second project is a more speculative venture, but one that arts leaders think could produce a big bang. The city is being asked to provide $2,000 in funding for a grant writer to prepare an application to the National Endowment of the Arts.
The Lawrence Arts Center is hoping to win up to $200,000 in funding to start a program that would create a new digital media education program. The project would bring in as an artist-in-residence R. Luke DuBois, a notable New York-based artist who specializes in new media.
The program also would reach out to East Lawrence’s New York Elementary School to provide new media education for students.
The end result, arts leaders hope, is an explosion of creativity in the world of new media. That could mean multiple short film projects, animation projects, computer-generated artistic projections, live music with digital effects, and all sorts of other things that would require me to break out high-tech words such as gizmos and doo-dads.
The project would culminate with a bulked up Free State Film and Music Festival. The Arts Center has hosted the Free State festival the last two years, but with more funding, leaders believe they could take it to a whole other level of national prestige.
Lawrence will face stiff competition for the NEA grant dollars. Tate said the city won’t learn whether it has received any funding until September.
• Perhaps there is a way the digital animators can make your yard look green through the heat of the Kansas summer. Right now that takes lots of water, and a new report out of City Hall is recommending that you’ll need to pay more for that water in the future.
This report is new — as in just a few hours old — so I haven’t fully digested the nearly 80-page report yet. But it appears the report holds strong to the city staff’s previous recommendation that water and sewer rates need to go up in order to provide the type of service residents have come to expect.
If you remember, city commissioners during their budget deliberations this summer took the unusual step of deferring action on the city’s water and sewer rates for 2013. Staff members had recommended rate increases of between 4 percent to 6 percent for most customers.
This new report is recommending what looks to be a 28.6 percent rate increase phased in over the next five years for the average water user — which the city considers to be a household that uses about 4,000 gallons of water per month.
In other words, the typical water and sewer bill is estimated to be $47.64 per month currently. In 2017, that typical bill would be $61.30 per month.
The extra revenue would help fund many maintenance projects, but most notably it also would allow the city to build the long-talked about multi-million dollar sewage treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River by 2018. I suspect that will be a major point of discussion. That project easily could cost $70 million, and I’m not sure city commissioners are convinced the city’s population is growing fast enough to justify the expense.
But delaying the project is risky business because if the city’s population growth does pick back up, the city will need several years to complete the project. City planners want to avoid a situation of having a shortage of sewage treatment capacity to meet growth needs.
As I said, there is a lot of information in the report, and several additional rate scenarios. Keep an eye on this space for future updates.
• One last City Hall item before commissioners meet tonight: City commissioners are expected to approve about $425,000 worth of year-end bonuses for city employees.
As has become the practice, the city is set to provide a year-end bonus to employees who have at least five years of service with the city. City leaders don’t like it when the program is referred to as a bonus, but it largely meets the definition because the payment is a one-time event, and whether the payment is made is entirely up to the discretion of the City Commission. The city however has made the annual payment every year since at least 1997, so many city employees have come to count on the year-end payment.
City officials call the program its longevity payment program. It pays all employees with at least five years of service with the city $4 for every month they have served with the city, or $48 for each year of service. This year, a record 599 employees qualify for the program. That tops last year’s record of 583 employees. The city’s workforce has shrunk over the last few years, but I believe its turnover rate also has declined. That means there are more longtime employees at the city.
The city is set to pay $424,380 as part of the program this year, which represents about a 3 percent increase from what was paid a year ago.
In past years, tight budgets have caused city commissioners to debate about whether to make the year end payments. But the city’s budget outlook has improved some in 2012, and I’ve heard no concerns from commissioners about the year-end program. Commissioners are scheduled to approve the payments as part of their consent agenda at their 6:35 p.m. meeting tonight.
Industrial sites to get hearings; foreclosures up in Douglas County; homeless shelter releases statistics
News and notes from around town:
• A pair of proposals to add more industrial ground northwest of Lawrence soon will have their first public hearings. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on Oct. 25 will hear a request to rezone 120 acres at East 700 and North 1800 roads from agricultural to light industrial. As previously reported, the 120 acres is the proposed site for a $21 million warehouse for Berry Plastics.
On Oct. 27, the planning commission will consider annexation and rezoning requests for 51 acres at North 1800 and East 1000 roads. The property owners are seeking to have the site rezoned from agricultural to general industrial. This property once was up for consideration as a site for the Berry warehouse but was not chosen. The development group — Venture Properties — however, said it wants to continue with the rezoning so it will be available to other potential users in the future.
Both meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. at Lawrence City Hall.
• According to the Douglas County Clerk’s office, today — Oct. 18 — is the last chance to register to vote in the Nov. 2 general election. Registration can be done online, here. Advance voting already has begun.
