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Opening date in sight for Ladybird Diner; Turnhalle meeting set; police headquarters, mini golf, paintball, teen center and more


Although my attorney has told me to never talk about it again, I do admit that the prospect of pie will cause me to peep through a window. So, if you've seen me recently peeping through a mostly covered window in the 700 block of Massachusetts Street, that's probably what I was doing.

As we reported in April, a new downtown Lawrence diner with pies and more is slated to open in the former Dynamite Saloon spot at 721 Massachusetts S. But its opening was planned for June, and although my glasses are still stained with blueberry, chocolate walnut and other leftovers from pie-eating mishaps, I'm almost certain June has come and gone.

But fear not, diner fans. I saw where Ladybird Diner recently has filed for its sign permit at Lawrence City Hall, which is usually a good sign that an opening is imminent. Indeed, co-owner Meg Heriford tells me she plans to have the diner open no later than Aug. 15, but hopefully several days earlier.

Heriford also had more details to share about the restaurant's operations. Let's start where all serious discussions should begin: with pie. The restaurant will serve eight types daily, with four fruit pies and four custard pies, Heriford said. Flavors will change with the season, but look for the opening lineup to include some pies such as a sweet cream with fresh raspberries, a Mexican chocolate, a Colorado peach, a triple berry and a coconut cream.

The restaurant is slated to be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day, and in traditional diner fashion, it will serve breakfast at any time, Heriford said. Look for all the traditional breakfast dishes, plus a rum raisin French toast and other such creations.

Other signature dishes are expected to include fried chicken, pot roast, chicken pot pie, pimento and cheese sandwiches, egg salad and a traditional diner style hamburger, which indeed will be a bit different from the thick burgers found at some of the hotspots for hamburgers in downtown.

"The burgers are going to be fantastic," Heriford said. "They are going to be those thin diner style burgers. If you want onions with it, we'll fry them right into the burger."

And if you need something to wash it all down, handmade milkshakes also are on the menu.

As for the restaurant's delay in opening, Heriford said the diner's ownership group — which includes the owners of the nearby 715 restaurant — decided to take extra time to get the design and details of the restaurant perfected.

In other news and notes from around town:

• There's another group in town trying to figure out designs and details for a Lawrence building, although it doesn't involve anything so noble as creating pie. Instead, this group is just trying to figure out how to revitalize an 1869 East Lawrence building.

As we reported a few weeks ago, a group led by developer Tony Krsnich has reached a tentative deal to purchase the Turnhalle building at Ninth and Rhode Island streets. But as we told you then, the group didn't have a specific plan for how to use the old stone structure.

Well, the group is seeking ideas from the public at a 5:30 p.m. meeting Monday at the Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St. Tom Larkin, a vice president with the development group, said he's reached out to the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association and other stakeholders, but he wants to hear from anyone in the public who has an idea for how the building should be used.

Thus far, Larkin said that Krsnich, who is the developer behind the Poehler Lofts project in East Lawrence, has ruled out a residential use for the building, but is open to a host of other ideas.

"Its history has been one of a community building," Larkin said. "It has been a place for people to gather, and that is an aspect we really want to keep."

For decades, the building served as the home to the German-American society Turnverein. That organization used the building to host everything from gymnastics competitions to bowling in the basement, plus lots of beer and sausages. Figuring out a way to incorporate some of that history into the building's new use is a goal, Larkin said.

"The German component has jumped out to us," Larkin said. "The idea of a bowling alley in the basement is intriguing, but we're a long way from knowing whether that is feasible."

But the group will have to figure that and other details out in a hurry. The tentative deal with the building's current owner, the Lawrence Preservation Alliance, gives Krsnich's group 60 days to conduct its due diligence and finalize the purchase.

• There's a piece of real estate news coming out of Lawrence City Hall as well. City commissioners on Tuesday will be presented with a tentative deal to purchase 47 acres across from Hallmark Cards' production plant for a new police headquarters building.

