A home improvement center battle in Lawrence is about to begin.
Menards has filed plans at Lawrence City Hall to build a large home improvement center right next to Home Depot near 31st and Iowa streets.
The company — as was previously speculated — wants to locate in the former Gaslight Mobile Home Village.
The retailer has opened new stores in Topeka and Manhattan in recent months. Menards officials said in their application that significant numbers of Lawrence residents have been driving to the Topeka Menards. The retailer sells home improvement items — much like Home Depot or Lowes — but it also has a broader offerings that include home goods and other items.
The plans call for the 41.5 acres to be rezoned from an apartment/multi-family zoning designation to a Planned Commercial Development designation.
Documents included in the submittal indicate Menards is looking to build a 162,340 square foot store, although it isn’t clear whether that number is the size of the building or also includes outdoor storage yards and such.
Either way, it appears the store would be significantly larger than the Home Depot store, which is just west of the proposed site.
The proposal will create a major retail question at City Hall. The city’s long-range planning documents don’t call for the former Gaslight Mobile Home Village to become a retail development. The plans call for it to become an apartment development. (You may remember a Texas-based company proposed a large student apartment complex for the site last year, but then pulled out when it determined the Lawrence market couldn’t support it.) City commissioners will have to decide how much they want to stick to their previous statements that indicated the next area for big box store development should be the intersection of Sixth Street and the SLT, which not coincidentally is where the city and KU are working to build the new Rock Chalk Park sports village.
But Menards officials, in a letter to the city, made it clear they have no interest in that site.
“This site (Sixth and SLT) is very removed from the city’s rooftops and is surrounded by vacant ground on three sides for many miles,” Menards real estate representative Tyler Edwards wrote. “Additionally this site is not visible from the existing retail on Sixth Street due to a large hill. The amount of commercially oriented traffic that would pass by the store on Sixth Street or K-10 would be close to none and not enough to make a successful store.”
The area around the Sixth and SLT site is obviously developing with the Rock Chalk Park project and just last night the city approved the preliminary development plan for The Links, a 630 unit apartment complex that will surround a private nine-hole golf course.
But none of that has been enough to convince Menards that the area will be viable for their store in the near future.
In the past — when Home Depot and Best Buy were built at the 31st and Iowa intersection more than a decade ago — neighbors expressed concern that retail shouldn’t stretch east down 31st Street because of traffic and other issues that could impact nearby neighborhoods.
But with the South Lawrence Trafficway scheduled to start construction later this year, 31st Street will undergo major changes. An entirely new high-capacity street, dubbed 32nd Street, will be built through the nearby Baker Wetlands and connect with the existing 31st Street just east of the proposed Menards site.
This project may be the first one that causes people in the community to realize how much the completion of the SLT and the new U.S. Highway 59 is going to change south Lawrence. In addition to the Menards, the development plan also has room for another 65,000 square feet of retail space spread out over six lots on the site. But documents in the plan indicated those would be part of a Phase II that likely would not begin until a few years after Menards opens.
Menards confirmed it looked at creating a new retail site south of the SLT — basically between the SLT’s Iowa Street bridge and the Wakarusa River — but determined the cost of dealing with the floodplain on the site was prohibitive. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see other retailers look strongly at that site in the future.
In the meantime, expect a lot of discussion about Menards at City Hall. The earliest the development proposal could make it to the Planning Commission is in late April, meaning it will be the next City Commission that decides this issue.
Chamber still considering major, private capital campaign; eco devo leaders hoping to get an assist from Phil Mickelson
There’s a major economic development project in the works in Lawrence, but it may not be the type you’re thinking about.
Lawrence Chamber of Commerce leaders are likely to make a decision later this month to launch a fundraising drive — or in the lingo of the business, a capital campaign — to better support economic development efforts in the community.
The idea behind the campaign is simple: Have private businesses and individuals start stepping up to the plate at a level that is much closer to the funding that city and county government currently provide the chamber.
“Our public sector level of funding is tremendous for a community of this size,” said Greg Williams, president and CEO of the chamber. “But our private sector financial support leaves a lot to be desired and, frankly, for good reason.
“We need to start proving ourselves in the job creation arena.”
