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Buffalo Wild Wings files plans for new restaurant on South Iowa Street; update on city broadband plans

A nice, spicy chicken wing does sound good today. Heck, on this cold and snowy day, wing sauce in my boots sounds good too. I can't confirm that Buffalo Wild Wings will do that for you, but I can confirm that the restaurant chain has filed plans to build a new restaurant on south Iowa Street.

The restaurant is the lead tenant for a new retail development slated for the northeast corner of 27th and Iowa streets. That's the location of a Chinese restaurant building that has been vacant since 2008, and an empty lot that years ago housed Mazzio's pizza. (Warm breadsticks from Mazzio's — which, at times, mysteriously looked like hot dog buns with melted cheese — sound good too today.)

The plans filed at City Hall show that Buffalo Wild Wings will take about 6,000 square feet in the new building, and that the growing tanning salon chain of Sun Tan City will occupy about 1,900 square feet. The plans also call for a 5,000 square-foot retail space that doesn't yet have a retail tenant identified. But I bet you it will get one. If you have forgotten, the site is caddy-corner from one of the more active retail corners in the city right now — the old Sears building that will house Dick's Sporting Goods and at least two other major tenants.

There hasn't been any definitive word on what this means for the Buffalo Wild Wings location in downtown Lawrence, but there is speculation that the downtown location will close and be replaced by this one. I've reached out to officials with Buffalo Wild Wings for several weeks now, including yesterday, and haven't been able to get any response.

But if you remember, we reported on speculation all the way back in July that Buffalo Wild Wings would be moving from downtown to this very spot at 27th and Iowa streets. Adding to the speculation that the restaurant will move out of downtown is that its current building at 1012 Massachusetts St. has been on the market. Buffalo Wild Wings is just a renter at the building, but potential buyers of the building have told me that the building doesn't come with a long-term lease for Buffalo Wild Wings. But, until we hear official word from the restaurant chain, it is too early to know for sure what the future holds for the downtown spot.

It is worth noting, though, that the Buffalo Wild Wings building has changed ownership in recent weeks. It is now owned by Christie Brothers LLC, which appears to be led by Michael Christie, who was also part of the previous ownership group of the building, Jayhawk Equities. So, it will be interesting to watch what happens at that location because it is a fairly large downtown space. I'll try to reach out to the new owners and report back.

It also will be interesting to watch for more changes along South Iowa Street as Dick's Sporting Goods gets closer to opening this summer. We've previously reported that two shopping centers near the area have changed hands: the Holiday Plaza Shopping Center at 25th and Iowa and the Tower Plaza Shopping Center at 2540 Iowa St. Well, there is one other smaller sale in the area to note. The property at 2500 Iowa St. also has sold in recent weeks. Longtime insurance agent Gary Petersen sold the building to Iowa 2500 LLC, which includes executives with the commercial real estate firm R.H. Johnson Co. Those are the same executives that also are part of the new ownership group of the Tower Plaza Shopping Center, which is adjacent to 2500 Iowa. In other words, leaders with R.H. Johnson Co. — which have attracted a lot of national retailers to Lawrence — now own pretty much the whole block.

Petersen, though, said there aren't any plans for his Shelter Insurance agency to move from the building. The building also houses a ProCuts hair salon.

In other news and notes from around town:

• Perhaps City Hall officials have discovered what I'm quickly discovering: A snow day isn't as much fun as it used to be. My fifth-grade son was up at 6 a.m. to begin practicing for an extravaganza of Olympic events he plans to host today, and, alarmingly, my second-grade daughter somehow has got her hands on a lit Olympic torch.

Anyway, all this is to say that as of about 9:30 this morning, city officials haven't yet canceled tonight's City Commission meeting. Stay tuned, though; that may change. Regardless, I'll give you an update on one item that may or may not get heard tonight.

City commissioners will consider officially issuing a "request for information" from companies interested in partnering with the city on improving broadband service in the community. The RFI comes as city officials are processing a request from Lawrence-based Wicked Broadband that asks the city for a $500,000 grant and several other incentives to conduct a pilot project that would bring super-fast Internet service to downtown and East Lawrence.