• A new report from the Douglas County Appraiser’s office shows home foreclosures in Douglas County are up significantly in 2010. Through the end of August, the number of foreclosure sales conducted in the county was 164. That’s up from 80 during the same time period in 2009.
• The Lawrence Memorial Hospital board of trustees will be adding a new face. Jane Blocher, the executive director of the Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross, is expected to be appointed to the board by city commissioners at their meeting Tuesday. Also at their Tuesday meeting, commissioners are expected to appoint Thomas Christie to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
• New statistics are out for the Lawrence Community Shelter. In a report to city commissioners, shelter leaders report that from March through August law enforcement officers were called to the downtown shelter 34 times, and emergency response crews were called 14 times. Other statistics in the report include: 22 guests obtained jobs during the time period; 28 guests obtained housing; 274 individuals used the shelter’s day services; 362 individuals used its night services.
• Also from the shelter, new information about its fund-raising efforts. A J-W article on Friday reported that a new $540,000 matching grant put the shelter more than halfway toward its $3 million goal. Shelter leaders since have done some more figuring and are announcing that the grant now has fund-raising efforts two-thirds of the way complete.
• Yes, that is pink you are seeing Lawrence firefighters wearing. Through Saturday, members of the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical department will be wearing bright pink t-shirts as part of a breast cancer awareness campaign. The department also will be selling the shirts, with proceeds to go towards fighting breast cancer. For more information, call Fire Station No. 3, 832-7630.
• The city of Lawrence has announced plans for an electronic recycling event. The event will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Free State High parking lot, 4700 Overland Drive. The event is for small electronic devices, often which have lead, mercury or other material that is not recommended for landfills. The event is largely free, although fees will be charged to accept computer monitors and televisions. The fee for monitors is $10, and for television $15.
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Another Lawrence institution is working to make the latest Top 20 poll, and this one doesn’t have anything to do with KU athletics.
The Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market is battling to be named one of the 20 best farmers' markets in the country by the American Farmland Trust.
The nonprofit organization is running an online poll asking people to vote for their favorite farmers' market. Thus far, Lawrence is on the outside looking in.
As of Thursday morning, the Lawrence market had 73 votes, which left it 18 votes behind 20th ranked Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market in Santa Barbara, Calif. Lawrence’s market is a full 1,024 votes behind the No. 1 ranked Davis Farmers Market in Davis, Calif.
People can vote online at www.farmland.org/vote.
Several other Kansas markets also are part of the competition. Thus far, the farmers' market in Emporia is ranked No. 16 in the medium-market category. Lawrence is competing in the large-market category because it has more than 55 vendors on a regular basis.
Voting will last for about another week, according to a press release from the group.
There soon may be new life for the former Arensberg Shoes building in downtown Lawrence.
Lawrence orthodontist Dan Ranjbar has bought the building and filed new plans with the city that he hopes will make the large Art Deco landmark at 825 Mass. more attractive to retailers.
“I’m definitely not interested in putting a restaurant in there,” said Ranjbar. “I want retail, boutique or spa type businesses. That’s what we’re going to see there.”
To do it, though, he’s going to have to rearrange some space. He’s filed plans with City Hall that would allow the ground floor of the building to be split into two retail spaces. The plan also would allow for two office spaces on the top floor, and a retail space in the basement.
“When you go to cities like Boston, their basements are fully utilized, but they aren’t here in downtown,” Ranjbar said. “Our plan is to create a prominent entryway to the basement and also one to the top level of the building.”
The changes are necessary, in part, because most of the interest in the building as it is currently configured has been from potential restaurants. Ranjbar — who is a part owner in the Teller’s building — said he’s firmly on the side of people who believe downtown has enough restaurants.
“I think people want to shop and eat when they come to downtown,” Ranjbar said. “We have enough places to eat. We need more places to shop. I will sit on it as long as I can to get that.”
Ranjbar’s plans also don’t call for major changes to the overall look of the building, which was rebuilt in the 1930s to become the community’s Montgomery Ward building.
The major Art Deco themes of the building will remain, but Ranjbar wants to update the ground floor store front areas to include more glass tile and other features.
“It will be stunning when we get done there,” Ranjbar said. “I want people when they walk into that space to have a similar feeling as when they walk into the Teller’s building.”
Ranjbar — who hopes to have the renovations done by December — said he has begun to receive some interest from potential retail tenants.
“I’m getting a mixed bag on retail,” Ranjbar said. “I have to feel confident that the person I put in there will stay afloat.”
In other development news:
• Plans are still in the works for a new Dunkin’ Donuts store at Sixth and Michigan streets. Lawrence’s Dunkin’ Donuts owner Sonny Patel announced in November that he had plans to build a new 2,400 square foot store — complete with drive-thru — on the northwest corner of Sixth and Michigan where a medical supply store once operated. Patel recently said those plans are still alive, although they have taken longer than he had hoped. He said he hopes to submit the design — which will feature a new look for Dunkin’ Donuts — to the city in the next week or so. He hopes to begin construction in a couple of months, and to be open in about six months. The Dunkin’ Donuts at 521 W. 23rd St. will remain open even after the new store is built.
