Plans filed to redevelop former J.C. Penney building with 3 stores, including 2 retailers new to Lawrence
Lawrence may not mourn the loss of J.C. Penney for too long. Plans have been filed for three retailers — including two that are new to town — to fill the now vacant Penney’s store on south Iowa Street.
Plans filed at City Hall call for Hobby Lobby, HomeGoods and discount retailer Five Below to occupy the building, which is near 33rd and Iowa and is just south of the SuperTarget store.
Signs that something was up began to emerge yesterday. For lease signs showed up in the parking lot of the current Hobby Lobby at 1801 W. 23rd St. Rumors began to circulate that Hobby Lobby would move into the old Penney’s building, and city officials confirmed today that a development plan had been filed for the property.
Hobby Lobby will occupy a little less than 52,000 square feet of the building, which means the new store will be a bit larger than the current Lawrence Hobby Lobby. The current store is about 48,000 square feet, according to figures from the county.
HomeGoods will occupy about 22,000 square feet, and Five Below will take the remaining 10,000 square feet.
Hobby Lobby, of course, is one of the city’s largest arts and crafts stores, selling fabric, art supplies, picture frames, multiple craft and hobby items and other similar products. HomeGoods is part of the retail company that has Marshalls, TJ Maxx and several other discount stores. As its name implies, HomeGoods focuses on home fashions, such as furniture, lamps, rugs, wall decor and other such items. Five Below is a discount store of a different type. It promotes that all of its items are $5 or less. Most of the store’s merchandise is geared toward teens or younger shoppers. It has a mishmash of items, ranging from candy to back-to-school supplies. The website currently is featuring everything from $5 headphones to enough fidget spinners to make your head spin.
According to the plans at City Hall, the exterior of the building will get a significant makeover. A new group has bought the property. Martin Moore, leader of Lawrence-based Advanco, confirmed he had sold the ground lease for the property to an outside group. Based on the plans filed at City Hall, it appears the project is being headed by Overland Park-based Drake Development, which has multiple retail projects in Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, according to the company’s website.
When we last reported on the J.C. Penney property, we noted that J.C. Penney actually owned the building, but it appears a deal has been reached with Penney to allow the project to move forward.
As for a timeline, I haven’t heard. However, the project has the necessary zoning approvals from City Hall. It now is just seeking some technical planning approvals. I’ve got a call into Drake officials and will let you know if I hear more information.
If approved, the project may become at least the second example of Lawrence losing a longtime retailer but ending up getting a boost to its retail scene. Several years ago Lawrence lost its full-line Sears store at 27th and Iowa, but the building has since redeveloped to include a Dick’s Sporting Goods, Boot Barn, Ulta Beauty, a PetSmart and a Chick-fil-A. The project appears to be generating significantly more commercial activity than when it was a Sears building. It looks like that could end up being the case with the Penney’s building as well.
The project also is interesting because it serves as some confirmation about the level of interest retailers have in Lawrence currently. If you remember, HomeGoods was one of the stores publicly identified as a potential tenant for a large, new shopping center south of the South Lawrence Trafficway and SLT interchange. Ulta Beauty, now at 27th and Iowa, also was identified as a likely tenant for that south of the SLT project. That’s noteworthy because as city commissioners rejected that shopping center project, some opponents were questioning whether the development group really had significant interest from retailers. Now we have seen that two of them definitely were interested. As a reminder the group also publicly identified Academy Sports, Old Navy, Designer Shoe Warehouse and a few others.
Perhaps those stores too actually are interested in Lawrence — if they can find a place to locate.
The North Carolina-based development group seeking to build the south of the SLT center has filed a new set of plans for the project. They are awaiting a City Hall hearing. The development group also has a lawsuit against the city regarding the rejection of the previous set of plans.
One other area to keep an eye on will be the 23rd and Iowa Street intersection. With the pending move by Hobby Lobby, there will be two fairly large, vacant buildings near the intersection. In addition to Hobby Lobby, which is about a block east of the intersection, the former Hastings building at the northeast corner of the intersection is still seeking a tenant.
There should be plenty to watch for, though. Despite what some people say about the future of brick-and-mortar retail, there is still lots of activity in Lawrence.
A fourth hotel files plans for multimillion dollar project in Lawrence; J.C. Penney to delay store closings
There is officially a hotel building boom in Lawrence. Another set of hotel plans has been filed at City Hall, which means Lawrence soon will have four hotel projects under construction.
Maybe everybody needs a place to sleep off all the fried chicken.
Whatever the case, the hotel market is active. The latest plans are for the area near Sixth and Iowa streets, on the property where the Ramada Inn once was. The old Ramada building already has been torn down.
Now officials with a Kansas City based company — Marquee Hospitality — have filed a plan to build one hotel, and possibly two, on the site. I haven’t yet gotten the company to confirm what hotel brand is interested in the location, but the plans call for a sizable facility.
