Downtown retailer celebrates 30th anniversary; update on fun center, office expansion, other construction projects around town
Everyone knows that Massachusetts Street is where the action is in downtown Lawrence. I’ve got the parking tickets, the zombie photos and a headache from all the hemp honking to prove it. But there are retailers that figure out how to exist just off of Massachusetts Street as well, and one of them has hit the rare feat of reaching its 30th anniversary.
Adorned Boutique, the shop at 5 E. Seventh St. that specializes in ethnic jewelry and hand crafts, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. Is Adorned the longest running retailer — not bar or restaurant — on a downtown side street? I don’t know. I’ve been too busy collating my parking tickets to do the exhaustive research. But the store has to rank high on the list.
For many years the store was named African Adorned, but the store has always been run by the same family.
“My mother was a young traveler and ended up in Nairobi, Kenya,” store owner Alia Sachedina said of her mother, Elizabeth Kurata. “She lived there for 10 years.”
But then she came back to Lawrence, where she previously had lived. And she returned with quite a few items that were made by locals from African villages.
“She started peddling them out of her car and from store to store,” Sachedina said.
From there, the venture became a brick and mortar store, then added a wholesale operation that sold imported goods to other stores across the country. That wholesale business has since closed, and the store changed its named in 2007 to better reflect that it no longer just focused on African goods.
The store carries items from Nepal, Bali, India, Thailand, Mexico, Niger, Mali and others, while also still carrying items from some of the same markets in Nairobi that got the business started.
“I would attribute the success of the business to the kind of collection that we have from all over the world,” Sachedina said. “We know how to find items of very high quality craftsmanship. We’ve worked very hard over the years to develop those relationships.”
For years, the business has best been known for its collection of silver jewelry and semi-precious stones. That’s still a large part of the store, Sachedina said, but the shop also has large lines of textiles, handbags, accessories and other hand-crafted items.
The Lawrence location is the only one for Adorned, and thus far the store has been only a bricks-and-mortar operation. But Sachedina said work is underway to develop a website that will allow the store to begin conducting e-commerce and expand the business’ reach.
“We already get a lot of folks who have lived in Lawrence but moved to other places but they still want to shop with us,” Sachedina said. “They tell us they prefer our shop to the shops in larger cities. That makes us feel really good.”
In other news and notes from around town:
• I reported yesterday on several large projects that have helped Lawrence set a new building record in 2015, and has the city on pace to top $200 million in new construction for the first time. There are also several smaller projects underway or recently completed worthy of an update. Here’s a look at a few, and on some of these I’ll work to get additional information for a more complete update in the near future.
— Back in May I reported that a new indoor family fun center — complete with laser tag and a video arcade — was set to open in July in the former Family Dollar space in The Malls Shopping Center at 23rd and Louisiana streets. Well, July came and went, the center was not open, and I resorted to wielding my laser pointer on unsuspecting pedestrians in the shopping center. But fear not, my laser pointer has somehow become broken, and there are signs that the fun center is indeed still moving forward. The business has been issued a commercial building permit. No word yet on when the business may open.
— Construction work was underway at the Walgreens at 23rd and Louisiana. You may have noticed what looked like the construction of an exam room, but that’s not a sign that the drugstore is adding a medical clinic similar to what Walgreens has at its west Lawrence store or what CVS has at its 23rd and Iowa store. Instead, Walgreen added a small clinical room to provide some privacy for flu shot, immunizations and other such services the store offers. One item to note, though, with the 23rd Street Walgreens is that there has been a change in hours for the store. The location is no longer open 24 hours but rather is open from 7 a.m. to midnight.
— We reported this summer that Lawrence-based Pennington & Company — a large fundraising company for fraternities, sororities and and other nonprofits across the country — was expanding into a new office building at 501 Gateway Drive. That project is moving forward. The company received a building permit for $75,000 worth of renovation work to convert the building into new offices. We previously reported the company is getting the new office space to accommodate employee growth. The company was expected to have 80 employees this year, up from about 45 five years ago.
