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New development slated for Bob Billings and SLT may land a grocery store


Several Lawrence developments are grabbing headlines these days. Rock Chalk Park, efforts to convert the former Farmland fertilizer plant into an industrial park, and downtown redevelopment are three of the larger ones.

But don’t forget about the nearly $20 million state project to build a new interchange at Bob Billings Parkway and the South Lawrence Trafficway in West Lawrence. Developers certainly haven’t.

A local development group has filed plans for a new commercial and residential development near the northeast corner of the planned intersection.

If all goes according to plan, the development, dubbed Langston Commons because of its proximity to Langston Hughes elementary, will be the next site for a Lawrence grocery store and all the typical surrounding development that comes with it.

RSR Inc., a group led by Lawrence builder Bob Santee and businessmen Tom and Doug Raney, have two concept plans for the nearly 17-acre commercial area. One calls for a 60,000-square-foot grocery store, plus five other smaller commercial buildings. The second concept calls for a 30,000-square-foot retail building, plus seven other buildings ranging in size from about 15,000 square feet to a couple thousand square feet.

Tim Herndon, a Lawrence-based urban planner who is consulting on the development, thinks either scenario could land a grocery store — either a full size one or a smaller specialty store.

“We would love to see something like the next Merc, or Whole Foods or Hen House or some other specialty neighborhood-scale grocer,” Herndon said.

The group doesn’t have deals signed for any tenants, but members are optimistic that interest will be high once the necessary zoning and development plans are approved. That’s because the interchange is set to become perhaps the major western gateway into Lawrence because it will provide a straight shot down Bob Billings Parkway into the Kansas University campus.

“This is going to be the way to get to KU that doesn’t involve worming your way down Sixth Street or 23rd Street,” Herndon said.

Estimates call for traffic volumes in the area to approximately triple once the interchange is open. Herndon said the group hopes to have the commercial development ready to go once the interchange begins serving traffic, which is expected to be by spring of 2016 at the latest.

As for other types of commercial development possible at the site, Herndon said a convenience store is very likely. There also will be spaces for sit-down restaurants. He mentioned the long-talked about duo of Red Lobster and Olive Garden being a good fit. He also said there will be one or two locations for fast food, Starbucks or other similar businesses. In addition, there will be space for traditional neighborhood services such as banks, dry cleaners and the like.

The concept plan also calls for about a one-acre pond-and-water feature. Herndon said that will open up the possibility for a water-side restaurant.

The commercial development, however, is just one part of Langston Commons. The residential development is significant. Plans call for a mix of about 75 single-family, duplex and multi-family living units. The zoning requests indicate about 60 percent of the residential development will be devoted to single-family and duplex units.

The new residential development will be just south of the recently-approved Langston Heights residential development, which is being developed by the same group. That project has a mix of about 140 single-family, duplex and row homes.

Most of the land for the new Langston Commons project will be bought from Alvamar Inc., which has bought and held the land for more than a decade. But about two acres of the property will need to come from the Lawrence school district, which has quite a bit of unused property surrounding the Langston Hughes elementary school. Herndon said the school property is needed to complete a road connection.

For those of you still trying to get your bearings, the entire project can best be described as being north of Bob Billings Parkway, west of Langston Hughes, and it will abut the South Lawrence Trafficway. From the maps, it appears there still will be a fairly significant stretch of open space between the elementary school and the development.

The project will require zoning, platting and site plan approvals from City Hall, but the area has been designated for commercial and residential development in recent long-range plans approved by the city.

It will be interesting to watch how the rest of the area develops. The school district, I believe, still has significant amounts of property around Langston Hughes that would draw heavy interest from developers, if the district decides to entertain such offers.

But things really will get interesting when developers start filing plans for property on the west side of the SLT. The area just west of the planned interchange is an expansive, flat stretch of land that could accommodate a thousand or more homes in future years.

Herndon, who for years was one of the top officials at Lawrence’s Landplan Engineering, said he doesn’t know when the city will be ready to make that jump, but when it happens, it will be a major moment.

“West of the SLT is a pending explosion of development activity,” Herndon said. “That will represent the next major growth center in Lawrence for upcoming decades.”


Steven Gaudreau 9 months, 1 week ago

No one is stopping anyone from building a grocery store in north or east Lawrence. If you want one, get off your backside and make it happen.


oneeye_wilbur 9 months, 1 week ago

Sprouts! And Santee isn't worried about financing!


MacHeath 9 months, 1 week ago

It doesn't have anything to do with poor planning, or grocery stores. It has to do with who has the money, and where they have invested that money. If you were out west 40 years ago, you would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see the potential for long-term growth out there. Walkarusa was a gravel road...Dragstrip road. You form investment groups to buy up land, or options for land use. As time goes by, you push have high schools and retail developments built out west. You push for more roads and infrastructure. Fritzel's idea, for the Rock Chalk park was genius. You create the need.

