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Plan for former Arensberg building comes forward


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.


fabian_zimbabwe 8 years, 7 months ago

“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.”

Spot on...couldn't agree more.

sweetiepie 8 years, 7 months ago

I'll really be glad to see the NW corner of 6th and Michigan developed--it's been an eyesore for many, many years!

d_prowess 8 years, 7 months ago

I agree with his comments on shopping and dining, but it goes back to some former discussions that this would require those retails stores to stay open longer on the weekdays. Hopefully he would push for that to happen.

sustainabilitysister 8 years, 7 months ago

Who are the property owners of Boardwalk Apartments? They should NEVER be allowed to be in the apartment management business again! I've been working with children in the area for several years and the families that I have visited residing at Boardwalk Apartments have been living in horrible conditions. They were the cheapest place in town for families to live but their safety was always in jeopardy. They are taking advantage of our low income families by taking their money without providing a decent, and safe place for them to live. Again, does anyone know who owns those apartments?

Zachary Stoltenberg 8 years, 7 months ago

I do believe you can look up the owner of any property at the courthouse.

das 8 years, 7 months ago

Ha good luck!....retailers come and go here in a matter of months sometimes.....but people have to eat. Any retail that goes there won't last unless they find a new or unfilled niche (that has spending money). Guess they haven't heard the news about the economy.

vermont 8 years, 7 months ago

Definitely! Shops are going to have to stay open longer to survive. What about later summer hours? How about trying longer hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays -- until 9:00 to see if it increases revenue? What could it hurt?

bluedawg79 8 years, 7 months ago

I for one would love more food and retail choices downtown. I'd love to see a sweets/pastry shop, more wine bars, places to grab a snack, etc. If retail does go into the former Arensburg store, I hope they have a wide variety of price points. It'd be awesome to see downtown Lawrence one day expand and develop into a mini downtown Portland, a bunch of little microcommunities within one downtown area with something for everyone. It makes it feel more community-oriented. Sad to see, though, the city and developers putting a lot of emphasis on the Northwest side of town now, but that is typical. Build where the money is as we slowly become just another boring Johnson County :(

vermont 8 years, 7 months ago

I don't think anyone wants to see DTL go anywhere but things do change - good or bad. I think that the city and the developers are doing a lot, they just think in smaller steps. "What will this do to the community in 5-10 years?" We need to find ways to improve the downtown district to compete internally with the expansion out west. Statistically Lawrence is the second most educated community in Kansas following close behind Overland Park, so why can we not find ways to emphasize our strengths and what makes us different. We need to starting getting creative with DT events and development. ie: outdoor theater, New Hampshire expansion, roof top bar, 2-3 day art events, closing down portions of Mass for music. We just really need to start thinking about ways of getting people exited to come downtown again. Don't you think?

bluedawg79 8 years, 7 months ago

Vermont, I whole-heartedly agree. Like turning that gravel lot next to the parking garage into a covered pavillion to say house a permanent Farmer's Market and hold other events would be a great start! The 'Get Downtown' mentality needs to span more than a couple days a year. Basically, there needs to be more COMMUNITY Development going on, not just development.

flyin_squirrel 8 years, 7 months ago

Only way downtowns survive is by having a large living population within walking distance. We need to build more loft apartments or condos in/near downtown to create the walking traffic. Look at all the cities that have revitalized their downtowns. It all begins with a population working/living nearby. And that is why KC downtown hasn't grown like many other metro areas.

bluedawg79 8 years, 7 months ago

flyin, I agree with your statement in larger metropolitan areas, however, for a city the size of Lawrence we don't need to heavily rely on persons working and living within walking distance to keep downtown surviving. The issue is the proximity of major retail and restaurants in the KC area pulling Lawrence residents there. It's nothing to drive 45 minutes to an hour to shop and dine in KC where there is far more variety. We need to further develop downtown into a destination to attract not only Lawrence residents, but to pull visitors in from surrounding communities, even KC, to help boost our local economy. I think what sets our downtown apart is big-city living combined with small-town charm. We need to further harness our urban and rural residents' skills, products, and services. For instance, having restaurants like Local Burger and other restaurants utilizing local farmers' meats and produce is a positive step in that direction. This is again COMMUNITY development, strengthening our community both socially and economically. I pray for the days where lining pockets with gold end is the ultimate goal and society finally 'gets it.' Sorry, I'm just real passionate about this!

igby 8 years, 7 months ago

The Granada, already has dance and show venues that draws large crowds. The sidewalk is blocked and congested almost every night of the week. There's a much greater underage drinking crowd that lines up on the sidewalk for these music venues. To have a outdoor drinking area that not only blocks the sidewalk even more there too add congestion to a already congested crowd of mayhem is just an unreasonable request by this club.

The Granada, also has exit doors that open to the outside. These are large swinging outward doors. I was walking along there just the other night and tying to avoid the crowded congestion of club patrons standing on the sidewalk circle jerking and clowning. I walk along and near the building to suddenly get hit by this swinging outward steel door. People just run out this steel door and its a solid door with no window so it clobbers whom is walking by suddenly and without warning; you get your face smashed in by some drunk running out of the Granada.

This is a theater exit door and its heavy and drunks run out of it full force onto the sidewalk without any warning and it hits people walking on the sidewalk.


There's just too many underage kids running around to have any reasonable control of who's drinking from who's glass of liquor.

KansasPerson 8 years, 7 months ago

igby, I too was surprised to see the Granada's request. Even if the owner's plan to remodel the entryway fixes the problem of the exit doors that you mention, the big concerns for me (as you also pointed out) are the already-congested sidewalk area and the difficulty of the underage guests. Once you're inside, you get a big X on your hand to indicate that you're not of age, but are they going to go outside with their magic marker and try to X the guests' hands out there?

I can see how bar-owners want some sidewalk space, but I have never thought of the Granada as a "bar," just as a live-music venue that also serves alcohol. I mean, seriously, you can't just go in there and get a beer like in a regular bar. The only time they're open is when there's a show -- isn't that the case? Why would people even want to hang around outside if there's a show going on inside?

I'm sure I'm missing something.

KansasPerson 8 years, 7 months ago

Well, I thought of that, but what could be done? Come on, Marion, help me out! You're ahead of me in that you've actually run a downtown business. Do you think that's what Doug C has in mind -- to make it a regular bar that's open regular hours, but just has live shows sometimes? He only mentions renovating the exterior entryway, not anything on the inside. And it's been too many years since I've been in there. Do you think it would need some interior renovations in order to be a full-time income-generator? I agree it could be cool -- what would you do with the interior of the place, if it was you?

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