A new report raises the question of whether Lawrence has gotten much, much richer; new statistics for the state and a new ranking
Congratulations, Lawrence residents. You are rolling in it. The ‘it,’ of course, is money. At least that is what a new Census report suggests.
The Census Bureau through its American Community Survey program this week released its latest one-year snapshot of Lawrence and other communities. The report shows that the median household income in Lawrence increased by a whopping 16 percent in 2016. The report estimates the median income for a Lawrence household grew to $54,243, up from about $46,500 a year earlier.
If this is true, it is huge news for the community. Lawrence has long been a community that has trailed the state in income numbers. But at $54,000, Lawrence would basically be very close to the statewide average of about $55,000. Or here is another way to look at it: There are about 36,000 households in Lawrence. If all of them, on average, have about $7,700 more than they did in the prior year, that’s about $277 million of new money in the Lawrence economy.
Forget buying a new boat. Let’s upgrade to a yacht.
Actually, I’m getting word I’m not yet allowed out of the dinghy. The statistics from the Census Bureau deserve a closer look. The American Community Survey program relies on taking samples from across the community, and sometimes the sample sizes can be small enough that the margins of error are pretty high. That is the case here. The margin of error is plus or minus $5,800. When you compare that with 2015’s numbers in its margin of error, you come up with this: Median household income in 2016 was between $48,443 and $60,043 compared with 2015 household income that was between $41,464 and $51,664. So, in actuality, it is possible that incomes declined from about $51,000 in 2015 to about $48,000 in 2016.
You know what they say, what’s a few thousand dollars between friends?
But the numbers still deserve some attention. It is still quite possible that Lawrence has experienced an increase in household income. Xan Wedel, a data engineer for KU’s Institute for Policy and Social Research, is a Census expert. She notes that the Census will be coming out with a more detailed report in December that relies on much larger sample sizes and has smaller margins of error.
“We will know how much stock to put into this in December,” Wedel said. “We can be more confident about the data then.”
I think there is a good chance that Lawrence is seeing some growth in incomes. The country as a whole is. What will be interesting to watch is whether we are seeing growth that is significantly above national and state averages. But it is hard to fathom that we’ve seen a 16 percent increase in incomes.
But I’ll get my captain’s hat out just in case.
• I won’t pass along any other Lawrence numbers from the report because the margins of error are just too big. But the report does a better job of providing a snapshot of Kansas as a whole. So, let’s take a quick statistical tour of the Sunflower State:
— We are getting older. In 2016, 11.2 percent of the Kansas population was 65 or older. That’s up from 9.9 percent in 2010.
— We love that internet. In 2016, about 80 percent of Kansas households had broadband internet service. That’s up from 73 percent in 2013, when the Census started tracking the issue.
— There is a bit more money. Kansas’ change in median household incomes wasn’t statistically significant from 2015 to 2016. But if you go back to 2010, it is clear we have seen growth. In 2010, median household income ranged from about $47,000 to $49,000. In 2016, median household incomes ranges from about $54,000 to just less than $56,000. Kansas has had some recovery since the Great Recession. Whether the recovery has been as great as other places is a separate debate.
— There is less poverty. The percentage of families below the poverty line in 2016 was 7.9 percent. In 2010, it was 9.5 percent.
— There are more renters in the state. Renters are becoming a bigger part of the state’s housing market. In 2016, about 34 percent of the state’s households lived in a rental unit. That’s up from just under 32 percent in 2010.
In other news and notes from around town:
• While we are talking about numbers, here’s another one: No. 6. Lawrence is the sixth best college town in America, according to one of the many such rankings for that sort of thing.
The financial website 24/7 Wall Street named Lawrence to its list as a top college town. The website looked at Census statistics related to income, crime, unemployment and several other statistics, and then gave special attention to the number of college students who live in the community. It looks like bars and restaurants per capita also played a role.
As a side note, we probably should expect Lawrence to show up on a lot of lists in the coming year or so, if list-makers use the Census numbers noted above and the 16 percent income growth figure. With that, we’ll be crowned king many times.
As for this ranking, here are a few other towns in the region: No. 20, Lincoln, Neb.; No. 10, Norman, Okla.; No. 9, Fort Collins, Colo.; No. 4, Boulder, Colo.; No. 1, Ames, Iowa.
A list-maker who puts Ames at No. 1 is a bit like the producers of all those beautiful home shows about Alaska. They only ever go there in the summer.
Lawrence tied for tops in the state for population growth; most Kansas communities continue to shrink
While many parts of Kansas continue to see population declines, Lawrence is tied to be the fastest growing community in the state, according to new Census Bureau numbers.
From July 1, 2015, to July 1, 2016, a little more than 1,400 people moved to Lawrence. The city had a growth rate of 1.5 percent for the year, which represents a significant increase from what the community experienced during much of the decade of the 2000s. During that 10-year period, Lawrence averaged population growth of a little less than 1 percent per year.
Do you remember the “shot of adrenaline,” i.e., state tax and economic policies, that were supposed to create growth of all sorts across Kansas? Well, these numbers don’t show that. If anything, folks from across the state may be thinking that the hippies and the soccer moms are hogging all the adrenaline. That’s because Overland Park is the other community tied with Lawrence for the fastest growth rate in the state. Overland Park is a longtime, prosperous suburban Johnson County community. It is kind of interesting. Lawrence and Overland Park share some similar geography but are different in many other ways.
The new Census estimates show that small towns in the state generally got smaller, while larger cities mainly got larger, with a couple of notable exceptions. Plus, growth rates of the cities varied widely. Out of the 13 cities with a population of 30,000 or more, only four posted growth rates of 1 percent or better. Here’s a look how the state’s largest cities fared:
• Overland Park: 188,966, up 2,915 people or 1.5 percent.
• Lawrence: 95,358, up 1,468 people or 1.5 percent.
• Olathe: 135,473, up 1,473 people or 1.1 percent.
• Lenexa: 52,902, up 542 people or 1.0 percent.
• Leavenworth: 36,154, up 209 people or 0.5 percent.
