Snow costs us all something. In my household, massive amounts of snow shoveling usually require an increase in both the Ben Gay and adult-beverage budgets.
At Lawrence City Hall, the expenses are a bit more significant. A new report shows the city has spent $277,216 on snow removal so far this winter, and those expenses are certain to grow because the city is still awaiting invoices from private contractors it hired to help with the two latest snow storms.
That’s already nearly more than triple the $95,000 the city spent in snow removal in the 2011-2012 snow season, when the city only had 2.5 inches of snow to clear. But the city is still well behind its most recent high-(frozen) water mark: 2009-2010, when the city spent $700,312 to remove 42.5 inches of snow.
Here are some other facts and figures from the city’s new report:
• By the city’s count, Lawrence received 17.6 inches of snowfall from Feb. 21 through Feb. 28 — 10.6 inches in the first storm and 7 inches in the second storm.
• For the entire season — the city’s first snow was on Dec. 19 — the city has received 22.6 inches of snow. Lawrence’s historic average, according to the city, is about 21 inches for a season.
• Someone with a City Hall calculator determined that they pushed 77.6 million cubic feet of snow. Of that total, about 270,000 cubic feet actually had to be hauled away by crews, with most of that snow coming from the downtown area and cul-de-sacs. The calculator must have been working overtime, because the report also noted that amount of snow was the equivalent of filling the basketball court at Allen Fieldhouse to a depth of 57 feet. (Ben McLemore’s hot hand would just melt it.)
• The city has used 1,300 tons of sand and 2,258 tons of salt on the streets this winter season. Salt and sand, of course, are staples in the street treatment business. But there also is another staple that has emerged in the past couple of years: Water. The city recently has begun using a brine solution — basically salt water — to pre-treat streets in an attempt to cut down on the amount of accumulation. Thus far, the city has used 48,860 gallons of the brine solution.
• Costs for materials — such as the sand and salt — are the largest expense in snow removal. The city has spent $136,263 on materials thus far. Labor is second at $99,018, while equipment and fuel is third at $41,935. But, remember, the city still has a significant bill to pay private contractors that were used to help speed up the snow removal process.
• Perhaps you are like me and work hard to forget the winter. If so, here’s a reminder of how much snow we’ve had over the past five years:
— 2008-2009: 10.6 inches of snow that required city crews to be out plowing 20 days;
— 2009-2010: 42.5 inches of snow that required crews to work 37 days;
— 2010-2011: 33.8 inches of snow that required crews to work 27 days;
— 2011-2012: 2.5 inches of snow that required crews to work nine days. (Like all these totals, some of the days also were devoted to ice.)
— 2012-2013: 22.6 inches of snow that required crews to work 15 days. So far.
If you are a confused Kansas University football fan (and that trait sometimes goes with the territory), who still travels to Lincoln to see the ‘Hawks and the Huskers square off, all is not lost.
A taste of Lawrence soon will be opening up in Lincoln. Dempsey’s Burger Pub, 623 Vermont Street, is expanding into the Nebraska city.
Dempsey’s owner Steve Gaudureau recently told me the company has signed a lease to take over about a 4,500-square-foot restaurant space in downtown Lincoln. The restaurant will be about a block and a half from another taste of Lawrence, BisonWitches Bar & Deli, which is a spin-off of Gaudureau’s popular Quinton’s Bar & Deli in Lawrence.
Gaudureau has had Dempsey’s in Lawrence for about five years, but has added the gourmet burger side of the business within the past three years. Before that, Lawrence’s The Burger Stand got its start out of Dempsey’s, before the two establishments ended up parting ways and splitting off to create a burger rivalry in the city. Gaudureau said Dempsey’s has found its stride, and now he wants to see how large it can become.
“Dempsey’s is my new passion,” Gaudureau said. “This is my future. I’m still selling Quinton’s franchises, but I’m done opening them up. The future is having a chain of Dempsey’s. I want to go where the market takes me.”