Chamber leaders received a report last week from a Columbus, Ohio-base consulting firm estimating the potential for a capital campaign in Douglas County. Williams declined to release that number, but he said he was very encouraged by the findings. (UPDATE: According to a presentation I heard at the Lawrence Memorial Hospital Board meeting this morning, the chamber is looking at a goal of $850,000 over a period of three years.)
“They brought us a number that they can guarantee they can raise,” Williams said. “It is a number that will really allow us to go full speed ahead.”
The chamber’s board of directors now must decided whether to formally commit to the campaign. Williams said a meeting is scheduled for Feb. 27 to discuss the campaign, which likely would allow donors to make pledges for up to a three-year period.
If approved, the chamber likely would launch the campaign in early April. Williams said the campaign would be introduced in a way to make it clear where any money raised would be spent. He said programs, among others, would include one focused on helping existing businesses grow and expand, one focusing on entrepreneurship that would work with the KU School of Business, and a program aimed at boosting the chamber’s ability to recruit businesses from outside the region.
Williams — who has been on the job since late May — said he’s already working to boost that effort. He and the chamber’s economic development project manager are flying to California in the coming days to begin talking to business prospects.
Why California? The reason may surprise you.
“The minute Phil Mickelson made his proclamation that he's leaving California because of the state’s income tax, I bought a plane ticket,” Williams said. “We have to reach those businesses that are preparing to leave the state in droves.”
In case you missed it, Mickelson has created a bit of feeding frenzy on California’s wealthy after he said he was considering moving from the state for tax reasons.
But California may not be the only area that has a messaging problem at the moment. Williams said he’s also working on an initiative to help folks in Kansas City better understand Lawrence.
He said one of the surprising things he’s learned while in Lawrence is that many Kansas City business leaders view Lawrence as some distant place. Williams said the chamber is working with a firm to create some messaging strategies — which could include actual advertisements in the Kansas City media — to promote the idea that “Lawrence is next,” as in the next stop down the road.
He said he recently talked to a broker who pitches Lawrence locations to business in the Kansas City. Williams said the broker said the response often is “why would we go that far west?”
One of the marketing points a chamber campaign is likely to make is that Lawrence is closer to downtown Kansas City than Grandview is to KCI.
“There are people who think Lawrence is Goodland, and that is a problem,” Williams said.
An entity controlled by Thomas Fritzel will be the exclusive provider of all concessions on the Kansas University portions of the proposed Rock Chalk Park project, according to documents released today.
And that's not the only way Fritzel or his related entities could turn a profit from the project that has been billed largely as a public sports village.
I’ve quickly read through four separate agreements involving Fritzel’s Bliss Sports, Kansas University Endowment’s RCP LLC and Kansas Athletics. The documents are complicated, and I’m not promising I’ve caught every detail. I’ve put a call into Fritzel for more explanation, but haven’t yet heard back from him. But here’s what I’ve gleaned from the documents.
• A signed operating agreement between KU Athletics and Bliss Sports states Bliss “shall have the exclusive right to control and manage concessions associated with any use of the stadiums, including athletics-sponsored events, developer-sponsored events and third-party sponsored events.”
In other words any event held on the KU portion of Rock Chalk Park — this agreement doesn’t cover the city’s recreation center — will have its concession needs served by Bliss Sports.
But the agreement goes on to say that “any net revenues” generated from concession sales will be deposited into a special escrow-like account called a “maintenance fund.” That fund can be used by KU Athletics to make repairs at Rock Chalk Park over the years.
That sounds like a pretty good deal for the university, and it may well be. But what is not clear from the agreements is what, if any, controls will be placed on how Bliss runs the concessions.
For example, would Fritzel be allowed to create another entity — let’s call it Fritzel Foods — that would serve as the supplier for the Rock Chalk Park concessions business? If so, the hypothetical Fritzel Foods could purchase the supplies needed for the concessions business, turn around and sell the supplies to the concessions business for a profit, and seemingly none of those profits would have to be deposited into the maintenance fund.
I’m not saying that’s the intention, but I am asking whether there is anything that prevents it.
The details related to the concessions business were surprising because Fritzel had not made any such details clear when he gave an interview to the Journal-World on Jan. 18.