I expect commissioners will jump at the deal because the proposed purchase price is coming in about $1 million less than what Hallmark previously had been seeking for the vacant piece of ground.

Commissioners are being asked to approve a letter of intent to purchase the property at 100 McDonald Drive for $2.25 million. Previously, Hallmark had advertised the property for sale at about $3.2 million.

The potential deal comes as no surprise. As we reported last week, a majority of commissioners publicly supported the site owned by Hallmark as the best location for a new $25 million police headquarters building.

The property is along the east side of McDonald Drive near the Kansas Turnpike interchange. A majority of commissioners have liked the site's location and easy access to major streets and the Kansas Turnpike.

But the site does come with one issue: It is a lot larger than what commissioners need for a police headquarters building. Only about 15 acres are needed for the police functions, but Hallmark showed no interest in selling only a portion of the property. Commissioners, though, have said they will look for ways to sell off the excess property.

As part of their Tuesday agenda, commissioners have letters from three groups interested in putting uses on the property. The Lawrence public school district is interested in five acres to build a maintenance warehouse near its administrative offices, which are just to the south of the site. Lawrence businessman Glen Lemesany has expressed an interest in purchasing 10 acres to build a family fun center on the site. Lemesany was the fellow behind the proposed fun center near Clinton Parkway and Inverness that eventually was discarded after neighbors opposed the plans. In his letter to City Hall, Lemesany said he still would like to have a miniature golf course, electric go-carts, batting cages, and a two-story clubhouse that would include kids arcade games on the ground floor, and an adult arcade and mini-bowling area with a beer bar on the second floor. With this site, Lemesany said he's also interested in creating about a three-acre paintball course.

The Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence also is interested in about five to seven acres of the property for a potential expansion project. The group's executive director, Colby Wilson, told commissioners in a letter that he's in the early stages of planning for a capital campaign that could support a 20,000 square-foot building that could house a full-size gymnasium, a commercial kitchen and cooking stations, a technology and learning center, a performing arts room and a host of multipurpose spaces. Currently the organization's East Lawrence facility is at capacity with about 60 youth per day. A new facility could serve 150 to 200 youths, with a particular focus on the teen population. But Wilson also is making it clear that his organization doesn't envision buying the property from the city. Instead, it is seeking a donation of the land.

One other use mentioned for the property is a new city park. There long has been talk that Lawrence Memorial Hospital would like to take over Woody Park, the small city park just north of the hospital's parking lot. Under this latest scenario, the city would relocate Woody Park to five acres on the southeast corner of the Hallmark property. The city is proposing that LMH pay for the relocation of the park in exchange for use of the current parkland.

The lower price tag for the property certainly improves the attractiveness of the Hallmark site, and the possibility of parks and teen centers and mini golf will give voters something else to ponder as they go to the polls in November on this issue. (It is like Ron Popeil has become the project's manager. For one low price you not only get the juicer but . . . )

The one remaining issue I've heard with the site is that it does go against what economic development leaders previously had been preaching: the need to maximize the city's location along Interstate 70. This site is one of the few vacant sites already zoned for industrial development along the turnpike. My understanding is that for years it hasn't really been available for development because Hallmark has been holding it in reserve. It will be interesting to see whether anyone questions whether the highest and best use for the well-situated property is development that primarily will take the property off the tax rolls.

But that likely will be a minor question moving forward. The bigger issue will be the tax increase needed to pay for the new police headquarters building. As we reported last week, the idea of a new quarter-percent sales tax for nine years is the most likely funding plan that commissioners will present to voters in November. Commissioners are scheduled to discuss that proposal on Tuesday also.


Kim Watkins 1 year, 4 months ago

"But the site does come with one issue: It is a lot larger than what commissioners need for a police headquarters building. Only about 15 acres are needed for the police functions..."

There is also the issue of how much it costs!! Why not move it to the CITY OWNED 14 acres in VenturePark??