• Add The Granada, 1020 Mass, to the list of bars seeking a sidewalk drinking area, now that the city has loosened the rules for such applications. Building owner Doug Compton also has filed plans to remodel the building’s exterior entryway.
• Preliminary plans are under way to redevelop the Boardwalk Apartments, 510-544 Fireside Drive. Plans have long been under way to rebuild part of the complex that burned in a 2005 fire that killed three people. But in May, the owners of the property announced they were closing the entire complex because of safety concerns. Now, the property owners have filed a new preliminary plat for the property, which is one of the first steps in redeveloping the entire complex. Thus far, plans haven’t been filed on what specifically would be located on the property, but property owners have kept the multifamily zoning for the property.
There was a lot of talk about social service funding during last April’s Lawrence City Commission election. In particular, there was a lot of hand-wringing over potential city funding cuts to social service agencies, but several candidates said they would make it a goal to at least hold social service funding steady.
So, as the city prepares its 2010 budget, how are they doing?
So far, so good.
City Manager David Corliss’ recommended budget essentially keeps all social service and other outside agency funding steady at 2009 levels.
Here’s a look at all the different outside entities the city provides funding for, the amount they’re slated to receive in 2010, and how that compares with 2009 funding levels:
The following funding comes from city property taxes: • Douglas County Legal Aid: $40,000, no change. • Lawrence Humane Society: $256,320, no change. • Downtown Lawrence Inc: $42,500, no change. • Lawrence Chamber of Commerce: $185,500, no change. • Lawrence Douglas County Bioscience Authority: $200,000, no change. • Lawrence Douglas County Bioscience Incubator: $75,000, no change. • Ballard Community Center: $7,500, no change. • Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence: $143,722, no change. • Douglas County CASA: $20,000, no change. • TFI Family Services: $6,750, no change. • Ecumenical Minister’s Fellowship: $4,000, no change. • Health Care Access pharmacy program: $26,000, no change. • Bert Nash Homeless Outreach Team: $164,000, no change. • Lawrence Community Shelter: $57,000, up from $27,000. The shelter in 2010 will begin receiving some city funding that previously went to The Salvation Army since The Salvation Army no longer operates a homeless shelter. • Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority: $0, down from $13,192. • The Salvation Army: $24,000, down from $40,000. • Housing & Credit Counseling: $17,100, no change. • Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging: $7,400, no change. • Lawrence Arts Center: $90,000, no change. • The Shelter Inc: $32,000, no change. • Van Go Mobile Arts: $35,000, no change. • Warm Hearts: $6,000, no change. • Women’s Transitional Care Service: $6,000, no change.
The following funding comes from the city’s guest tax, which is charged to customers at Lawrence hotels and motels: • Destination Management/Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau: $685,560, up from $684,300. • Guest tax reserve fund: $154,500, no change. This fund is often used to pay the city’s share of various special events in the community. • Sister Cities Advisory Board: $7,500, no change.
The following funding comes from the city’s share of the state liquor tax: • Lawrence Arts Center Scholarships: $25,000, no change. • Lawrence Arts Commission: $25,000, no change. • Ballard Community Center: $4,500, no change. • Big Brothers/Big Sisters: $27,000, no change. • Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence: $100,000, no change. • DCCCA: $41,000, no change. • First Step House: $29,150, no change. • Headquarters Inc.: $22,500, no change. • Lawrence Community Shelter: $27,000, no change. • Lawrence Police Department: $250,000, no change. The money is used to help fund school resource officers. • Van Go Mobile Arts Inc.: $44,000, no change. • Women’s Transitional Care Services: $17,000, no change.
City Commissioner Aron Cromwell served on a city committee that came up with the recommended funding levels. He believes his fellow city commissioners will leave the recommendations largely unchanged.
“I think the will of the commission is to protect these vulnerable agencies at a time when they really need it,” Cromwell said. “And the good thing is that it wasn’t that hard to do because it is not an enormous part of the city budget.”
All told, the city is slated to provided $2,906,002 to outside agencies in 2010, out of a total budget of $157,707,300.
When it comes to social service funding, one other interesting promise was made during the campaign. Cromwell promised to donate his City Commission salary to social service agencies. He said he plans to follow through on that, but hasn’t yet selected all the agencies that he’ll provide funding to.
“I plan to spread it around,” said Cromwell, who said he anticipates making donations to the Lawrence Humane Society, the Lawrence Community Shelter and several other local groups.
Commissioners make $9,000 per year, before taxes.