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Group raises $55k in private funds for trail project; retirement center in northwest Lawrence set for final approval
Get your hiking boots laced up and start hoping for warmer weather — or heavier long johns. Either way, it really is looking like Lawrence is going to have a new nature park and hiking trail.
Officials with the Lawrence nonprofit group Outside for a Better Inside have announced they've successfully raised $55,000 in private funds to match a $55,000 grant that will be used to fund a central Lawrence trail project.
As we've previously reported, the Sunflower Foundation has agreed to provide grant money for a project to build a nature park and trail on about eight acres of the former Veterans of Foreign Wars post in the Pinckney neighborhood.
The Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center is donating the property to the city, and Outside for a Better Inside has committed to find the grant money and the private money to build the trail through the property, which has an old pond and a good amount of hardwood forest.
The Sunflower grant, however, was contingent upon local leaders matching the grant money with private funds. Longtime Lawrence real estate executive John McGrew leads the Outside for a Better Inside group, and he predicted it wouldn't take long to come up with the necessary $55,000 in matching funds. And it didn't. It was only announced in mid-December that the group had been chosen for the grant. The group now hopes to raise another $20,000 to make other improvements to the trail project.
I haven't heard anything definitive from city officials yet, but Outside for a Better Inside now believes that work could begin on constructing the trail this spring. Previously city officials have said they believe this new city park, which will be named in honor of the late Bert Nash leader Sandra Shaw, could be open to the public by the fall.
The idea for trails in the area may not be done yet. The property, which is at about Second and Alabama streets, is adjacent to Burcham Park. There's been talk of extending a trail from Burcham to Constant Park, which is the piece of greenspace along the Kansas River at Sixth and Kentucky streets. Marilyn Hull — a staff member with the Douglas County Community Foundation, which administers a fund for Outside for a Better Inside — said private fundraising is being contemplated for that project. I haven't heard an estimate yet of how much money needs to be raised. If successful, the project would create a river-walk area that would be just a block or two away from Massachusetts Street.
As we previously have reported, there also have been discussions at City Hall about creating a new East Lawrence trail that would connect the Burroughs Creek Trail near 11th and Haskell with the Constant Park area near Sixth and Kentucky. Hull said those discussions also are continuing.
The idea of a robust trail system throughout the community has supporters on the Lawrence City Commission. And given that more than $50,000 in private money was raised in less than half a month, it sure appears there's support in the private sector as well. It looks like an issue to keep an eye on.
In the meantime, though, I'm going to put another layer of long johns on.
In other news and notes from around town:
• In October, we reported that plans had been filed for a new assisted living retirement community near the intersection of Peterson Road and Monterey Way in northwest Lawrence.
Well, those plans are about to get finalized. City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday are expected to approve a rezoning request and a preliminary development plan for the project, which is being built by the Columbia, Mo.-based Americare Corp.
As a summary, the project is slated for vacant ground at the southwest corner of Peterson Road and Monterey Way. The property is just west of the exclusive Fall Creek Farms neighborhood. The development plan calls for 30 units of assisted living facility that will be housed in a 20,000-square-foot single-story building. Sixteen units of memory care — where Alzheimer's patients and others will live — is planned for a 13,000-square-foot building. The development plan gives the company the option to double the memory care space in the future. The plan also calls for 22 independent living units that will be housed in a mix of duplexes and triplexes. The entire property will be served by a 2,200-square-foot clubhouse as well.
No word yet on when construction may begin on the project, but Tuesday's meeting essentially will clear the way for work to begin.
• On Thursday we reported that there were signs the popular Kansas City-area breakfast spot The Big Biscuit will open near Sixth and Wakarusa Drive. I've since gotten in touch with one of the owners of the business, and he said a February opening is in the works.
"We're thinking probably the middle to end of February," said Chad Offerdahl, one of the owners of the restaurant chain. "We're under construction now."
The site is in the shopping center at the southeast corner of Sixth and Wakarusa, which includes Marisco's, Glory Days Pizza and other restaurants. Offerdahl said he and his partners have been looking for expansion opportunities since buying the business in 2010. This will be the company's sixth location. Offerdahl said the business seems to be filling a niche.
"We're feel-good food," Offerdahl said. "You come here to get the kind of food your mom made when you were growing up."