• Kansas City: 151,709, up 658 people or 0.4 percent.
• Shawnee: 65,194, up 304 people or 0.4 percent.
• Wichita: 389,902, up 842 people or 0.2 percent.
• Leawood: 34,565, up 75 people or 0.2 percent.
• Topeka: 126,808, down 485 people or 0.3 percent.
• Hutchinson: 41,310, down 219 people or 0.5 percent.
• Salina: 47,336, down 327 people or 0.6 percent.
• Manhattan: 54,983, down 1,370 people or 2.4 percent.
When you look at how communities have grown since the 2010 Census, the order changes a bit, but Lawrence still is faring pretty well. It is the fastest growing community not in Johnson County. Here’s a look at those numbers, again for the 13 communities of 30,000 or more.
• Lenexa: up 9.7 percent
• Overland Park: up 8.9 percent
• Lawrence: up 8.8 percent
• Leawood: up 8.4 percent
• Olathe: up 7.6 percent
• Manhattan: up 5.1 percent
• Shawnee: up 4.8 percent
• Kansas City: up 4.0 percent
• Leavenworth: up 2.5 percent
• Wichita: up 1.9 percent.
• Topeka: down 0.5 percent
• Salina: down 0.7 percent
• Hutchinson: down 1.8 percent
Perhaps the most important part of the report is what’s said about everywhere else. Not that population is the only measure of prosperity, but it is one measure. Without population it is hard for a community to support basic services such as grocery stores, health care and a host of other businesses. These numbers show that prosperity is really unevenly distributed in the state.
The small towns around Lawrence are a mixed bag. Here’s a look at 2016 population totals:
• Baldwin City: 4,677, up 13 people
• Basehor: 5,651, up 259 people
• Bonner Springs: 7,665, up 71 people
• De Soto: 6,071, up 11 people
• Eudora: 6,379, up 3 people
• Gardner: 21,110, up 290 people
• Lecompton: 638, down 1 person
• Oskaloosa: 1,078, down 6 people
• Ottawa: 12,356, down 8 people
• Perry: 906, down 1 person
• Tonganoxie: 5,326, up 88 people
It is one thing to see really small towns — places of just a few hundred people get smaller — but now we also are seeing traditional centers of commerce for western, central or southern Kansas shrink as well. For example, Garden City has seen population declines for five straight years. Great Bend has lost nearly 3 percent of its population since 2010. Liberal, in far western Kansas, has lost population six years in a row.
By my count from the numbers released Thursday, only 97 Kansas communities — out of 627 measured — posted a population gain. The rest all declined or held steady. That sure seems like a significant long-term problem for the state.
It also seems like a responsibility for Lawrence. We’re one of the fortunate ones to have growth. Given that what we have is so rare, it seems more important than ever to capitalize off of it all we can.
• One housekeeping note. Town Talk didn't appear for a few days because I was on an assignment for work. Now the column won't appear until Tuesday because I'm on an assignment that will involve a hammock, a fishing pole and probably misfortune with both. Regardless, have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend.
Douglas County topping a list of new Census population numbers; a look at the handful of Kansas counties that actually are growing
Maybe the folks building all those apartments in Lawrence aren’t insane after all. Perhaps the same goes for retailers wanting to build new stores along south Iowa Street too. Since 2010, Douglas County has added nearly 9,000 residents, according to a new Census report. That’s a growth rate that is even higher than Johnson County.
Since the 2010 Census, Douglas County has added 8,614 residents. As of July 1, 2016, Douglas County had 119,440 people. Since the 2010 Census, Douglas County’s population has grown by 7.7 percent. Of all the urban counties in Kansas, Douglas County has the highest population growth rate this decade. It beat out Johnson County, which had a 7.4 percent growth rate.
Those are the type of growth numbers that catch the attention of businesses and builders. They are even more noticeable given the fact that there are only a handful of counties in Kansas that are posting any population gains.
According to the recently released annual county population estimates produced by the Census Bureau, only 23 of Kansas’ 105 counties have added population this decade. Many of them have just barely added population. When you look at the counties that have added population at a rate of 1 percent or more, there are only 14 counties.
Those numbers may help explain some of the building, and some of the interest retailers have expressed in the city in recent years. Heck, it may even help explain the explosion of chicken restaurants. Take a fast food chicken chain, for example. The chain decides it wants to enter the Kansas City market. Chains have figured out that it is more efficient to operate multiple stores in a region rather than one. So, a chain may come to the region for Kansas City, but it needs to open additional stores near the Kansas City market to maximize efficiency. When they turn their attention to Kansas' side of the state line, there simply aren’t very many counties that are posting positive demographics.
In fact, the number posting positive numbers is growing smaller. As I reported, there are only 23 counties in the state that have posted positive population growth numbers this decade. Back in 2010 when the Census was released, there were 28 counties that posted population gains. Not good news for the state, but Lawrence is likely standing out even more these days.
What’s more, the report indicates Douglas County has good momentum currently. In 2016, Douglas County grew by 1.2 percent, or an estimated 1,485 people. Again, the 1.2 percent growth rate was the highest of any urban county in the state.
Douglas County can’t quite make the claim to be the fastest-growing county in the state. (I know, some Lawrence residents don’t want to make that claim anyway.) What county is besting Douglas County? If you are thinking it may be related to the other major university community in the state — Manhattan — you are correct, but only partially.
Douglas County is growing better than Riley County, home to K-State. In fact, Douglas County is growing quite a bit better. Since 2010, Riley County’s growth rate is 3.1 percent, less than half of Douglas County’s. Riley County’s population took a particular hit in 2016. It declined by almost 2,000 residents.
But part of Manhattan also is located in Pottawatomie County. Pottawatomie only has about 24,000 residents, but it is the fastest growing county in the state right now. In 2016, it grew by 2 percent, and since 2010 it has grown by 9.5 percent.
Of course, this means one thing for Pottawatomie: It should get ready for more fried chicken.