“It will be run just like Allen Fieldhouse, 100 percent like Allen Fieldhouse,” Fritzel said when describing whether his entities would be in a position to make any money off the Rock Chalk Park. “The important thing is Kansas Athletics controls everything.”
The agreements released by Fritzel today were signed Feb. 12. The documents indicated they replaced a previous set of agreements signed on Oct. 12. What those agreements called for is not known.
• Bliss, in addition to KU Athletics, will have the right to charge “reasonable parking fees” for any event on the KU portion of the project. Both Bliss and KU Athletics must agree to the parking rates, but the agreement states: “It is the intent of the parties that as a general rule, at a minimum, parking fees will be charged for conference-wide collegiate athletic events; statewide, regional, national and world-wide sporting events; and third-party sponsored events.”
City Manager David Corliss told me this afternoon that the city will want to create a separate agreement to make it clear that the City Commission would have to approve any parking fees on a per-event basis. It has been proposed that the city would contribute money to help build the parking lots that would serve both the city and KU portions of the project. Corliss said that means the city will want to be involved in setting parking policy for the development.
Like the concession revenue, the parking money would go into the maintenance fund. Like the concessions revenue, the questions of how Bliss would be allowed to operate the parking system remain.
• Bliss would have the authority to use any of the stadiums and other KU-related facilities rent-free. KU Athletics would have limited ability to deny Bliss use of the facilities. Bliss could host private athletic events at the park without city approval. Any non-athletic events hosted at the park would require a special use permit from the city.
• As previously reported, KU Athletics will pay $1.3 million a year for 30 years to Bliss Sports to cover Bliss’ costs to finance the project. Also as previously reported, Bliss will maintain ownership of the facilities for 50 years. What has not been previously disclosed is that the lease also calls for KU to pay lease payments in years 31 through 50 as well. Fritzel made no mention of that provision when interviewed by the Journal-World in January.
The rate of the lease for years 31-50 will be the “fair market rental value” of the property as determined by Bliss and agreed to by Kansas Athletics.
City commissioners tonight are scheduled to take their biggest vote yet on the recreation center project. Commissioners are being asked to approve a development agreement that spells out how the city would help pay for infrastructure at Rock Chalk Park, rebate approximately $1 million in building permit and other city fees the project normally would be required to pay, and provide a 10-year property tax abatement for the project.
Corliss said his recommendation will continue to be for commissioners to proceed on the project. “I’m not seeing anything in these agreements that is still not a good deal for the University of Kansas and the community,” Corliss said.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.
The city now has posted the full agreements. They can be found here.
Well, that didn't take long.
One day after Mayor Bob Schumm said he wanted to see the agreements between Thomas Fritzel's Bliss Sports and the various KU entities involved in the Rock Chalk Park property, Fritzel has produced them.
Fritzel has provided four sets of agreements to Lawrence City Hall. (He also dropped off a set of copies for me, as well.) I'm just now starting to read them.
The city will be posting the documents to its Web site shortly. I'll provide a link once it does.
UPDATE: Since I wrote this article this morning, Jeremy Farmer's campaign has provided me with a copy of his campaign finance report. It places him in second place in total amount of money raised during the Jan. 1 to Feb. 14 time period. I've added his totals to the list below.
The doctor has the prescription for fundraising.
The first deadline of the year for campaign finance reports for Lawrence City Commission candidates was Monday, and Terry Riordan — a longtime pediatrician — was the runaway leader.
Riordan raised $11,265 from about 84 donors, which was more than double the amount any other candidate raised during the reporting period. But Riordan didn’t stop there. The doctor also loaned his campaign $9,100, giving it $20,365 in contributions for the reporting period.
Riordan is a first-time candidate but he has an experienced team of volunteers running his campaign. Many of the same people who worked on the campaign for Mayor Bob Schumm — who was the top vote winner in the last City Commission election — are working on Riordan’s campaign.
The latest numbers show there's plenty of competitiveness in this year’s race — and a good deal of open wallets. Scott Criqui, an executive with Trinity Home Care, raised $4,550 from contributors during the period. Technically that amount is good for the third-highest amount of money raised during the reporting period, which covered donations made from Jan. 1 through Feb. 14.
