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.