Posts tagged with Lawrence Government

Another residential development files plans for area near recreation center, Rock Chalk Park

The area around the proposed Lawrence recreation center and Rock Chalk Park site continues to heat up.

Lawrence developer Tim Stultz has filed plans at City Hall for a 40-acre development of single-family homes and apartments south and east of the recreation center site.

The plan is seeking rezoning for the area at the northwest corner of Queens Road and Overland Drive. The request seeks to create 15.89 acres of RM-12 apartment zoning, 21.54 acres of traditional RS-7 single family zoning, and 3.34 acres of small-lot RS-5 single family zoning.

Based on the preliminary plans, it looks like there will be the potential for about 80 to 85 single-family homes in the area. The plans aren’t yet detailed enough to indicate how many apartments may be a part of the project. But the plans do indicate that the development really wants to integrate the single family homes with the apartment development. Specifically, the plans talk about how the apartment complex will have its own clubhouse and swimming pool, and how that facility will be available to the single-family residents on a membership basis.

That’s not an unheard-of concept, but it is a bit new for Lawrence. It will be interesting to see if that may be a model for creating a more harmonious relationship between apartments and single-family development.

What will be particularly interesting to watch, however, is how quickly the area around the recreation center and Rock Chalk Park begins to fill up with new homes and apartments.

Obviously, the recreation center has brought out a lot of emotions on both sides of the fence, but the area really does have some elements to be a dynamic residential neighborhood. Homes within this area will be within walking distance of indoor basketball courts, a fitness center, an indoor turf field, a walking/jogging track, outdoor tennis courts, and about five miles of walking trails through the Rock Chalk Park area. That’s in addition to the various stadiums at the Rock Chalk Park site, which probably won’t be open for use by the public but will attract multiple spectator events. And time will tell whether the Rock Chalk Park facilities become venues for non-KU events, such as barbecue festivals, community runs and other celebrations.

But that is just one element of the area. If you are willing to lace your walking shoes up a little tighter, you can walk to an indoor pool as well. The city’s Indoor Aquatic Center is down the hill near Wakarusa and Overland drives. (It is about a mile, so you’ll need to lace them up tight. And notice my great sales skills: I mention down the hill but don’t mention the uphill trip on the way back.)

But maybe the most unique aspect for the area will be golf. The Links development — about 630 apartments that will surround a nine-hole golf course — certainly is within walking distance. As we previously have reported, it basically will be just east of the recreation center and Rock Chalk Park site. The Arkansas-based developers say they are going to start the project this year, but they have had timetables in the past that haven’t come to fruition. So, we’ll see.

The Links' development group, though, is further along than they have been. Hugh Jarrett, a spokesman for the group, shared details with me about the company's golf plans for the community. He said the nine-hole course will be open for public play, both on a membership basis and on a daily greens fee type of basis. He didn’t release any details about how much it would cost to play a round there. People who rent apartments at the complex will be able to play unlimited golf at the course with no green fees.

Based on plans filed at City Hall, the course will be more than a standard par 3 executive course. It won’t be as expansive as the city’s Eagle Bend course, but depending on its pricing, it certainly could be a competitor.

Here’s what the plans show for the course’s layout: Hole No. 1, 333 yards; No. 2, 254 yards, plays partially over about a half-acre lake; No. 3, 100 yards; No. 4, 250 yards, plays over a portion of what looks to be an approximately 3-acre lake; No. 5, 487 yards, plays over a portion of the same lake; No. 6, 112 yards, plays through a narrow alley of trees; No. 7, 487 yards; No. 8, 123 yards; and No. 9, 333 yards.

I’m sure I’ll hit a few balls out there some day. Fair warning: If you happen to be walking to the Indoor Aquatic Center that day, you may want to wear a helmet.

Reply 11 comments from Gelatinouscube Jayhawkfan1985 David Holroyd Frankie8 Roadwarrior Jhawk1998 Thomas Bryce Jr. George_braziller Jayhawker07 Calitony

City recreation leaders not in favor of lighted tennis court plan near Lawrence High

All we need now is John McEnroe, or absent that, somebody in white 1980s-style tennis shorts with an excitable personality.

Yes, we’re talking about the looming tennis court debate that will be coming to Lawrence City Hall. As we reported last week, city commissioners have decided to reopen the issue of whether eight tennis courts near Lawrence High School should be lighted.

At the time, however, we didn’t have a date for when the commissioners were to have a public hearing on the issue. Well, the commission now has a tentative hearing date of June 4, at its 6:35 p.m. meeting at City Hall.

There’s been one other development in the matter: The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board brought up the issue of lighted tennis courts for the site, and it is clear recreation officials aren’t on board with the idea, largely because of concerns about cost.

