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Plans filed for East Lawrence bistro/bar that will feature food truck fare; more incentives requested for Warehouse Arts District; charity BBQ contest on tap


Perhaps you think driving a truck on to the patio of a bar/bistro is a mistake. (Technically, I think the officer called it a "borderline felony," but I believe I still have the right to remain silent on that.) A proposed East Lawrence business, though, is aiming to show that a truck and a patio mix well.

New plans have been filed at City Hall for a bar/bistro in the small building just west of the Poehler Lofts at Eighth and Pennsylvania streets. And according to the plans, the development will include a special area near the patio that has room for a food truck to regularly park and serve to customers.

The Warehouse Arts District at Eighth and Pennsylvania was the site of the recent Kansas Food Truck Festival. Organizers of that event were thrilled with its success. The festival, which was in its first year, raised $7,342 for the local food bank Just Food. This new plan would allow for a regular location for food truck fare. Plus, as we reported in October, the planned bistro building is on the small side, which makes putting in a full kitchen challenging.

I haven't yet made connections with the proposed developer of the bistro, but the plans on file give an idea of what the business is aiming for. According to the plans, the business will be a "neighborhood bistro/bar establishment where people from the neighborhood and beyond can gather in the morning, evening and night."

The business plans to capitalize on the feel of the old stone building, which in the early 1900s served as a warehouse for ammunition and gunpowder sold by the adjacent Poehler Mercantile Co. Inside, dark woods will be used to "provide the old library feel where people will be able to unwind." Plans call for about $250,000 worth of renovations. Details on what type of food and drink will be featured weren't included in the plans.

The project must win site plan approval from City Hall. As more details become available, I'll pass them along.

In other news and notes from around town:

• The area near Eighth and Pennsylvania just makes all types of news these days, and some of it doesn't even involve what happens when at the Kansas Food Truck Festival you eat 14 tacos from a food truck with "chaos" in its name.

As we have been reporting for months, Tony Krsnich, the lead developer of the Warehouse Arts District, plans to build a new four-story, loft-style apartment building just south and east of the Poehler Lofts building.

The land use approvals for the project already have been granted by City Hall, but now city commissioners will have to decide whether they want to provide some requested financial incentives. Commissioners will begin that discussion on Tuesday. The project — which, like the Poehler building, will feature rent-controlled units that are set aside for low- to moderate-income residents — is asking the city for infrastructure improvements and some fee waivers.

Specifically, the development group is asking the city to pay for about $226,000 to relocate a sanitary sewer line, add a water line for fire protection, connect the sewage line to the new building, build storm water drains for the project, bury an overhead utility line and construct a private drive leading to the building.

The development group also is asking that the city waive about $45,000 worth of city development fees related to water and sewer charges.

Those items will all be up for approval at Tuesday's City Commission meeting. The city manager's office is recommending some of the request, but not all. Staff is recommending that the request be reduced by about $98,000, due to budgetary concerns in certain line items of the city's budget.

Tuesday's request is just the first round of incentives request for the project. Krsnich has said he plans to file for a 95 percent property tax rebate through the Neighborhood Revitalization Act. Commissioners will consider that request at a later time.

It is a brave new world for the city when it comes to public incentives. A decade ago, the city would have been hard pressed to offer tax breaks to anything other than industrial development that produced new jobs. But the city has become more willing to offer incentives to residential development. The pending residential development at Ninth and New Hampshire streets has qualified for some tax assistance. The renovation of the Poehler building, plus the adjacent Cider Gallery, received significant city assistance. The city has spent about $1.7 million on infrastructure improvements in the area, which is a different type of assistance than a property tax rebate.

The city likely also will have to decide whether to offer an incentives package for a large apartment complex that has been proposed for property across the street from Memorial Stadium. I haven't yet seen a formal incentives request at City Hall, but the developer has said one is forthcoming.

Apartment construction is big business in Lawrence, and it also is a big taxpayer. It will be interesting to see what criteria the city uses in offering tax assistance to some apartment projects, but not others.

• Since food is still on my mind (and perhaps on my face), I might as well mention one other event that is up for approval at Tuesday's City Commission meeting. A barbecue competition and pie competition is set for June 13 and June 14 at the parking lot of the Eagles club, 1803 W. Sixth St. It looks like the public part of the event will be near noon on June 14, when the meat that comes off the smokers will be available for tasting. The pie also will be available for purchase.

All proceeds from the event, dubbed Fire in the Hole BBQ, will benefit the Douglas County Toys for Tots program and the Blue Santa Program, which is a group founded by Lawrence Police Department employees to provide food and toys to those in need.

The event can have up to 25 barbecue teams. Organizers still have team spaces available. Teams that are interested should call the Eagles Lodge — which is back open again after a previous administrative problem with its charter — at 843-9690. Teams must register by June 9.

So, to recap, this is an event that involves both barbecue and pie. You can guess who will be there. In fact, I'm actually serving as a judge for the competition. If you see me, be sure to say hello. I'll be the guy with more food than normal on his face.


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