Gaudureau — who has grown the Quinton’s and BisonWitches franchise into a multi-state operation — believes upscale burgers are a food trend that has some staying power because a whole new generation of “foodies” is looking for an affordable way to eat gourmet.
What does a gourmet burger look like? Well, Dempsey’s has three burgers made from high-end Kobe beef, and the rest are made from local grinds, and may include ingredients such as Bordelaise sauce, arugula greens, aioli, Gruyere cheese and something called a pretzel bun. (I would think it would leak with all those holes in it, but I guess that's why I'm not a gourmet chef.)
Gaudureau hopes to have the Lincoln restaurant open by mid-April.
He also has a few minor changes on tap for the Lawrence Dempsey’s location. He’s filed plans at Lawrence City Hall to add a new patio onto the north side of the building. It will replace a patio that currently is on the backside of the building.
“I’ve never really liked that patio,” Gaudureau said. “This one will give us a little less occupancy, but I think our usage will go way up because it will be much nicer.”
Look for that project sometime this spring.
As my trucker buddies and NASCAR friends say, those fellows down at Lawrence City Hall have the “pedal to the metal” these days.
Every City Commission is different in how it goes about its business as the April City Commission elections approach. Some go into a mode where they tackle very few significant issues in the final weeks. Others take the approach that they want to get as much done as possible so the next commission can have a clean slate.
This commission run by Mayor Bob Schumm falls into the latter category. He’s pressing hard to get several issues decided — think the $25 million recreation center, a possible $55 million decision on a new sewer plant and now a major expansion of the city’s rental licensing program.
Commissioners are being asked to approve a new rental licensing and registration ordinance at their Tuesday evening meeting. I’ll bring you a more detailed report, probably on Monday, but until then mark your calendars and here’s a glimpse at the proposal:
• As previously reported, the program would require registration and inspection of all rental properties in the city. Currently, the city’s program only covers rental properties that are in single-family zoned neighborhoods. That means large areas of town — like the Oread neighborhood — don’t have rental inspections, even though they house large numbers of renters.
• Rental units would be inspected once every three years. The city, however, is proposing a system where larger complexes wouldn’t be required to have every unit inspected, but rather a sampling of units could be inspected. For apartment complexes that have 51 units or more, 26 units or 33 percent — whichever is greater — would be inspected once every three years. Apartment complexes with 11 to 50 units would have 11 units or 50 percent — whichever is greater — inspected every three years.
• The inspections would check for several items related to the city’s health and safety code. Importantly, though, the inspection could also be used to issue a citation related to the city’s occupancy code. No more than four unrelated people are supposed to live in an apartment in the city, or no more than three unrelated people in single-family zoned rentals. The code also covers a range of other issues: BBQ grills on decks; leaky roofs; wobbly hand rails; improper egress; and dirty furnace filters, among other things.
• Every apartment in the city would pay a $15 annual license fee. Apartments also would pay a $50 inspection fee in the year that they are due for an inspection. The city is offering a partial rebate on that fee: If a complex averages fewer than five minor violations per unit, the facility would pay a $25 inspection fee the next time it is scheduled to be inspected.
• The city previously has estimated it will cost about $370,000 to expand the rental licensing and inspection program. The proposed fees are designed to allow the program to break even. The city anticipates it will need to hire five new code enforcement officers and two new administrative assistants to staff the program.
• The rental licensing process requires landlords who live more than 40 miles from the city to appoint a resident agent who can be contacted about problems at the landlord’s Lawrence apartments.
• If approved, the city would start hiring new staff members in the second and third quarters of this year, and would start the expanded inspection program in the fourth quarter.
The commission already has expressed some preliminary support for the program. But it will be worth watching because the idea has brought some strong responses from the landlord community. And while this City Commission is working to get this project finalized before the elections, it also is worth remembering that anything can be changed by the new commission to be elected in April. Ask Manhattan about that. Manhattan implemented an expanded rental inspection program, only to see it be discontinued after a new group of commissioners took office.
Lawrence city commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall.
