Maybe eastern Lawrence was getting jealous. It saw all the apartments being built in west Lawrence and south Lawrence and felt it was getting left out of Lawrence’s apartment boom. Well, fear not. Plans have been filed for a new apartment complex along the city’s eastern edge.
Plans have been filed at City Hall for 128 new apartments to be built near the southwest corner of 23rd Street and O’Connell Road. The development, which is being proposed by Lawrence apartment developer Doug Compton's First Management, would have eight two-story buildings with a mix of one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.
In total, there would be 64 one-bedroom apartments and 64 two-bedroom units. It is cold out there, so don’t take off your shoes. I’ll do the math for you: That’s 192 new bedrooms for the area. In the Lawrence apartment industry, that’s now considered a middling-size project. For example, the recent plans for an apartment complex just south of the Walmart on south Iowa Street calls for about 700 bedrooms. Plans for an apartment complex near Clinton Parkway and Crestline Drive call for about 500 bedrooms.
In addition to the eight apartment buildings, the project also calls for an approximately 2,500-square-foot, one-story clubhouse that appears to also have room for an outdoor basketball or volleyball court. The plan also shows about half-dozen, single-story garages that could accommodate about 40 vehicles in total.
As for the location, the project would have frontage along 23rd Street but would take its access off of Exchange Court. Exchange Court is a short cul-de-sac that has been completed for several years just south and west of the 23rd and O’Connell intersection. The apartment complex will be on both the north and south side of Exchange Court, but won’t go all the way to the corner of 23rd and O’Connell. The plans show there are still three lots available for future development at the southwest corner of the intersection.
This area once was considered for a development that would provide subsidized rental housing for working families. The Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority was going to be a partner in that project. But there are no indications that this plan includes that element. I talked with Shannon Oury, executive director of the housing authority, and she said her organization is not involved. She said efforts to build the envisioned workforce housing project fell apart after the project had difficulties obtaining tax credits, and after a rise in interest rates caused about a $1 million shortfall in the financing plan.
While a traditional apartment complex is a bit unique for the area, there have been several other developments in the area recently. Lawrence developer Roger Johnson for the last couple of years has been building a new single family neighborhood farther to the south and east of the site. Directly south of the site, a 55-plus, rent-controlled development has been built by Johnson County-based Wheatland Investments.
The area has seen an uptick in interest as the city has tried to redevelop the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant across the street in VenturePark, the city’s new business park. There has been a thought that area would be a good one for workforce housing, which is a another way of saying starter homes that could be occupied by people who are working in the industrial park. Thus far, though, there have been more homes built than there have been jobs added at VenturePark.
However, do expect work to begin in the spring on the first building in VenturePark. As we’ve reported, Kansas City-based Van Trust Real Estate plans to build a “spec” industrial building in the park, which is another way of saying that the building is being built without a specific tenant in place. The plans for that building have been filed at City Hall. I’m working to talk with a Van Trust official about how the leasing efforts are going, and I’ll report back when I get some more information.
Compton purchases former Borders Bookstore site; Incumbents, Rasmussen leading the pack in City Commission fundraising
Dreams of a downtown grocery store in the former Borders bookstore building at Seventh and New Hampshire appear to be much like the milk in my refrigerator: expired. Lawrence businessman Doug Compton has signed a deal to purchase the building, and he has no plans to move his proposed downtown grocery from 11th and Massachusetts to the site.
Compton confirmed to me that he has a contract to take over ownership of the building in late May. He said he didn’t purchase the building to squelch the plans of a grassroots organization that has been working to bring a grocer into the 20,000 square foot space. But, that will be the end result.
“I will dictate what goes in there,” Compton said.
Compton said he purchased the building because it makes sense for him to own it given the amount of investment he is making along New Hampshire Street. Compton is the developer behind both the multistory apartment/office building at the southwest corner of Ninth and New Hampshire and the hotel/retail building at the southeast corner of the intersection. His company is beginning work this week on another multistory apartment/office building at the northeast corner of the intersection. He also has filed plans to build an apartment project atop the existing Pachamamas building at Eighth and New Hampshire.
Compton said he doesn’t have any particular tenant lined up to take the Borders space.
“I’m not afraid to own it and lease it,” Compton said. “It won’t sit empty that long. I’ll find a tenant for it. I think interest is going to get stronger in downtown.”
The building comes with its own private parking lot, a rarity in downtown. Compton said he thinks the building has good potential as a retail site, but said he’ll also explore the idea of converting it over to an office building.
“I have heard there was an office tenant looking for 6,000 to 7,000 square feet of space in downtown recently,” Compton said. “That would be a good place for something like that because it is hard to find downtown office space with parking right outside the door.”
Compton also said he may need the building to relocate some tenants from other projects that he would be constructing in downtown.
We’ll have to wait and see who eventually ends up in the Borders building, but there is an even more interesting question emerging: Will the grassroots supporters of a downtown grocery store now get behind the idea of a grocery store at 11th and Massachusetts? Some of the group members — led by City Commission candidate David Crawford — have opposed the plan because they thought the Borders site would be a quicker and better solution. The two sites are pretty close to each other — about a minute by car and just a few minutes by foot — so that likely isn’t the issue.
Compton’s plans call for the grocery store — which would be run by the Lawrence-based Checkers company — to be the anchor tenant for a seven-story building that would also house offices and apartments. The project also would include a parking garage to serve the development.
There is still a big question about whether historic preservationists will object to a seven-story building being constructed across the street from the historic Douglas County Courthouse and the Watkins Museum of History. The project will have to work through that, and the community will have to decide whether a tall building detracts from the character of an adjacent historic building. I know that is a common concern with historic preservationists, but I’m not sure it is with the common man. We’re poised to find out.