But there is a sizable caveat to those numbers. Criqui got his campaign started so early that he did significant fundraising in 2012. A separate report for his 2012 activity shows he raised another $8,092. In addition, Criqui also is dipping into his own wallet for the race. He has donated $2,600 to his campaign.
Here’s a look at the numbers for the entire field. The contributions listed are just for the Jan. 1 through Feb. 14 reporting period:
• Riordan: $11,265 from 84 donors. (Plus $9,100 from Riordan)
• Farmer, executive director of Just Food: $7,785 from 54 named donors. (Plus $900 from Farmer. Also, of the $7,785 raised, $560 came from donors of $50 or less, which state law does not require to be itemized. So, in addition to the 54 named donors, Farmer had at least another 10 donors or more.)
• Mike Amyx, Lawrence city commissioners and barber shop owner: $4,610 from 49 donors.
• Criqui: $4,550 from 65 donors. (Plus $1,500 from Criqui)
• Rob Chestnut, chief financial officer for a Topeka publishing company and former city commissioner: $4,536 from 40 donors
• Judy Bellome, retired executive of Visiting Nurses Association: $3,690 from 43 donors.
• Leslie Soden, owner of a Lawrence pet care business: $2,695 from 15 named donors. (Of the $2,695 raised, $995 came from donors of $50 or less, which state law does not require to be itemized. So, in addition to the 15 named donors, Soden also had at least another 19 donors or more.)
• Reese Hays, an attorney for the Kansas Board of Healing Arts: $690 from six donors. (Plus $331 from Hays)
• William Olson, a Lawrence bar manager: $0
• Michael Rost, a Topeka insurance attorney: $0
The Douglas County Clerk’s office hadn’t received reports from two candidates — Jeremy Farmer and Nicholas Marlo — by this morning.
Marlo has not run an active campaign, but Farmer — the executive director for Just Food — has. It will be worth watching what his fundraising totals are.
I have covered a lot of Lawrence City Commission elections, and I generally pay close attention to the amount of money raised. I watch the numbers not because I think having a lot of money to spend in a local campaign makes a big difference. Instead, I watch them because donor numbers are a good indicator of the size and enthusiasm of a candidate’s base of support.
These numbers show we have an interesting primary shaping up. It appears there are at least seven candidates that are making a serious effort to raise funds. Only six of them will advance through the primary, which will be held next Tuesday, Feb. 26.
The more interesting numbers will be released in March, when candidates are required to file fundraising reports for the critical February and March time periods. Those will come just a few days before the April 2 election, and usually are a good gauge of how the race is shaping up.
At the moment, it is clear that three candidates — Riordan, Criqui and Farmer— have an early lead in fundraising. But the two candidates with perhaps the most natural name recognition because of their time on the commission — Chestnut and Amyx — are in that next group of candidates. It appears the coming weeks will be full of competitive campaigning.
UPDATE: Well, Ken Burns fans, don't plan on getting the famed filmmaker to autograph your PBS pledge card just yet. I got in touch with an assistant for the film recently, and it turns out Burns won't be able to make the trip to Lawrence after all. But a crew and the co-director of the Burns project will indeed be in Lawrence as reported below.
A documentary film crew will be at Biggs BBQ, 2429 Iowa Street, tomorrow to film a group of veterans who regularly meet at the restaurant for fellowship and reflection. The crew works for famed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, but despite earlier indications and rumors, it appears Burns himself will not be coming to Lawrence.
It sounds like the Lawrence group is particularly intriguing because it includes some Vietnam veterans, as well as current soldiers and veterans of recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
My understanding is that Burns' crew is filming the documentary for PBS, but the film likely won’t air until 2016.
Doug Holiday, owner of the restaurant, said Biggs will be closed for lunch on Tuesday to accommodate the filming.
The filming will wrap up a good week for Biggs. Although I didn’t see it, my understanding is the restaurant was briefly featured on ESPN’s GameDay coverage when it was in town on Saturday. The restaurant was hired by the network to roast a pig, in order to provide the broadcast a little local flavor.
More twists with recreation center project: KU Endowment now requiring city to pay for land; UPDATE Self’s Foundation again planning donation to city
Think of it like a buzzer beater, or more accurately, like three of them. The buzzer is about to sound on this more than year-long debate on whether the city should move ahead with a $25 million recreation center in northwest Lawrence.
