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Menards files plans for Lawrence store next to Home Depot near 31st and Iowa streets


A home improvement center battle in Lawrence is about to begin.

Menards has filed plans at Lawrence City Hall to build a large home improvement center right next to Home Depot near 31st and Iowa streets.

The company — as was previously speculated — wants to locate in the former Gaslight Mobile Home Village.

The retailer has opened new stores in Topeka and Manhattan in recent months. Menards officials said in their application that significant numbers of Lawrence residents have been driving to the Topeka Menards. The retailer sells home improvement items — much like Home Depot or Lowes — but it also has a broader offerings that include home goods and other items.

The plans call for the 41.5 acres to be rezoned from an apartment/multi-family zoning designation to a Planned Commercial Development designation.

Documents included in the submittal indicate Menards is looking to build a 162,340 square foot store, although it isn’t clear whether that number is the size of the building or also includes outdoor storage yards and such.

Either way, it appears the store would be significantly larger than the Home Depot store, which is just west of the proposed site.

The proposal will create a major retail question at City Hall. The city’s long-range planning documents don’t call for the former Gaslight Mobile Home Village to become a retail development. The plans call for it to become an apartment development. (You may remember a Texas-based company proposed a large student apartment complex for the site last year, but then pulled out when it determined the Lawrence market couldn’t support it.) City commissioners will have to decide how much they want to stick to their previous statements that indicated the next area for big box store development should be the intersection of Sixth Street and the SLT, which not coincidentally is where the city and KU are working to build the new Rock Chalk Park sports village.

But Menards officials, in a letter to the city, made it clear they have no interest in that site.

“This site (Sixth and SLT) is very removed from the city’s rooftops and is surrounded by vacant ground on three sides for many miles,” Menards real estate representative Tyler Edwards wrote. “Additionally this site is not visible from the existing retail on Sixth Street due to a large hill. The amount of commercially oriented traffic that would pass by the store on Sixth Street or K-10 would be close to none and not enough to make a successful store.”

The area around the Sixth and SLT site is obviously developing with the Rock Chalk Park project and just last night the city approved the preliminary development plan for The Links, a 630 unit apartment complex that will surround a private nine-hole golf course.

But none of that has been enough to convince Menards that the area will be viable for their store in the near future.

In the past — when Home Depot and Best Buy were built at the 31st and Iowa intersection more than a decade ago — neighbors expressed concern that retail shouldn’t stretch east down 31st Street because of traffic and other issues that could impact nearby neighborhoods.

But with the South Lawrence Trafficway scheduled to start construction later this year, 31st Street will undergo major changes. An entirely new high-capacity street, dubbed 32nd Street, will be built through the nearby Baker Wetlands and connect with the existing 31st Street just east of the proposed Menards site.

This project may be the first one that causes people in the community to realize how much the completion of the SLT and the new U.S. Highway 59 is going to change south Lawrence. In addition to the Menards, the development plan also has room for another 65,000 square feet of retail space spread out over six lots on the site. But documents in the plan indicated those would be part of a Phase II that likely would not begin until a few years after Menards opens.

Menards confirmed it looked at creating a new retail site south of the SLT — basically between the SLT’s Iowa Street bridge and the Wakarusa River — but determined the cost of dealing with the floodplain on the site was prohibitive. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see other retailers look strongly at that site in the future.

In the meantime, expect a lot of discussion about Menards at City Hall. The earliest the development proposal could make it to the Planning Commission is in late April, meaning it will be the next City Commission that decides this issue.


del888 5 years, 3 months ago

Chad, I am looking forward to reading your next story about how the city denied the building permit for Menards. After all, we really don't need to promote business and employment in Lawrence. What we really need is more apartments.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 3 months ago

Yes, what we really need are more jobs that don't pay enough to live in Lawrence. We don't need jobs that support taxes paid unto the city, only those that need state and federal support. We don't need more apartments, because the jobs that so many push could not pat apartment rents.

streetman 5 years, 3 months ago

I'll help the Lawrence libs get started: "We can't allow another damn big box store in this town!" "They're outsiders!" "Just say 'NO' to more south Iowa Street development." "Menards should be ashamed of destroying that trailer court." "They'll push us around and flout our codes" "Just watch -- John Menard will demand all kinds on concessions on taxes and seek TIFS!" "This is going to kill downtown!" "Menards is a privately held company. What are they hiding? Probably in cahoots with Koch!" "It'll be death to the mom and pop stores!" "Someone in Topeka told me CAPITALISM is running amuck since Menards showed up over there!!!" Let the fun begin!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

And your position is that when Menards says jump, the response of the city should be quite simple-- "How high?"

