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Plans call for Sixth Street restaurant building to be torn down to make way for high-tech car wash


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed a car wash after eating a couple of plates of “riblets” at Applebee’s. (After awhile the wait staff stops bringing you napkins.) But I didn’t see this coming: Plans have been filed for a high-tech car wash to build upon the site of a former Lawrence’ Applebee’s restaurant.

An area development group has filed plans at City Hall to build a Tommy’s Car Wash at 3900 W. Sixth St., which is the site of the recently closed Applebee’s in front of Hy-Vee.

The plans call for the Applebee’s building to be demolished, which is a little unusual given that the building isn’t all that old. But the building needs to come down to make way for a high-tech tunnel car wash system.

Lenexa resident Austin Davis said he’s been interested in car washes since he was a 5-year old. (Maybe he likes “riblets" too.) He ran a home-based auto detailing business while going to college, and ever since has been looking for the right opportunity to get into the industry.

Tommy’s Car Wash is a longtime operator that started offering franchises in the last two years. It doesn’t have a large presence in Kansas yet, with a single store in Overland Park. But Davis said the company had Lawrence on its list of markets it wanted to get into. Davis and the president of the company were touring Lawrence recently and stopped to fill up their car at the Hy-Vee fueling station along Sixth Street. The president pointed to the old Applebee’s site and said that would make a great location for a car wash.

Davis said his company now has the property under contract, contingent upon winning the necessary development approvals from City Hall. Those approvals, however, are significant. The site needs to be rezoned and will require a special use permit.

Davis said he hopes to have the necessary approvals in place to allow construction to begin so that the car wash can open in late 2018.

As for the car wash itself, Davis said it has the latest technology, which takes a car through the 130-foot long tunnel in about two minutes. But its design is one of the things that really causes it to stand out from other car washes, he said.

“It is very inviting,” Davis said. “It has an acrylic roof and windows on both sides of the tunnel. It gets rid of that claustrophobic traditional vibe of a car wash.”

Based on the website for the Overland Park site, it looks like prices range from $15 for a top-of-the line car wash that includes underbody, UV protectant, wheel cleaning, tire shine, hot wax and something called a “fire and ice” coating system. The Overland Park store also has other wash packages available for $12, $9 and $6. But the chain also seems to promote a monthly price that allows you to wash as many times as you want during the course of a month. Those range from $29.99 to $19.99 a month.

This is kind of an interesting project because it may say something about Lawrence’s restaurant scene. It is mildly surprising that another restaurant isn’t trying to make a go of it at the former Applebee’s location, which certainly benefits from a lot of traffic. But I’ve been hearing for awhile now that the Lawrence market is becoming over-saturated. Indeed, the Applebee’s building is one of at least two former chain restaurant spots that have sat empty for quite awhile. The former Steak ’n Shake location on 31st Street near SuperTarget also has been unable to attract a new restaurant tenant.

It is also worth noting that tunnel car washes are becoming a bit of a trend in Lawrence. Hurricane Car Wash opened several years ago near Sixth and Wakarusa, but more recently a tunnel car wash opened on the east side of town next to the QuikTrip at 23rd and Haskell. Plus, Lawrence-based Zarco has a plan for a tunnel car wash near its convenience store at Ninth and Iowa streets.

Davis said a greater desire for convenience is driving the interest in both Lawrence and elsewhere.

“A lot of people don’t have time for the full detail where they get out of the car and wait for it to be done,” Davis said. “And a lot of people really don’t want to get out of the car and wash it themselves.”


Scott Burkhart 4 months, 3 weeks ago

"That would be a great place for a car wash!"

Marketing research at its best.

Mike Edson 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I think it will be an eye sore. Especially after it goes out of business and the building is just sitting there. It would be a far better use of the building to repurpose it as an In & Out Burger or Panera.

