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Plans filed to redevelop former J.C. Penney building with 3 stores, including 2 retailers new to Lawrence
Lawrence may not mourn the loss of J.C. Penney for too long. Plans have been filed for three retailers — including two that are new to town — to fill the now vacant Penney’s store on south Iowa Street.
Plans filed at City Hall call for Hobby Lobby, HomeGoods and discount retailer Five Below to occupy the building, which is near 33rd and Iowa and is just south of the SuperTarget store.
Signs that something was up began to emerge yesterday. For lease signs showed up in the parking lot of the current Hobby Lobby at 1801 W. 23rd St. Rumors began to circulate that Hobby Lobby would move into the old Penney’s building, and city officials confirmed today that a development plan had been filed for the property.
Hobby Lobby will occupy a little less than 52,000 square feet of the building, which means the new store will be a bit larger than the current Lawrence Hobby Lobby. The current store is about 48,000 square feet, according to figures from the county.
HomeGoods will occupy about 22,000 square feet, and Five Below will take the remaining 10,000 square feet.
Hobby Lobby, of course, is one of the city’s largest arts and crafts stores, selling fabric, art supplies, picture frames, multiple craft and hobby items and other similar products. HomeGoods is part of the retail company that has Marshalls, TJ Maxx and several other discount stores. As its name implies, HomeGoods focuses on home fashions, such as furniture, lamps, rugs, wall decor and other such items. Five Below is a discount store of a different type. It promotes that all of its items are $5 or less. Most of the store’s merchandise is geared toward teens or younger shoppers. It has a mishmash of items, ranging from candy to back-to-school supplies. The website currently is featuring everything from $5 headphones to enough fidget spinners to make your head spin.
According to the plans at City Hall, the exterior of the building will get a significant makeover. A new group has bought the property. Martin Moore, leader of Lawrence-based Advanco, confirmed he had sold the ground lease for the property to an outside group. Based on the plans filed at City Hall, it appears the project is being headed by Overland Park-based Drake Development, which has multiple retail projects in Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, according to the company’s website.
When we last reported on the J.C. Penney property, we noted that J.C. Penney actually owned the building, but it appears a deal has been reached with Penney to allow the project to move forward.
As for a timeline, I haven’t heard. However, the project has the necessary zoning approvals from City Hall. It now is just seeking some technical planning approvals. I’ve got a call into Drake officials and will let you know if I hear more information.
If approved, the project may become at least the second example of Lawrence losing a longtime retailer but ending up getting a boost to its retail scene. Several years ago Lawrence lost its full-line Sears store at 27th and Iowa, but the building has since redeveloped to include a Dick’s Sporting Goods, Boot Barn, Ulta Beauty, a PetSmart and a Chick-fil-A. The project appears to be generating significantly more commercial activity than when it was a Sears building. It looks like that could end up being the case with the Penney’s building as well.
The project also is interesting because it serves as some confirmation about the level of interest retailers have in Lawrence currently. If you remember, HomeGoods was one of the stores publicly identified as a potential tenant for a large, new shopping center south of the South Lawrence Trafficway and SLT interchange. Ulta Beauty, now at 27th and Iowa, also was identified as a likely tenant for that south of the SLT project. That’s noteworthy because as city commissioners rejected that shopping center project, some opponents were questioning whether the development group really had significant interest from retailers. Now we have seen that two of them definitely were interested. As a reminder the group also publicly identified Academy Sports, Old Navy, Designer Shoe Warehouse and a few others.
Perhaps those stores too actually are interested in Lawrence — if they can find a place to locate.
The North Carolina-based development group seeking to build the south of the SLT center has filed a new set of plans for the project. They are awaiting a City Hall hearing. The development group also has a lawsuit against the city regarding the rejection of the previous set of plans.
One other area to keep an eye on will be the 23rd and Iowa Street intersection. With the pending move by Hobby Lobby, there will be two fairly large, vacant buildings near the intersection. In addition to Hobby Lobby, which is about a block east of the intersection, the former Hastings building at the northeast corner of the intersection is still seeking a tenant.
There should be plenty to watch for, though. Despite what some people say about the future of brick-and-mortar retail, there is still lots of activity in Lawrence.