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Kansas ranked one of the least fun states in America; Lawrence housing construction off to best start in years; KC eatery coming to downtown
Now that I’ve made a weight loss breakthrough (the battery finally went dead in my digital scale), I thought it was safe to offer up a smorgasbord of news and notes from around town:
• When it comes to fun, Kansas evidently isn’t, according to a new ranking. The folks at the financial website WalletHub have looked at a variety of data related to restaurants, bars, national parks, beaches, theaters and other such attractions that suck dollars out of our bank account in the name of entertainment. (Personally, I think dollar bill origami is the best type of entertainment. You get to keep the dollar, and origami just sounds fun.)
Kansas ranked No. 43 out of 50 states in the Most Fun States in America report. The report looked at two broad categories. The Entertainment and Recreation category used data such as per capita rates for restaurants, theaters, beaches, golf courses, marinas, national parks, art venues and also looked at the per capita dollars spent by consumers on recreation and also the per capita funding levels by government for parks and recreation. Kansas ranked No. 44 in that category. The second category was Nightlife, which measured average beer and wine prices, movie costs, nightlife options per capita and something called “access to bars.” I know you are curious: it is combination of bars per capita and bars per square mile. Kansas ranked No. 42 in the Nightlife category.
While this report uses data from the Census Bureau and other federal agencies, it is still pretty subjective because everybody’s idea of fun is a bit different. However, it is interesting to look at Kansas compared with other states in the region. The rankings may help add some perspective to how Kansas’ tourism industry stacks up. No surprise here, Colorado is the runaway leader in the region. With mountains, ski resorts and a huge tourism industry, it ranks No. 3 in the report. Missouri is next at No. 22, and that isn’t exactly a surprise. The Ozark tourism industry, with corn cob pipes and Deliverance soundtracks, is pretty significant. (Actually, I love the Ozarks.) But then the rankings get more interesting. Nebraska is No. 23 and Oklahoma is No. 25. Both states were helped by top 20 rankings in the nightlife category, which I think means the number of bars per capita is pretty high and/or liquor prices are pretty cheap.
Again, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the ranking, but it did make me wonder if Gov. Brownback has a point. Kansas really may be in need of more attractions if it hopes to draw more outside dollars to its economy. I’m not saying that the whitewater rafting park that the administration is pushing for at Clinton Lake — the proposed North Carolina developer of that park is still meeting with folks around town — is the answer, but the administration may be seeing something that others are too.
In case you are wondering, the top five ranked states for fun are:
— No. 1: Nevada
— No. 2: South Dakota
— No. 3: Colorado
— No. 4: North Dakota
— No. 5: New York.
In case you are wondering how North Dakota made the list, all 25 people who live there have vouched for its fun factor.
• If Kansas isn’t any fun, why is it that more people are building homes to live in Lawrence? The city has released a report showing building permit activity through the first quarter of 2017. It shows that the homebuilding industry is off to its best start since the Great Recession.
Through March, the city has issued 63 permits for single-family or duplex construction. That’s well above the first quarter average of recent years. Since 2008, the average has been 32 such permits, so builders are operating at a pace almost double the recent norm. As we have been reporting for awhile now, real estate agents say the number of buyers on the market are outnumbering the supply of homes for sale in the Lawrence market. Builders seem to be responding. It will be worth watching the rest of the year.
However, the total amount of building going on in the community is down from past years. That’s primarily because there haven’t been any large apartment projects in Lawrence yet in 2017. Plus, the number of large commercial projects have been a bit light thus far.
March, however, did produce the two largest commercial construction projects of the year so far. They are both projects we previously have reported on: a $3.9 million project to build a Country Inn and Suites at the old Don’s Steakhouse site near 23rd and O’Connell, and a $3 million office and gym addition at the St. John Catholic school, 1208 Kentucky.
Despite those projects, though, the total dollar value of construction projects receiving permits through March totaled $38.7 million, down from $68.7 million and $81.2 million during the same time periods in 2016 and 2015. However, 2016 and 2015 went on to be two of the top construction years in Lawrence history. The $38 million underway this year is still the third highest total since 2008, and is slightly above the average since 2008, which is about $34 million.
• I told you quite some time ago that the speculation on the street was that a Kansas City sandwich/bar type of shop was going into the old La Familia location on New Hampshire street. Indeed that appears to be correct.
Kansas City restaurant folks being what they are decided to confirm that to The Kansas City Star. The newspaper reported that Grinders hopes to open in July in the former La Familia spot and the buildings next door to it. Pizzas, cheesesteaks, burgers, wings, that sort of stuff and more. It will be hip and funky. The proprietor, Jeff “Stretch” Rumaner, has gotten quite a bit of attention over the years from Food Network Host Guy Fieri for his Kansas City version of Grinders. I’ll let you know if I hear more.