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More details on proposed PetSmart on south Iowa Street; city gets incentives request for $75 million apartment project

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It is going to be a different type of one-stop shopping at 27th and Iowa streets. All of us youth-league coaches will be able to load up on our sporting goods gear at the new Dick's and be able to walk next door to PetSmart to pick up the feed for our team's mascot. (We all do buy mascots, don't we? What do you guys feed your lions, by the way?)

We briefly reported on Friday that plans have been filed for PetSmart to go into a space next to the Dick's Sporting Goods store. Well, I've had a chance to review those plans a little more closely, and it appears PetSmart may be just the beginning of the new retail development at the corner.

The plans filed at City Hall also show space for two new retailers not originally envisioned as part of the redevelopment of the former Sears site. No word on who those retailers may be, but the fact that the site's Wichita-based development group is adding space surely is a sign that interest levels have been strong for the location.

PetSmart is taking about 15,000 square feet of space on the southern end of the approximately 85,000 square foot building that used to house Sears. But the plans also call for a small expansion on the southern end of the building. That would allow for another 5,000 square-foot retail space to be added to the addition. That retail space is new from the last time plans were filed at the site. In addition, the development still has about 9,000 square feet of retail space available on the north end of the building. Dick's Sporting Goods, which recently opened, is in the center portion of the building. See below for the latest rendering of what the building is expected to look like when fully developed.

The original plans for the site did include a restaurant building that would be located in the southeast corner of the parking lot, kind of near the Midas automotive repair shop. But now the new plans show that portion of the project has expanded. Not only will it include 4,000 square feet of space for a restaurant, but it also will include 4,000 square feet of space for a retailer.

So, if you are keeping track at home, the corner that once just used to house Sears now is slated to house five retailers and a restaurant. I'll keep my ears open for other possible tenants. For what it is worth, I've really only heard two rumors about this site in the past several months. One was PetSmart, which I first reported on in January. That rumor ended up being true, so perhaps there is some validity to the second one as well. Or maybe not.

Regardless, the second piece of speculation surrounding the site has been Chick-fil-A. As we reported in December, Chick-fil-A representatives filed paperwork at City Hall inquiring about the zoning status of the 27th and Iowa site. What Chick-fil-A asked for from City Hall was a zoning certification letter, which is a piece of paperwork often required before a company's lawyers will sign off on a new project. But I've heard nothing of Chick-fil-A and that site since December, so I've been having to put a quarter cup of mayonnaise and sliced pickles on my own sandwiches. But I'll continue to keep an ear out.

In the meantime, I've got a couple of other problems to figure out: Why does my team keep choosing an elephant, and how the heck am I going to get it in the gym?

In other news and notes from around town:

• City commissioners soon will get to decide how serious they want to become in providing financial incentives to spur new apartment development in Lawrence. As we have been telling you for weeks, the Chicago-based development firm proposing a large new apartment complex across from KU's Memorial Stadium will be seeking financial incentives from the city. Well, the group — HERE Kansas, LLC — has filed its request. It is seeking essentially a 95 percent tax rebate for 12 years on the new construction. It is asking for the rebate through the Neighborhood Revitalization Act, which is a program designed to spur the rehabilitation of downtrodden properties.

The request will go to the city's Public Incentives Review Commission for a recommendation, but ultimately the decision will be up to city commissioners. The request did provide new information about the project. Namely, it estimates the seven-story, 239-unit apartment complex with ground floor retail space will be about a $75 million project. So, even with a 95 percent tax abatement, local governments still would stand to get some new tax money from the project, although not nearly as much if no incentive were offered. But the development company says the project without a financial incentive is "on the borderline of acceptable financial risk."

The project as proposed includes what would be the state's first automated parking garage that uses robotics and lifts and other such devices to tightly park cars without the aid of a driver. The system, however, is one of the key drivers of cost for the project, but the development group says it is a key to maximizing the density of the site.

The project is proposed for the current site of the Berkeley Flats apartment complex and an adjacent single-family home at 1101 and 1115 Indiana Street.

The city has provided some financial incentives for apartment development in the past. But generally commissioners have touted the unique nature of those projects. Specifically, they have given financial incentives for the proposed apartments at Ninth and New Hampshire because they cited a city goal of adding living units to downtown. They also have given financial incentives to the Poehler Lofts project in East Lawrence, citing the goal to revitalize that rundown warehouse district and adding rent-controlled housing units to the area.

