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Car lot wants to build at East Hills Business Park; update on gun range near jail, new restaurant on Ninth Street
There’s news of a potential auto deal at the East Hills Business Park. No, don’t look for a major plant from Ford, Tesla or even one of the companies who are trying to make the world’s scariest technology — self-driving cars. (Think how many more doughnuts I’ll be able to eat while driving.) Instead, plans have been filed to locate a large car lot near the entrance of the industrial park.
A site plan has been filed by the group that operates the relatively small Crimson & Blue Motors at 1120 E. 23rd St. Plans filed at City Hall, though, show the company would like to build a much larger car lot at 2200 East Hills Drive. That is the roughly 5-acre vacant piece of property that is at the northwest corner of the 23rd Street entrance to the business park.
Plans call for an 18,000 square-foot building that would be used as a showroom and offices for the car lot. I am assuming that the car lot will be a used car lot and not any new dealership that is coming to town. The plans indicate that, but I wasn’t able to get details when I talked to an owner of the company. He declined to discuss the project because he said it was still preliminary since the plans had not been approved by the city yet.
This is the first development proposal for what is a fairly high-visibility location. For years, the property carried the standard industrial zoning that the rest of the East Hills Business Park has. But in 2013, the City Commission approved a new light industrial zoning designation for the 5.4 acre site. The new zoning allows for a variety of industrial uses, but also allows some commercial businesses. At the time, there was talk — but no firm plans — that a convenience store, day care, fast food or some other similar business that would serve the employees of East Hills could locate there.
A car lot also is an allowable use under the zoning, and its high visibility makes it attractive for that type of use. The way the plans have been submitted, it looks like the car lot would not take up the entire site, meaning that other commercial development could occur at the site in the future.
Based on the reaction I got from the owners when I tried to talk to them, I would consider this deal less than a sure thing. We’ll see how it progresses. If approved, it would be a new wrinkle for the city’s largest industrial park.
In other news and notes from around town:
• While we are in the general area, I do have news of one other project I previously had reported on. I had reported an indoor gun range and gun shop had filed plans to locate near the Douglas County Jail.
At the time, that plan also sounded a bit preliminary, but it is taking a big step forward. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission at its May 24 meeting is being asked to approve the final development plan for the project at 2350 and 2400 Franklin Road.
As a reminder, Lawrence businessman Steve Robson — who owns Ace Storage and Ace Bail Bonds — has filed plans to build the 12,000 square-foot indoor gun range and gun shop. The building plans to have a dozen 25-yard shooting panes. Plus, the range will be built to accommodate tactical shooting. When I last talked with him, Robson also said he planned to buy a high-tech simulator that will allow a person to experience various scenarios where they may need to defend themselves.
• One other brief update: I reported in March that the owner of the Basil Leaf Cafe was close to signing a deal to open a new restaurant in the former Presto gas station building near Ninth and Louisiana streets.
That deal has happened, although I’m still trying to catch up with Basil Leaf owner Brad Walters to get more details about the concept. But I do know the name: Sully and Hanks. Walters has filed for a drinking establishment license with the city of Lawrence. The city is having a special hearing on the license request at its Tuesday meeting because the drinking establishment would be less than 400 feet away from a church, the Ninth Street Missionary.
When I’ve talked with Walters before, he has only said the new restaurant won’t be Italian. His Italian restaurant Basil Leaf is essentially next door to the site. Through other channels, I have heard the restaurant may have a unique outdoor area that takes advantage of the canopy that used to cover the gas pumps of the Presto station. I’ll let you know when I hear more details.