Wicked's proposal is to bring the same level of broadband speed to Lawrence as Google Fiber is installing in the Kansas City metro area. City officials, though, aren't necessarily asking for companies to come up with a plan to replicate the Google Fiber project. Instead, the RFI asks companies to "enhance the availability of high speed internet services for residents and businesses and to increase the competition amongst providers for these services in Lawrence."

The city is encouraging anyone and everyone who has some expertise in the area to respond to the RFI. That means both WOW and AT&T are being asked to provide a plan on how they can boost service in the community.

The RFI doesn't mention any financial incentives the city may be willing to offer. In other words, it doesn't say the city has $500,000 it is ready provide as grant money. But it does ask companies to describe what financial incentives it would seek from the city.

The bigger carrot the city is dangling is access to a significant amount of fiber optic cables the city owns throughout the community. Plus, the city controls all the rights-of-ways, traffic signals and several other facilities that broadband equipment could be mounted to.

Firms have an entire month to come up with their proposals. The deadline for responses, as it is currently proposed, is March 5. No word on how long it may take the city to evaluate the responses. Wicked's request for incentives is scheduled to go before the city's Public Incentive Review Committee on March 4. We'll see if that date changes.

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Retail rumblings including a new cookie store on Mass. Street, a mattress store going out of business, and a change in venue for a downtown hot spot

From chicken wings to cookies to mattresses: It sounds like a productive Sunday afternoon to me. It also is a set of topics that are trending in Lawrence's retail world currently.

• I've gotten confirmation that a store called Hot Box Cookies will be setting up shop on Massachusetts Street in the coming days. The cookie shop has inked a lease at 732 Massachusetts Street, the former home of 3 Spoons Frozen Yogurt, Bob Sarna, a representative of the building's ownership group, told me.

Hot Box currently operates in Columbia, Mo.. Based on its website, it offers about a dozen different cookie options, including chocolate chip, M&M, oatmeal raisin and snickerdoodles. The business in Columbia also offers shakes, ice cream sandwiches, and good old-fashioned milk to wash it all down.

But this likely isn't your grandpa's cookie shop. According to the website, the store is open until 2:30 a.m. on many nights, which tells me a few people may have a craving for a cookie after they have consumed a certain other type of beverage at their favorite nightclub.

It sounds like the cookie shop may be open as soon as this week.

• A South Iowa Street mattress store is calling it quits. Bed Mart, 2329 Iowa St., will start hosting a going-out-of-business sale on Wednesday.

Gary Lucas, who owns the store with his wife, Kathy, said the store's lease is up and they have been looking to retire.

"We're just tired, basically," Lucas said. "The business is still all right, but we are just too tired to do it anymore. We basically work seven days a week at it."

The mattress market has changed in Lawrence in recent years. The national chain Mattress Firm opened up at 33rd and Iowa streets in the last year, and Discovery Furniture near 25th and Iowa streets has become a major player in the mattress market.

The sector may be one worth keeping an eye on in the future. People in the development industry tell me that the national chain Mattress Hub has been looking for locations in the city. Who knows whether they actually will decide to enter the market, but it is worth keeping an eye on.

• Take this one for whatever you think it is worth, but there's lots of speculation that Buffalo Wild Wings will move out of downtown to set up shop on South Iowa Street.

Multiple sources have told me that Buffalo Wild Wings is the mystery tenant for a proposed restaurant/retail building at 27th and Iowa streets where an Olive Garden was once proposed.

I called a general manager at Buffalo Wild Wings, and she didn't squash the rumor. Instead, she simply said she has heard it too, but said the corporate office hasn't made any announcements yet.

Buffalo Wild Wings currently occupies space at 1012 Massachusetts St., and by all appearances does well there. The South Iowa Street location would allow for a larger restaurant and more parking.

People with a wing-craving, though, shouldn't panic. Any move likely would be quite a ways off. The project would involve constructing a new building on the site. I'll keep my eyes open for something more official on this one.

But actually, I won't have my eyes open much for a few days. Town Talk is taking a break until July 23, while it recharges its batteries. Yes, I suspect it will involve chicken wings, cookies and a mattress at some point in time.

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