File this under the category of a location to keep an eye on. (Or perhaps under the category of late-night, drunken donut memories.)
But it looks like there may be a new business coming to the former location of Joe’s Bakery — which for those of you who weren’t in town years ago, was a late-night institution that served many a student a donut after a night on the town.
Brad Ziegler, a local bar owner, recently purchased the vacant building near Ninth and Mississippi streets. But Ziegler told me the building definitely won’t become a bar.
“It probably will become some sort of restaurant,” Ziegler said.
He said he’s had about 20 inquiries since he bought the building in December, and all but one of them have been interested in using the building for some sort of restaurant. Most ideas have been centered on quick-service, in and out type of restaurants for the location, which is just off the edge of KU’s campus.
Ziegler doesn’t yet have a deal for the building, but hopes to have one signed in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, some work already has begun on the building.
“It definitely needed a good scrubbing,” Ziegler said. “We took out the duct work so it doesn’t smell like a donut shop forever.”
I’ll let you know if I hear more specifics.
City moving ahead with $24K study on how to improve broadband service in Lawrence; city agrees on contract with nonprofit to provide Internet service to City Hall; AT&T launches 4G network in Lawrence
I know when you think of technology news, the first place you think to turn is Town Talk. After all, what other local journalist has an Apex 100 computer with a five and quarter-inch floppy drive in his basement? And indeed I do have some technology news to deliver today. Here’s a look at some recent developments I’ve noticed at City Hall.
• City commissioners still seem pretty intent on perhaps shaking up the city’s broadband market. Commissioners this week did give approval for a $24,000 consulting contract with CTC Technology and Energy to study ways to improve the community’s broadband service.
If you remember, the City Commission is interested in seeing if there are ways to capitalize off the several miles of fiber optic cable and conduit that the city owns. The city uses that fiber optic cable to connect city buildings and also to run the city’s traffic signal system, but it could be put to use for general broadband purposes as well.
This new study will look at ways to do that. But I get the sense it won’t stop there. The city memo describing the scope of the study says it will look at ways to “encourage better Internet/broadband services and prices for Lawrence residents and businesses.”
CTC, based out of Maryland, specializes in helping communities do that. It has been working a similar project with the University of Illinois in Urbana and Champaign, and it also was recently hired by the state of Kansas to conduct a statewide broadband analysis.
In a letter to commissioners, CTC officials said the company looks for ways to “enhance economic development and increase broadband competition by lowering barriers to entry for private sector providers.” Obviously, there are private sector providers in Lawrence today, so it will be interesting to see how they react to this. The study is expected to be completed in about six weeks.
• Indeed, it does appear the city is learning more about the pricing of Internet service all the time. Commissioners earlier this week approved a new contract with a new provider for the primary Internet connection for City Hall and other city offices.
After going through a bidding process, the city has agreed to drop its service with AT&T and switch over to service provided by the Lawrence-based nonprofit KanREN.
What the city found through the bid process is that the internet market has changed so much in the last several years that the city can now get internet service that is about five times faster than what it currently has for less money than what it has been paying.
For the past few years, the city has been paying AT&T about $25,200 per year for internet service that has a 20Mb bi-directional rating. With the city’s Internet usage growing, the city asked for a minimum of 100Mb bi-directional service, and ended up getting two bids less than what the city has been paying for the slower service.
KanREN had the low bid at $22,800 per year. KanREN, which has its headquarters on Wakarusa Drive, is nonprofit Internet provider that has focused on serving educational institutions. It provides the ISP services for KU, K-State, the KU Medical Center, Johnson County Community College and many other educational institutions.
But now the nonprofit has received approval from its governing board to expand its offerings into the city and county government arena. My understanding is that Lawrence will be their first venture into that market. So, KanREN may be a Lawrence company worth watching.
The city did receive bids from Lawrence’s three other major players in the Internet service provider market. AT&T’s bid came in at $25,526 a year. Knology had a bid of $24,000 a year. Wicked Broadband, which previously was known as Community Wireless or Lawrence Freenet, came it at $47,988 per year. The city has an option to renew the service at the current price for two additional years.