City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday will consider signing an agreement that moves the project toward a bid letting.
But before they do, three new twists and turns to this ever-changing proposal have come in just before the buzzer. Here’s a look:
• If you are like me and thought Kansas University Endowment was going to donate the 26 acres the city’s recreation center will sit upon, you were wrong.
City Manager David Corliss now has confirmed the city is set to pay KU Endowment $780,000 — or $30,000 an acre — for the site.
The $780,000 will be applied to the $25 million maximum price KU Endowment has guaranteed the city project to come in at. In other words, the fact KU Endowment is charging the city for the land won’t increase the maximum price the city will have to pay for the project. So, you’ll have to decide how much any of this matters. I’m not exactly sure at the moment why KU Endowment wants the land to be paid for rather than donated, but I’ve been told that because of the way the deal is structured with various LLCs and such that donating the land may be problematic from a legal or tax standpoint. But I don’t have firm details on that. If I get some, I’ll update this.
But the idea the city will have to buy the land does seem worth noting because one of the reasons the city is pursuing this project is because it believes it is getting a value. Yet, the city is now paying $780,000 for a 26-acre recreation site when it already owns a large site near Overland and Wakarusa drives, which the city long touted as an excellent site for a center. Some folks may be surprised that the city would pay for a new recreation center site when it already owns one.
I suspect a few people also may note that when the city was considering building the project on the west side of the South Lawrence Trafficway, it was proposed the city would receive a donation of 50 to 60 acres of land — from the Schwada family — that the city would own outright. That proposal didn’t call for the city to pay for the land.
Corliss said the $30,000 per acre the city will pay to KU Endowment is equal to what KU paid for the property. Again, the $780,000 doesn’t increase the maximum price the city will have to pay for the project. But it does increase the chances the check the city writes to KU Endowment will be bigger than it would have been otherwise.
• UPDATE: Well, count Bill Self and his Assists Foundation back in the game. I just talked with Erin Zimney, executive director of the Assists Foundation, and she said the organization is still very much planning on making a donation — likely in the $1 million range — to the city's recreation center. That was welcome news to city officials because on Thursday afternoon City Manager David Corliss told me the city no longer was planning on receiving a donation from the foundation. I had heard that same sentiment from other city officials in off-the-record conversations as well. Zimney said she's not quite sure why the city thought the donation was off the table, other than the city and the foundation had not talked about the possibility in recent months. The last public statement from the Assists Foundation was in March, when the project was still slated for property on the west side of SLT. "Our plan has always been to support a recreation center, if indeed it does happen," Zimney said. She said Self and his wife, Cindy, were both very excited about what a recreation center could provide for area youths. Zimney said the foundation likely would wait until after the city accepts a bid to build the recreation center — which likely would be in mid-April — before it formalized a donation to the city. Zimney said she did not think the foundation would be financially supporting the KU portion of Rock Chalk Park, although she said board members found that project to be exciting as well.
If you remember all the way back to November 2011, when the city was contemplating a $15 million center on land at Wakarusa and Overland drives, one of the driving forces was that KU Coach Bill Self’s Assists Foundation was prepared to make at least a $1 million donation to the project.
Well, Corliss now has confirmed to me that the city is no longer expecting that donation. This isn’t much of a surprise because the idea of a donation from the Assists Foundation hasn’t come up much recently at City Hall. Ever since the project grew and moved to the east side of the SLT, I had gotten the sense that the idea of a donation to the city was up in the air. But now we have a city official confirming it.
I’ve heard it is still possible that the Assists Foundation may make a donation to the project, but its money would go to KU Endowment. I haven’t yet chatted with the Assists Foundation, but I’ll attempt to do so and provide an update.
• You also may remember that one of the added benefits of having a recreation center that is much larger than a standard recreation center is that there would be room to house a “wellness center.”
Indeed, the 181,000-square-foot design has about 7,000 square feet for a wellness center. What it doesn’t have at this point is anybody to run it.
The assumption has been that Lawrence Memorial Hospital would operate a wellness center, although what exactly would be included in that center hasn’t been very well defined yet. But city officials have confirmed that LMH hasn’t made any commitment to be part of that wellness center, and is not likely to make a commitment before the city will bid this project.