In case you have forgotten, members of the Lawrence Tennis Association believe lights should be added to the courts to make up for lighted courts that were lost when LHS renovated its campus. Neighbors in the area have opposed the lighting plan, expressing concern that it will be just one more example of LHS facilities creating a neighborhood conflict. They think the light will spill onto their properties.

City officials already have agreed to build eight outdoor lighted tennis courts as part of the city’s recreation center in northwest Lawrence. Several city officials thought that put an end to the issue, but members of the tennis association said they still see value in having lighted courts in the LHS area.

But at a recent meeting, the top officials at the city’s Parks and Recreation Department said they couldn’t support the idea of lighting the LHS courts and building the eight lighted courts at the recreation center. Cost was one reason they cited. They now estimate the cost of installing lights at the courts — which are on the property of the former Centennial Elementary school — at about $240,000, if done in a way to minimize light spillage. When the project was first proposed a couple of years ago, the department was planning on spending about $100,000 to light the courts.

Plus, the city would have to enter into a maintenance agreement with the school district to help make any future repairs on the courts. Parks and Recreation officials aren’t sure they want to do that, because two of the courts already are showing signs of needing significant repair. Currently, all maintenance is the responsibility of the school district. (In case you are wondering why it wouldn’t be the school district’s responsibility to add lights to courts it owns, the answer is because the district says it doesn’t really need the lights for its high school programs. The lights mainly would accommodate city residents that use the courts.)

Members of the tennis association are passionate about the issue and well-organized. They also note that the needs in the area are changing because KU will be losing most of its public courts on campus when the new School of Business building is constructed.

So, we’ll see how the debate goes. Let the volleying begin.

Reply 52 comments from Workinghard Richard Heckler Frankieandlola Elliottaw Gatekeeper None2 Alceste Clovis Sangrail John Pultz Hearne and 10 others

Planning Commission to debate Menards project Monday amid signs momentum may be turning

Strap on your tool belt, it is time to talk again about Menards’ proposal to build a big box store just east of Home Depot near 31st and Iowa streets.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission will debate the project again at its Monday evening meeting. The Planning Commission debated it last month and failed to reach consensus on whether the plan should be recommended for approval by the City Commission. I know that left some of you feeling like I feel after completing an electrical-oriented home improvement project — a bit dazed. (My wife promised me she had turned off the circuit breaker. She never said she wouldn’t turn it back on, though.)

If you remember, the Menards project hit a snag, even though there was no groundswell of opposition from neighbors in the area. Instead, it was the city’s planning staff that expressed concern about changing a portion of the city’s comprehensive plan, known as Horizon 2020, to accommodate the project.

There have been some new developments on that front. The city’s planning staff hasn’t officially changed its recommendation for denial, but it has created a new staff report that provides a clear set of reasons Planning Commissioners can use to approve the project, if they so choose.

That may prove to be important. For what it is worth, I felt like the Planning Commission last month was interested in recommending the project for approval, but was reluctant to do so because they hold the planning staff’s professional opinion in high regard.

The new memo from the planning staff, however, makes it clear that there is a reasonable argument to be made for why Horizon 2020 could be changed to accommodate the project. The main point of contention here is that Horizon 2020 calls for the proposed Menards site, the former Gaslight Mobile Home Village, to be used for apartment development in the future. A map in Horizon 2020 needs to be changed to show the property is slated for commercial development.

The memo lists the following reasons why a change could be prudent:

• It is now clear the eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway will be completed, which will alleviate the need for traffic to travel through neighborhoods to reach the new commercial area.

• Public testimony from neighbors has indicated that there is a significant number of residents who may prefer retail development at the site rather than a large apartment complex.

• Even though the city has other retail zoned areas in the city, sites that can accommodate big-box development remain limited.

Planning staff members also are pointing out that it is unlikely that commercial development would extend all the way down the north side of 31st Street to Louisiana Street, if Menards is approved. Staff members confirmed the city is close to finalizing a deal to purchase the nearly six acres of property near the northwest corner of 31st and Louisiana streets. The city needs the property for a new utility pump station. City ownership means the corner wouldn’t ever develop as a retail site.

So we’ll see what planning commissioners do on Monday. That meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

But remember, planning commissioners only recommend things. It will be up to the City Commission to make a final decision on the project. It still is too early to tell how city commissioners may vote on this project, but there are indications Menards has a fighting chance.

When I was speaking recently with City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer about economic matters, he brought up the need for the city to really update its comprehensive plan. He pointed to the Menards project as an example. Farmer said much of the underlying work to create the city’s comprehensive plan was done more than 20 years ago, and it probably is time to recognize that several factors in the city have changed since then.