Here’s a look at some other numbers from the report. First, a look at the counties that surround Douglas County, with their 2016 population and their growth rate for the decade
• Franklin: 25,560, up 1 person from 2015; since 2010 down 1.6 percent
• Jefferson: 18,897, up 11 people from 2015: since 2010 down 1.2 percent
• Johnson: 584,451 up 5,693 people from 2015; since 2010 up 7.4 percent
• Leavenworth: 80,204 up 997 people from 2015; since 2010 up 5.2 percent
• Osage: 15,843 down 69 people from 2015; since 2010 down 2.7 percent
• Shawnee: 178,146 down 395 people from 2015; since 2010 up 0.1 percent
I mentioned earlier that there are only 14 counties that have posted population growth of 1 percent or greater this decade. Here’s that list.
• Pottawatomie: up 9.5 percent
• Douglas: up 7.7 percent
• Johnson: up 7.4 percent
• Leavenworth: up 5.2 percent
• Wyandotte: up 4 percent
• Greeley: up 3.9 percent
• Geary: up 3.5 percent
• Riley: up 3.1 percent
• Logan: up 2.7 percent
• Sedgwick: up 2.7 percent
• Scott: up 1.9 percent
• Butler: up 1.7 percent
• Ellis: up 1.5 percent
• Rawlins: up 1.1 percent
It may not be entirely accurate to say that Douglas County is booming. But Lawrence in the last two years has set new building permit records. I hold off on labeling it a boom because in the 1990s when growth was really humming, Lawrence was growing closer to 2 percent per year. We're not to those levels. But one similarity between then and now is that in the 1990s, Douglas County often was at the top or near the top of the fastest growing places in the state.
For the time being, we are again. When the decade ends in a short three years, it will be interesting to see what Lawrence has to show for it.
Auto dealer confirms expansion plans on south Iowa Street; new population numbers show Douglas County is definitely getting older
The south Iowa Street car dealers have figured it out. With a plethora of new drive-thru chicken restaurants opening along the corridor, it obviously is easier for me to buy a new vehicle than clear my cab of the hot sauce, chicken buckets and the industrial-strength barrel of degreaser. Indeed, I’m telling you to keep your eyes open for another auto dealership expansion along south Iowa.
For weeks, I’ve been reporting that Briggs Auto has been laying the groundwork for an expansion at the corner of 28th Terrace and Iowa Street, which formerly was home to Jane Bateman Interiors before it moved to 27th and Iowa and to Breathe Oxygen Supply, which is leaving the spot for a new location near Sixth and Congressional Drive.
Exactly what that expansion involves, though, has been tough to figure out. Well, Russell Briggs, owner of the Manhattan-based Briggs Auto Group, has now told me that it will be a major new showroom for his Chrysler dealership.
The building along Iowa Street will undergo an approximately $300,000 facelift to house a used car showroom for certified pre-owned Chrysler vehicles.
This is just the latest in a line of expansion projects Briggs has undertaken in the Lawrence Auto Plaza near 31st and Iowa. Briggs has rebuilt both the Nissan and Subaru dealerships in the Auto Plaza, and as part of that project he moved the Chrysler dealership too. Previously, the Chrysler dealership had high visibility from Iowa Street, but Briggs converted that spot into the Nissan dealership, and the Chrysler dealership was moved farther off of Iowa Street.
The latest project will make the Chrysler brand visible from Iowa Street again. But Briggs said the new car dealership for Chrysler will remain where it is, 2300 W. 29th Terrace. The new location will focus on used vehicles. Briggs said that is the part of the car industry that is the hottest right now. Briggs estimated that his dealership sells about three used cars for every new car sold.
The decision to expand at all, also was a fairly easy one. Briggs said the auto industry has been on an upswing as the country has come out of the recession. During the height of the recession, new auto sales nationally dipped to about 9.5 million units. Last year they had climbed to more than 17 million, which put them ahead of pre-recession levels, Briggs said. Those are sales of new vehicles, which may flatten some, but now the industry is betting on a surge of used car sales.
“We were fortunate to have these buildings come up for sale when they did,” Briggs said. “We have 13 acres over there (in the Auto Plaza), but we never have enough room.”
The new showroom will have indoor space for about 30 cars, Briggs estimated, and will have access to two parking lots for outdoor display space.
The project is the latest of several major renovations to car dealers along south Iowa Street. Virtually every dealership on the corridor has undergone some renovations recently, with the most recent and largest being a complete remodel of Dale Willey’s Chevrolet dealership, which included an entirely new used car showroom in the space that previously housed Payless Furniture.
Briggs said once his Chrysler project is completed in the next several months, he does hope to complete a couple of other smaller projects that involve adding display space for vehicles along the interior roadways that serve the Auto Plaza. That will require some city approvals and the vacating of some right-of-way. But Briggs said he doesn’t have any other large-scale expansions planned at the moment.
“Basically, all we have left to do is sell some cars,” Briggs said. “I think we have done a lot to really create an auto mall atmosphere. It is bigger than it used to be.”
It will be interesting to watch the area in the future. The area just south of the South Lawrence Trafficway and Iowa Street interchange could be one that also could add more auto dealerships to the south Iowa corridor. That property, of course, has been proposed to serve as a major retail area for the likes of Academy Sports, Old Navy and other big box retailers. The city has rejected those plans, and as we have reported, the development group has filed a lawsuit appealing that rejection. There is not much new to report on that lawsuit currently, but it still is an active case.
If the city prevails in the lawsuit, though, you may see pressure mount to develop the area for additional auto dealerships. The city’s long range planning document for the area calls for auto-related retail, which certainly includes auto dealerships. Whether the city would fight that type of development is unclear, but we might find out. I’ve certainly heard over the years that there are dealerships that have been interested in the property. Laird Noller Ford and the Lawrence Kia dealership both have their locations along 23rd Street. Whether either of those dealerships are looking to get to south Iowa Street will be something to keep an eye on.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Over the weekend I reported on some recently released Census demographics showing the racial makeup of Douglas County. At the time I told you I also would have some new statistics to report on the age of Douglas County’s population.
