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

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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.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 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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Liberty275 1 year, 2 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.

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Number_1_Grandma 1 year, 2 months ago

The only thing that comes to "North Lawrence" is floods :-)

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Patriot2 1 year, 2 months ago

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

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Patriot2 1 year, 2 months ago

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

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HangingTen 1 year, 2 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.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 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.

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flyin_squirrel 1 year, 2 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...

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blindrabbit 1 year, 2 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,

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KansasLiberal 1 year, 2 months ago

“I’m very sorry, but we are a family-owned business and with the Obama administration scaring the dickens out of all small businesses in the USA at present, we have decided not to risk expansion until things are more settled,” Menards spokesman Jeff Abott told the newspaper in an e-mail (in December 2012).

LOL.....so not only are they ignorant politically they're also liars.

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average 1 year, 2 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.

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msezdsit 1 year, 2 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.

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LogicMan 1 year, 2 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.

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cheeseburger 1 year, 2 months ago

I'll say it again - located next to each other, one of these two businesses will fail. Is that in the best interests of Lawrence?

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streetman 1 year, 2 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!!

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del888 1 year, 2 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.

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