– A building permit has been issued for a unique office building in west Lawrence. A permit for about $670,000 worth of construction has been issued for the site at 4205 W. Sixth St. That is property that is across the street and a bit west of the Sixth Street Hy-Vee shopping center. Planning documents label the project the Summer Tree Office building. What caught my eye about it, though, is that it using a concept in west Lawrence that has become popular in downtown. The building will have a second story, and will include three living units above the office space. I’ll do some more checking on this one and see if the units are being marketed as work-live type of spaces or some other sort of concept.
Somewhere, the Missouri knickers of William Quantrill must be in quite a bunch right now. More than 150 years after Quantrill burned it to the ground, the venerable Eldridge Hotel in downtown Lawrence has filed plans for a major expansion.
The hotel's Lawrence-based ownership group has filed plans to expand into the vacant lot directly south of the hotel at Seventh and Massachusetts streets. Plans call for 38 new rooms/suites to be built as part of the six-story expansion. That will almost double the amount of rooms the hotel can offer. Currently, The Eldridge has 48 rooms.
Lawrence-based architect Paul Werner tells me that most of the new rooms will be equipped with two queen beds. Currently, The Eldridge is an all suite hotel, which can make it more difficult for the hotel to book sports teams, which are expected to become a bigger part of the Lawrence hotel market.
"Teams are already trying to book rooms for upcoming events at Rock Chalk Park," Werner said via e-mail.
The expansion also will include a much larger ground-floor restaurant space, larger kitchen, new meeting and reception facilities, and a banquet hall that will be twice the size of the existing ballroom.
Renderings, which you can see below, show the expansion being approximately the same height as the existing Eldridge building. The plans also show what looks to be a fairly large balcony area about two stories up that will serve as a place for people to gather and overlook bustling Massachusetts Street.
If some of this sounds familiar to you, it might be because you are remembering plans filed back in 2010. The hotel group — which is led by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel — filed plans back then to expand onto the vacant lot. Then the economy slowed down (I think the technical term is it went in the toilet), and the expansion never got built. It appears this expansion is a larger one. My article from 2010 had that expansion only adding about 16 rooms to the hotel.
The 2010 expansion had some neat features, though, including a retractable roof over a portion of the dining/reception area. Werner, though, tells me that the idea isn't included in this version, mainly because the hotel decided it needed to increase the number of rooms in the expansion project.
The expansion plans certainly continue a multiyear trend to add more hotel space in Lawrence. Fritzel's group built The Oread near the Kansas University campus, and work currently is underway on a multistory Marriott hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire streets. And the city and KU are in discussions that could dwarf both of those projects. They are in the process of hiring a consultant to study the feasibility of building a conference center — either downtown or elsewhere — which would include hotel space. That follows up on a broader trend of smaller cities adding convention or conference center space. Manhattan created such a center in recent years, which really got the attention of some Lawrence movers and shakers. But the nearby project that may be worth watching now is a new 10-story, 200-room conference center that is being built at Ridgeview Road and Kansas Highway 10, which technically is in Olathe and is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Lawrence.
What will be interesting to watch is whether The Eldridge expansion seeks any city incentives, such as tax increment financing, a special sales tax with a transportation development district, or other such mechanisms. Both The Oread and the Marriott project have received such incentives, and any conference center project likely would have a large city incentive package. This project may not be as large as those, but it certainly will be prominent. It will be one of the more significant pieces of new construction on Massachusetts Street in several years.
Werner said he hopes construction can begin in the next several months.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Maybe the early bird doesn't get the worm anymore. Or maybe Lawrence just doesn't have an appetite for worms. Yesterday Lawrence landed on a national list as one of the top places for sleeping in and getting your workday started late. But now I've gotten word that Lawrence has landed on another national list that is a bit more business-friendly: The city has been ranked the fifth fastest-growing emerging startup hub in the U.S. That is a lot of modifiers there, but I believe it means that among small cities, Lawrence is a standout for startup businesses.
But before you go out and celebrate by building your own hotel, it should be mentioned that this study doesn't come from the likes of the Wall Street Journal or Forbes or such. It comes from SpareFoot, which is a company that helps people find self-storage units. Whew, that's a relief. I thought we may have landed on the list because of our infamous article about a guy who kept an actual foot in a bucket on his porch. (By the way, if you are a startup company considering Lawrence, there is no need to click on that link. Really, please don't.)