“Menards is a great example of that,” Farmer says. “Our comprehensive plan says no, and the community seems to be saying it doesn’t want more housing there.

“I look at that and say ‘gosh, a Menards would be great in bringing some commercial taxes to a community that is going to have shrinking property tax revenues.'”

So, while Farmer stopped short of saying he would vote for the specific proposal Menards currently has brought forward, it sounds like he’ll have an open mind.

Privately, I have heard one other commissioners indicate he is going to give strong consideration to approving the project as well. It will be interesting to watch. Probably the biggest factor will be whether residents in the Indian Hills Neighborhood continue to either support the project or at least not vigorously oppose it. A large number of neighbors opposing the project could change things.

At the moment though, it is safe to assume the Menards project won’t be dead on arrival when it comes to the City Commission. Which, that reminds me: I still have to rewire the kitchen light. Oh, boy.

Reply 35 comments from Workinghard Irony401 Calitony Optimist Flloyd Chootspa Bike Logicman True_patriot Deec and 15 others

Two convenience stores coming to downtown Lawrence

Here’s a tip for you: Make sure your stock portfolio includes plenty of exposure to cheap snack food and elastic waist bands. I may be providing a serious boost to both products.

There are at least two efforts underway to bring a full-fledged convenience store — minus the gasoline — to downtown Lawrence.

The largest effort comes from Scott Zaremba, an owner of the Lawrence-based Zarco convenience store chain. As we reported last week, Zaremba and his partners are opening up a Sandbar Sub shop at 745 New Hampshire, the former spot of the Mirth Cafe.

But Zaremba has confirmed to me it will be much more than a sandwich shop. Zaremba plans to use the approximately 3,500 square foot space to create what he calls a “24-hour destination for downtown.” There will be restaurant food — the sub sandwiches and the Sandbar’s hot breakfast menu will lead the way — but there also will be all the items you would expect to find at a Zarco convenience store. That means fountain drinks, basic grocery items, bottles of Advil (not that you would ever need one of those at work), and . . . well, this is going to get really long if I list everything a convenience store sells.

It won’t be the full-fledged grocery store that many downtown leaders have been clamoring for, but it seems like it will be a significant step in that direction. Zaremba said he sees a need to provide convenience items to the growing number of people who are living downtown. Plus, he said he thinks the large number of office workers in downtown will appreciate the store too.

“Really, where can you go downtown and just get a fountain drink and get in and out without standing in a large food line?” Zaremba said.

Another feature not often found in downtown: The store will be open 24 hours a day. Zaremba said he hopes to have the business up and running before Aug. 10. That’s the date of the anniversary party for The Sandbar — the downtown tavern, not the sub shop. Longtime Sandbar leader Peach Madl is a partner in the Sandbar Sub Shop chain.

Last week we also reported that Peoples Bank was going to have a presence at the location. I haven’t yet had heard back from Peoples officials, but Zaremba confirmed the bank will have a quick service banking operation inside the Sandbar business, which Zaremba said he will brand as Sandbar World Headquarters.

But I mentioned there are two efforts underway to bring convenience items to downtown. The other one is smaller but already underway. Tobacco Bazaar has moved from its location at 19th and Massachusetts to 14 E. Eighth Street in downtown. In addition to selling all sorts of cigarette, tobacco and pipe items, the store also sells an assortment of convenience items. That includes candy, sodas and energy drinks, batteries, and — wait for it — beef jerky. To top it off, the business is setting up a chip section too.

Beef jerky and Doritos in one location, and just steps away from my office: Perhaps now you understand why I’m in the market for an elastic waistband.

In case you're trying to picture where 14 E. Eighth Street is in downtown, it's basically right around the corner from the old Mirth Cafe location. So, these two businesses will be neighbors. It will be interesting to watch how that plays out.

Tobacco Bazaar currently is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on most days, except it is open to 11 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

There is one question unanswered about the two businesses: Will either have slushies? My waistband was afraid to ask.

Reply 29 comments from Ljreader Tonya Foster Lisa Medsker None2 Homechanger Gary Anderson Oldenuf2byurdad Jack22 Meatwad He_who_knows_all and 13 others

Lawrence retail spending off to strong start in 2013; up 3.1 percent for the year

Here I thought I was the only one who visited my banker around Valentine’s Day. I’ve found that a home equity loan is useful when you’re trying to buy a year’s worth of forgiveness.

But apparently I’m not alone because a new report from City Hall shows retail spending spiked during the mid-February through mid-March period. The city’s latest sales report shows retail spending increased by 6.3 percent during the mid-February to mid-March period, compared with the same period a year ago.