Well, here’s the summary: The youngest and the oldest of us are growing at good rates in Douglas County, but many of the age groups that make up the working-age portions of the population have been sluggish or outright declined in the past five years.
Let’s take a closer look at the numbers, which are for 2015:
— Douglas County’s population zero to 19 years old is up 3.7 percent from 2010. There are now just fewer than 30,000 people in that age group. Our growth rate is better than the two other counties compared against us. In Johnson County, the growth rate for the very young was up 2.2 percent. In Riley County, it actually fell by 3 percent. One interesting note, the population of children zero to 5 years old fell in both Douglas and Johnson counties and was basically unchanged in Riley. Probably lots of explanations for that, including the recession, changes in family structure and perhaps a shortage of Barry White albums.
— If you have ever wondered where all the KU students go after they graduate, apparently, they move to Johnson County. Douglas County’s population of 20- to 24-year-olds is just under 22,000. The age group has grown 1.1 percent since 2010. But that is nothing compared with Johnson County. The 20- to 24-year-old age group has grown by 21.5 percent in Johnson County. Riley County is more similar to Douglas County, although it seems to be doing a bit better at retaining those students. The age group has grown by 3.2 percent in Riley County, which, of course, is home to Kansas State University. One interesting note: In Douglas County the number of males in the 20 to 24 age group outnumber females by 3 percent. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions there.
— If you have ever wondered what happens when all the college graduates move to Johnson County and become spooked by the youth league soccer games and minivans, well, at least some of them seem to move back to Lawrence. The age group of 25- to 39-year-olds now stands at about 25,000 in Douglas County. That’s up 5.2 percent from 2010. That’s better than the 2.3 percent growth rate in Johnson County. But perhaps there is something magnetic about the smell of a veterinary barn because people seem to be flocking back to Manhattan. The 25 to 39 age group has grown by 14.7 percent. All joking aside, it seems important to understand why that is happening in Manhattan but not to the same degree in Lawrence.
— As a 44-year old man, I’m a bit worried by this one. Aliens or something may be sucking up 40- to 59-year-olds. That age group didn’t grow much in any of the three counties. In Douglas County, that population now stands at about 24,000. That is down 1.5 percent from 2010. In Johnson County, the population only grew 0.7 percent, and in Riley County it was down 0.9 percent. Theoretically, this age group includes some of the highest earners in a community, so growth there could be beneficial.
— Everybody has heard the trend about the graying of America. That’s certainly happening in all three communities, but Douglas County is leading the way with the fastest growth rate of the over-60 population. The over-60 crowd now accounts for a little more than 18,000 people in Douglas County. That’s up 25.1 percent from 2010. In Johnson County that age group grew 23.6 percent, and in Riley County it increased 18.8 percent. One interesting note there: Hang in there, guys. In Douglas County, in the 85 and older age group, females outnumber males 67 percent to 33 percent.
No need to cover the furniture or get out the full body smock, but I am planning on painting by numbers. There are new Census numbers out that paint a picture of Douglas County’s diversity. Or perhaps better put, Douglas County’s lack of racial diversity.
It has been the case for a long time that Lawrence doesn’t have a lot of racial diversity, but the new estimates from the Census Bureau — which are for 2015 — do show racial minorities in the county are growing. Let’s take a look at some key findings.
• When it comes to minority racial populations, Asians are now at the top of the list in Douglas County. In other words, the Asian population is now larger than the black or American Indian population, which historically have been two of the larger minority populations in Lawrence.
That wasn’t the case in the 2010 census. Black members of the community stood at about 4,500 while Asians numbered about 4,100. But in the five years since, the Asian community has grown by nearly 35 percent. Numbers of black residents also are growing significantly, by about 20 percent.
Lawrence long has had a larger than normal American Indian community, in part, due to Haskell Indian Nations University, but those numbers are shrinking. From 2010 to 2015, the American Indian population declined by 865 people, a drop of about 27 percent.
• Numbers of some minority groups may be growing, but they still aren’t very large in Douglas County. Asians make up 4.7 percent of Douglas County’s population. That’s up from 3.7 percent in 2010. Blacks make up 4.6, compared to 4 percent in 2010, and American Indians dropped a tenth of a point to 2.7 percent of the Douglas County population.
• Black residents are less prevalent in Douglas County than any of the other five large Kansas counties. Here’s a look at some comparisons:
— Black population: Douglas: 4.6 percent of population; Johnson: 5 percent; Riley: 7 percent; Shawnee: 8.8 percent; Sedgwick: 9.5 percent; Wyandotte: 24 percent.
— Asian population: Douglas: 4.7 percent of population; Shawnee: 1.4 percent Wyandotte: 4.1 percent; Sedgwick: 4.5 percent; Johnson: 4.7 percent; Riley: 4.8 percent.
— American Indian: Douglas: 2.7 percent of population; Shawnee: 1.4 percent; Wyandotte: 1.3 percent; Sedgwick 1.3 percent; Johnson 0.4 percent.
• Hispanics are not considered a race, but rather that is a term used to identify a person’s heritage. In other words, you can be black and be Hispanic, you can be white and be Hispanic and so forth. Hispanics are less prevalent in Douglas County than any of the other five large counties in Kansas. Here’s a look:
— Douglas: 6 percent of total population
— Johnson: 7.4 percent of total population
— Riley: 8.3 percent of total population
— Shawnee: 11.9 percent of total population
— Sedgwick: 14.1 percent of total population
— Wyandotte: 27.7 percent of total population
But the trend may be changing in Lawrence. Douglas County had the second highest growth rate in Hispanic population of any of the six big counties. Keep in mind that Douglas County’s Hispanic population is small — about 7,100 people — so it is always easier to have a higher growth rate when you are trying to grow a small number. But, still, it is worth noting. Here’s a look:
— Douglas: 25.7 percent growth rate since 2010
— Riley: 35 percent growth rate since 2010
— Sedgwick: 11.7 percent growth rate since 2010
— Johnson: 10.9 percent growth rate since 2010
— Shawnee: 10.4 percent growth rate since 2010
— Wyandotte: 8.7 percent growth rate since 2010
As I mentioned earlier, none of these numbers is particularly surprising for people who follow Douglas County demographics. (It is a hobby I took up when watching growing grass became too exhilarating.) Douglas County long has been lacking in some racial diversity — at least by urban county standards. There are certainly many rural Kansas counties far less diverse. Cheyenne County, for instance, has four black residents, according to the Census Bureau, out of about 2,600 total residents. Several other Kansas counties count their minority populations in single digits.
