Plans filed to build two new fraternity houses near KU campus; foreclosure completed on shopping center
Hearing that two new fraternity houses are being built in your neighborhood will wake you up quicker than an $8 cup of Starbucks. That’s indeed the case for one Lawrence neighborhood, but this neighborhood may not mind much. It already speaks Greek.
Plans have been filed for about $2 million worth of fraternity house construction at 1505 Sigma Nu Place. That’s a vacant lot next to the Sigma Nu fraternity, which, for those of you no longer in the fraternity know, is just a bit of west of Emery Road, northwest of the KU campus. More specifically, Sigma Nu is at the intersection of Sigma Nu Place and what very well may be the most stolen street sign in Lawrence . . . High Drive.
I thought I had the exact location for the project figured out but then realized, much like with Greek alphabet, I was confused. (Don’t even get me started about the time I learned Pi did not involve pie.) I’ll report back on the exact location later today. (UPDATE: It is on vacant land just west and across the street from the Sigma Nu house. Here's a photo of the site.)
Greek Housing USA, a Springfield, Mo.-based company, will build the two houses. Pi Kappa Phi will be the tenant for the bigger of the two houses, a 26-bedroom, three-story home. The second house — a three story, 20-bedroom house — will be rented by the Zeta Beta Tau — or ZBT — fraternity.
Roger Lantz, principal with Greek Housing USA, said the neighborhood is well situated to accommodate the two new homes. The 2.5 acre site is already zoned for fraternity construction. Lantz said parking is always a big issue with fraternity house construction, but he said this site will be able to accommodate at least 80 off-street parking spaces, and perhaps upwards of 90 spaces.
“There will be no on-street parking,” Lantz said. “We want to be good neighbors.”
He said plans are being created to limit the amount of lighting in the parking lots, and to push the parking lots back on the site to be farther from the general neighborhood.
As for the houses themselves, Lantz said they’ll be all-brick homes with commercial kitchens, extensive privacy fencing around the back yards, and a few outdoor amenities, such as a volleyball court.
“They’ll be legacy homes,” he said. “All-brick, big columns, lots of steel. They are built to last.”
The neighborhood already is one of the hotspots for Greek housing. Among the houses in the vicinity are: Alpha Chi Omega, Sigma Nu, Delta Gamma, Delta Upsilon, Kappa Sigma, Kappa Delta, Alpha Delta Pi, and others. (I should remember them all. I lived in an apartment house a couple of blocks away. Just like a fraternity has a motto, this apartment complex had one too: Do not cross yellow hazard tape.)
Lantz said he hopes to begin construction this summer. Construction is expected to be complete in about a year.
Pi Kappa Phi was previously renting a house, but needed to find other accommodations, Lantz said. ZBT has been without a fraternity house for a while, he said.
In other news and notes from around town:
• I reported a couple of weeks ago that an eastside shopping center had fallen into foreclosure and soon would be sold at a sheriff’s auction.
Well, the auction for the shopping center at 23rd and Harper streets has been held, but the shopping center’s ownership likely isn’t settled yet. U.S. Bank, the financial institution that held the mortgage, bought the shopping center for $5,000,032 in a sheriff’s auction that produced about 15 minutes of back-and-forth bidding.
The attorney for the bank said the shopping center — which houses Set ‘Em Up Jack’s and other businesses — was being immediately transferred to a group called MSCI 2007-IQ16 East 23rd Street LLC. There are sign companies across the city hoping they sure put a sign up. It would be like winning the lottery.
Don’t count on it though. A little research through the Kansas Secretary of State’s database shows the company is managed by a Miami Beach company called LNR Partners, LLC. LNR Partners is one of the largest companies that helps banks sell commercial property that they have foreclosed upon. I haven’t talked with anyone at LNR, but it would seem likely that its task is to find a buyer for the shopping center.