It is always risky to put too much stock into one month’s worth of numbers, but we’ll see if this is the beginning of a spring spending surge. Regardless, retail sales in Lawrence are off to a solid start in 2013. Sales tax collections through the April reporting period are up about 3.1 percent compared with the same period a year ago. (The most recent report was for the April reporting period, but because of a lag time in processing, the numbers represent sales generally made in mid-February to mid-March.)

Here’s a look at how Lawrence’s retail sales totals stack up to past years. As always, the number in parenthesis is adjusted for inflation. Take a close look at those numbers, because for the first time in awhile the adjusted numbers show that Lawrence basically has returned to the pre-recession numbers of 2008 and early 2009. In other words, perhaps we have about dug out of that hole.

2013: $456 million

2012: $442.4 million ($448.5 million)

2011: $422.3 million ($437 million)

2010: $406.2 million ($433.6 million)

2009: $421.4 million ($457.22 million)

2008: $421.1 million ($455.2 million)

As for 2013, Lawrence’s growth rate is slightly above the statewide growth rate of 2.9 percent. Here’s a look at how Lawrence’s growth rate of 3.1 percent stacked up with some of the larger communities in the state:

• Emporia: up 2.9 percent

• Hays: up 3.3 percent

• Kansas City: up 5.8 percent

• Manhattan: down 3.2 percent

• Olathe: up 3.8 percent

• Ottawa: up 5 percent

• Overland Park: up 1.5 percent

• Shawnee: up 4.5 percent

• Topeka: down 0.1 percent

That list tells me one thing: My wife has been shopping in Kansas City. Dangit. I should have kept that joke to myself. Now, I have to find my banker’s number again.

Reply 4 comments from Jackpot Keith Richards Catalano

Knology changes its name to WOW!; lifts usage caps on Internet service

The changes keep on coming in the Lawrence Internet market.

The largest Internet service provider in Lawrence has just announced that it is removing all of its usage caps from its Internet service packages, as the company changes its name from Knology to WOW! That means customers no longer will be charged for going over their usage limits, according to a press release by the company.

Englewood, Colo.-based WOW purchased Knology back in July, but it had not converted Knology over to the WOW brand until today. Signs for the company around town are being changed today, according to WOW.

But the changes related to Internet usage caps are likely to garner more attention from hard-core Internet users. The caps had generated concern among many users because customers’ standard monthly rates could rise depending on how much Internet usage they had in a particular month.

The change in the cap policy comes at a time when both private and public officials have been talking about shaking up the city’s Internet service provider market.

A city-hired consultant recently completed a report that found that current broadband offerings in Lawrence generally are “costlier, slower and more limited than in other comparable communities.” City officials had the report commissioned because they have been interested in possibly allowing private companies to have access to a growing ring of fiber optic cable owned by the city.

On the private front, Lawrence-based Wicked Broadband — formerly known as Lawrence Freenet — has made a proposal to the city to further tap into that ring of fiber. (Ring of Fiber: Johnny Cash used to sing that song in his old age.)

At their meeting tonight, city commissioners will receive a request from Wicked for low-cost fiber leases with the city, and a one-time $500,000 grant to help the company build new broadband infrastructure in the city. The request is part of a pilot project Wicked is launching to bring to one Lawrence neighborhood the same type of superfast Internet service that Google Fiber is bringing to Kansas City. If successful, Wicked Broadband wants to extend the high-speed broadband project to all of the city.

So, we’ll see what cards the folks at WOW start playing in what appears to be an increasingly competitive game in Lawrence. Consumers, I suspect, will be keeping an eye on whether the competition starts having an impact on rates.

Reply 65 comments from Wtfusa Kelly Johnson Ira Rott Kernal Lisa Medsker Cheeseburger Shane Rogers Mike Hoffmann Richard Heckler Mikekt and 34 others

City estimates it may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to keep concealed weapons out of city buildings

It appears the city soon will have to buy hundreds thousands of dollars worth of security measures. Either that, or the city will have to learn to live with a new state law that would allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring firearms into City Hall and other city buildings.

City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will consider formally asking the Kansas Attorney General for an exemption from the new state law until Jan. 1, 2014. The state law — approved by the legislature and signed by the governor this session — essentially contains an automatic one-year exemption period for local governments. The city also may be able to get three additional one-year exemptions, although that is less certain.

The law no longer allows city or county buildings to be posted with the "no gun" signs that make it illegal for anyone, including concealed-carry permit holders, to bring a concealed weapon into the buildings. Under the new law, governments can only post those signs if the buildings have adequate security measures, such as metal detectors and security officers.

