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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.

Lawrence's J.C. Penney store, 3311 Iowa St., is shown in this aerial file photo from July 2014.

Lawrence's J.C. Penney store, 3311 Iowa St., is shown in this aerial file photo from July 2014.

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.

Courtesy: City of Lawrence

Courtesy: City of Lawrence by Chad Lawhorn

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.


Bill Turner 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Sounds like a bunch of junk. Seems fitting that it's all landing in the old JCP building.

Bob Summers 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Use your complex critical thinking to tell the public what should be put in the old building.

Bill Turner 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I just did. A bunch of junk belongs in a building meant to house a bunch of junk. Sorry it went over your head the first time.

Joseph Jarvis 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Tell the construction contractors to be extra careful with any boxes labeled "ceramic tiles."


Francis Hunt 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Interesting especially since Hobby Lobby currently occupies the old JC Penney building.

David Holroyd 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Chuckie Cheese in Hobby Lobby...better yet TEAR IT DOWN..and start over Let's see it was Montgomery Ward, JC Penney, NEW is bettter...

Or keep the old building and a BIG LOTS!

Brett McCabe 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Something tells me that Chad is one of those people who walks outside on a cold January night and asks: so this is global warming?

The real facts around brick and mortar retail are these: it's a shrinking industry that will, of course, always have a role in commerce, but a role that will be reduced in footprint virtually every day from now for the next 20 years. People enjoy the sensory experience of shopping, and that enjoyment will probably always exist, but when it comes to vast swaths or traditional product purchases, more and more and more of them will be made online.

This means smaller stores for those retailers that survive, and dying stores for people like Sears, Kmart, JC Penney, Circuit City and on and on and on. Interesting that the JC Penney store, unsustainable as a large, stand-alone retailer, will now house three specialty retailers. One of which, the $5 and under store, is a concept that is not sustainable online and only in a physical form. Also of note is that the Sears store became a multi-store option that now seems to be thriving.

What this means to a community is this: adding stand alone retail on the outside edges of your city is likely a DOA transaction that your city will regret financially for the next 50 years. Redeveloping existing retail locations that are inside the city's current footprint is the far, far, far better option. Don't believe me? Ask Ulta, the Boot Barn, Dick's, HomeGood, etc.

We now have two prime locations for retailers to inhabit: the empty Hasting's building and the empty Hobby Lobby building. Both are high-traffic, desirable locations just waiting for good, multi-tenant solutions.

Deborah Snyder 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Those are good points to consider, Mr. McCabe. However, I would propose that the city planning department could create setbacks on both sides of that section of 23rd Street in order to provide separate curbed access from Oasdahl to Iowa, thus making those buildings much more attractive to shoppers than they are now.

I certainly do not know the specifics of how access roadways are built, or what would be required in this instance to make such things possible. But perhaps it's time to consider the 23rd Street Corridor between Louisiana and Iowa to become a divided accessed shopping area, much like the downtown, rather than a pass-through street w/individual store accesses?

The same could be done for the Iowa and 9th Street area, although it seems to be a square mile access issue, rather than the rectangular shallow corridor along 23rd. May I ask for your thoughts on this idea?

David Holroyd 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Let's see who Collett comes up with for tenants...NOW.
This is just a reshuffling of tenants in Lawrence..Probably the owners of the Hobby Lobby bldg tried to raise the rent and the tenant leaves.

In Lawrence it is all about the real estate commissons. As far as something big and new coming..well , we will see. You need heavy hitters to make that happen and it sure isn't the city commission, city manger , or Chamber of Commerce.

What has happened to Cadre Lawrence that was going to do great things for Lawrence...?

Did they learn a lesson when they promoted Jeremy Farmer? Leadership Lawrence touted him as the best and brightest upcoming star.....Where is that group now...who are they promoting next?

Lets see vacant buildngs...downtown..applebees, pier one, hastings care to add to the list...?

How many more chicken places can make it.?

How many more pizza places can make it..once the lease is up....they CLOSE. Just like the waterbed stores ... once a booming business.

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