Dan Blomgren 5 years, 3 months ago

No, they shouldn't just say 'yes'. But should Lawrence be turning down job growth just because? And tell me Home Depot couldn't use some competition! Let the free market dictate the cream from the chaff. My money is on Menards, but time will tell.

Hooligan_016 5 years, 3 months ago

Did you miss gem from December?


Menards can go pound sand.

Also, the first development planned for the former mobile home site was a series of "cottage" style duplexes (that had actual porches, I kind of liked the look).

mom_of_three 5 years, 3 months ago

This lawrence lib wants a menards - so TRY AGAIN

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 3 months ago

This liberal likes Menards. They're a good midwestern company based out of Wisconsin. And we in Lawrence apparently like having similar stores close together. Think about Target and Walmart.

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

What is there to like about Menards?

From Wikipedia:

Many concerns have arisen concerning the treatment of Menards’ employees, and how situations are handled by the company. These concerns are often seen in how they treat corporate employees within the company. Menards utilizes fines and the threat of fines against future pay for violating their policies and procedures; for example, a two hundred dollar fine is assessed to any Menards employee that is involved in an accident that damages a Menards vehicle, even if the employee was found not to have been responsible or at fault for the accident. Failure to produce internal reports on time also result in fines. A typical disciplinary policy has been offering relocation, lower wage, and demotion when conflicts develop between executives and employees. This often results in the employee quitting his or her employment with the company. Other concerns surrounding Menards seeming lack of systemic store safety practices have surfaced. Unlike other big box home improvement operators, Menards does not employ back up alarms in their equipment at use inside their stores, nor do they employ spotters or aisle blockers to facilitate the safety of both patrons and employees while operating lifts and other such heavy equipment used to conduct stocking activities.[6]

Other environmental conflicts include: - Wisconsin DNR officials have cited Menards at least 13 times since 1976 for ignoring or violating state regulations related to air and water pollution and hazardous waste.[6]

  • In 1994, Wisconsin obtained a civil judgment against Menards for the unlicensed transportation and disposal of ash produced by incinerating "CCA"-treated lumber. Wood treated with CCA contains chromium, copper, and arsenic – both chromium VI and arsenic are categorized by the US EPA as carcinogens. It is considered hazardous waste and requires proper disposal in a licensed landfill. The company was fined $160,000.[6]

  • In 1997, John Menard (Menards CEO/President/Founder) was caught using his personal pickup truck to haul plastic bags of chromium- and arsenic-laden wood ash to his home for disposal with his household trash. Menard pleaded no contest to felony and misdemeanor charges involving records violations, unlawful transportation, and improper disposal of hazardous waste. Menard and his company were fined $1.7 million for 21 violations.[6]

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

  • In 2003, the Minnesota attorney general charged that Menards manufactured and sold arsenic-tainted mulch in packaging labeled “ideal for playgrounds and for animal bedding.” Warning labels from the CCA-treated wood were found in the mulch. The EPA recommends that CCA-treated wood not be converted into mulch. The case is still pending (as of 2008).[6]

  • In 2005, Menards agreed to a $2 million fine after Wisconsin DNR officials found a floor drain in a company shop that they believed was used to dump paint, solvents, oil and other waste into a lagoon that fed into a tributary of the Chippewa River. The sanction broke the previous record fine of $1.7 million set by Menard in 1997.[6]

  • In 2006, the construction of a $112 million warehouse became a campaign issue in the Wisconsin governor’s race. The warehouse was to be erected by filling in a 0.6-acre (0.24 ha) bean field the DNR considers a seasonal wetland used by migrating tundra swans. Menards offered to build a wetland more than twice its size as a replacement, but was rejected by Scott Humrickhouse, a DNR regional director. Humrickhouse said that solution could be used “only when every alternative for saving the original wetland was exhausted.” The increasingly heated dispute got considerable media coverage, with a DNR warden calling Menards’ general counsel a “legal bitch” and the company threatening to move jobs out of Wisconsin. Tempers seemed to cool after Gov. Jim Doyle arranged $4.2 million in state aide to help the company expand its Eau Claire manufacturing headquarters. Menard had previously contributed $20,000 to Doyle’s campaign.[6]

  • Also in 2006: The US Environmental Protection Agency issued an administrative order against Menards for damaging a Sioux Falls, S.D., stream that ran through its property by filling in 1,350 linear feet of the stream and replacing it with a 66-inch storm sewer pipe.[6]

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

kuguardgrl13, check out this link and let me know whether you still think Menards is a "good company."


kuguardgrl13 5 years, 3 months ago

Thanks for the info, but if I boycotted every company that I disagree with politically, I'd probably have very few places to shop. Menards may be run by a bunch of Teabaggers and have some bad policies, but I'm glad to see businesses willing to come to Lawrence. All of the empty storefronts have me worried.