Lawrence city officials have begun calculating the cost to purchase and staff such metal detectors. A memo from City Attorney Toni Wheeler estimates it will cost about $5,000 for each metal detector, plus at least $42,000 a year for a single police officer to staff the metal detector—and the Lawrence Police Department, Wheeler wrote, believes two officers may be necessary for each detector. That would place the annual operating costs for the program at more than $84,000 for each building with a detector. And the cost may be even greater, because the personnel numbers represent starting salaries and don’t factor in benefit costs or other costs to equip a police officer.

Wheeler says at least three city buildings — City Hall, Lawrence Municipal Court and the public access area of the Police Department’s Investigations and Training Center — all warrant consideration for security systems. Beyond those three, city commissioners also would have to decide whether recreation centers and other city offices need the security measures.

New security costs for the city are expected to be addressed in the City Manager’s recommended 2014 budget, which is scheduled to be released in July. The costs could add up. If the city decided to include recreation centers in the program, there would be a total of nine buildings to equip and staff. At a minimum of $42,000 per building, that's almost $400,000 a year, plus the cost of the metal detectors. At $84,000 per building — which would be the case if two officers are required — it would be more than $750,000 a year.

But say you wanted to have security measures in place for every city-owned building that currently prohibits concealed firearms. The city currently has 47 buildings listed in its administrative policy, which means it would cost $3.9 million to provide a two-member security detail at every location. That, of course, is not going to happen. It probably would be a bit odd to have a metal detector at the city’s Landscape Shop or the Wastewater Treatment Plant, for example. Those places probably will become buildings where concealed-carry permit holders can have a weapon.

It will be interesting to see how city commissioners react to the new legislation. The previous City Commission sent a letter to the legislature objecting to the bill while it was under consideration. Whether the city’s objections rise to the level of spending more than a half-million dollars on security each year, I don’t know. The city already spends some money on security: a police officer attends each Lawrence City Commission meeting, and a bailiff is employed by the Lawrence Municipal Court.

If the city gets serious about installing metal detectors, there will be quite a few items to discuss. It probably would require the public entrances at City Hall to be changed significantly, since there are three ways for the public to enter City Hall. The city also could have a discussion about whether security officers — rather than fully sworn police officers — would be appropriate to staff the metal detectors. That may reduce the personnel cost for a security program.

And then there are city buildings such as the Lawrence Public Library and the Lawrence Arts Center that attract large crowds on a regular basis. How would they be secured and staffed?

Of course, the city always could have the discussion of whether any harm would come from allowing licensed individuals to carry a weapon in city buildings. According to the Kansas Attorney General’s office, it already is legal for concealed-carry permit holders to carry a weapon on various pieces of city property. Every city-owned park, for example, is a place where concealed-carry permit holders are entitled to have a weapon. “Parks, parking lots and other open public property" are no longer able to be restricted through signs, according to the Attorney General’s Web site. That didn’t always use to be the case, but the law was changed, I believe, during the 2010 legislative session.

City commissioners won’t be the only ones that get to have this fun. Douglas County also will have to go through the same exercise with its buildings, although it already has a metal detector for the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. Public schools won’t have to install metal detectors under the new law. School officials can continue to post the "no gun" signs on school buildings, which will make it illegal for concealed-carry permit holders to bring a weapon into the building.

Reply 75 comments from Jafs Coebam In_god_we_trust Dont_tread_on_me Larrynative Verity 50yearresident Optimist Charles L. Bloss, Jr. Jay Scott and 30 others

Wicked Broadband project seeks $500,000 city grant; downtown hotel project seeks adjustment to incentives package; historical society seeks $20k for new exhibit

Reading the agenda for Tuesday night’s Lawrence City Commission meeting is kind of like reading my household’s credit card bill: There are plenty of questions, and all the answers seem to have dollar signs.

There are three outside organizations requesting financial assistance from the city, with two of them each asking for a half-million dollars.

We’ll try to fill in more details later, but here’s a look at the basics of the requests:

• Lawrence-based Wicked Broadband announced last month that it will start a pilot project to bring super fast 1-Gigabit Internet service to a neighborhood later this year.

A kick-off event for the project spelled out a lot of details about how the company, which previously did business as Lawrence Freenet, could bring the same type of high-speed Internet service to Lawrence that Google Fiber is bringing to Kansas City. At that event, the idea of financial incentives from the city wasn’t envisioned. Well, it is now.

The company has filed an application for a $500,000 economic development grant from the city, plus is asking to receive up to a $20,000 a year rebate in franchise fees it pays to the city. It also wants to have the right to enter into $10 per year leases to use a portion of new fiber optic cables that the city plans to install throughout the community in future years.

