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Lawrence retail sales numbers up for fifth straight month; church buys former Lawrence Community Theater building

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Lawrence retail sales numbers are up for their fifth straight month, according to a new report from City Hall. The reason? Perhaps shoppers were stocking up for this very day.

Surely you know what today is. It is National High Five Day, and that means you better have stocked up on hand sanitizer. If you work at an elementary school — as my wife does — where approximately umpteen students and staff members vomited yesterday, you doubly want to stock up on hand sanitizer. Consequently, my wife soaked in a vat of it for several hours, and now leaves a gooey trail behind her, much like an eel. (I mean that in the most endearing way, dear.)

So, maybe that is why retail sales were up for this most recent period, or maybe there is a less logical explanation. Regardless, the latest report — which measures taxable sales from mid-January to mid-February — were up 0.4 percent compared to the same period a year ago. I never said they were up a lot, but it lends credence to my theory. Hand sanitizer comes in really small bottles. (Don't feel bad if you didn't see that. I'm widely considered an amateur economist.)

Thus far in 2014, Lawrence's retail sales totals are up 1.6 percent for the year. On most days that wouldn't be anything to give a high-five about, but . . . actually, the number is pretty good compared to what's happening in some other large retail centers in the state. Places like Topeka, Overland Park and Olathe have gotten off to slower starts in 2014. Here's a look at the sales tax growth or decline in some of the larger markets in the state:

— Dodge City: down 6 percent

— Emporia: up 3.4 percent

— Garden City: down 0.4 percent

— Hays: down 26.9 percent

— Hutchinson: down 2.1 percent

— Kansas City: down 1.2 percent

— Leavenworth: up 6.2 percent

— Leawood: down 6.9 percent

— Lenexa: up 4.4 percent

— Manhattan: down 0.2 percent

— Olathe: down 5.7 percent

— Overland Park: up 1.3 percent

— Salina: down 2.5 percent

— Shawnee: up 1.6 percent

— Topeka: down 2.1 percent

The list shows two things: 1. Perhaps a meteor has hit Hays and news hasn't made it back this far east yet. (Hays' sales tax numbers have been awful for several months, and I really have meant to call out there because I'm curious about what has happened.) 2. Lawrence performed better than several other large markets.

This is always an interesting time of the year for sales tax numbers because the budget-makers at City Hall soon will have to put together their best estimates on what sales tax numbers will do in 2015. The city's budget process will begin this summer, and an estimate of how much sales taxes will generate in 2015 is a key number in the budget process.

Taxable sales in Lawrence have grown three straight years, after falling in 2009 and 2010. Taxable sales grew by 4.5 percent in 2011, 5.2 percent in 2012 and 2.1 percent in 2013. I know budget makers would like to count on a 2 percent increase in retail sales, but was 2013 the beginning of a moderation? I don't know.

What I do know is my hand hurts. For some reason, each high five I asked for from my wife this morning got a little harder: The one after she brushed her teeth, the one after she brushed her hair, the one after she packed her lunch, the one after she loaded dirty clothes in the washing machine. After that one, I kept my hands in my pockets.

In other news and notes from around town:

• Easter is almost upon us, and there is a local church making a little bit of news in the real estate industry. Vintage Church has purchased the building at 15th and New Hampshire streets that formerly housed the Lawrence Community Theatre.

Vintage Church has been meeting in space at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School for about the last five years. Deacon Godsey, the lead pastor, said the congregation of about 250 people is excited to have a location to call its own.

"It has great seating and great children's ministries space for us," Godsey said. "And we love the fact that we're in a residential neighborhood."

Godsey said his research indicates the building was originally built to be a church. He said telephone records indicated the building housed a church from about 1949 to 1984, when the community theater took over the building.

Vintage, a non-denominational Christian church, plans to begin holding services in the building on May 11. Some minor renovation work is currently underway at the site.

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  • Comments

    Clark Coan 8 months, 1 week ago

    Glad the building is going to be a church again. I still haven't been in the new Theatre Lawrence building.

    Leslie Swearingen 8 months, 1 week ago

    "Nondenominational Christian institutions are those not formally aligned with an established religious denomination, but are historically Protestant, or that remain otherwise officially autonomous. This, however, does not preclude an identifiable standard among such congregations. ..."

    Having no idea what nondenominational means I had to look it up and decided to copy and paste in case someone else is also confused. I remember well when the building was a church. I am happy that this congregation has a place to call its own. Kudos to the school for giving them a place to meet.

    Rick Masters 8 months, 1 week ago

    Why is the LJW covering this? Whatever happened to the Separation of Church and Press?

    Lee Saylor 8 months ago

    There is no such thing as sepeartion of church and press. Newspapers report on what happens in a community, including real estate transfers.

    Steve Jacob 8 months, 1 week ago

    In 2008, Hays voters passed a half cent sales tax increase for an $8 million sports complex. When they collected the $11 million ($3M for maintenance cost) , the sales tax ended April 1st 2013. So why can't Lawrence have sales taxes that sunset?

    Clark Coan 8 months, 1 week ago

    Newspapers have the freedom of the press and can promote any ideas or viewpoints they want as long as they are not libelous. For example, Lawrence used to have a Socialist newspaper 100 years ago called the Progressive Herald. Lawrence also had a Populist newspaper called the Jeffersonian. There was a progressive newspaper at KU called The Dove for years.

    Rick Masters 8 months, 1 week ago

    That's only in the King James Version of the Constitution

    Leslie Swearingen 8 months, 1 week ago

    Sometimes what a church does is news which is why it would be in a newspaper. It's not like the paper is advocating for the views of the Vintage Church.

    Richard Heckler 8 months, 1 week ago

    "So why can't Lawrence have sales taxes that sunset?" Just think perhaps Lawrence would not have Rock Chalk Park which no one knows how much that project will cost over and above $30,000,000 tax dollars.

    Richard Heckler 8 months ago

    Sales tax $$$$$$ are up they say. That must mean Sam Brownback is driving people to drink more than ever and/or credit card debt is on the rise again.

    Jean Robart 8 months ago

    It's good to see the building "returned to its roots."

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