Posts tagged with Bistro

City Commission to decide fate of debated ‘Quonset hut’ in East Lawrence; more on a food truck bistro in Warehouse Arts District

Hut, hut! In some places that phrase signals the delivery of an under-inflated football, but not here in Lawrence, where we like our footballs round and orange. Instead, we’re just getting warmed up for a City Hall debate over whether an old Quonset hut in East Lawrence should be torn down.

We’ve previously reported that Black Hills Energy would like to tear down a Quonset hut at 620 E. Eighth St., which previously served as the natural gas company’s maintenance facility. But the proposed demolition has been met with resistance, including from the city’s Historic Resources Commission.

City commissioners on Tuesday are set to decide the issue. Both the city’s Historic Resources Commission and the city’s planning staff are urging city commissioners to deny the demolition permit and instead require Black Hills to come up with another plan of action.

On a 3-1 vote, the Historic Resources Commission determined that the old Quonset hut — which was built in 1955 — was an important part of the Eighth and Penn Neighborhood Redevelopment Zone. Several neighbors have said the building is a good example post WW II architecture and helps convey the retro industrial character of the neighborhood.

But officials with Black Hills say they need to demolish the structure in order to do some necessary testing of the soil. The property in the late 1800s was a manufactured gas plant, and those operations left some environmental residue. Black Hills hopes to sell the property, but before that happens attorneys want a thorough testing of the property to determine what environmental liabilities still exist.

City staff members, though, are offering some alternatives to demolition. They include: sell or give the structure to someone who would move it to a compatible site; move the structure to a different part of the Black Hills site that has already been tested; remove the concrete slab of the building and conduct the tests with the building still standing; or do a few core samples to determine if further testing of the site is warranted.

It does seem like you should be able to remove the floor and do some testing without removing the building, but Black Hills officials have said that there’s reason to believe testing crews may have to drill fairly deep, and leaving the building standing will limit bringing a large drilling rig to the site.

Black Hills officials have argued the city’s Historic Resources Commission didn’t even have authority to review the demolition permit, but rather has overstepped its bounds. It also says the Historic Resources Commission has misidentified the property as a Quonset hut. It is not an actual Quonset hut, but rather just a metal building with a slightly rounded roof. Indeed, it does look different from a typical Quonset hut.

The property is adjacent to the Warehouse Arts District, which is part of the Eighth and Penn historic district. But Black Hills notes that the old maintenance building was not considered a contributing structure to that historic district, and thus the district won’t be harmed if it is removed.

This will be the first historic preservation test for the new City Commission. Everybody has a different definition of what is worthy of protection, so we may start to get a read on that issue from commissioners on Tuesday.

Then there is the question of what would happen to the building if it remained on the site. I’ve heard some area residents say it could be a cool art gallery as part of the Warehouse Arts District. I’ve heard another say it could be a neat restaurant, perhaps an old style diner or hamburger joint with a 1950s theme to match the era of its construction.

Hamburgers may be neat, but since it already is shaped like a hot dog, maybe a place that serves footlong coneys with cheese, onions, peppers and, of course, lots and lots of chili. Given the history of the building, there’s even a perfect name for such a place: The Gas Hut.

Commissioners meet at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

In other news and notes from around town:

• It will be East Lawrence night at City Hall on Tuesday. Also on the commission’s agenda is a request to allow a new bistro/drinking establishment at 804 Pennsylvania St. At issue here is whether the city should waive a previously established requirement that the location make at least 55 percent of its sales in food. That requirement was put in place to stop any future establishment from becoming a straight bar use.

A group led by Tony Krsnich, the developer of the Warehouse Arts District, owns the small building, which is just west of the large Poehler Lofts building. Krsnich has proposed creating a bistro that also serves beer, wine and cocktails. The establishment would be unique because its food would come from food trucks parked in a special area just outside the business. The building is small, which makes it tough to install a kitchen, Krsnich has said.

Originally Krsnich agreed to the 55 percent food requirement as a compromise with neighbors who were concerned about having a bar open in the neighborhood. But now Krsnich said he can’t find anyone willing to operate a bistro at the location with that requirement. He said he has no interest in operating a rowdy bar at the site, but he said no one wants to make the investment in this location with the chance that they could fall a few percent short on food sales and be forced to close.

Commissioners dealt with the items a few weeks ago, and it looked like they were ready to uphold the 55 percent food requirement. But they instead asked the neighbors and Krsnich to meet again to see if another compromise is apparent.

As the item comes back to the commission, Krsnich is sharing more details about how the food truck portion of the business is likely to work. Five food operators have provided information about their plans to locate at the bistro, if the 55 percent food requirement is removed. They are: Drasko’s Food Truck & Catering; KanBucha; Optimal Living; Torched Goodness; and Wilma’s Real Good Food.

Three of the five appear to be food trucks.

Drasko’s often is outside The Granada Theater in downtown, and promotes its puffy taco and brisket cheese fries, among other dishes.

None by Jake Perry©

Torched Goodness sells creme brûlée at a variety of events, but also has done other food truck creations as well.

None by KS Food Truck Fest

Then there’s Wilma’s Real Good Food. That appears to be a prominent food truck in Kansas City. Well, actually, it looks like it operates out of a highly decorated Airstream trailer.