Joshua Montgomery, co-owner of Wicked Broadband, said there are several factors that have caused him to rethink the need for city incentives for the project. But perhaps the largest is that he’s been contacted by several significant New York-based capital investment companies that are interested in investing in a locally owned, high-speed Internet service. Those investors have made it clear that the city of Lawrence needs to do something to show that it is committed to the idea of bringing a high-speed network to the city.

“If the city says that it is behind it 100 percent, that opens the door for the next $30 million in private funding that will be needed to spread this service to the rest of the community,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery said the $500,000, one-time grant would allow the service territory for the pilot project to grow to 1,000 households, up from 500. The neighborhood or neighborhoods haven’t been selected yet. Wicked is taking pre-registrations for the service on its website. The neighborhood with the highest percentage of residents pre-registered will serve as the pilot project. An announcement is expected June 15.

Montgomery said he and his business partner and wife, Lawrence school board member Kris Adair, are putting up $500,000 in private money for the pilot project.

City commissioners on Tuesday aren’t being asked to approve the request. Instead, Tuesday’s vote is just to direct city staff to begin analyzing it.

Wicked Broadband’s service will be a direct competitor to existing Internet providers, such as Knology and AT&T, which generally do not receive such city subsidies. So, it will be interesting to hear what those companies have to say as the process unfolds.

As for Montgomery, he said he’ll argue that the city won’t be making an investment in a private company as much as it will be making an investment in a new infrastructure system that will be critical to future commerce. “It is an economic enabler,” Montgomery said.


The second request comes from a group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton, which is seeking to build a new hotel at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire.

It is a bit more complicated to understand, and I’ll try to get a better handle on the numbers before Tuesday’s meeting. But the request seeks to raise the amount of Tax Increment Finance dollars the hotel is eligible to receive to $4 million, up from $3.5 million.

Unlike the Wicked Broadband request, this doesn’t involve the city writing a $500,000 check to the development. Instead, a TIF allows the project to get a rebate on a certain percentage of the property taxes it pays. It is kind of like a tax abatement, except the money has to be used to pay for infrastructure type of expenses. In this case, that includes a private parking garage for the hotel.

What makes it a bit complicated is that the developers also have proposed a multistory apartment/office project for the northeast corner of the intersection. It also uses Tax Increment Financing. It looks like a likely option is to increase the amount of TIF money available for the southeast corner hotel project by reducing the amount of projected TIF revenues available to the northeast corner apartment project.

If that is ultimately what happens, then the overall amount of incentive basically would be a wash. We’ll have to see how those details work out.

The more interesting part is what developers have said about the hotel project. It has had its necessary building approvals for months, but hasn’t yet started construction. A letter to the city now makes it clear that there are financial questions the investors are trying to answer.

Bill Fleming, an attorney for the development group, told the city in a letter that “the hotel investors are keenly interested in the ‘cost per key,’ which is the average cost for each hotel room.”

If the additional $500,000 in TIF money is not available to the hotel project, then that will raise the average cost per room the investors must pay.

“The investors may conclude the project is not feasible at that cost per key, and the project in that case will not proceed,” Fleming wrote.

That would be a major turn of events for the project, which faced stiff opposition from the adjacent East Lawrence neighborhood, and had to fight hard to win city approval.


Maybe the folks at the Douglas County Historical Society are more than just masters of history. Perhaps they also are masters of timing. After those two big-ticket items, they are asking for a mere $20,000 in city funding. The money will be used to help fund a permanent exhibit on the second floor of the Watkins Museum commemorating the 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence.

The new exhibit is set to open on Aug. 17, and will “explore Douglas County’s history, issues that shaped the development of the community, and events that made it a focus of national attention.”

Ultimately, the exhibit will be expanded to the third floor of the museum. The bulk of the nearly $257,000 in exhibit costs has come from private individuals, businesses and grants.

City staff members are recommending approval of the $20,000 in funding. The money would come from the city’s guest tax fund, which receives its revenue from the guest tax charged at hotel and motel rooms.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday.

Reply 139 comments from Pr0digy Drbloom Janis Pool Jafs Bballwizard Chootspa Currahee Ksrover Michael Lindsey None2 and 39 others

Douglas County oil production up 12 percent in 2012; outpaces statewide growth

Maybe I’ve been prospecting for oil wrong all these years. You remember how Jed Clampett on the Beverly Hillbillies struck it rich when he was out shooting at some food, and up from the ground came some “bubbling crude” (or “Texas tea,” that is)? I just figured that was the way to do it.