Douglas County’s numbers stand out most in terms of the relatively small black community. It is important to note that I’m not drawing any conclusions about the reasons behind Lawrence’s racial make-up. I’m not qualified to do that, and racial issues can be very tough to discuss. But it is worth noting that Lawrence once was a very important community for black Americans during and following the Civil War. For whatever reason, that doesn’t seem to have stuck.
I report the Census numbers every few years because it is important to understand our community, and it seems like the numbers could produce some meaningful conversations.
Speaking of numbers, the Census Bureau also has released a lot of data on the age of Douglas County’s population. I’m going through that data too, but I’ll save it for later this week. I’m being threatened with the full-body smock if I spout any more statistics today.
Family fun center opening along 23rd Street; Census says Lawrence population growth among tops in region; word of a new manufacturer along Haskell
I’m an expert on lasers, no matter what people tell you about that unfortunate incident when I borrowed a laser pointer for a Rotary presentation. So trust me when I say that a new laser tag business is coming to Lawrence, and I’m almost certain that no one will lose their eyebrows this time.
Plans have been filed for a new family fun center called Epic to open in The Malls Shopping Center at 23rd and Louisiana streets. The fun center will open in the former Family Dollar space. Co-owner Travis Jacobsen told me work has begun to renovate about 4,000 square feet of the building into a massive laser tag area. The building also will include a 3,000 square foot video arcade, although it will operate a bit differently from many arcades.
“Instead of tokens or quarters, you buy access to all the arcade,and then it is unlimited game play,” Jacobsen said. “It is like when you go to the carnival and you buy a wristband to ride all the rides.”
Jacobsen, a recent business school graduate from KU, is opening the business with his father, Terry Jacobsen of rural Lawrence. Travis said he hopes to have the business open by early July, but no later than early September. He said response from people who have heard about the concept has been great.
“We believe Lawrence needs more things to do,” Travis said. “It needs wholesome things that can entertain an entire family. It has been an overwhelmingly positive message we’ve gotten back from the community.”
In addition to the laser tag and the arcade, the center also will include about 1,200 square feet of party room space that can be divided into three separate rooms. Lawrence has had a laser tag business before, but it has been awhile. The bowling alley at Ninth and Iowa used to have a laser tag space years ago before the space was converted into Wayne & Larry’s sports bar.
“Lawrence is as big as it has ever been, and KU is big,” Travis said. “With the right marketing plan, we think it will work very well in Lawrence. I remember going to these type of places with my family when I was a kid. It was a blast. This has been a longtime dream of ours.”
Travis and his wife, Ellen, also hope the business has a secret weapon. Travis and Ellen, as we reported on Tuesday, were first in line to adopt one of the puppies of Penny, the Lawrence dog who gained fame on social media when she ran away, pregnant, from her foster home in midwinter. The couple plan on the puppy becoming a fixture at the fun center.
In other news and notes from around town:
• The U.S. Census Bureau has released its 2014 population estimates for cities across the country, and they show that Lawrence may be getting some of its growth mojo back. The latest numbers estimate Lawrence’s population stood at 92,763 people in 2014. That’s up by 1,587 people from 2013. That’s good for a growth rate of 1.7 percent. Lawrence’s growth rate had slowed to less than a half percent a year in 2010, but has been on the rise since then. The 2014 numbers are the strongest showing for Lawrence this decade, and is near Lawrence’s historic average of the last 20 years or so.
Here’s a look at how the city’s population growth compares with some other Kansas communities.
— Baldwin City: 4,585 up 0.5 percent
— De Soto: 6,038 up 1.8 percent
— Eudora: 6,303 up 0.9 percent
— Gardner: 20,667 up 0.6 percent
— Kansas City: 149,636 up 0.6 percent
— Leavenworth: 36,000 up 0.2 percent
— Leawood: 34,395 up 4.2 percent
— Lecompton: 637 up 0.6 percent
— Lenexa: 51,042 up 1.3 percent
— Olathe: 133,062 up 0.8 percent
— Ottawa: 12,403 down 0.8 percent
— Overland Park: 184,525 up 1.7 percent
— Tonganoxie: 5,192 up 0.6 percent
— Topeka: 127,215 down 0.2 percent
— Wichita: 388,413 up 0.3 percent
• There’s another good sign that is a bit of a blast from the past. I’ve gotten word that Lawrence has landed a new manufacturer. I’m still working to get details, but I’ve gotten word than an Iowa-based company that manufactures foam insulation and other foam products has reached a deal to take about 60,000 square feet of space in the former E&E Display building near 29th and Haskell. I don’t yet have word on how many jobs the new enterprise may create for Lawrence. I’m working to get in touch with the company, Iowa EPS Products, and I’ll report back when I have more information.
Large apartment complex files plans for major renovation; the mystery numbers surrounding renters in Lawrence
One of the city’s larger apartment complexes is set to get an upgrade. Plans have been filed for a significant remodeling of the apartment complex near 24th and Ousdahl that used to be known as Colony Woods.
Paperwork filed at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department shows the complex has been purchased by a new owner, and it looks like the ownership group wants to increase the amenities offered at the complex.
Lawrence-based Paul Werner Architects is doing the design for the new project, and it includes a complete renovation of the clubhouse, including a new fitness center, student lounge, pool table area, computer lab, study room, and new outdoor space that will include a patio, pool, hot tub, fire pit and barbecue area. Plans also call for the complex to have security entrance gates added, and a whole new landscaping package. My understanding is some interior renovations of the apartment already have taken place.