Ken Lassman 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Think of the options for repurposing a tunnel car wash:

-drive through money laundering services

-"tunnel of love" speed dating with shotgun wedding upgrade option

-hire-a-designated-driver-no-waiting service

-get dressed silly and get your selfie taken in your car photo shop

-experience what driving in a hailstorm is like/towing service

The possibilities are endless! Bonus: the city could throw in a utility bill drop off box, which they could empty without getting out of their vehicle.

Rick Masters 4 months, 3 weeks ago

A new location for the indoor firing range!

Stephanie Hull 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Panera would be great! I'd love for them to open a second location in Lawrence, and this would be a great spot.

Greg DiVilbiss 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Tommy's are the nicest carwashes I have ever seen. They keep them clean, maintained and all facets in working order.

There has been one at 107th and Roe in Overland Park If you want to see what they do.

Louis Kannen 4 months, 3 weeks ago

A real-time, serious BBQ joint could certainly 'raise the proverbial bar' without razing the building...

Jake Davis 4 months, 3 weeks ago

One can just look at the Hurricane Car Wash after just a few years of operations...trash litters the entire parking lot, trash cans are overfilled, vacuum hoses broken and hanging off the hooks, and only 1 in 8 of the vacuums actually work. I would sure be disappointed if this becomes a focus point for a major intersection in our city.

Greg DiVilbiss 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Jake Tommy's takes care of their places. The maintenance at Hurricane seems to be non-existent.

Michael Dennis 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Indoor artificial ice rink! City has a great deal for the right entrepreneur!

Clara Westphal 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Not good. We were hoping for another restaurant that does not already have one in town. Olive Garden, Red Lobster, or as stated above a really good BBQ place. A car wash is not a good fit.

Curtis Lange 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm all for good car washes, but that is a terrible spot for one. Hopefully the city denies the re-zoning request.

Rae Hudspeth 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Agreed! The congestion in the summertime when the nursery takes up part of the parking lot and cars are lined up for the wash will be tremendous. That east entrance is already a mess at peak times. I can't imagine yet another car wash on 6th St.

Rae Hudspeth 4 months, 2 weeks ago

There is actually one a block away, and a total of FIVE car washes on 6th St. A nice car wash is always welcome, but why on a street with five others, in a crowded parking lot, and razing a serviceable building to boot?

David Holroyd 4 months, 3 weeks ago

This is an example at best of the Planning and Development Dept.

If I were HY VEE I would raise a stink about a car wash being there.

The city will bend over backwards . A city desperate for something to happen at any cost. No matter the future of the site. Empty Payless and empty Pier One...maybe bulldoze them too and put a car wash in.

Let's see if it gets to the commission and who votes in favor.

TERRIBLE idea. Gee, Austin Davis has been interested since 5 years old.

Hey, Austin I have been interested in Pizza and thought the former funeral home with crematorium would have been a good Pizza joint. Order, watch the pizza cooked on the belt and drive out. Now it is a pet hospital.

I just read that an IHOP site in the NW Valley of Phoenix was purchased for $3 million dollars and will continue as an IHOP. Vision!

So what was the Applebees building sold for? Does Chad know?

That is the question!

David Holroyd 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Well , let us see! Mini Tommy 2-3.5 million dollar investment..$40,000 Franchise Fee 4% royalty 1% Brand Development.....

Austin must have saved a lot of money since he was five to live the American Dream.

The BIG tommy's are more. Need an acre for those:)

Maybe Austin has partners. It's better to have partners if they money is lost...just ask around town....

Greg DiVilbiss 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Maybe, he has saved an invested. Maybe he is living the "American Dream" of owning his own business.

It seems he is at odds with the wisdom ot the negative nabobs of negativity and the desire to have the collective determine who can be in business.

I say go for it Austin, good luck to you and thankfully some people in this country will invest their money, providing jobs, paying property taxes and providing the city with clean cars.

Richard Heckler 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I guess the next choice for "over building" is the car wash.

Grab your wallets........ back door tax increases on the way.

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