In other words, the recreation center will include about 7,000 square feet of what the building industry calls “spec space.” It is still possible LMH will want to do the wellness center. I cover the LMH board and the subject has come up, but so far the board hasn’t engaged in a full-blown discussion about becoming involved in the project.
Various city officials told me the city always can request proposals from other health care companies that want to run a wellness center in the city.
That could get very interesting. There is speculation that KU Hospital would be a group interested in running a wellness center in the city. And who knows if other Kansas City or Topeka hospitals would be interested in the space as a way to better attract Lawrence patients to their hospitals.
The question becomes whether the city — which technically owns Lawrence Memorial Hospital — is really interested in allowing the city-owned recreation center to be used as a way for a potential LMH competitor to gain a toe-hold in the community?
Another option is the city could use the 7,000 square feet of space for additional recreational purposes. There already are groups that are looking to change the design of the center. A group of local handball and racquetball players have asked the city to consider building a couple of courts in the center. An even more unique proposal has come from horseshoe pitchers.
Apparently, indoor horseshoe pitching is becoming more popular, especially since the sport’s demographics are trending toward the older side these days. Many older pitchers no longer like to be out in the summer heat or winter’s cold to pitch in tournaments.
Now, if indoor horseshoe pitching gets added to the facility before Tuesday’s meeting, that truly will be a buzzer beater worthy of Sportscenter.
Maybe your Valentine prefers coffee over chocolate, and maybe mine will pour a pot of Folgers down my pants if I bring her anything less than five pounds of Hershey bars.
Well, good news for both of us: A new coffee shop is opening in the coming days at 19th and Massachusetts Street, and I’m pretty sure my wife won’t be able to buy a pot of Folgers there.
Alchemy Coffee — which is set to go into a portion of the building that houses the Iwig Dairy store at the southwest corner of the intersection — will feature hand-crafted coffee.
“The whole idea of it is the science of coffee,” said owner Benjamin Farmer. “That is where the alchemy thing plays into it.”
If you want to know about the science of coffee, just let Farmer talk for a couple of minutes. He’ll bring up phrases like pour over, French press and something called clever coffee. As many regular readers will attest, anything related to “clever” likely is beyond my grasp. But Farmer tells me it is a brewing method that uses a paper filter and is kind of a mix between a French press and a traditional pour over. So, I’m sure that clears it up for you.
Alchemy Coffee probably will have to be a bit clever to figure out how to make its location work. The building at 1901 Massachusetts has struggled to keep businesses, in part because the site has some significant parking challenges. In fact, I believe the city had to approve an administrative waiver from the parking requirements to allow Alchemy to locate in the building.
But Farmer said he is aware of all that, and believes a coffee shop may be the right fit for the building because it has the potential to be very pedestrian oriented. The shop will be in the part of the building that faces 19th Street, which puts it on the route to Lawrence High. Plus, the neighborhood around the shop is densely developed, meaning there are lots of homes within walking distance of a cup of coffee. Farmer said he hopes the shop will become a gathering place for area residents.
“I have always loved coffee shops because of the community feel and atmosphere and the idea of coming together over something as simple as coffee,” Farmer said.
Renovation work is underway on the shop. Farmer said he expects to be open before the end of the month.
City releases draft agreement related to bidding of proposed recreation center; other agreements between Fritzel entity and KU not yet released
Let’s all play lawyer, which of course means we need to say “theretofore” and “henceforth” several times because we bill by the hour.
The city has released the draft agreement that would govern how the city would bid the proposed $25 million city recreation center, and how the city would partner with Kansas University Endowment and Thomas Fritzel’s private entity to build infrastructure for the recreation center and the adjacent Rock Chalk Park.
Your law degree is likely better than mine, so review the document for yourself by clicking here.
I have reviewed the document quickly (I would have failed Billing by the Hour 101 in law school). My quick take is there don’t seem to be any surprises in the information that is there, but some watchers of the project probably will want to see more information.
What hasn’t been released yet are any agreements between Fritzel’s entity and Kansas University Endowment or KU Athletics in terms of how Fritzel’s company will manage and operate the facilities near Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. If you remember, Fritzel’s Bliss Sports LLC actually will own the facilities and lease them back to KU Athletics at a discount, while KU Endowment will own the land and lease it to Bliss Sports.