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

I did not suggest you boycott them. I just wanted to point out that contrary to your opinion, they are not a "good company."

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 3 months ago

Will you be happy with a BIG empty store front when either Home Depot or Menards runs the other out of business? I could see building one out off Wakarusa and Sixth or in that area. I think putting them side by side would be bad for BOTH businesses.

msezdsit 5 years, 3 months ago

"Just say No" Where did you steal that phrase from?

MarcoPogo 5 years, 3 months ago

Welcome to Retail Thunderdome: "Two stores enter! One store leaves! Two stores enter! One store leaves!"

msezdsit 5 years, 3 months ago

I am sure that whichever stays will hire all the laid off employees from the ruins of the loser. I am always amused by all the people who immediately think more is better even though the market served by these two stores has largely remained unchanged.

Katara 5 years, 3 months ago

If they needed all the laid off employees from the losing store, why didn't they employ them prior to competition coming to town?

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

Have to agree with you cheeseburger. Initially, the direct competition will benefit the consumer, but invariably, one of the stores will fail., and Lawrence will be left with one huge and empty box store. ,

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

Topeka is a regional shopping destination. Lawrence is not.

average 5 years, 3 months ago

Even ignoring regional drawing potential, there are 48,400 owner-occupied units (renters don't buy a whole lot of home improvement) in Shawnee County. 22,400 in Douglas County, and that's assuming Eudora and Baldwin City people shop in-county. "Monthly Owner Cost" (a census figure including mortgage/tax/utilities) is over $300 a month more in DG than SN. And the median household makes slightly more in SN.

Even without adding regional draw/leakage differences, Shawnee County homeowners have over triple the total cash to do home improvements that Douglas County ones do.

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

Grandma, I agree with you that the opening of Payless Cashways probably took out 84 Lumber. However, the entire Payless Cashways corporation liqudated and became defunct in 2001, long before the Lawrence Home Depot opened in 2003. Payless Cashways problems started in 1997 when it attempted to thwart a takeover bid by Sutherland Lumber by buying back all of its oustanding shares, which left it with massive debt from which it was unable to recover.

LogicMan 5 years, 3 months ago

"...site south of the SLT — basically between the SLT’s Iowa Street bridge and the Wakarusa River — but determined the cost of dealing with the floodplain on the site was prohibitive. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see other retailers look strongly at that site in the future."

Believe you me -- don't even think of building there. That whole area goes underwater, deeply, in very wet years.

But there is a chunk of land on the southeast corner that might stay dry. The early thoughts were for a fancy auto/truck complex there to support the completed SLT's traffic.

bornherelongago 5 years, 3 months ago

THAT'S THE SITE WHERE THEY SHOULD GO. It's already planned for commercial development.

msezdsit 5 years, 3 months ago

I seem to remember that the size of the home depot was greatly reduced by the time it was ok'd which means it now must compete with its scaled down store compared to Menards scaled up store. Same for the Best Buy although it wouldn't appear Menards will affect them.

I wonder if they blame Obama for now going ahead and building a store that will not be viable for them(at least according to their previous statement.) What changed? They were obviously taking a cheap shot at Obama but profiteering seems to have won out over their rhetoric. I don't see myself supporting their store although Home Depot has plenty of mud on their face as well.

average 5 years, 3 months ago

“This site (Sixth and SLT) is very removed from the city’s rooftops and is surrounded by vacant ground on three sides for many miles,”

Well, at least someone sees the issue with the Rock Chalk Park plan. Oh... wait a second...

Anyway, on this proposal, all I ask is for no more "just this one time" exemptions. Either we follow the planning/zoning guidelines in place. Or we toss them in the fire, disband the planning commission, propose no new plan to replace it, and declare free-for-all. Honestly, at this point, I'm completely fine with either direction if the voting population of the city is fine with it. But, this whole "make a plan, whine about the plan, get an exemption if your project is big enough and you buy your fence from the right guy" cycle needs to end.

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

Way big liars. It's laughable that they refer to themselves as a "small family owned business." They are the third largest home supply store in the country behind Home Depot and Loews. And the family is worth more than five billion dollars.

blindrabbit 5 years, 3 months ago

Chad: Per your wording in this story, you mentioned "The South Lawrence Trafficway to start later this year" Did I miss something, I didn't think that project was to begin that early, or was the start date moved up??? What is the latest completion timeframe? Thanx,

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 3 months ago

Fall of 2013 is the timeline KDOT has given us for construction to begin. Here's an article we had on it in October: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/oct...