The folks at SpareFoot, however, did have a methodology for determining the top emerging startup hubs, and Lawrence did well. It included: having a population less than 1 million people; a population growth rate of more than 1 percent in 2012, and a top 20 ranking in the Martin Prosperity Institute index that ranks per capita venture capital funding.
When you put all those together — Lawrence had a 1.1 percent population growth rate and ranks No. 6 in the country for per capita venture capital with $40.8 million per 100,000 residents — we're the fifth best emerging startup hub.
We were just ahead of Madison, Wis., but trailed the No. 1 city . . . Provo, Utah, which is home to Brigham Young University. It also is the Polyglot Capital of the World, and, no, I won't get fired for saying that. Polyglot means knowing several languages, and Provo officials claim more languages are spoken in Provo than any other city in the world. That's thanks to the Mormon Church's worldwide mission program.
Two other cities in the region also made the list: Fort Collins, Colo., at No 2 and Boulder, Colo., at No. 3. But I'm sure Lawrence could catapult those communities, if we could just come up with some sort of Poly Capital of the World type of designation. Perhaps the Polysnoozhoopus Capital of the World, which of course means we have the most number of excuses for coming into work late because we we stayed up watching basketball.
I'm sure there is a list for that, and we'll soon be on it.
• It seems unlikely that we are going to land on any list from the go-kart lovers of America. (It is a more innocent group than it sounds.) If you remember, a proposal for a family fun center near Clinton Parkway and Inverness Drive in west Lawrence includes plans for an electric go-kart track, a putt-putt golf course, batting cages and indoor clubhouse. You also may remember that neighbors and some nearby schools in the area have come out strongly against the proposed development. Well, that project has another hearing tonight.
Planning commissioners will consider a host of approvals for the site. The city's planning staff is recommending approval of the project, with several conditions. But neighbors have flooded the planning office with letters and petitions against the project, with concerns ranging from traffic generated by the project to noise and light generated by all the outdoor activities.
The development group, which hasn't been publicly identified but is being represented by Lawrence architect Paul Werner, has made some changes to the project since it was last considered. They include eliminating the idea of a 3.2 beer bar on the upper level of the clubhouse, and moving the batting cages farther from single-family residential structures. As for the go-karts, the developers continue to emphasize that the go-karts would be electric and are expected to make no more noise than a car driving down the road at 20 to 30 miles per hour.
We'll see how it goes tonight. Regardless of what happens at the Planning Commission, the project will still need approval from the City Commission before it could move forward.
The Planning Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.
More LJWorld City Coverage
Large apartment building near KU’s Memorial Stadium, family fun center in West Lawrence face key votes tonight
From a big apartment building to miniature golf, the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission is set to provide recommendations tonight on several million dollars worth of proposed development.
Here's a look:
• As we reported in December, plans have been filed for a five-story apartment building and retail development at 1101 Indiana St., which is basically across the street from KU's Memorial Stadium.
Well, the project is facing its first key review tonight, and thus far the early indications are that there is smooth sailing ahead for the project, which is being proposed by a Chicago-based student housing developer.
The city's planning staff is recommending approval of the project. If it comes to be, KU football fans will notice a major new addition to the stadium area by 2016. The project will include space for at least one, but possibly more restaurants or retail shops on the ground floor of the building. The plans call for about 11,000 square feet of retail or restaurant uses.
But the bulk of the project is driven by apartments — a lot of apartments in a relatively small space. The development is proposing 171 to 176 apartment units, depending on the mix of two-bedroom or four-bedroom units. Either way, the development would have 592 bedrooms. The entire project is proposed to sit on just 2.39 acres. That's about 74 dwelling units per acre, which is a lot more than the 24 to 32 units per acre seen in many traditional apartment developments in Lawrence. But unlike most other apartment buildings in Lawrence, this one will be about 80 feet tall, which allows you to create more density per acre. For years, city officials have said more density is needed in projects in order to cut down on the amount of urban sprawl in the community.
This project will test that notion. The development group, Chicago-based HERE, LLC, is asking for a bonus density that city commissioners have the discretion to grant as part of the relatively new mixed-use zoning district. Commissioners can allow a 25 percent increase in density over and above the normal maximum, if commissioners determine "such an increase is warranted to support the public benefit likely to result from the proposed development."