None by Dave Fairchild

In a letter to commissioners, owner Brett Atkinson says he’s moving his personal residence to Lawrence’s Warehouse Arts District, and Lawrence will become his new home base of operations for the food truck. He said he plans to serve food at the bistro at least one day per week for the next five years. In terms of the food, his Facebook page lists items like meatloaf sliders, bourbon pecan pulled pork sandwiches, and some type of towering pastrami creation.

It will be interesting to see how commissioners deal with this issue. The city long has had a 55 percent food requirement for new drinking establishments in downtown. (There are a few building locations that are grandfathered in, but any drinking establishment seeking to go into a new location has to meet the requirement.) But until now the city had not really shown a desire to expand that 55 percent food requirement to other parts of the city. The concern is that without the requirement an area could become a bar district. Theoretically, any strip mall could become a bar district as well. Some strip malls are pretty well separated from neighborhoods, but some are pretty close to residential housing. If approved Tuesday, is this the beginning of a new trend in Lawrence? Will you have to meet a food requirement if you want to open a bar anywhere in the city?

• One last word about food trucks. Krsnich also is one of the organizers of the Kansas Food Truck Festival that took place in the Warehouse Arts District on May 2. Krsnich said the success of that event has him more convinced than ever that a bistro built around the food truck concept will work well.

Krsnich said his staff has finished tallying the results of the festival. About 4,000 people attended the one-day event, which produced $23,000 in proceeds for the local food bank Just Food, which is led by Mayor Jeremy Farmer. That’s up from $7,500 the event produced for the food bank last year, which was the first for the event.

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Developer pursuing idea for East Lawrence bistro in Warehouse Arts District

Maybe it will be called the Black Powder Bistro.

As we briefly reported several weeks ago, the idea for a bistro in East Lawrence's Warehouse Arts District is gaining steam. Arts district developer Tony Krsnich has a request before city commissioners tonight to rezone a late 1800s stone building near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets to allow for a bistro, bar and eatery.

The old building, which is just west of Krsnich's Poehler Lofts apartment building, served in the early 1900s as a warehouse for ammunition and gunpowder sold by the Poehler Mercantile Co. Poehler officials didn't want all the ammunition stored in their fine four-story warehouse, which now houses the lofts.

Thus, my idea for Black Powder Bistro. I suppose you could go with Powder Keg Bistro as well, but Krsnich already is trying to convince neighbors that this establishment won't be the wild and rowdy type. Krsnich does want to serve beer and cocktails at the establishment, but he also wants to serve scones and cold sandwiches and have a laid-back patio atmosphere, perhaps even featuring a wood-fired Argentine grill that will serves brats and other grilled items.

Krsnich says he's pursuing the idea because he gets multiple requests a week from people wanting some type of eating or drinking option in the arts district, which is now home to the Cider Gallery arts and event space that is drawing in aficionados from the Kansas City area. He's said several residents in the Poehler Lofts building also have wanted an establishment where they can get a meal or a drink without having to get in their vehicles to travel somewhere.

The idea, though, has drawn some opposition from the East Lawrence neighborhood. The proposed zoning for the site would allow for a traditional bar to be established at the location. City planners have suggested several conditions to try to alleviate bar-related concerns at the site. One is the idea that 55 percent of the business' revenues would have to come from the sale of food or nonalcoholic beverages. That's the requirement that new drinking establishments in downtown Lawrence have to meet.

Krsnich, though, has asked planners to give the establishment two years to meet that level of food sales instead of the standard one year. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission is recommending that two-year period.

There's been some indication those conditions will satisfy neighbors, but we'll know more tonight.

As far as a timeline, Krsnich wants to get the necessary zoning approval and then start searching for an operator of the establishment. He hopes to have the business open sometime next spring.

As far as the name goes, the business doesn't have one yet. Krsnich said he plans to have some sort of community competition to name the establishment — thus my suggestion. He didn't mention a $10,000 prize to the winner, but I thought I would get a head start just in case.


Although it wouldn't be a good name, this project really is Small Potatoes compared with the other project Krsnich has going on in the neighborhood. As we previously have reported, Krsnich is working to build an entirely new four-story building at Ninth and Delaware streets to house another set of loft apartments.

This project, which would be at the southeast corner of Ninth and Delaware streets, would have a mix of 43 one-bedroom, two bedroom and three-bedroom loft style apartments. Like the nearby Poehler building, it would use state tax credits for part of its financing, which would commit the project to making a majority of the units rent-controlled apartments.

There's not much new to report on the project, other than it is sailing through the development process thus far. The rezoning of the property is up for approval at tonight's City Commission meeting. It comes to commissioners with a positive 10-0 recommendation from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission.

Probably the next thing to watch for will be the design of this new four-story building. Lawrence builders sometimes have a tendency to build large new buildings to look like old buildings. Krsnich said that is not his intention with this project.

"I want this to look completely different from the Poehler building to show off a lot of modern and contemporary architecture," Krsnich said.

Once I get my hands on some renderings of the project, I'll pass them along. Krsnich has hired Kansas City, Mo.-based Rosemann & Associates to design the building.

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