Lee Saylor 1 year, 4 months ago

Kim: Location, location, location. This site is more centrally located that the VenturePark and has faster response time to most of the city than a far eastern location. Cost is only one of the factors in this decision.

Kim Watkins 1 year, 4 months ago

Lee, while I agree location should be a factor, I also believe that when taxpayers are helping to fund this project it should be made as cost effective as possible. According to the VenturePark plans - "...In 2016, the State of Kansas will complete a loop of K-10 that provides a direct connection to I-70 from VenturePark..." And when they calculated the estimated response time from all proposed locations, there was not a significant difference. I am just getting fed up with having to constantly pay higher taxes for frivolous spending...at the City, County, State and Federal levels, is all.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 4 months ago

"And when they calculated the estimated response time from all proposed locations, there was not a significant difference. " Exactly.

I am just getting fed up with having to constantly pay higher taxes for frivolous spending...at the City, County and Federal levels, is all. Again…. exactly.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 4 months ago

Yes but at $47,872 per acre it is no good deal for taxpayers….not at all. Some body in city hall or very close to city hall is not too good at buying vacant property. Buying from real estate investors is like a bail out. Not on my nickel please.

Location is not that important considering the location of the current LPD for a few decades.

Not only that the price inflates real estate value. Notice there is not a line of investors waiting to jump on this deal if Lawrence city government declines. We can assume there are plenty of other Lawrence investors who would love to be selling taxpayers more land at that price.

Downsize this project considerably and build on city owned property.

Additionally construct a small satellite LPD/fire station/EMSA combo in North Lawrence. North Lawrence deserves the attention. Yes use taxpayers existing vehicle inventory to service this station. Activate One Ambulance and one fire truck from the training center and two police cars.

At $47,872 per acre how many acres can Lawrence taxpayers afford to donate to anyone? ZERO.

Lee Saylor 1 year, 3 months ago

Providing space for the Boys and Girls club is not a donation, but an investment. we can either provide for these children upfront or pay for it later with increased social and/or judicial services. Also, having one government entity (police) near another (school district) may provide some synergy we haven't thought about. Also, the ability to possibly sell some of the property to a group that wants to provide recreation to the community is a plus. So, what is proposed is a police building, a city park, a fun park, and an organization that serves our youth. Although the Boys/Girls club is looking for a donation, it doesn't mean it won't be property taxes on the property. The park area won't be paying taxes, but the property it is replacing will be.

Another minus for the Venture Park, if we use that property for a police headquarters, it removes the opportunity to put industrial, tax paying businesses there.

And don't forget, Hallmark has reduced the price by 33%.

Kim Watkins 1 year, 4 months ago

Not to mention that if they did build it at VenturePark, or at one of the other proposed sites - over by the O'Connell Youth Ranch - they would be approximately one mile from the Douglas County Jail....seems to make more sense to me to be so close.

Kim Watkins 1 year, 4 months ago

Thanks Brett, I totally agree there are better uses for that space. I just wish the City Commissioners would realize that as well.

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 3 months ago

Well, it is a lot easier to talk than it is to do. I for one am willing to give our city commissioners credit for knowing more about the details of this project than we do, and that is because every detail is not going to be in the paper. I could say that I think the new headquarters should be built in South Park since it is mostly empty ground and is already owned by the city. Maybe Vermont Towers could get some money by renting out their parking lot to park police cars. Maybe.

Please vote yes for the new police headquarters. Common sense over maybes.

Leslie Swearingen

Phil Minkin 1 year, 3 months ago

People remember how they were given little voice in Rock Chalk Park and the problems that happened after is was rammed through. This will be as much a referendum on how that was handled as the actual police facility. Voters don't trust this commission.

Tricky Gnosis 1 year, 3 months ago

After the Rock Chalk debacle -- which really does not pass any smell test -- we don't much of a reason to trust the commission. And there's never a reason to trust the police. So any proposal on this is going to start with two strikes against it.

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