• There is good news for fans of AT&T in Lawrence. The company has announced that it has activated its 4G LTE service in Lawrence. The company claims the new service is 10 times faster than the 3G service it has offered in the area.
AT&T has invested about $725 million in its Kansas networks as part of the upgrade. The company launched 4G LTE in Wichita in July and in Kansas City in November 2011.
Probably not coincidentally, the company is in the process of opening a new wireless phone store at 33rd and Iowa streets in the new commercial building in the Walmart parking lot.
Surely I’m not alone in rummaging through the closet to find those stylish floral print shirts, knee-length shorts, black socks and flip-flops.
Yes, if nothing else, I’m day-dreaming of heading south.
Well, south as in south of the Wakarusa River, may be a direction to keep an eye on in future months. Plans have been filed at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Office for a new commercial development south of the Wakarusa River.
Douglas County property owner Michael Flory has filed plans to rezone 29 acres of property at the southwest corner of U.S. Highway 59 and Leary Road (or North 1100, for those of you who don’t know the Learys) to commercial from agricultural.
For those of you still needing some help with the geography, North 1100 Road is about a mile south of the Wakarusa River. The road basically intersects with U.S. 59 at the point where the highway used to switch from four lanes down to two lanes.
Thus far, the development plans aren’t grand, but they are notable. Flory said he envisions the property developing in phases. The first phase would be a unique type of storage unit development. Flory said he has acquired plans to build storage units that look like typical suburban houses. The portion of the storage units visible from the highway and from North 1100 Road would look like the back of a home with a fenced-in yard. A second phase of the development would call for a neighborhood-oriented convenience store, Flory said. A third phase of the development would be left unplanned for future commercial development.
The plans are notable because they are one of the first signs that development speculation south of the Wakarusa River may be entering a new phase.
Lawrence city commissioners in the coming weeks again will revive discussions of starting construction of a $55 million sewage treatment plant just south of the river.
When that plant gets built, the city will have the ability to provide sewer service to large portions of ground south of the Wakarusa River. Add the fact that a new four-lane highway is running through the area — and the South Lawrence Trafficway just north of the river will be completed — and you’ve got an area that would appear ripe for development.
Flory told me he has owned this 29 acres of property for 10 years in anticipation of the sewage treatment plant being constructed. He’s grown tired of waiting. Flory is applying for the new rezoning through the Douglas County Commission rather than waiting for the property to eventually be annexed into the city limits. But if the county rezones the property to commercial use, then when the day comes that the property gets annexed into the city, it likely automatically would convert over to one of the city’s commercial zoning categories.
The rezoning request will need to win approval from both the Planning Commission and the Douglas County Commission. Assuming those approvals, Flory said he would like to get started on the storage unit development in the next year.
As for the bigger decision on the $55 million sewage treatment plant, I expect city commissioners to have a discussion on that in March. I believe this current city commission would like to make some decisions about the future of water and sewer rates before the new commission is sworn into office in early April.
But the sewage issue will be worth watching closely. (Aren’t you jealous of my job? “What did you do today, Chad? I kept an eye on the sewage situation.”) Even if this current group of city commissioners decides to move forward with the $55 million plant, there still will be plenty of time for the next batch of city commissioners to change course on the project.
The rate implications of the new plant — along with other improvements — are expected to cost the average Lawrence homeowner about $500 in extra water and sewer bills over the next five years. If the city doesn’t get the new plant built in time, though, the city likely would have to place limits on new construction in the future. I expect water and sewer rates will become an issue in the current City Commission campaign. In other words, our politics and our sewer are going to mix.
Now, I bet you are really jealous of my job. Soon, when I find what I’m looking for in my closet, you’ll be jealous of my wardrobe too.
Taking stock of Tuesday’s City Commission election and wondering how school bond and recreation center issues will affect the general election
I think I’ve finally shaken the snow from my ballot box, so, how about some news and notes left over from Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission primary election?