As for the ownership group, it looks like a Florida-based company has purchased the property. The property is owned by an LLC that is registered to individuals with Calidus Holdings, a Florida-based investment group that was formed in 2011 and has started purchasing student housing properties throughout the Midwest and southeastern U.S.
Although I’m not entirely sure, it looks like there also may be a name change in store for the complex. Even though a lot of folks have still thought of the property as Colony Woods, I think it has been operating under the name of Campus Court for awhile. The plans filed at City Hall are titled The Rockland, and I'm told the complex is transitioning over to the name The Rockland.
A little distance between the complex and its Colony Woods past probably is a good thing. I know there’s a whole generation of KU alumni who are quite thankful that party pics and Facebook didn’t exist during Colony Woods’ heyday.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Some readers told me they noticed a national article that talked about how the percentage of renters in many U.S cities continues to grow, and they wondered what the situation was in Lawrence. So, now seems as good as any to go over the latest numbers.
First, a new report by New York University’s Furman Center found that nine of the 11 largest U.S. cities now have more renters than homeowners. That’s up from just five of the largest U.S. cities being rental dominated in 2006. Among the new cities where renters have become the new majority are Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Washington, D.C.
Lawrence, of course, wasn’t included in the study. But renters being the majority in a town is old hat for Lawrence. The latest numbers are from the 2013, five-year American Community Survey by the Census Bureau. That report found that 53.9 percent of all occupied housing units in Lawrence are rentals. That equates to 18,592 rental units in Lawrence compared with 16,399 owner-occupied units.
What people, I think, are more interested in is how much that percentage has been growing. When it comes to interpreting those numbers, here is my takeaway: I need some of that fine punch I used to get at Colony Woods. The numbers show that the percentage of renters in Lawrence has held steady or actually decreased slightly over the years. In 2010, the percentage of renters was 53.2 percent, according to the 2010 Census. In the 2000 Census, it was 54.1 percent.
But for those of you who track apartment construction in Lawrence, we know two things: 1. We really need a better hobby than tracking apartment construction. 2. There have been a lot of apartments built in Lawrence since 2000. But you wouldn’t know it by the Census numbers.
The 2010 Census showed that there were 18,623 rental units in Lawrence. The 2013 Census survey estimated that there were 18,592 rental units in the city, a decline of 31 rental units. But if you look at building permit numbers from the city, they show that 921 new multifamily apartment units were built between the end of 2010 and the end of 2013. Sure, some apartment units have been torn down in that time period too, but not that many.
One key to remember is that the Census Bureau is measuring occupied housing units. Vacant housing units is another calculation. Now, clearly, apartment developers aren’t building tons of new units in Lawrence to watch them sit empty. I’m guessing a fairly small percentage of the 921 new apartment units built in that time are sitting vacant. But the bigger question is, how many older apartment units are sitting vacant in Lawrence as the result of those newer units coming online?
One way to interpret the Census Bureau’s numbers is that apartment demand in Lawrence has held about steady, and what has been taking place is that newly constructed units have been filling that demand at the expense of older units. Or, an alternate theory is there are a lot of single family homes sitting vacant that used to be occupied by homeowners who are now renters.
It is tough to say for sure what is happening, however, without really knowing the rental vacancy rate in Lawrence. The Census Bureau has figures on that, but I don’t know a lot of people in the rental industry that rely on those numbers too heavily. A group of private apartment owners in town used to commission a local study of the apartment vacancy rate, and they used to share that number with me. But that hasn’t happened for years now. The study may still happen, but the sharing part doesn’t.
The rental vacancy rate is a number that city planners also struggle to determine. As far as I know, there is no real city-generated number that estimates the rental vacancy rate in the community. That is different from the retail vacancy rate. City planners do work to create a retail vacancy rate, which is used in helping determine whether new retail zoning projects should be approved. But that approach isn’t taken in determining whether new apartment development should be approved.
So, to answer the original question posed, I would make three points about the status of renters in Lawrence: 1. As has long been the case, renters continue to be the majority in Lawrence. 2. It is not clear that the number of renters in Lawrence is growing, although it is clear the number of apartment units in the city is growing. 3. I really need to find that punch recipe.
Douglas County’s population grows by more than 1,000 during past year; update on Lawrence Public Library project timeline
Today is one of those days when I love statistics, and not just because all the math gives me an excuse to take off my shoes. Today, statistics help remind me that all is right in the world again. A pair of reports show that Lawrence and Kansas once again are faring better than the M&M's: Manhattan and Missouri.
Report No. 1 is from the Census Bureau, and it shows that Douglas County had a decent year in terms of population growth in 2013. Douglas County added 1,279 people from July 2012 to July 2013. In terms of total number of people, that was the third-highest total out of the state's 105 counties. The Census Bureau estimates the county has a population of 114,322 people.
The county's growth rate checked in at 1.1 percent, which was the 11th best growth rate in the state for 2013. Let's be clear: Historically, that is not a real good number for Douglas County. During the 1980s, Douglas County averaged 2 percent growth per year. During the 1990s, the average growth rate was 2.2 percent per year.
But those were different times, and it is important to note that Douglas County's growth rate is still a heck of a lot better than the state's as a whole. The Census Bureau estimates the entire state added just 8,559 people during the 12-month period. That's a growth rate of 0.3 percent.
As for Manhattan, well the numbers show that Riley County — which includes Manhattan — lost 636 people during the time period. That was the second largest population loss in the state. The largest, in case you are wondering, was Geary County, with a loss of 873 people.
Geary County is right next to Riley County and is home to Fort Riley. It is probably safe to assume both Riley County's and Geary County's population changes were affected by changes at the fort. Both communities are used to population swings that are far greater than Douglas County experiences. So, I'll leave it to someone else to determine whether those numbers are really that concerning. I'm mainly just taking my shots at Manhattan while I can. After all, we are now closer to football season than we are to basketball season.
Here's a look at the five counties that added the largest number of people over the past 12 months.