The idea of a downtown grocery store has been a rallying cry for many groups for many years. When Lawrence often can’t agree on much of anything, the idea that downtown needs a grocery store has been the one thing that brought us together like a bag of Doritos in front of the television set. It will be interesting to see if the downtown grocery crowd now fully throws its support behind the 11th and Massachusetts plan.
Who knows if that will happen, though? I swear each morning that I’m going to stand up to my wife and tell her that buying milk on its expiration date isn’t worth the nickel we save. Yet, here I am, chewing my milk.
In other news and notes from around town:
• One area where you often don’t find a thrifty nickel is in the world of campaign finance. Even in the world of Lawrence City Commission politics, candidates will spend thousands of dollars to win a seat on the commission. Many times — although not always — they are spending the money of campaign contributors. It usually is interesting to see how much money candidates have raised, and where it is coming from.
The latest campaign reports have been filed, and they do tell a story. There has been speculation that this may be a rough year for incumbents, but thus far that hasn’t been the case in the world of fundraising. Incumbent Bob Schumm is the leader of the pack in the most recent campaign finance reporting period. Terry Riordan, the other incumbent seeking re-election, came in third. In between the two is Stan Rasmussen, who was the leader in the previous reporting period and has raised more than $19,000 since late 2014.
These latest reports measure how much candidates have raised from Jan. 1 through Feb. 19. Here’s a look at the entire field:
— Schumm, a city commissioner and retired restaurant owner, raised $14,155 during the time period. The contributions came from 87 individuals or companies, including a $500 donation from himself.
— Rasmussen, an attorney for the U.S. Army, raised $10,975 during the time period. The contributions came from 85 individuals or companies, including a $300 donation from the PAC Lawrence United. In case you have forgotten, Lawrence United is the political action committee that became active in City Commission elections two years ago, and supports a growth-oriented agenda for the city. During the last election, the PAC — in addition to contributing directly to candidates — did a significant amount of advertising supporting candidates as well.
— Riordan, a city commissioner and Lawrence pediatrician, raised $8,665 during the time period. The contributions came from 67 individuals or businesses, including a $600 from himself.
— Mike Anderson, a local television talk show host, raised $5,430 during the time period. The contributions came from nine individuals, including $2,500 from himself.
— Matthew Herbert, a Lawrence High teacher, raised $3,795 during the time period. The contributions came from 51 individuals and businesses. Herbert also had raised $3,030 during the previous reporting period, which ran from March 21 to December 31.
— Stuart Boley, a retired IRS auditor, raised $3,430 during the time period. The contributions came from 16 individuals, including a $300 contribution from the political action committee of the Plumbers & Pipefitters union. Boley also raised $1,600 during the previous reporting period.
— Leslie Soden, the owner of a Lawrence pet sitting company, raised $2,144 during the time period. The contributions came from 17 individuals plus an unitemized number of contributors who gave less than $50 apiece.
— Kristie Adair, a Lawrence school board member and co-owner of Wicked Broadband, raised $1,655 from 22 individuals. Adair also raised $5,050 during the previous reporting period.
— David Crawford, a retired instructor for the boilermakers union, raised $1,250 during the time period from 19 individuals, including $300 from himself.
— Cori Viola, a KU law student, raised $1,217 from nine individuals plus an unitemized number of contributors who gave less than $50 apiece.
— Rob Sands, a full-time officer in the Kansas National Guard, raised $1,035 from three individuals, including $500 from himself.
Campaign finance reports from candidates Greg Robinson, Gary Williams and Justin Priest had not yet been received at the County Clerk’s office as of this morning.
You can see all the reports and the lists of who is contributing money to each candidate here.
Almost anybody who follows the Lawrence business scene can tell you that local entrepreneur Doug Compton has a growing enterprise.
That never will be more evident than next year when groups led by Compton begin work on a pair of multistory buildings at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
But what may not be as evident to the general public is that Compton also has a growing banking enterprise. A new deal has recently put that on display.
De Soto-based Great American Bank on Nov. 30 finalized its purchase of Lone Summit Bank of Lake Lotawana, Mo., which now will become a branch of Great American Bank. That’s significant in Lawrence because Great American Bank is owned by First Financial Bancshares Inc., a Lawrence-based bank holding company that is led by Compton.
First Financial Bancshares also is the holding company that owns Lawrence Bank and its two locations in the city. But it has been Great American Bank that really has been the aggressively expanding enterprise at First Financial. In 2009, Great American Bank purchased First Bank of Kansas City at 39th and Main from the FDIC.
Travis Hicks, Great American’s president and CEO, said in a statement that the bank’s growth strategy is likely to continue as the “bank will continue to look for opportunities to expand throughout the market.”
Also expect some activity from Lawrence Bank in the near future. The company will be getting a brand new facility as part of Compton’s plans to build a multistory apartment and office building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire. Lawrence Bank currently has offices in the former Black Hills Energy building that is on the site and will be demolished as part of the project. Plans for the new building show a bank and drive-thru lane occupying a good part of the first floor of the new building.
According to a September filing with the FDIC, First Financial Bancshares had about $128.2 million in assets. With this latest deal, the total is expected to grow to about $155 million in assets.
According to records with the FDIC, the company has grown its assets by about 30 percent since late 2008. The latest FDIC report shows the bank holding company had net operating income of about $1.3 million, up from about $565,000 in 2008.
Compton, according to the most recent annual report from the Kansas Secretary of State’s office, serves as president of the bank holding company. Other directors of the company include Lawrence residents Jeff Hatfield, Les Dreiling and Hicks.