I’ve talked to several people who want to see those agreements because they will spell out what role, if any, Bliss will have in operations such as providing concessions, charging for parking and selling alcohol at events.
Fritzel told me in a previous interview that Kansas Athletics will be in charge of those issues, just as they are at events held at Memorial Stadium or Allen Fieldhouse. Fritzel went on to say that his company won’t receive any revenue from the project, other than the lease payments KU will make to occupy the facilities.
But, I think some folks still want to see the documents. Fritzel has said he’ll make those documents public once they are finalized. It appears, however, the public won’t see them before the city’s Feb. 19 meeting, which is when the city likely will consider signing agreements that commit the city to move forward with the recreation center.
At least Mayor Bob Schumm isn’t counting on it. Schumm said he has some interest in how the operations of the adjacent Rock Chalk Park will be handled, but he said he does not think it is critical to know the details before the city makes a decision on the recreation center project.
He said that’s because the largest issue regarding the operation of Rock Chalk Park is whether there would be any inappropriate events held at the facilities that would interfere with the recreation center or cause other problems. He said the city has the protection it needs in that area because the city must approve a special use permit before any nonathletic event can be held at Rock Chalk Park.
As for what is included in the document that is available for review, the most significant details have to do with the city’s bidding process. The agreement spells out the recreation center portion of the project will follow the “normal bidding process used by the city for its construction projects.”
As previously reported, how the infrastructure — such as roads, parking lots and sewer lines — will be built won’t use the city’s standard bidding process. That’s in part because the infrastructure will be a joint venture between the city and Rock Chalk Park Development, since most of the infrastructure will be shared between the two projects.
I’ve had several people ask for more details about that part of the project, so here’s a quick look:
• The city will have agreements in place that make it clear it won’t pay more than $25 million for the recreation center and the surrounding infrastructure.
• RCP LLC — a private entity controlled entirely by KU Endowment — will contract with Fritzel’s Bliss Sports to build the infrastructure. Architects have estimated it will cost about $13 million to build the infrastructure.
• According to the latest agreement, Bliss Sports will hire King Construction, an area excavation company, to build the infrastructure.
• The city will go through its normal bidding process to select a builder and to get a guaranteed price on the recreation center building. Architects have estimated it will cost about $18 million to build the 181,000-square-foot building.
• Bliss Sports will provide invoices to the city and to KU Endowment showing the amount it has been billed by King Construction. Bliss will be allowed to add a 10 percent management fee to those amounts. City officials said KU Endowment has indicated that is the standard management fee KU Endowment pays its contractors.
• The city won’t make any payments for the infrastructure until such time it is ready to take ownership of the recreation center and the 26 acres of property that will be included in the project.
• Under the terms of the agreement, the city does not yet know what percentage of the shared infrastructure costs it may pay for. It won’t know that amount until both the costs for the recreation center and the infrastructure are identified.
Maybe a few examples would be helpful. Say the city gets a bid for $15 million on the recreation center, and the infrastructure costs $13 million to build. In that scenario, the city would pay $15 million for the building and would pay $10 million of the $13 million in infrastructure costs.
On the flip side, say the city gets a bid of $20 million on the recreation center and the infrastructure costs $13 million to bid. In that scenario, the city would pay only $5 million of $13 million in infrastructure costs.
Or, say the city gets a $13 million bid for the recreation center and the infrastructure only costs $10 million to build. Under that scenario, the city would pay $23 million for the project instead of the agreed upon $25 million.
How likely that is to occur, I don’t know. What seems more likely: The city will pay $25 million for the project, which was going to be the case even before the city agreed to the open bidding process. But now, the city does have a bid process in place that will give it comfort that it will be getting a good value for its building.
Now, the city must ensure it will get a good value for the infrastructure. City officials I’ve talked to have said they’re comfortable they will. A majority of commissioners long have said they are willing to help KU cover some of the infrastructure costs for Rock Chalk Park. They note that it is not unusual for cities to help universities with projects that are expected to draw visitors or students to the community.