— Johnson County: 7,097 people (1.3 percent growth rate)
— Sedgwick County: 1,977 people (0.4 percent)
— Douglas County: 1,279 people (1.1 percent)
— Wyandotte County: 1,209 people (0.8 percent)
— Leavenworth County: 475 people (0.6 percent)
The way I'm reading this data: Of the urban counties in the state, Lawrence had the second fastest growth rate in the group. That's not bad. It is not what it used to be, but still not bad.
In case you are wondering which county had the fastest growth rate in the state, well, get ready to invest all your money in the economic boom known as . . . Wallace County. It had a growth rate of 2.5 percent. It added 39 people.
Report No. 2 focuses on Kansas and our neighboring states. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recently released its report on 2013 per capita income for all the states. In other words, this is the report that shows how rich we are compared with other states (kind of, to use a highly technical economic phrase.)
Kansas saw its personal income grow by 2.4 percent, which wasn't quite as good as the national average of 2.6 percent. So, we didn't exactly keep up with the Joneses in 2013.
But surely you have figured out by now that the key to feeling good about yourself is to find somebody you are better than. In the Plains region, there was only one state that Kansas clearly outperformed: Missouri. The Show Me State checked in with a 2.3 percent growth rate. Kansas also had a higher growth rate than South Dakota, which checked in at 1.8 percent. South Dakota had the lowest growth rate among the seven states in the Plains Region, but more on why I decided to pick on Missouri in a moment.
Kansas average per capita income was $43,916 in 2013, which is about 1 percent less than the national average. Kansas was one of only two states in the Plains region that had a per capita income that was below the national average. Missouri was the other. While Kansas was 1 percent below, Missouri was 10 percent below the national average. All joking aside, Missouri appears to have some issues to consider when it comes to income and wages.
None of us, however, are North Dakota. These numbers confirmed to me that there are only two forms of recreation in North Dakota: growing things (money, it appears) and drilling either an oil or gas well in your front yard. Income growth in North Dakota was 7.6 percent, tops in the nation. And North Dakota now has the second highest per capita income in the nation. It is $57,084, or 28 percent above the national average.
Anyway, my feet are getting cold, so I'm going to end my mathematical exercises by showing you how Kansas compared with the other states in the Plains region:
— Iowa: $45,114 per capita income, up 3.2 percent
— Kansas: $43,916 per capita income, up 2.4 percent
— Minnesota: $47,856 per capita income, up 2.8 percent
— Missouri: $39,897 per capita income, up 2.3 percent
— Nebraska: $46,033 per capita income, up 3.0 percent
— North Dakota: $57,084 per capita income, up 7.6 percent
— South Dakota: $45,558 per capita income, up 1.8 percent
In other news and notes from around town:
• If you have driven by the construction site of the Lawrence Public Library expansion, you'll notice that building is starting to really take shape. The library is scheduled to move back into the space at Seventh and Vermont streets, this summer, but we never have gotten a real firm date from the city on when.
Well, there are now some indications that it will be late summer. City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting are set to approve an extension of the lease the city has to temporarily locate the library in the former Borders building at Seventh and New Hampshire streets.
Originally, the city had planned for that lease to end May 31. But staff members now are recommending the library extend the lease through July 31 to give the library more time to make the move into the new facility.
In case you are wondering how much it costs to rent a temporary library, the city pays $11,690 per month for the building.
Apparently it is not just my wardrobe that lingers in a past decade. (I'll be out at several events today, and yes, I really am wearing a 100 percent polyester, narrow KU tie.)
There are some relatively new numbers out about the Lawrence economy that show jobs and business totals are actually below where they were at the beginning of 2000.
The numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau's County Business Patterns Report. The report measures the number of private sector business establishments in a county and the number of employees in those businesses. (So, no government jobs included.) The latest data is for 2011. Here is what it had to say about Douglas County.
Douglas County had 1,329 fewer private sector jobs than it did in 2007, which is right before the Great Recession began. That's a negative growth rate of 3.4 percent. Going all the way back to 2000, Douglas County has 427 fewer private sector jobs. That's a negative 1.1 percent growth rate.
The report also looks at the number of business establishments in a county. An establishment, by the way, is each place of business. So, for example, if a single dry cleaning company has four stores in Lawrence, that's four establishments. Douglas County has 191 fewer establishment than it did in 2007. That's a negative growth rate of 6.8 percent. Going back to 2000, the county has 23 fewer establishments. That's a negative 0.8 percent growth rate.
How do Douglas County's numbers stack up to our peers? Well, nearly everyone saw job and business losses since 2007. We experienced a great recession after all.
Here's a look at 2007 to 2011 growth rates for other large Kansas counties:
• Douglas County: Negative 3.4 percent for jobs; negative 6.8 percent for establishments.
• Johnson County: Negative 5.6 percent for jobs; negative 4.2 percent for establishments.
• Shawnee County: Negative 0.4 percent for jobs; negative 8.1 percent for establishments.
• Riley County: Negative 6.4 percent for jobs; negative 2.9 percent for establishments.
• Sedgwick County: Negative 7.8 percent for jobs; negative 7.9 percent for establishments.
• Wyandotte County: Negative 2 percent for jobs; negative 3.8 percent for establishments.
All in all, we held our own during that time period. I think people will find the totals since 2000 a little more concerning. They look like this:
• Douglas County: Negative 1.1 percent jobs; negative 0.8 percent establishments.
• Johnson County: Positive 5 percent jobs; positive 6.1 percent establishments.
• Shawnee County: Negative 11.3 percent jobs; negative 5.3 percent establishments.
• Riley County: Positive 5.3 percent jobs; positive 9.5 percent establishments.
• Sedgwick County: Negative 7.9 percent jobs; negative 0.2 percent establishments.
• Wyandotte County: Positive 5.2 percent jobs; negative 4.2 percent establishments.
Since 2000, Douglas County has failed to keep pace with Johnson County, Wyandotte County and Riley County when it comes to job creation. We're still outpacing Shawnee County, but that may soon change. Its growth since 2007 has been better than ours. So, all in all, the long-term trend isn't great.
