Old Applebee’s building being demolished; car wash set to take its place

photo by: Journal-World photo/Chad Lawhorn

Construction crews demolish the former Applebee's restaurant site near Sixth Street and Monterey Way on July 31, 2018.

I don’t know if it is true that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but I can attest that an Applebee’s falls wherever the big backhoe tells it to. Motorists in west Lawrence this morning are noticing that the former Applebee’s at Sixth and Monterey Way is being torn down.

No, the demolition doesn’t have anything to do with the mess I left the last time the restaurant had all-you-can-eat “riblets.” If you have forgotten, we reported in December that the restaurant location is slated to become a high-tech car wash.

At that point, the plans still needed significant approvals from City Hall. The big backhoe smashing walls is a good sign that they got them. Austin Davis, an owner/operator of the car wash, was on-site Tuesday morning and told me the project got its final approvals and construction work will start right after the site is cleared.

photo by: Journal-World photo/Chad Lawhorn

Construction crews demolish the former Applebee’s restaurant site near Sixth Street and Monterey Way on July 31, 2018.

3900 W 6th St, Lawrence, KS 66049

As for the car wash, it will be a Tommy’s Express Car Wash. Tommy’s is a longtime operator that began offering franchises in the last couple of years. It mainly has operated out of state, but it has a location in Overland Park, and its website lists that plans are in the works for one to be built in Manhattan.

Plans call for about a 130-foot long tunnel car wash, complete with the high-tech equipment that will move a vehicle through the tunnel in about two minutes.

The company also uses high-tech payment technology. In addition to having cash and credit payment options on-site, the franchise offers a lane for people who are paying via their smartphone, according to the company’s website. Think of it kind of like a K-TAG for a car wash. The car wash reads the info on your smartphone, and you get a monthly bill. Unlike K-TAG, the car wash system is based on one flat monthly rate, and you get as many car washes as you would like. The phone even saves your washing preferences so that the car wash automatically knows what type of wash to give the vehicle.

As you would expect, the car wash is going to give the corner a different look. According to the plans filed at City Hall, expect a building similar to the renderings below.

photo by: Contributed rendering

Tommy’s Car Wash

photo by: Contributed rendering

Tommy’s Car Wash

We’ve also reported that a car wash was scheduled to go in at the former bar site of the Cadillac Ranch, which also is on Sixth Street. In January we reported a Cascades Car Wash was set for the site at 2515 W. Sixth St. But work hasn’t begun on that project. There already is a Hurricane tunnel car wash near Sixth and Wakarusa. So, that would be three tunnel car washes in a pretty short corridor along Sixth Street. I have confirmed the sale of the Cadillac Ranch property, though, went through. Your guess is as good as mine about how many tunnel car washes can survive on Sixth Street.

The car wash project also is interesting for what it says about the Lawrence restaurant scene. The Applebee’s building is not that old in the grand scheme of things. It is less than 20 years old. It is a bit surprising that another restaurant didn’t try to take over the space, which does benefit from a lot of traffic along Sixth Street, and a lot of traffic in the parking lot, thanks to the Hy-Vee store in the adjacent shopping center.

But big sit-down, chain restaurants have shown signs of struggle in many markets, and this is probably an indication that the trend is playing out in Lawrence. Count the Steak ‘N Shake location near the SuperTarget on south Iowa Street as another sign. It is another example of a chain restaurant site that has been vacant for quite awhile. That makes the Longhorn Steakhouse building that recently became vacant near 31st and Iowa an interesting property to watch.

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