New East Lawrence coffee shop opens; annual report shows homeless shelter served more than 800 in 2013
Oh my, if you thought East Lawrence was funky already, just wait until you see it after it has had a double espresso.
We reported in February that plans were in the works for a new coffee shop in the heart of East Lawrence, and now they've become reality. Decade has opened at 920 Delaware St. in a small industrial building that once used to house an ice plant.
"I love the space," said owner Louis Wigen-Toccalino. "It is nice and open with lots of natural light. It is a reclaimed building and it has a lot of reclaimed lumber in it. We've used old barn wood for the countertops."
If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is right along the west edge of the Allen Press printing plant, which is right next to Hobbs Park. See below for a photo of the space.
The business opened last week but is having its grand opening on Saturday. The coffee shop features beans roasted by the specialty San Francisco-based roaster Fourbarrell, and it sells pastries made by The Merc. Wigen-Toccalino said he plans to expand into soups and sandwiches in the next couple of months.
Wigen-Toccalino is a former barista at Henry's, the downtown Lawrence coffee shop. Henry's was the first food-service job Wigen-Toccalino ever had, and that was 10 years ago. He spent the next decade working at a variety of coffee shops and restaurants in places such as San Francisco and Salt Lake City, with the goal of finding the right opportunity to open his own shop. It took him a decade to find it, thus the name Decade for his new business.
It may be fitting in other ways. This may end up being one of the more important decades for East Lawrence. In recent years, the area has seen a boom in redevelopment, led by the Poehler Lofts building, which is about a block north of the coffee shop. The redevelopment of the four-story Poehler building helped spur the creation of the adjacent Warehouse Arts District, which includes the Cider Gallery, a new art gallery and event space.
As we previously have reported, the area around the Poehler building isn't done developing yet. The same group that rehabilitated the Poehler building also won approval to built another approximately 40-unit loft style apartment building near the site of the Poehler. I'm hoping to get renderings of that building in the coming days. Look for work to begin soon at the site. I spoke briefly with the lead developer, and he said he expects to break ground in the next two weeks. He also told me he's made progress in finding a tenant to open a new food and drink establishment in a smaller space next to the Poehler building. So, hopefully soon I'll have an update for you on that project.
In addition, I'm checking out a rumor of a neighborhood-style bakery that may be opening near the 19th Street corridor in eastern Lawrence. I'm still trying to gather details on that one, but certainly there is a lot going on in the area.
It will be interesting to watch if other development plans also emerge. There are some prime redevelopment candidates still left in East Lawrence. The one I occasionally hear talk about is the Black Hills Energy maintenance yard, which is right across the street from the Poehler building. I don't think anything is imminent, but it will be interesting to see if the natural gas company continues to hold onto the property if the surrounding area continues to develop into an arts district/urban neighborhood.
As for the coffee shop, Wigen-Toccalino said there clearly is some pent-up demand for local, neighborhood-oriented businesses.
"We have been open a week, and already we feel like it has been here 10 years," Wigen-Toccalino said. "The residents have been so inviting. We've had lots of artists, lots of residents, lots of workers in the area come in."
Decade is open from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
In other news and notes from around town:
• As we recently reported, the Lawrence Community Shelter has hired a new director to replacing retiring director Loring Henderson. Well, Henderson also recently submitted the homeless shelter's annual report to the city, and it shows the shelter continues to be a busy place. Here's a look at some of the numbers for 2013:
— The shelter served 672 new people in 2013, which was up from 665 in 2012.
— When you add existing guests into the mix, the shelter, which has the capacity to sleep 125 people per night, provided service to 836 individuals. That's up from 815 in 2012.
— The shelter served 78 families, which included 102 adults and 142 children. Those numbers are roughly double the 2012 totals.
— 254 guests moved into permanent housing during the year, 97 guests started permanent jobs, and 42 applied for disability assistance.
— On the health front, 23 guests entered substance abuse programs, 59 received treatment at the emergency room, 79 received a mental health assessment or treatment, and 847 prescriptions were filled through the shelter's prescription assistance program.
— Demographically, 62 percent of the guests were male, 75 percent were between the ages of 18 and 60, and 74 percent were white.
— Financially, the shelter reported operating expenses of $933,628 for the year. It finished the year with $100,741 in operating cash. The shelter received 35 percent of its funding from government sources, with 14 percent from the city, 8 percent from the county and 13 percent from the federal government. The remaining funds: 36 percent from private donations; 7 percent from the United Way; 6 percent from foundations; 12 percent from fundraisers; and 4 percent from the shelter's Good Dog! program, which sells dog treats and pet supplies that are manufactured by shelter guests.