City commissioners will have to decide what that nebulous phrase means, but the project definitely will have a unique element to it that could end up being a benefit for the cramped Oread neighborhood. It will be the first development in the city to use an "automated, robotic parking garage system." The 592-space parking garage would be on three levels and partially underground.
The system involves the motorist pulling into a large elevator-like box and exiting the vehicle. The garage then uses an elevator system to place the vehicle on the appropriate floor, and a lift-and-track system that moves the vehicle to the right space.
A representative with the development group told me in December that the garage will use about 40 percent less space than a traditional parking garage because it doesn't have to use entrance and exit ramps.
It will be interesting to see how the project is received by the commission tonight. Thus far, I haven't heard of any real opposition to the large development from the Oread neighborhood. That, of course, can change, but it probably is worth noting the development would be replacing a fairly old apartment complex, Berkeley Flats, that is in need of some attention.
If this project happens, it could be a real game-changer for Mississippi Street, and the northern gateway into the university. Look at the map below to see exactly where this project would be. Then look at some of the properties on either side of it. A lot of them are starting to show some age. If this project happens, how much redevelopment pressure will it create on the entire area?
Maybe that will be the big question over the next few years: What is going to improve first: the KU football team or the area next to its stadium?
• As we reported in December, plans for a family fun center — think minigolf, batting cages and possibly go-karts — have been filed for vacant ground near the corner of Clinton Parkway and Inverness Drive. Well, that project also faces its first key vote tonight. We'll see how that goes, but sometimes at Lawrence City Hall, our idea of fun is to fight over how vacant ground that is next to a neighborhood should be developed. There are some indications that is the type of situation that is brewing. All this may still get worked out, but the Wimbledon Terrace Townhomes Association, which is across Clinton Parkway from the project, has sent a letter to city officials to "strongly object" to the proposed fun center.
Among the reasons cited in the letter are bright lights, increased traffic and the fact that the project — which, I remind you, proposes go-karts, batting cages, minigolf, an arcade and other such games — is located just a few blocks from four schools in the area. (Bishop Seabury, Raintree Montessori, Sunflower elementary and Southwest Middle School, if you are scoring along at home.)
The letter notes there may be "hundreds of little children who might be intimidated by the large numbers of teenagers and young adults who would frequent the project." The letters suggests it would be more appropriate for the center to be built in a more commercial area or on the edge of the city, "such as was done for the youth soccer complex south of town and the new recreation center to the west."
The project, however, has received a recommendation for approval from the city's planning staff. One of the reasons cited is because it would create an amenity that residents of the neighborhood could walk to. It is isn't clear how neighbors on the south side of Clinton Parkway feel about the project though. They have long fought to stop the vacant ground from housing more apartments. This project would accomplish that.
Regardless, a few more details are available about the project than when first reported in December. They include:
— The southeast corner of Clinton Parkway and Inverness is planned to become the site of a dining establishment with a drive-thru lane. The zoning that is being asked for would allow for a fast-food restaurant, but planners don't think a high-volume fast-food restaurant would fit in well with the adjacent neighborhoods. The architect for the project, Lawrence-based Paul Werner architects, also has said the site isn't the type to attract interest from a fast-food restaurant anyway. Instead, the development group is more interested in a coffee shop with a drive-thru or some other similar use. A tenant, however, hasn't been found. It will be interesting to see if planning commissioners come up with some way to zone the property so that a coffee shop could be allowed, for instance, but a fast-food restaurant could not.
— The first phase of the family fun center development would include a two-story club house that would have private party rooms, arcade and snack area on the ground floor. The second floor would include a bar that serves 3.2 beer and has a NASCAR driving experience arcade and miniature bowling.
— Also in the first phase is an 18-hole, outdoor miniature golf course, six batting cages, a patio area and a children's "tot lot" play area.
— A second phase of the development is proposed to have a 33,000 square-foot, outdoor go-kart track. The carts are proposed to be electric, which the manufacturer says produces about as much noise as an automobile traveling 20 to 30 miles per hour down a street. No information has been provided on when the second phase of the development may be built.
— Hours of operation are proposed for 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to midnight on Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturday; and noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday. City planners are recommending that outdoor lighting be shut off by 10:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and by 11:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
Planning commissioners meet at 6:30 tonight at City Hall.