A look at what’s going on at 23rd and O’Connell, plus other news and notes from around town

photo by: Journal-World Illustration

Town Talk with editor Chad Lawhorn

News and notes from around town:

• I had a great crowd come out to Perkins Restaurant earlier this week to ask me a variety of questions as part of a Town Talk Live event. One of the top questions: What is being built at 23rd and O’Connell Drive next to Tractor Supply?

Indeed, there are some dirt piles near the southeast corner of the intersection, which is where the long vacant Fairfield Farms commercial lots sit. Those lots recently sold via tax auction to a company led by Lawrence businessman and developer Roger Johnson.

Johnson, though, told me the piles of dirt aren’t a sign of any pending development. Johnson is a longtime excavator in the community — he is the founder of R.D. Johnson Excavating — and those types of guys like playing with dirt. He said he simply was cleaning up the property and filling in some holes at the site.


Johnson, of course, bought the property to develop it with commercial uses, but he tells me he doesn’t have any strong leads currently.

I have no particular insight into anything that may happen in that area, but I do note that we previously reported Casey’s General Store was in discussions with property owners on the southwest corner of 23rd and O’Connell to build a store there. That deal fell through, I was told, over access issues that couldn’t be resolved.

I have no idea what makes a good location for a Casey’s store, so it is tough to know whether there would be much of a difference between the southeast corner or the southwest corner of the intersection in the eyes of Casey’s. Or perhaps the company has rethought its plans about the location as the company has gone through quite an ordeal to get a store built at 1703 W. Sixth St., which is the site of the old College Motel. It has been 11 months since Casey’s filed plans at City Hall to build on the site, and ground still hasn’t been broken. Access issues, including debate over whether a traffic light is needed, has slowed that project, but all signs are that Casey’s still intends to build the store.

• Another question I got at the Perkins event involved the opposite corner of town: northwest Lawrence. Residents are wondering when Queens Road is going to be improved. In case you have forgotten, Queens Road is the road a bit west of Wakarusa Drive that has seen around $100 million worth of apartment construction along its western edge. The road is largely a thinly paved street that grows potholes like my yard grows dandelions. Here’s a look:

photo by: Journal-World photo/Chad Lawhorn

Thin pavement and potholes are prevalent on a portion of Queens Road north of Sixth Street that city officials are hoping to rebuild, as shown in this August 2018 photo.

Overland & Queens Rd

I had several people ask me when that road will be improved. The simple answer: still unknown. The next step is another public hearing to determine what set of property owners — via a benefit district — should pay for the approximately $5 million in road improvements. That hearing is set for Oct. 2, according to information on the city’s website. But I’ve got some questions in to the city about the project. I’ll let you know when I hear more.

• While in northwest Lawrence, I did take a few photos of one of those big new apartment complexes along Queens Road. The Links at Kansas project is now open. The Links has been probably the biggest construction project in Lawrence over the last couple of years, but few people have seen it because it is so tucked away. It is just east of Rock Chalk Park, but you can’t really see all the development as you are entering Rock Chalk. You also can’t see the development from Sixth Street.

But, in time, it will be a unique site to see. It is the only apartment complex in Lawrence built entirely around a nine-hole golf course. Tenants of the apartments get free golf as part of their leases.

photo by: Journal-World photo/Chad Lawhorn

The Links apartment complex is just east of Rock Chalk Park between Queens Road and George Williams Way in northwest Lawrence.

5401 Rock Chalk Dr, Lawrence, KS 66049

A representative of the complex wouldn’t talk to me when I stopped by the office on Thursday, instead directing inquires to an out-of-town number. But I did grab an information sheet. It says the golf course will be open in the fall. As my neighbors frequently attest, I don’t know anything about growing grass, but it looked to me like there was an awful lot of grass left to grow before a course could open this fall. Once it does open, though, the developers of the project have previously told me it likely will offer some tee times to the general public for a fee. It largely will depend on how crowded the course is based on tenant play.

The complex is a huge one. Based on past notes, the first phase of The Links included about 600 apartment units. Since I didn’t get to talk with the manager, I’m not sure how many of those are complete and ready to rent.

But tenants certainly have begun to move in. According to the sheet I picked up, the complex offers both one- and two-bedroom units ranging from about $700 a month to $965 a month.

• One more photo to share from that part of town: Work on a new Best Western hotel near the entrance of Rock Chalk Park is really coming along.

As we have reported, the project actually is a Best Western Plus, which is a little more upscale version of the standard Best Western. The $14.5 million project will have 100 rooms, according to previous plans I’ve seen. I’ll reach out to the development group to get an update on when it plans to open.

photo by: Journal-World photo/Chad Lawhorn

Construction work progresses on a new Best Western Plus hotel near the entrance to Rock Chalk Park in northwest Lawrence.

Best Western Plus West Lawrence


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