• Getting it Done Early: For the first time in memory, there were more people who cast advance ballots than who went to the polls on Election Day. According to the unofficial numbers, 2,910 cast advance ballots, while 2,480 cast ballots on Election Day.
• A Bond Bounce: The talk at the Courthouse Tuesday night quickly turned to how different the April 2 General Election will be from the lightly attended primary election. The main reason is because there will be a $92.5 million school bond issue. Everyone expects that issue to do far more to drive voters to the polls than anything the City Commission is expected to do in the coming weeks.
How big of a bounce may it create in terms of voters? Well, there were 5,390 voters in Tuesday’s primary. The last time the Lawrence school district had a bond issue election was in April 2005. That bond issue drew nearly 21,000 voters. There easily could be 15,000 new voters coming to the polls in April. It could be argued that Tuesday’s primary election may be a poor predictor of how the general election will shape up. But primary elections traditionally have had a pretty good crystal ball quality to them. In 2005 — despite more than 10,000 new voters coming to the polls in the general election — the top three winners in the primary election all ended up in the top three in the general election.
But the possible scenarios this time around will be good for political conversation over the next several weeks.
• A Geography Lesson: I’ve put together a very quick and lazy analysis of voter returns. (Descriptions like that are why a career in marketing has never worked out for me.) Last night I got a breakdown of the vote by precincts. I’ve quickly made a list of how many precincts each candidate won. That’s interesting but don’t read too much into it because several of the precincts were only separated by three or four votes. It also is worth remembering that the precinct totals only include Election Day votes. Advance votes have been counted but haven’t yet been added in on a precinct by precinct basis.
Anyway, here’s what I found: Mike Amyx, the top vote winner, won or tied for first in 24 precincts. They were spread out all over the city. Just try finding an area of town that Amyx didn’t have some success in. Jeremy Farmer, the second place winner, won or tied for first in eight precincts. He also had victories in a wide area, including both in eastern and western Lawrence. Scott Criqui, the fifth-place winner, won or tied for first in five precincts. They all appeared to be in either central or East Lawrence. Rob Chestnut, the fourth-place winner, won four precincts. They all appeared to be in west Lawrence. Leslie Soden, the sixth-place winner, won or tied for first in three precincts. East and central Lawrence were her wheelhouse. Terry Riordan, the third-place vote winner, won or tied for first in just two precincts. But as the overall results would suggest, he didn’t do poorly in really any region.
• The Recreation Center: So, what did this primary election say about how voters feel about the proposed $25 million city recreation center? Beats me. Amyx was the top vote winner, and he has been expressing a lot of concerns about the project. He has called for a public vote on the issue. But the second- and third-place winners, Farmer and Riordan, both have been generally supportive of the project.
Chestnut, in fourth, hasn’t really landed in one camp or the other, although he has raised some questions about the financial aspects of the proposal.
The fifth- and sixth-place finishers, Criqui and Soden, both have expressed multiple concerns with the recreation center project and the lack of a public election on the issue.
What will be interesting to see is how big of an issue the recreation center will be in the general election. Here’s one thought: Historically, fifth- and sixth-place finishers have had a tough row to hoe to break into the top three of the general election. I wonder if Criqui and Soden will try to make the recreation center issue more prominent to give their campaigns a jolt of momentum with new voters. I have no clue what their strategies will be, but I’ll be watching to see if candidates start running ads and such around the issue.
Amyx told me last night that he’s confident the recreation center will be an issue, even though the City Commission is expected to issue bids for the project before the April 2 election. But here’s an important thing to remember about that: It will be the next City Commission that will be asked to approve those construction bids for the project.
“You can’t have something that has been all the talk for the last several months to suddenly just not be an issue,” Amyx said. “It needs to be an issue because the next commission will be involved with it a lot.”
Who would have thought that the most politically powerful class of people in Lawrence are the folks who own four-wheel-drive vehicles?