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 3 months ago

Wow, so because Menard's will be competition for Home Depot, some of you think we shouldn't do it?

If America was founded on those standards, we would all drive Ford's, we would all wear the same clothes, we would all live in the same size houses built by the same builder, and all our kids would get an "A" in every class to be fair...

Oh wait, that is what Obama wants...

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

I am not suggesting that we bar Menards. Competition is great for the consumer, as long as it remains sustained. There is a much greater chance that one of the two will fail if they are right next to each other, as opposed to across town from each other. If one fails because they are right on top of each other, we citizens are left holding the bag.

average 5 years, 3 months ago

Like TheSycophant, I'm fine with them trying the waters. I'll probably shop there occasionally. I'm fine with the location, as long as we admit the planning guidelines aren't worth the paper they're printed on and stop hamstringing smaller players who do follow PDS guidelines. But, I do think the Lawrence economy is a lot smaller than all that. Five years from now, when one or the other is vacant, I don't want to hear about how horribly anti-business Lawrence is or that it's all some Democrat's fault somewhere.

Keith 5 years, 3 months ago

No, but I do think we should remove the restrictions placed on Home Depot as far as store size is concerned and let them expand to meet the competition if they want to.

average 5 years, 3 months ago

Exactly. Home Depot and Best Buy worked within the planning guidelines (okay... begged, bribed, and bartered for variances... water under the bridge). And part of the reason they agreed to those restrictions was because the land immediately next to them was not going to be big-box.

Even if they are allowed to expand now, they're largely lot-bound at this point. This is why, when you have written a planning document, you have to stick to the planning document. Anything else leads to legitimate accusations of unfairness. If our planning documents don't mean a pile of poop, burn them and shut down the planning commission.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 3 months ago

" But documents in the plan indicated those would be part of a Phase II that likely would not begin until a few years after Menards opens." = nonsense

It will begin tomorrow whether Lawrence can support this new retail or not. It's a campaign to make Lawrence appear to be more than it is aka fraud so to speak.

Lawrence is a population of about 68,000 NOT 90,000. Does Menards real estate representative Tyler Edwards know this?

Why doesn't Menard's buyout Home Depot instead of having two home improvement stores not doing so well?

What Menard's will discover is what Home Depot has discovered. There is not as much business in Lawrence as they have been led to believe. Which means their inventory will be downsized accordingly.

Bottom line is Lawrence does not need more apartments and cannot sustain two large home improvement stores.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 3 months ago

Will you ever find happiness in life? How does this hurt Lawrence. We are not paying for the store, nor are we adding more roads to build the store (one of your common complaints) since the infrastructure is already there, and this will create more jobs. On top of that it is going where apartments were suppose to go which is one of your big complaints that we have too many apartments. To live life in an always "half empty" glass must be depressing.

Keith 5 years, 3 months ago

If you know so much about what Lawrence can and will support, why don't you hang out a shingle as a consultant and bring in the big bucks?

del888 5 years, 3 months ago

The population of Lawrence, Kansas is approximately 81,816. The population of Lawrence was 65,958 in 1990 and 80,192 in 2000. The population growth percent was 21.6% from 1990-2000 and 2% from 2000-2005.

HangingTen 5 years, 3 months ago

I've shopped in Topeka at all three stores. Rumor had it that Home Depot would go under first. But based on my experience and a dozen other people that I've talked to, it'll be Menards. Things aren't laid out logically and ya can't find a darn thing.

Patriot2 5 years, 3 months ago

Yep, going to be built right beside Red Lobster, Olive Garden and K-Mart................

jhawkinsf 5 years, 3 months ago

K-Mart attracted a tornado when they were across the street. No to them.

Patriot2 5 years, 3 months ago

Sears..............? North Lawrence business park..............?

Liberty275 5 years, 3 months ago

It looks like Menards will have some stuff the depot or westlake doesn't. It will be nice to have another place to go looking for the weird stuff I need now and again. Besides, it will be a great place for KU students to work and there is an apartment complex full of them across the street.

More jobs and more competition is good. Sounds like a great place to be on grand opening day.

Thanks to Menards for investing in Lawrence.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 3 months ago

Taxpayers will not get off without spending tax dollars for Menard's.

Mark my words.

Empty buildings are a drag on taxpayers. Empty houses are a drag on taxpayers. Empty apartments are a drag on taxpayers? These empties are not generating revenue to cover the cost of their existence.

Empties do not pay for the services they require from a municipality thus increased taxes.

It is NOT the duty of the taxpayer or local government to maximize profits for speculators.

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