More LJWorld City Coverage
Excuse me while I put away my cot here at Lawrence City Hall. City commissioners met from about 3:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday. And with several big topics — the recreation center and the budget — there were a few items of note that my deadline didn’t give me time to write about. So, let’s fix that:
• The Lawrence Community Shelter will get more bus passes to provide to residents of the shelter. There was much discussion at Tuesday’s meeting about simply making the bus stop at the homeless shelter a free stop, meaning people entering the bus at that location wouldn’t have to pay the $1 fare.
Transit staff members recommended against that option. They were concerned about the precedent it might set. Commissioners instead decided to give the shelter 50 bus passes a day. At $1 per pass, the passes have a market value of a little more than $15,000 for a year. Currently, the shelter receives about seven passes per day from the city, although the shelter uses private money to buy additional passes.
Shelter director Loring Henderson said the demand for bus passes from residents is far outstripping the supply. As you probably remember, late last year the shelter moved from downtown to the far eastern edge of the city, next to the Douglas County Jail.
Both city and shelter leaders knew transportation would be an issue, but it has been a bigger problem than expected, Henderson said. The shelter gives passes to residents for purposes such as job interviews, doctor’s appointments and other appointments related to their efforts to find work and housing. The shelter operates its own van service as well, but has found that fuel prices alone will total about $15,000 a year.
“I want people to understand we’re not unhappy with the facility or its location at all,” Henderson said. “If we were in the middle of downtown, there would be other issues we are dealing with. There are always issues to deal with. This is the issue we’re dealing with at this location.”
• The more interesting information about the shelter is that the facility already is running at near capacity, Henderson told commissioners.
The shelter has been at or near its 125-person capacity on most nights, even as the weather has turned warmer. “The 125 number is one that we thought we may reach on freezing nights, but it really has become an almost every-night number,” Henderson said.
Henderson said he thought the increase largely could be attributed to the rise in the number of homeless families that now feel comfortable using the new shelter.
• Shelter officials also are asking for a unique piece of financial assistance from the city. Shelter leaders want the city to provide financing for about $500,000 in construction costs that were related to the new facility.
The shelter currently is repaying a $500,000 construction loan to a local bank, but that loan has a 5 percent interest rate. If the city shifted the loan over to the city’s books, the interest rate would be significantly lower. Shelter officials believe the interest rate could drop to about 2 percent, although that is dependent on the bond market. Henderson estimates the new financing could save the shelter about $15,000 a year in interest costs.
The shelter is proposing to repay the city the $500,000 in principal and interest over a 30-year period. City commissioners took no action on the request. Instead, city staff members are researching the feasibility of the proposal.
• Tennis courts also were discussed at Tuesday’s meeting. The Lawrence Tennis Association has been lobbying for the city to install lights at the eight tennis courts near Lawrence High. Nearby residents have staunchly opposed the idea because they fear the lights would shine into their homes.
Commissioners thought they had settled the issue earlier by agreeing to build eight lighted tennis courts at the Rock Chalk Park property in northwest Lawrence. Tennis association members said they’re excited about the prospect of those courts, but they still feel that lighting the existing courts makes sense and would complete a promise made by the city.
So commissioners agree to re-open the issue. But the effort to add lights was about as successful as my backhand volley. (If I played on the courts, neighbors would need to worry about tennis balls entering their homes, not light.)
Residents around the court nearly filled the City Commission room to express opposition to the lighting plan. Commissioners had heard enough, and voted 5-0 to deny the lighting. Commissioners also directed staff members to look at the special-use permit for the tennis courts and determine whether language could be added to the permit to make it clear there won’t be lights at the facility in the future.
The tennis issue has been a lengthy one. The issue has been brewing since 2008, when the school district approved plans to remove the previous courts to make way for renovations at Lawrence High.
The issue also has been a costly one. Originally, the city was planning on spending $100,000 to add lights at the new facility. But when neighborhood opposition emerged, the city eventually shifted gears to the new tennis facility at Rock Chalk Park.
The city had estimated it would cost about $640,000 to build those courts, but it appears that estimate was low. Although it didn’t receive much discussion last night, commissioners did learn that the cost for the tennis facility has increased.
As part of the new estimates for Rock Chalk Park infrastructure, it was learned a $170,000 retaining wall will need to be built as part of the tennis court project. In case you add like I volley, that brings the tennis court portion of the project to $810,000.