Now, here is the deal. How many folks in city government have vested interests out west? Are their votes and sympathies for the good of the city at large, or their own pockets? Probably both, but money trumps.


swampyankee 9 months, 1 week ago

6th and Wakarusa is way too far to go for groceries


usesomesense 9 months, 1 week ago

I have to agree that I don't believe Lawrence can support another grocery store, but I must also admit that I absolutely hate the fact that both Dillon's and HyVee charge so excessively for groceries and give the illusion of offsetting the inflated cost by offering gasoline discounts. I would prefer not to shop at WalMart but it irritates me that Dillon's and HyVee's scam duping our citizens into paying too much for groceries under the guise of discounted gasoline. I prefer to shop at Aldi and Checker's as much as possible and wish Checker's was closer or had a second location replacing one of the Dillon's or HyVee stores.

Many of the comments about poor planning I believe are highly accurate. A recent example was the decision to allow Menard's to build next to Home Depot. We really didn't have to have a Menard's - and if they really wanted to be here it would have been appropriate to allow them to build on the East edge of town on K-10, in North Lawrence by I-70 or in Northwest Lawrence by the bypass. Allowing them to build next to Home Depot doesn't provide any real advantages for our citizens and it's likely one of the two will ultimately close - leaving a large, vacant facility that was designed for a specific purpose and virtually useless for another tenant without practically bulldozing it and starting over - eventually.

The point of planning is to prevent overgrowth in areas and blight in others. Allowing developers to dictate everything spells ultimate disaster for us as taxpayers. It leads to vacancies which leads to loss of value and in turn loss of tax revenues and ultimately may mean giving big breaks to developers to redevelop blighted properties down the road (maybe that's the goal?). We really have 4 major gateways to Lawrence and will have a fifth when the Bob Billings exit is put in (when's that anyway?). We've had major focus of South Iowa and West 6th and I'd propose a moratorium on major commercial retail developments seeking any tax or infrastructure improvement incentives and a special property tax district on both South Iowa and West Sixth and incentives for redevelopment in North Lawrence and East K-10. If they want to develop in those locations badly enough they can foot the entire bill and pay a premium in taxes for the privilege.

(And no - I don't live in North or East Lawrence - I live in Northwest Lawrence and those developments would be convenient for me - it's just the wrong thing to do.)


Rozay 9 months, 1 week ago

People who say the Merc is overpriced do not shop at the Merc.


difference_of_opinion 9 months, 1 week ago

I live on the West side and would welcome a Whole Foods, Red Lobster, or Olive Garden. Lawrence is big enough to support these businesses and quite frankly, I get tired of driving to Topeka or KC to patron businesses we don't have here. Agree the Merc is overpriced. I personally know people in Topeka who would come here for Whole Foods instead of KC. As for North about dilapidated!! Why would any business want to start up in that demographic???


blindrabbit 9 months, 1 week ago

A Trader Joe's would "shiver the timbers" of the Merc; who's prices a sooo high as to be ridiculous. Playing to the oversold hype of "Organic" and quality and safety.


bevy 9 months, 1 week ago

Oh crap. The City creeps ever closer, I guess none of the folks here in Larryville will be happy until all the agricultural land west of town has been converted to cheap slab houses and townhomes. Time to look for land in JeffCo.


Silly_me 9 months, 1 week ago

I guess I don't know development very well. I would think a grocery store east of town would do pretty well..would capture the east Lawrence and part of north Lawrence folks and also Eudora, depending on where it is developed. I would also think it would do a lot of business from the commuter traffic between Lawrence and Johnson County. Oh I said, smarter people then me are making these decisions..that's why I'm just silly.


cheeseburger 9 months, 1 week ago

If Tim Herndon is involved, we can be guaranteed it will be screwed up.

Agreed that the area is ripe for development, but let's do it the right way.


Richard Heckler 9 months, 1 week ago

What west Lawrence does not need is another grocery store. There are 2 Hyvee's , 2 Dillions and a Wal-Mart. That west side dollar pie is only so big. All of these stores have within a natural food market.

Where are the smart business people? The concept if Lawrence loses one store the Free Market is working = wrong. Good luck in finding a grocery store that will locate in that over extended market.


blindrabbit 9 months, 1 week ago

We ain't big enough for a Trader Joe's, especially with the antiquated Kansas liquor laws preventing wine sales!


Larry_Local 9 months, 1 week ago

I say we should let them keep building and adding on to West Lawrence. They will stop once they realize how close they are getting to Topeka. And if they allow themselves to get too close, they'll just become the "New East Lawrence". I'd rather live closer to Overland Park, myself. Lawrence prides itself on being a diverse community, yet West Lawrence is getting farther and farther away from the heart of the city - downtown. Let them have Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Westridge Mall. I'll take Free State, Papa Keno's, and Mass. St. any day!


KU_cynic 9 months, 1 week ago

Um, what experience do Santee and the Raineys have with commercial real estate development, and how have they financed the land purchases ( presume they own or have options on the land)? This sounds like a bit of a gamble -- but with whose money?


jane_doe 9 months, 1 week ago

Is there any development plans that go along with the new eastern leg of the SLT?