If you are fans of some of the businesses in the shopping center — Tres Mexicanos and Subway are a couple more businesses in the center — don’t worry. The foreclosure does not mean those businesses have lost their leases. They are just all wondering who their new landlord will be. The foreclosure also included the building at the corner of the intersection that includes the Conoco gas station and adjacent liquor store.
Lawrence businessman Bill Schulteis was the only other bidder in the auction. He bid a little more than $5 million for the shopping center. Schulteis heads a group that owns the Orchards Corner shopping center at Bob Billings and Kasold, and also owns the shopping center at Sixth and Wakarusa that includes Morningstar’s Pizza, Eileen’s Colossal Cookies and other businesses.
For some people, turkey makes them sleepy. For me, it makes me forgetful — as in I forget to breathe in between bites. I don’t know what makes you forgetful, but evidently it is something because I’ve had several requests to remind people about a couple of 23rd Street projects that we’ve already reported on.
So, here we go. Question No. 1 is: What’s happening to the building that used to house Dunn Brothers Coffee at 1618 W. 23rd St.? The answer: It is set to become a Potbelly’s. I know what you are thinking. Lots of us are set to become Potbelly, but this is in reference to an actual restaurant chain.
As we reported in June, Potbelly Sandwich Shop filed plans to locate in the former coffee house, which is just a bit east of 23rd and Ousdahl. The restaurant serves a large menu of toasted sandwiches ranging from a traditional roast beef to a less traditional chicken Mediterranean with hummus, artichoke hearts, feta cheese and several other ingredients.
Desserts also are a big deal at the restaurant. Perhaps this will spark your memory of when we wrote about the restaurant in June: I briefly hyperventilated while reporting that the restaurant serves a milkshake that comes with a straw that has actual cookies on it. (What can I say? I get very excited about innovation.)
As for the Potbelly in its name, that comes from the fact each restaurant has a potbelly stove in it. I believe that harkens back to the restaurant’s beginnings, which were in a Chicago antique store.
No official word on when the Lawrence restaurant will open, but construction work is now well underway. I would guess an early 2017 opening is likely. I’ll try to let you know if I hear an official date.
• Question No 2 is: What are they building next to QuikTrip at 23rd and Haskell? Unfortunately, it is not an addition for a giant Slurpee machine. (Everybody, calm down. I do know that only 7-Eleven sells the actual Slurpee brand. The 1000-foot restraining order requires me to know this.) Instead, a new tunnel car wash is being built next to QuikTrip.
Back in September we reported that plans had been filed at this location for the latest in a bevy of high-tech car washes coming to the city. Well, construction work has begun on a 5,000 square-foot, 150-foot long automated tunnel car wash on the site. The plans also call for 32 stalls equipped with vacuum cleaners.
An Illinois-based firm, Peak Inc., is the developer of the project. Look for other tunnel car washes to pop up elsewhere in the city. Construction equipment has been delivered to the site near Ninth and Iowa streets. As we have reported, the locally owned Zarco convenience store/fuel center company plans to tear down the old Sandbar sub shop and replace it with a tunnel car wash. Zarco also plans to install a 150-foot tunnel car wash at the Zarco station at 1500 E. 23rd St. Yes, that is just up the street from the tunnel car wash being built next to QuikTrip.
Forget everything else that is going on in the news. 2017 is most likely to be the year of tunnel car washes.
If you are like me and you need a burrito break every once in a while as you navigate the traffic on 23rd Street, you’ll soon have a new option.
The folks from Chipotle Mexican Grill have filed plans to tear down an existing retail building on 23rd Street and build a new restaurant.
The company has filed a site plan to redevelop the old multi-tenant retail building at 1420 W 23rd Street. In case you can’t picture that building (you might have salsa on your glasses; it happens to me a lot while driving on 23rd Street), the building is an older wooden structure that sits back off the street a bit, and has housed an insurance agency, tobacco store, wireless phone company and other various tenants recently. It is right next door to . . . wait, wait . . . Taco Bell.