Just think if candidates would have known a few weeks ago how important a heavy duty truck would be to get voters to the polls. Political rallies at monster truck pulls, campaign promises of South Park becoming a mud pit for giant truck rallies, and Larry the Cable Guy jokes at every campaign event.
Yeah, I’m just mad that I sold my four-wheel drive vehicle several years ago. (I have told my wife many times that I should never sell a vehicle. Just build a bigger garage.)
Normally, I’m out and about on Election Day trying to get the sense of voters, trying to determine turnout, trying to see if there is a big issue on the minds of voters. Today, not so much. I’m mainly trying to convince my 9-year-old son that shoveling the driveway is fun.
I plan to be on the scene tonight covering the election returns, but until then, I’ll let you guys be my eyes and ears. If you been to the polls today, tell me your experience in the comment section below.
As we’ve already reported this morning, all polling places are open, and voting runs to 7 p.m. I spent some time hanging out at the Douglas County Courthouse yesterday, and it was interesting to see just how many people are determined to vote in a Lawrence City Commission Primary. Turnout for a city primary election usually isn’t good — below 15 percent often — but the ones who do vote are serious about voting. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew told me that he has observed that there is a core group of about 9,500 voters who come to vote anytime there is an election in Lawrence. We’ll see whether we get to that number in this election.
I’ll tell you who else is devoted to this election: Poll workers. Shew said he has had a few Lawrence residents call him and volunteer to get the quick course training in becoming a poll worker because they happen to live across the street from a polling place. They figured they were going to be off work anyway, so they may as well help out at the polls. Shew said he even had one poll worker offer to walk to the polling place.
“He said he only lives about three miles away,” Shew said. “I told him I thought we could come up with a better plan.”
Poll workers and election watchers will need to be dedicated tonight. Shew told me to warn everybody that counting the votes tonight will be slower than normal. Not only will it take longer to get the ballots to the courthouse — in some cases Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies may be dispatched to get the ballots and poll workers safely back to the courthouse.
“It took us about two hours to get our workers to the polls this morning,” Shew told me today. “We’ll have to reverse that process tonight.”
But there also is a technological issue to consider this evening.
Shew’s staff did not deliver the electronic ballot machines to the polling stations because they were rushed to get all the essentials, such as ballot boxes, polling booths and other items to the sites due to the weather. Douglas County uses a paper ballot system, but each polling place has an electronic machine that voters put the ballot into when they are done. That machine actually tabulates the ballots as they are entered. Normally, after the polls close, Shew and his staff can pull the electronic cards from those machines and download the results into their computers. After doing a bit of cross checking, Shew can crank out results pretty quickly.
But those machines never made it to the polling sites, so each individual ballot will have to be slid into machines at the courthouse this evening.
But even after that process is complete, I’m not sure we’ll have a clear picture of the winners and losers tonight. It seems likely that we’ll have a high number of provisional ballots in this election. Anybody who can’t make it to their designated polling place, can request a ballot at any polling place in the city and vote today. But those ballots will be what is called “provisional ballots.” Those ballots, I believe, won’t be counted tonight. Instead, those ballots normally aren’t counted until Monday, when election officials will do what is called the “canvass” of ballots. Each provisional ballot has to be ruled upon as to whether it is a valid vote.
Normally, there aren’t enough provisional ballots to make much of a difference in the outcome. But this primary is shaping up to be a close contest. I think the race to determine who gets that sixth and final spot will be pretty close. If there are 100 or so provisional ballots outstanding at the end of the evening, that will be significant.
We’ll just have to wait and see — and of course, in the meantime, shovel.
Silly me, I thought 10 inches of snow meant that it was snow shoveling season. But based on the actions of a few other people in my house yesterday, I guess it is book-reading season.
Well, book readers soon will have one less option to feed their habit in Lawrence. Officials with Half Price Books confirmed the Lawrence store will be closing in the coming months.
An executive out of the bookstore’s corporate offices in Dallas told me the Lawrence store, located at 1519 W. 23rd Street, is slated to close on June 14.