This project does have some uniqueness to it. There is the new parking technology. But it also is an example of a mixed-use project — about 14,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor with apartments above. The city has said it wants to see more mixed-use projects. But the biggest characteristic of this project seems to be that it is redeveloping a downtrodden apartment complex. There are lots of those in Lawrence, and I've heard people say that figuring out how to redevelop the multitude of old apartment complexes around town will be one of the bigger development issues in the city during the next decade or so.

There are some interesting numbers going on here in the Lawrence apartment industry. Since 2011, the city has added 921 units of new apartments compared with 408 units of new single-family homes. In other words, the number of apartments has grown at more than twice the rate than single-family home construction. That seems to be an important trend to take note of.

This is just back of the napkin type of stuff, but the Census Bureau estimates the average apartment unit in Lawrence has 2.11 people in it. The average owner-occupied home has 2.56 people in it. If you do the math, we've added enough living units for about 3,000 people but added only about 2,000 in population. Of course, the city believes we have more people living in Lawrence than the Census Bureau does, so you have to factor that in too.

I'm not saying those numbers should sway commissioners one way or another, but I do think we're at an interesting time in the community's residential development.

Rendering of proposed development at 27th and Iowa streets.

Rendering of proposed development at 27th and Iowa streets. by Chad Lawhorn

Comments

Chris Jeter 2 months ago

So without financial incentive the complex is "on the borderline of acceptable financial risk." F it lets go all in and ask for a 95% tax break! Is this like a used car game where the dealer ask for 28k I ask for 18k and we meet in the middle? How about we find someone that wants to build something a little more financially sain...

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Bob Forer 2 months ago

Why should we be subsidziing up-scale apartments for well-to-do college students?

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Ron Holzwarth 2 months ago

Because monied students are more likely to enrich the local merchants, and add to the city's coffers in the form of sales taxes, maybe?

I could be wrong, but I think it's possible that a few of the city commissioners own businesses here in town that could use some more well-to-do students.

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Bob Forer 2 months ago

The presence or absence of this particular project will have absolutely no effect on the number of well-to-do students who choose Kansas Unviersity over other options.

It's laughable to think that a student would say, "it came down to KU or MU, but Berkeley Flats sealed the deal."

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Ron Holzwarth 2 months ago

I think it's quite likely that if it came down to living very close to campus or living farther away and having to walk a long ways or drive every day, that could tip the balance toward a particular school.

When I first enrolled at KU, I was very disappointed that it was such a long ways from the dorm to class. I ended up skipping classes a lot because of that. It was nothing like Fort Hays had been, and CCC, which I attended for one summer, was wonderful. Two minutes, and you were in class. But San Diego Evening College, well, that was some driving.

So, out of the four, if I could go back, I would have stuck with Hays, and not skipped so many classes!

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Zachariah Davis 2 months ago

Like The Cave? Oh snap Fritzel isn't on the commission... Or is he?

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Zachariah Davis 2 months ago

Bob I agree with you I currently live at Berkeley Flats and its affordable. What would be truly unique and needed is affordable housing for college students. Currently I would guess %40 of us here are not college age (18-23) But 30+ and there are several families here. Nolan Real Estate has been more than helpful in assisting us at no extra expense to move to other properties they own in town. I planned on moving the end of my current lease anyways due to getting sick of hearing the commotion carry over from the cave 2-5am Thursday-Saturday nights but otherwise I don't have any complaints and don't consider it a downtrodden property.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 months ago

"the state's first automated parking garage that uses robotics and lifts and other such devices to tightly park cars without the aid of a driver."

Good one. What about if or when the system breaks down, and no one can use their cars? They'll cover the cost of taxis for everyone, right?

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Rick Masters 2 months ago

They will call one of the commenting section's experts on everything and have them come over to fix it with smugness and snark.

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Zachariah Davis 2 months ago

Murphy's Law states that when that happens it will be to the bleach blonde sorority girl wannabe's brand new Beemer that her lawyer dad bought his lil princess as a graduation gift and it gets all scratched up in the process making little snookums cry

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Curtis Lange 2 months ago

PetSmart addition will be nice. I always hated having to go to the Petco there at 31st and Iowa. Would usually just save our pet related needs for trips to KC. PetSmart usually has a pet hospital associated with it (Banfield), so the addition could be for that.

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