Hostel and banquet hall proposed for site near North Lawrence; updates on Menards and other commercial real estate sales
A little bit of Europe may be coming to rural Lawrence. My wife is rooting for a Cadillac-sized chunk of Swiss chocolate. I'm rooting for a meet and greet with the women's Swiss ski team. (Big fan of skiing.) But some of you are rooting for the European idea of a hostel. You are the apparent winners.
Your prize is that you may be able to sleep in a small bunkhouse with people you don't know, but do so for a very low price. That's what a hostel basically is, for those of you who aren't as steeped in European culture as I am.
Plans have been filed for a new banquet facility and hostel to be located near the Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Lawrence. Work already has begun to remodel portions of the old farmhouse that used to house University Photography at 1804 E. 1500 Road, which is along U.S. Highway 24-40 and caddy-corner from the Airport Motel.
Lawrence resident Shane Powers is the man behind the project. He said his first priority for the business, which will be called The Fete, will be to get established as a banquet and reception facility. But the conditional use permit that he has filed for from the county also would give the property the ability to function as a hostel, and he said he hopes work can begin on that part of the project in about a year.
"I don't think Americans, in general, are really used to the hostel concept yet," Powers said. "But I know a lot of people who travel around Europe or really the rest of the world, and it is common for people to open up their homes to travelers or at least rent a room out."
Powers said his plan is to remodel a second-story portion of the property for use as a hostel. Plans call for a bunkhouse room that could house up to five people, plus a separate room that would house a queen-sized bed that could be rented by a couple.
Not all the details have been worked out on the pricing for the hostel, but Powers said it likely would be in the $15 per person range.
"We're not trying to make it like a bed and breakfast," Powers said. "The idea is to provide some cheap lodging."
Powers — whom I've written about before when he was running a pedicab business in downtown Lawrence — thinks the location will work well. The property is just off of the Kansas Turnpike, and Powers hopes the location becomes popular with some of the touring musicians and such who travel through Lawrence and may be looking for a cheap place to stay.
Powers thinks the location also will serve the banquet and reception business well. The property is technically outside the city limits, and Powers and his girlfriend plan to raise chickens at the site and have some other agricultural elements on the property. Powers thinks the location will fill a bit of a niche for people who want to have a country setting for a wedding reception, but don't want to travel far outside the city.
The business also will focus on smaller receptions and events. The facility will have space for about 85 people indoors, plus will offer an outdoor reception area.
"We would love to have it where people could have a wedding on the lawn and then retreat indoors for a reception," Powers said.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission will consider the project's conditional use permit later this month. The Douglas County Commission ultimately will be responsible for granting final approval to the project.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Perhaps you have seen the sign already, but it looks like a former funeral home is going to become the site for an expanded veterinarian clinic. Gentle Care Animal Hospital has plans to move from its longtime location in the Westridge Shopping Center at 601 Kasold Drive into the former Lawrence Funeral Chapel space at the corner of Sixth and Monterrey Way. I had seen recently in the land transfers where a group led by veterinarian Marguerite Ermeling had purchased the building. A group involving Ermerling and longtime businessman George Paley also have bought the vacant lot between the funeral chapel building and the old Stone Canyon restaurant buidling as well. When I talked with Paley about the purchase, he said there were no immediate plans for development of that lot.
• While we're talking about land transfers, here are some other commercial real estate transactions that have accumulated recently, according to the listings from the Douglas County Register of Deeds.
— For those of you nervous that the proposed Menards home improvement store really isn't going to happen, rest easy. Menard Inc. recently finalized the purchase of the old Gaslight Mobile Home Village and also of the Snodgrass property just to the east of the mobile home park. As we've previously reported, the project won its major zoning approvals from City Hall. Now it officially owns the real estate too, so I would think we'll start seeing work at that site sooner rather than later.
— It looks like folks connected with the Runza fast food restaurant have bought the restaurant's site at 2700 Iowa St. Land transfers show a Lincoln, Neb.-based land holding company — Lawrence Properties LLC — bought the site from a Lawrence-based company led by local businessman Doug Compton. Lawrence Properties LLC is run by a member of the founding family of Runza, according to documents on file with the Kansas Secretary of State's Office.
— There is a good chance that Luminous Neon, the sign company in the 600 block of Vermont Street — may be moving out of downtown and onto 23rd Street. The commercial building at 801 E. 23rd St. — it used to house the G-Force gymnastics academy — has sold. A Hutchinson company, 801-23rd, LLC, has bought the property. Ron Sellers, the president of Luminous Neon, which is based in Hutchinson, confirmed to me recently that he had an option to buy the property. He said Luminous Neon has been looking for better configured space in Lawrence. No word on what may go into Luminous Neon's downtown space. I'll do some more checking and report back.