I'm not sure what to make of these numbers, to be honest. But they do seem to add to the question of whether Lawrence's economic standing has fallen further than other communities. I found these numbers as I was doing research for an article on that very question. Look for that article — where we quiz 10 local leaders on the state of the Lawrence economy — in Sunday's Journal-World.
The Lawrence economy is kind of at an interesting point right now. There are some things on the ground that support reason for optimism. Housing sales and housing starts are up. Retail sales posted a strong year in 2012. Construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway is expected to bring new commercial interests to town. The Farmland Industries property gives the community industrial land to market. Downtown redevelopment has hit a new gear. And new development interests already are starting to surface around the Rock Chalk Park development in northwest Lawrence.
As one economic development leader told me, the data is rearview mirror stuff. The stuff on the ground is front windshield material. Certainly, good drivers want to spend more time looking out the windshield than the rearview mirror.
But what do I know? As my wife will tell you, I certainly don't know how to use the mirror on the wardrobe.
Census rejects city’s appeal of 2010 population totals; new Census numbers for Douglas County show growth slowed in 2012
I suppose all great disputes get to this point: the discussion of fecal matter.
That is what it has come to in the dispute between Lawrence City Hall and the U.S. Census Bureau.
The city and the Census Bureau still don’t agree on how many people live in Lawrence, and now it is official. The Census Bureau recently notified the city it has rejected the city’s appeal of the bureau’s 2010 Census findings for the city.
No matter, city officials are convinced their local data showing the city has a little more than 94,000 people is correct. And they have at least one unique piece of evidence to back it up: the weight of fecal matter.
City commissioners were told at their Tuesday meeting that the city has at least 30 years worth of data about how much “organic material” comes into the city’s sewer plant each year. (Yes, “organic material” is code for just what you are thinking.) Over the years, that number broken out on a per capita basis has remained pretty steady. Officials with the city’s utilities department told commissioners that the numbers they’re seeing tend to support the city’s population estimate more so than the Census Bureau’s count.
And that sounded good to city commissioners. (Well, maybe that’s not the best way to say that.) Regardless, the new direction for the city is to use the locally produced population estimates rather than relying on data from the Census that local officials now question.
The difference is significant. In 2010, the Census found the city had 87,643 people. The city believed it had about 90,000 people. The city’s Planning Department now estimates the city’s 2013 population to be 94,586 people. The Census hasn’t produced a 2013 population estimate yet, but the city expects it to be around 90,000 people. That’s a difference of about 5 percent.
And the difference likely will get bigger as more years pass because all the estimates use the 2010 total as a baseline. By 2020, who knows how much the Census Bureau and the city will disagree on the city’s population. The numbers have an impact on federal grants and that sort of thing, but the city also needs a good population number to do good planning. Like for a $64 million sewage treatment plant that the city gave preliminary approval to on Tuesday. (That’s why fecal matter data was so readily available, in case you are wondering.)
Population growth is one factor — although not the only one — in the city’s decision to move forward on the large project. The city is betting on a new era of growth. There’s a case to be made for that, but the city can’t point to Census data as a reason for their optimism.
With this appeal now in the books, the decade of the 2000s is now officially the slowest growth period for Lawrence since the Great Depression. The city grew at a rate of 0.9 percent a year for the decade of the 2000s, well below the more than 2 percent annual growth rates the city experienced in the 1980s and 1990s.
As for who is right and who is wrong in this dispute, I don’t know. The fecal data is interesting (never know what phrases you are going to write in this job), but it may not be the best indicator. As utility officials admit, not all of that material is human waste and not all of it comes from households. For example, when Hallmark starts producing more cards and envelopes as part of its Lawrence expansion, that project is expected to produce waste that is the equivalent of about 500 additional people. So, you can see how the numbers may be tough to interpret.
The Census Bureau, though, hasn’t done much to increase its credibility either. In notifying the city it was rejecting its appeal, the bureau did admit that it had messed up the count in some areas of town. But the Census is contending that it got the total count for the city right, but it didn’t allocate that population to some of the neighborhoods correctly. City officials have raised their eyebrows at that.
Tuesday’s meeting and its fecal content did produce a few good jokes from commissioners — mainly about how the city may want to offer its “weighing pooh” method to the Census Bureau.
What won’t be funny is if the city plans for and budgets for a lot of growth, and then it doesn’t happen. We’ll see who gets the last laugh — in about a decade or so.
These numbers are just in this morning, so I thought I would add them on here. The Census Bureau has released it 2012 population estimates for Douglas County.
The new numbers won’t do anything to settle the dispute. If anything, they just add to it.
The Census Bureau found that from July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2012, Douglas County grew at a rate even slower than the rate the 2010 Census found.
The 2012 Douglas County population estimate checks in at 112,864 people, an increase of just 620 people for the year. That’s a growth rate of 0.5 percent. The 2010 Census found Douglas County during the decade of the 2000s grew at an average annual rate of about 1 percent. So now the Census Bureau is estimating we’re growing at about half that rate.
Oh, fecal matter.
Perhaps, the problem is we just don’t have enough purple. The new numbers show population growth around Kansas State University continues to boom. Manhattan’s metro area had a 2.8 percent population increase for the year, the 10th fastest for any metro area in the country.
Geary County, home to Junction City, had an increase of 7.4 percent for the year, the third fastest growth rate of any county in the country.
Douglas County did better than several other places, though. Several counties around us declined for the year. Here’s a look at the numbers for some other area counties:
— Johnson County 559,913 people (1.2 percent growth) — Leavenworth: 77,739 (0.7 percent increase) — Wyandotte: 159,129 ( 0.7 percent increase) — Sedgwick: 503,899 (0.5 percent increase) — Shawnee 178,991 (less than 0.1 percent increase) — Franklin County 25,906 (less than 0.1 percent decline) — Jefferson County 18,945 (0.2 percent decline) — Osage County: 16,142 (1.1 percent decline)