Well, others in Douglas County have been having more success with other methods, it seems. A new report from the Kansas Geological Survey at KU says oil production is up in Douglas County, just as it is statewide.

There were 51,715 barrels of oil pumped in Douglas County in 2012, up 12 percent from 2011. Douglas County’s rate of increase outpaced the state as a whole, which saw oil production increase by 5 percent in 2012.

Douglas County’s totals were the highest since 2010, when about 53,000 barrels were pumped. The numbers represent quite a turnaround from the early 2000s. From 2000 to 2007, the county didn’t pump more than 40,000 barrels in any given year.

The number of wells operating in Douglas County is also at a high. The county had 422 wells operating in 2012, which was the highest total since at least 1995.

Several of the new wells are actually old wells that had been abandoned but now have been restarted. But there also has been some new drilling in the county.

The area between Baldwin and Eudora in eastern Douglas County continues to be the prime area for oil production in the area. With oil prices remaining high, and recovery techniques improving, there have been some dramatic increases in the amount of oil that producers are able to extract from those fairly modest wells.

For example, there is a field called Eudora South in eastern Douglas County. Up until 2007, it had not had more than one well operating at a time, and the field did not produce more than 710 barrels in any given year.

Since 2007, the field has had anywhere from 19 to 22 wells operating, and it has produced a total of 21,100 barrels of oil. If extracting oil has become that much more efficient, it makes you wonder why the price of it has remained so high?

Folks may be surprised that there actually are oil wells just outside the city limits of Lawrence. There has been new activity just outside of North Lawrence behind the ICL Performance Products plant — or the former FMC plant, to you old-timers.

A new set of oil storage tanks has been built near the intersection of North 1650 Road and East 1600 Road in the past several months. There also appears to be a fairly new oil well just to the south of that location.

The idea that there is oil in the Kansas River valley is not a new one, and indeed there have long been some old wells near the North 1650 and East 1600 roads area. But Lynn Watney, geologist with the Kansas Geological Survey, said he expects drillers will start having more interest in what has been known as the “shoestring sands” that run through the valley.

Enhanced drilling techniques have made it more feasible to get through the 1,000 to 1,200 feet of sediment that covers the sand beds. But the biggest factor, Watney said, has been the sustained high price of oil over the past several years. That has been the main driver in Douglas County becoming more active in the oil business.

“There is plenty of incentive when you are talking about $80 to $100 oil,” Watney said.

Statewide, oil production rose to 43.7 million barrels last year, up 5 percent from 2011. Douglas County continues to be a minor player in the oil business, compared to counties in western and southern Kansas. Ellis County, in northwest Kansas, is the state’s top producer, with nearly 3.6 million barrels in 2012, an increase of about 5 percent over 2011. Following Ellis County were the counties of Barber, Barton, Russell, Ness, Rooks, Haskell, Finney, Graham and Stafford.

Douglas County is in the middle of the pack when it comes to oil production from area counties. Here’s a look at 2012 totals for area counties:

• Jefferson County: 20,285 barrels from 62 wells;

• Johnson County: 293,351 barrels from 779 wells;

• Leavenworth County: 64,912 barrels from 210 wells;

• Franklin County: 201,661 barrels from 1,861 wells;

• Osage County: 2,195 barrels from four wells;

• Miami County: 171,826 barrels from 2,327 wells;

• Neighboring Shawnee County has no oil wells.

The KU report also measured natural gas production. Kansas, unlike some other states, hasn’t seen an increase in natural gas production; in fact, it declined about 4 percent in 2012. Watney said that mainly was because natural gas prices have been low, which has halted new drilling in the expansive Hugoton gas fields in southwest Kansas.

Douglas County had no active gas wells in 2012, according to the KU numbers.

That’s good to know. I’ll put my natural gas hunting expeditions on hold for a while. And I need to explain to my wife why the tulips are full of buckshot.

Reply 9 comments from Budwhysir Chad Lawhorn Bearded_gnome Easy_does_it Blindrabbit Whatever95

Lawrence restaurant updates: La Parilla’s new location, plans for a Sandbar Sub shop and 60 years for Johnny’s Tavern

Downtown Lawrence’s restaurant scene is heating up. Here’s a look at a few updates:

• La Parilla has moved into its new location at 724 Massachusetts Street, which formerly was the home of Tapas.

Co-owner Subarna Bhattachan told me recently that the new space gives the Mexican/Latin American restaurant about double the space that it had in its old location at 814 Massachusetts.

But Bhattachan said lots of new space doesn’t mean lots of changes for the restaurant. He and co-owner/co-chef Alejandro Lule decided not to make any changes to the menu.