Budgets_Smudgets 9 months, 1 week ago

"Lawrence needs to quit thinking of........"

Grocery store companies make the decision of where to locate their stores, not the city commission, planning office or planning commission.

With the exception of all the hulaballoo regarding the 6th St Wal-Mart, I do not recall any request from a grocery store or developer on behalf of a grocery store, of any location being denied a re-zoning request.


FlintlockRifle 9 months, 1 week ago

Chad , I know this has nothing to do with the topic here, but I will ask anyway, what are the tall poles with a solar panel on or neat the top of the pole?? Just finished putting one on Peterson Rr. a few weeks ago, thanks.


kshiker 9 months, 1 week ago

The notion that the City of Lawrence (as in the governmental entity) is somehow preventing development in north or east Lawrence is both laughable and inaccurate. Development literally happens where there is demand and income potential. The city simply facilitates the process by planning for infrastructure and granting land use and zoning approvals. If a developer wanted to put in a new commercial or residential development in north or east Lawrence, I guarantee that City Hall would bend over backwards to assist in this process. Development is happening rapidly in west Lawrence because (for better or worse) people want to live and shop there.


LivinginLawrence3 9 months, 1 week ago

I would love to see a Trader Joe's in Lawrence... And, I'd love a decent bagel and coffee place on that side of town.


MacHeath 9 months, 1 week ago

We need a responsible city commission, and a good city manager.

Not a bunch of hippies, or a bunch of clowns in the pocket of local developers. We all need to take the city elections more seriously. Those are the elections that impact everyone more directly.


MacHeath 9 months, 1 week ago

Here is the thing about North Lawrence.

If someone would build a large grocery store in North Lawrence, it might succeed. Don't forget that there is a lot of commuter traffic going north on 59.

No one is going to build a large grocery store in North Lawrence because it will just take the business away from one of the stores they have already. Any further development money will be saved for the western expansion.


kernal 9 months, 1 week ago

Lawrence needs to quit thinking of East Lawrence as nothing but dilapidated shacks, ghetto rentals and low income trailer parks. There are nice areas of homes and some terrific renovations of older homes going on that people aren't even aware of. Some of them are a sight better than some areas of West Lawrence!

There are plenty of people who live in rural areas East of Lawrence, West of Eudora and North of Baldwin who would use a grocery store out on E. 23rd. Eventually there will be more development out there besides light industrial and business parks. Look at Hy-Vee stores. They were built before development took off in West Lawrence. Remember when the fire station on W. 6th St. was way out in the country forty years ago? Now look at that area.


Dan Rose 9 months, 1 week ago

I hear there is something in the works for a HyVee to possibly be built near/next to Orscheln's in E. Larrytownville... Chad, what sayeth you? ;-)



frankfussman 9 months, 1 week ago

“We would love to see something like the next Merc,..." ???? There is no such thing as a "next Merc." There is only one Merc.


MacHeath 9 months, 1 week ago

Its doesn't matter where a grocery store is needed now. It is were a grocery store will be needed in the future.

All these folks are trying to drive developement west. The first thing comes the stores and strip malls, then houses etc. Its a little like how virus spreads.

This is the reason that the city, and Fritzel, wants that Rock Chalk park so bad. They are trying to drive development west. For the last 30-40 years developers have been buying up that land, and its getting close to cash-in time. Well, they have cashed in already (Dragstrip Road), and want to continue to cash in by continuing to force development west. Thats were the money is.

I would like to think the city commission is taking a responsible position in all this, but I fear that most of them have dollar signs in their eyes. We need a good city manager, that is something other than a lawyer, and a shill for the developers.


patkindle 9 months, 1 week ago

why would anyone build a grocerys tore in north lawrernce? , we may see one down the road in east Lawrence, but north lawrence will not support one , never would unless It was cheaper than anyone else


9 months, 1 week ago

I have to agree that west Lawrence is all that the city leaders care about. The ideal place for a new grocery store would be in east Lawrence. Start to develop out there so you can attract other businesses to fill the industrial parks you have started. We need group in the east side of Lawrence.


CountyResident 9 months, 1 week ago

If Lowes and Menards won't build a store at 6th and K-10 why would anyone want to build a grocery store at Bob Billings and K-10. Seems like the same logic of not enough residents near by would apply to both locations.


Catalano 9 months, 1 week ago

Chad, this is weird. On CC agenda for tomorrow is approval of a development, also dubbed "Langston Commons", but its location is stated as "generally located on the northwest corner of Queens Road and Overland Drive".


elliottaw 9 months, 1 week ago

Is any of this needed? There is such a large vacancy rate in Lawrence already why would we need thousands more homes? And the extension of Bob Billings is a waste of money too those going to KU just use the first Lawrence exit.


irvan moore 9 months, 1 week ago

It would be nice if a developer would address the need for a grocery store in north and east lawrence


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