It also is worth noting that the city won’t pay any of the costs to construct the actual KU facilities, such as the track field stadium, soccer field and other such amenities. Those facilities are expected to cost about $40 million.
As for other details in the agreement, they include:
• The city will have the ability to hire a construction quality control manager that can inspect all portions of the infrastructure projects.
• Bliss Sports can be made to improve any portion of the infrastructure project, if the city, KU Endowment and the project architect believe the infrastructure doesn’t meet the agreed upon plans.
• Plans for the infrastructure can’t be changed, unless the city agrees to the changes in writing.
• Building permit fees and impact fees for both the infrastructure improvements and construction of the KU facilities will be rebated back to Bliss Sports or KU Endowment, whichever entity pays the fees.
• Several important details of agreement have yet to be released. The document posted by the city doesn’t yet include several exhibits and secondary agreements that will govern various aspects of the project. Those include agreements that spell out how the 26 acres for the recreation center will be transferred from KU Endowment to the city, and what specific KU facilities will be covered by industrial revenue bonds and the tax abatement that comes with those bonds.
Commissioners will discuss the agreement, and possibly vote to sign it, at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.
City to consider approval of proposed housing development southeast of Sixth and SLT, near Langston Hughes Elementary
City commissioners tonight will debate a somewhat controversial development project near the corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway, and this one doesn’t involve a recreation center.
Commissioners at their 6:35 p.m. meeting today will consider plans for a new housing and apartment development on about 27.5 acres of ground southeast of the Sixth Street and SLT interchange.
More specifically, the project is just west of the area commonly known as the Diamondhead subdivision. On the off chance that you are not a planner or a taxicab driver, and therefore don’t know the names of subdivisions (yes, taxicab drivers know that and much more) the area is on the east edge of the South Lawrence Trafficway. It is just a bit northwest of Langston Hughes Elementary.
The project proposes 52 single-family homes, 22 duplexes and 86 apartment units on the 27.5 acres. This project has definitely gone through the sausage making process, as neighbors objected to the amount of duplex zoning that was proposed in the project late last year. Developers responded by cutting the number of duplexes by more than 50 percent, but they were replaced by 23 single-family homes that will be built on smaller-than-average 5,000-square-foot lots.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on a 6-3 vote recommended approval of the project. City commissioners will have the final say on it tonight.
The project is interesting enough in itself, but the more interesting issue is how this entire area near Sixth and the SLT may take off in the near future. There is obviously the $75 million worth of improvements being contemplated across the street at Rock Chalk Park. That tends to wake up developers and land speculators.
But perhaps an even larger factor is the pending completion of not only the South Lawrence Trafficway but a new Bob Billings Parkway interchange on the SLT. The Bob Billings interchange is south of this property.
Below is a picture from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Office that shows the land between Sixth Street and Bob Billings Parkway, bordered by the South Lawrence Trafficway on the west. Look at how much undeveloped land is out there.
The chart to the left of the drawing shows what the land is currently zoned for, and then lists — theoretically — how many housing units could be built in that zoning category. If you total it all up, there is theoretically zoning in place for about 1,300 new homes or apartments in the area.
Plus, that includes two pieces of land that aren’t zoned for anything. Two development groups — Alvamar Inc. and the Diamondhead group — own about 50 acres that are zoned as urban reserve, meaning it will get some sort of residential or commercial zoning in the future.
Commercial zoning certainly is a possibility in the area. Diamondhead owns 31 acres immediately south of Sixth Street at the Sixth and SLT interchange. It will be interesting to see if that property ever gets into the discussion about locations to build more retail to serve the proposed Rock Chalk Park development.
Alavamar also has about 12 acres zoned for commercial uses at the northeast corner of where the Bob Billings and SLT interchange will be built. That also will be an interesting piece of property to keep an eye on.
But perhaps the most interesting land owner in the area is the Lawrence school district. In addition to the property it owns for Langston Hughes Elementary, it also owns about 35 acres surrounding the school. The property is zoned for residential development. The school district, of course, may want to hang onto it for school expansion. But if it decides it isn’t need for such, I’m sure it won’t have a problem finding a buyer for the property.
Anyway, commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today to discuss the Langston Heights development. Here’s guessing that it will be the first of many discussions about development for the area in the coming months and years.