Phase one of the plan calls for a four-story, 99-room hotel. The plans also call for a phase two that would include an 81 room, three-story hotel that would be just a bit west of the first hotel. The two projects are expected to have an estimated construction cost of about $9 million, according to the plans.
As I mentioned, I don’t have confirmation on what hotel chain may locate on the site. But the company’s website indicates it has business relationships with Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, Home 2 Suites by Hilton, TownePlace Suites by Marriott and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott.
For what it is worth, Candlewood Suites is the brand I most frequently hear mentioned as a tenant for the property. Candlewood is an extended stay hotel brand, which means the hotel features suites that include kitchens. The hotel chain also has other features designed to appeal to long-term guests, such as a laundry room and a gazebo and grill area for guests to use. But again, there’s no confirmation on whether Candlewood is a tenant, but the chain certainly has been eyeing locations in Lawrence.
As for the rest of the hotel projects in town, here’s a reminder of what’s underway:
— Plans have been filed for the first hotel to locate near Rock Chalk Park. It will be a four-story, 100-room Best Western Plus. As we reported in January, the $14.5 million project will be near the southwest corner of George Williams Way and Rock Chalk Drive, or basically right at the entrance of the sports complex.
— Site work is underway at the former Don’s Steakhouse location near 23rd and O’Connell in eastern Lawrence. That site will house a three-story, 89-room Country Inn & Suites. As we reported in October, it is part of the Radisson brand of hotels, and it is described as “upper midscale.” (I’m also often described that way, but unfortunately, only when I’m standing on an actual scale.) Amenities include an indoor pool, and the project has a phase two that would allow for some restaurants to develop near the hotel.
— Plans also have been approved for a hotel across from Free State High School. As we reported in December, it will be a Tru by Hilton hotel. It may be a bit of a hipster hotel. It calls its lobby area a “Hive,” and it markets itself as a place where you can discover “what cost-conscious meets cool-conscious looks like.” The project will go on the vacant lot at the corner of Wakarusa Drive and Overland Drive. In other words, just north of the tunnel car wash business. Plans call for 82 guest rooms and an outdoor recreation area.
In other news and notes from around town:
• When it comes to discovering “what cost-conscious meets cool-conscious looks like,” I long ago discovered that it looks like a polyester Hawaiian shirt with the top four buttons undone to promote air flow. I’ve been known to find such shirts at the local J.C. Penney’s, but if I want to buy some as part of the store’s going-out-of-business sale, I’ll have to wait a bit longer.
CNBC is reporting that J.C. Penney has decided to delay its store closings — which includes the Lawrence store on south Iowa Street, by more than a month. The network reports stores now are scheduled to close on July 31, which is about six weeks later than originally planned. The news channel says the going-out-of-business sales will begin on May 22, instead of the original date of April 17.
The company told CNBC that sales have picked up significantly at the stores since the pending closures were announced. So, the company isn’t ready to start doing deep discounting yet while traffic levels are good. No one, though, should probably get their hopes up that J.C. Penney is rethinking the closure of any of the stores.
I just hope there will be some shirts left.
South Iowa Street is about to lose one of its major, longtime retailers: JCPenney has confirmed that its Lawrence store is among the 138 stores it will close as the retailer tries to shore up its finances.
The company released the full list this morning. The press release says most of the stores will begin the process of liquidating inventory on April 17. I suspect an actual closing date will depend on how quickly the inventory is sold.
There are five stores in Kansas that are slated to close: Lawrence, Hutchinson, Great Bend, Chanute and Winfield.
The closing obviously will mean job losses for JCPenney employees locally, although I don’t have a current estimate on how many people that store employs. Nationwide, the company estimates about 5,000 employees will be impacted by the store closings. The company said it is “in the process of identifying relocation opportunities within the company for esteemed leaders.”
Another big impact for Lawrence will be that one of south Iowa Street’s larger buildings will be vacant. As a reminder, JC Penney is located at 3311 Iowa Street, basically between Target and the Regal theaters.
Lawrence has been through this before when Sears closed its full-line department store at 27th and Iowa (there’s still a hometown Sears store in operation in Lawrence.) That closing, however, ended up working out fairly well for Lawrence. The Sears location has remodeled and now houses four stores — Dick’s Sporting Goods, Boot Barn, PetSmart, and Ulta Beauty —that by all appearances are doing significantly more business than Sears did in recent years. Pretty much the same thing happened several years earlier when Kmart closed its Lawrence store, which was in the location that now houses Bed Bath & Beyond, World Market, and Michaels.
We’ll have to see whether the same thing happens with the JCPenney spot, or whether the building will sit vacant for a significant period of time. In addition to the Penney’s building, the former Hastings building at 23rd and Iowa also is available, and there’s still a significant amount of space available in the old Food-4-Less building at 25th and Iowa streets.
It looks like it will be an interesting time to watch for changes along south Iowa Street.