What you may notice, though, is the restaurant now has a full bar. It also has a second-story dining area, which Bhattachan said may be used for private dining and catering events.

Bhattachan said the restaurant eventually will start hosting some wine tastings featuring vintages from Spain, Chile, and Argentina. Bhattachan said he also wants to look into the idea of doing some rum and tequila tastings. That sounds very interesting, but I doubt I can afford to participate in a tequila tasting. No. Bhattachan didn’t share any prices with me, but it has been my experience that tequila tastings ought to involve bail money.

• Bhattachan confirmed to me that La Parilla — which will turn 15 this summer — wasn’t really looking to move. But the restaurant did not have its lease renewed at 814 Massachusetts.

That’s a good sign that the owner of 814 Massachusetts, veteran landlord George Paley, has another tenant lined up to take the space. Indeed he does.

Paley told me another restaurant is set to take over the space. I don’t have details yet on the name or type of restaurant slated for the location. Paley said the new tenant is someone who grew up in Kansas, but is coming back from the East Coast.

I’ll let you know when I get more details.

• Also in the category of needing more details, is a plan to redevelop the former Mirth Cafe space at 745 New Hampshire. If you remember, Mirth has moved to the old Pepperjack’s Grill location at 10th and New Hampshire streets.

A building permit has been issued to remodel 745 New Hampshire into a space to house a Sandbar Subs shop and a branch for Peoples Bank, according to the paperwork filed at City Hall.

I’ve got calls into representatives with both of those businesses, and will report back when I hear more. What I can tell you, though, is Sandbar Subs already has a presence in Lawrence. The restaurant has locations in the Zarco gas stations on W. Sixth Street and E. 23rd Street. It also has a location in the Zarco station along Interstate 35 in Ottawa.

It has sandwiches or wraps with names like Captain Hook, Pirate Steak, Sammy the Shark and Jimmy the Sailor. The restaurants play beach-lovers' music and have a very tropical theme to them. It's sort of like having Jimmy Buffett serve you a sandwich. (I don’t think the menu is salt free, so evidently he found his lost shaker of salt.)

As I said, no details yet on what the downtown location may involve, but I would be warming up your pirate voice and digging out your eye patch just in case.

I know I said this was going to be a restaurant update, and unless you do something different with your money than I do, Peoples Bank doesn’t fit that bill. But if Peoples indeed is opening another branch downtown, that would be significant. New bank locations were a hallmark of the 1990s and early 2000s when the economy was really humming. Over the past few years, however, it was more common to see a bank consolidate locations — Central National for example pulled out of downtown.

But recently there has been expansion activity. We reported on Baldwin-based MidAmerica Bank signing a deal to open a location on West Sixth Street, and Lawrence Bank will get a nice new facility in downtown as part of the multistory apartment building project slated for the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire.

So, maybe the banking industry is one to keep an eye on again in Lawrence. (I may even have to take this eye patch off.)

• Several of you have been asking for an update on The Roost, which is the breakfast- and lunch-oriented restaurant slated to take over the former space of Milton’s at 920 Massachusetts Street.

Well, Manda Jolly, a partner in the project, told me the restaurant is scheduled to have a late-June to early-July opening. Renovation work is underway.

Some of you may have seen that the restaurant has started a Kickstarter campaign to try to raise $20,000 in funding. That sometimes creates questions about the viability of a project, but Jolly told me some of the building plans for the restaurant would have to be readjusted if the campaign is not successful. Either way, the group is committed to opening the restaurant.

Jolly also gave me some other details about how the menu and ownership group of the restaurant is shaping up, as well as plans to get into the venue rental business are shaping up. I’ll pass those along in a later post.

• And finally, you can’t forget Johnny’s, although there have been times the establishment has made my memory a little fuzzy.

The venerable restaurant and tavern in North Lawrence is celebrating its 60th anniversary this week. There are a handful of old bars in Lawrence, but Johnny’s uses the phrase “the longest running tap in Lawrence,” to describe itself.

The bar will have a special concert on Friday night with Billy Spears and the Beer Bellies, and then will throw an anniversary party on Saturday.

The business got started in 1953 when John Wilson turned his father’s farm implement store into a tavern. For the past 35 years, Lawrence businessman Rick Renfro has been the lead owner of the operation, and has expanded the Johnny’s brand into West Lawrence and the Kansas City metro area.

“It’s extraordinary,” Renfro said of the business’ run. “The average life span of a bar or restaurant is 15 years. I think we have beaten the odds.”

Reply 15 comments from Wilburm Msezdsit Matt Schwartz Frankfussman Patkindle Keith Gatekeeper Your_mother Larrynative Scott Tichenor and 2 others