Can you say, “Let’s get ready to rumble!.” (But can you say it really cool like that one guy? And if so, are people in your office looking oddly at you right now?)
According to the site plan on file at City Hall, the development will replace the approximately 6,000-square-foot, multi-tenant building with a 2,200-square-foot, standalone Chipotle restaurant. The restaurant, it appears, also will have a sizable outdoor seating area.
No word yet on a timeline for the project, or any plans for existing tenants in the building. But I’ve got a message into a representative with the development and will let you know if I hear anything interesting.
There’s a trade in the works that sounds mighty familiar from my youth: Trading books for bats and balls.
I have received confirmation that University Book Shop, 1116 W. 23rd St., is on the way out, and Jock’s Nitch sporting goods is on the way in.
Scott Ozier, a store manager for Jock’s Nitch, told me the company will be vacating its space at 916 Massachusetts St. in order to offer a more full-line sporting goods store in the much larger space on 23rd Street.
“This will allow us to carry a lot more sporting goods,” said Ryan Boler, another manager at the company, which has eight stores in eastern and central Kansas and another five in Missouri and Oklahoma. “There is a need for it in Lawrence. There are not a lot of options in Lawrence right now, and we think the location on 23rd Street will make it easier for people to get to.”
The Jock’s Nitch store at 837 Massachusetts St. will remain open. That store serves as the company’s KU fan shop store, focusing on apparel and other team merchandise rather than sporting goods.
The new store on 23rd Street will be more than twice as large as the company’s store on Massachusetts Street.
Ozier said the new store can handle a larger line of products in all categories, but he said the soccer section is expected to expand significantly, and more football gear is expected during season as well. In addition, the company will start running a team center out of the store, selling custom apparel to youth and high school teams.
Ozier said he hopes the store can be open by April 1. The company’s store at 916 Massachusetts has been closed all week, but reopened today to begin a moving liquidation sale. The store is marking down items 25 percent to 75 percent in an effort to reduce the amount of merchandise that the company will have to move. Ozier said the store will be open through the holidays, but likely would close in early 2013, and then reopen a few months later on 23rd Street.
No word yet on when the last day for the University Book Shop will be. It does not come as a surprise that UBS is leaving the location. We reported earlier this year that the building was on the market. Plus, the owners of UBS also own Jayhawk Bookstore, which has a prime textbook selling location right on the edge of the KU campus.
• I know talk of a sporting goods store will cause people to wonder about whether one of the big box retailers, like a Dick’s Sporting Goods Store, is eyeing Lawrence.
That rumor certainly has been around for awhile, but so far it has remained just that — a rumor. The former Sears building at 27th and Iowa has been a rumor hub for such developments. Dick’s has been mentioned as a possible tenant for that location, but my understanding is that the long-term future of the Sears building is uncertain because Sears’ parent company and the Los Angeles real estate company that owns the building haven’t yet agreed how to dispose of the remaining time left on the building’s lease.
The latest rumor I’ve heard — and I haven’t yet confirmed it — is that a local car dealership plans to move into a portion of the building while it does major work on one of its dealership buildings. I’ll check on that and see if there is any truth there.
As for big box stores, though, I’m pretty certain Lawrence is getting some serious looks from a few. I don’t know all the names yet, but Menards sure seems to be mentioned a lot these days. We had reported there may be some interest in converting the former Gaslight Mobile Home Village into retail space, now that a deal for an apartment complex has fallen through at that location. But I’m pretty certain there are other locations Menards and other big box stores are looking at.
Certainly, there is the retail area the Schawda’s are trying to develop at Sixth and the South Lawrence Trafficway, which they hope will get a boost from the proposed KU/city sports park. But I’m going to be keeping a close eye on the South Iowa Street corridor. I think there is a lot of momentum building in the southern Lawrence area.
Do you think it is coincidence that it is building about the same time folks think the South Lawrence Trafficway will be completed?
I’ll let you know when I hear more solid details.