Kathy Doyle Thomas, an executive vice president with the chain, said the Lawrence store simply was underperforming.
“We’re very sad about it,” Thomas said. “We’ve been in the Lawrence market for 10 years. There just aren’t enough customers.”
Lawrence’s education levels certainly suggest the city would be a good book market, but it appears Half Price Books may have discovered what a few other retailers have over the years: Lawrence isn’t quite as big as it first seems.
“In the Lawrence market we have a real strong base of loyal customers, but there just isn’t enough of them,” Thomas said. “With the book industry the way it is right now, we have to be in communities with a larger population.”
Thomas said the company plans to move the inventory of the Lawrence store to a new store it is opening in Independence, Mo. So, don’t expect a big going-out-of-business closeout sale.
There are about 15 employees at the Lawrence store. After its closing, the closest Half Price Book store will be in Olathe.
Raise your hand if you believe pajamas ought to be the new business casual. I’m betting today’s blizzard has lots of folks working from home in their pj's today.
One group that you won’t find working in pajamas often is builders. (Trust me, if you try to hang a hammer from a pair of pajama bottoms, bad things happen.) And there is a new report out of City Hall that suggests January was a reasonably busy month for the Lawrence construction industry.
These days, when the Lawrence construction industry is busy, the best bet for the reason behind it is apartments. That’s the case this time, too.
City officials issued building permits for $11.9 million worth of new apartments on the large open site just west of the Wal-Mart at Sixth Street and Congressional Drive. The project — which carries an address of 5100 W. Sixth St., if you are scoring along at home — calls for 264 dwelling units in 11 buildings.
If you are trying to picture the site, it is the location that Lowe’s once was interested in. But as we began reporting last summer, apartment developers became interested in the property after Lowe’s slowed down its expansion plans. I’m not entirely clear on which developer is behind this project. At one time my understanding was that a local builder — although not one of the big apartment developers like a Schwada or a Compton — was behind the project. But the apartment industry has been full of change in Lawrence, so I had better do some more checking before I repeat a name.
I have a feeling we will have a lot of opportunities to talk about apartments in 2013. City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting approved the preliminary development plan for The Links, which we’ve previously reported is a major apartment development that will be built around a nine-hole golf course. That development is slated for the area northeast of Sixth Street and George Williams Way. In other words, across the street from the proposed Rock Chalk Park sports village.
The Links project — which is proposed by a group out of Arkansas — is slated to have 630 dwelling units. Add that to the 264 units that just pulled a permit next to Wal-Mart, and you are to almost 900 new units being built in the Sixth Street corridor alone. Plus, the Langston Heights development southwest of George Williams Way includes plans for 86 apartment units.
It seems that folks are betting on growth again.
A lack of growth in jobs is what Lawrence leaders have been bemoaning though. The January building permit report has important news on that front as well.
The first signs emerged of Hallmark undertaking an expansion to accommodate the extra work that the plant is planned to undertake as Hallmark closes its Topeka greeting card plant.
The company pulled a permit for $600,000 worth of work at the facility. The building permit report categorized the permit as “phase one” of an expansion project.
I’ll do some checking with Hallmark to see if they are releasing more details about their expansion plans. When the Kansas City-based company made the announcement in October of the Topeka closing, it was unclear how many new jobs may be added to the Lawrence facility. The company said it expected its total workforce in Lawrence, Topeka and Leavenworth to drop from 1,300 to 1,000, but the workers would be split between two plants instead of three.
It was clear, though, the move was going to have impacts on the Lawrence plant because it would become the sole manufacturer of Hallmark greeting cards. Previously, it manufactured about two-thirds of the greeting card line, while Topeka manufactured the other third.
Here are some other numbers from January’s building report:
• The city issued permits for $16.8 million worth of construction. That by far made it the best January in recent memory. Over the past four years, the January average was about $3 million worth of projects.
• Activity on the new-home front continued to be a bit slow. The city issued permits for eight new single-family or duplex homes, compared to seven in January 2012.