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Plan for large shopping center at SLT and Iowa Street interchange still alive, but delayed again


Figuring out how to get into a large shopping center is generally not a problem in my household. (A semi-truck and a desire to get discounted Halloween candy can smash a lot of obstacles.) But when it comes to plans for a large shopping center south of the SLT and Iowa street interchange, I have learned access issues are delaying that multimillion dollar project.

In case you have forgotten, a North Carolina development group has filed plans to build an approximately 585,000-square-foot shopping center that would include large retailers, restaurants and hotel space. The plans were filed in June, but have yet to have a hearing at City Hall. The proposed site is at the southeast corner of the interchange.

An area just southeast of the intersection of the South Lawrence Trafficway and Iowa Street, pictured June 6, 2017, is being proposed as the site for a large-scale shopping center.

An area just southeast of the intersection of the South Lawrence Trafficway and Iowa Street, pictured June 6, 2017, is being proposed as the site for a large-scale shopping center. by Nick Krug

The project was tentatively scheduled to go before the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission at its Oct. 25 meeting. But the city announced Thursday that won’t happen. Instead, the project’s hearing has been indefinitely delayed.

Sandra Day, the city planner who is overseeing the project, said the city, the state and the development group are struggling to come up with a plan that allows motorists to safely turn into and out of the proposed shopping center. The project wants access along Iowa Street, which is also U.S. Highway 59.

A traditional traffic signal may not work for the project because the proposed entrance point is already near the traffic signals that control the SLT and Iowa Street interchange. Day said a roundabout had been proposed for the site, but that didn’t garner favor with transportation officials. Day said the presence of the entrance and exit ramps for the SLT/Iowa Street interchange also complicates the access issues for the property.

Thus far, though, I believe the issues are all engineering-related. I haven’t heard of the parties arguing about who is going to pay for transportation infrastructure. When I’ve talked with the development group in the past, it has said it isn’t asking the city for incentives to build this project. Sometimes communities will chip in to pay for costs related to traffic signals and other such improvements. But I think that would be a deal-killer with this City Commission.

The project will have enough of a challenge getting a majority of city commissioners to approve the development under any conditions. The development group — Collett development — had a previous shopping center plan for the project rejected. It filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming the commission improperly rejected the project. That lawsuit is still pending, but in the meantime the group filed a new plan, likely because it received some encouragement to do so from some City Hall officials.

Thus far, the idea of whether the site is appropriate for a large shopping center hasn’t been a sticking point, I’ve been told. That may change once the project gets to the City Commission level, though. There have been opponents who argue the city already has enough retail space, and others who argue the city should be trying to steer new retail development to the area near Rock Chalk Park in northwest Lawrence.

But there are supporters for the project too. They note that large retailers don’t really get steered in particular directions. They instead just shift their focus to another community. Others in town simply want the new stores that the development group have been touting. Collett previously said Academy Sports, Old Navy, Designer Shoe Warehouse, a speciality grocer and others had expressed strong interest in the project.

Day said a date has not been set for the project to come before the Planning Commission for a hearing. But Day said she’s heard nothing from developers to indicate that they’ve lost interest in the project.

“They have not withdrawn the project by any means,” she said.


Sue McDaniel 8 months, 1 week ago

I just had to laugh, all of a sudden roundabouts aren't good enough after they supported putting them all over town? I wonder what the next lame reason they will have to delay this project. Let them proceed....

Fred Whitehead Jr. 8 months, 1 week ago

Yeah,, those damned roundabouts were supposed to be the gigantic European fad of the century. The one at 19th and Barker is particularly dangerous, I have been nearly hit there after entering the intersection completely to have some damned fool come barreling down on my oblivious to the "Yield" sign. Roundabouts may be just ducky in the Europe and the UK, but in Lawrence we have drivers who got their drivers license from a Wheaties box.

And another thing.....the "phony" roundabouts on Illinois street......you were supposed to keep moving through these things, no stopping......WHY THEN.......ARE THERE "STOP" SIGNS ON THESE......UH...........PHONY ROUNDABOUTS?????

Chris Jeter 8 months, 1 week ago

The problem with Lawrence roundabouts is they build them way to small and then plant tall vegetation in the middle of them so you can't see the oncoming traffic. Well that and apparently no one in the town knows what a yield sign means...

David Hann 8 months, 1 week ago

Lawrence needs another mega shopping center? Looks like another plan to line developers' pockets at the expense of Lawrence residents.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 8 months, 1 week ago

If they would put a Costco there, I would be all for it, but we have enough empty retails spaces around town, and the leases for them are going down, so why bother?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 8 months, 1 week ago

That should be the rents are NOT going down.

David Holroyd 8 months, 1 week ago

Dorothy , you say that leases are going down ( suppose you mean the rent) . That being said you said you left N Lawrence because the rent was too high.

Why not relocate to a place that had a "lease" going down? OR did you move the business to your house because there was little business activiity.

Did ever occur to you that the emptly retail spaces are : NO business to sustain the operation? or THE business was cannabalized by yet another shopping center.

This proposal south of town if built will be like cannibals sucking the lifeblood of other centers.

How many athletic stores can Lawrence support. How many chicken places...Slim Pickens is slim on business.

Costco needs bodies and Lawrence doesn't have enough.

Lawrence is just limping along and will for some time to come. These shopping centers get built and as soon as they are filled with tenants they are dumped.

Just like HERE, well maybe they have to get the rents back up so the Chinese can be a buyer.

Collett won't keep that center.

Brett McCabe 8 months, 1 week ago

Here's how you make this mess of an idea actually work. First, require at least two stories of residential housing above every square foot of retail space. Second, you require the building to be LEED certified, with a significant solar installation. Third, you require that all run-off be captured an re-sourced.

The end result? A building with multiple revenue streams, a lower carbon imprint, an environmentally responsible way to handle water and a model for future developments in the city. If the goofs from North Carolina can't get behind that, then they should go back where they came from and eat some Tanger pie.

Sylvie Rueff 8 months, 1 week ago

Last time I heard, that land is in the floodplain; and, in the long range plan it was designated for auto dealerships. Presumably so if there was a flood, it would be relatively easy to move the inventory. Also, traffic wouldn't be so heavy. I think there was plenty of thought put into the long range plan.

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