Posts tagged with Lawrence
New sushi along 23rd Street, new Chinese along Iowa Street; rumors of KC restaurant chain coming to town; figures show positive Kansas income growth
There are new adventures to be had in Lawrence with chopsticks, and this time I’m almost sure it won’t require a trip to the ear, nose and throat doctor. In other words, there’s news about some new Japanese and Chinese restaurants in the city.
Yeah Sushi has opened in the Malls Shopping Center at 23rd and Louisiana streets. Yuyuan Jiang is the owner of the restaurant, and he told me he’s been a sushi chef for the past eight years in places such as California, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and New York.
“My sushi style is coming from many different states,” he said.
In fact, Yeah’s menu includes a sushi roll for almost every state. (In fact, it would be dead on, if geographers would quit insisting that we recognize Missouri.) By my count, the menu has 49 different sushi rolls. There are plenty of traditional ones such as the spicy tuna roll, the Philadelphia roll, the Yellowtail scallion roll, the California roll and the rainbow roll.
But there are also some with more local flair. There’s a KU roll, which has salmon, crab meat and avocado, and there is a Lawrence roll, which has crab meat, shrimp, cucumber, tempura flakes and eel sauce. (That sounds about right. Every time I’ve ever met an eel here, he’s been sauced.)
The restaurant also has about a dozen salads — ranging from a house salad to more creative ones like a salmon skin salad or a seaweed salad. There are lots of other things on the menu that I’m probably not the best at explaining. (After all, I was worried about Rudolph when I saw a Christmas roll on the menu.) But my understanding is my colleague Joanna Hlavecek is writing a little something about the restaurant, so keep an eye out for that at Lawrence.com.
I have two other quick updates from the land of Far East cuisine. There’s a new Chinese restaurant called Xi’an Kitchen in the location that used to house the Asian restaurant 8 Flavors. That’s near the intersection of 23rd and Iowa, behind the building that houses the West Coast Saloon. I haven’t yet chatted with the owners of that establishment, but we’ll reach out to them.
And one more note, and this one comes from Lawrence’s Far East, which is 23rd and Harper. The Jin Shan Buffet that is located at the shopping center at the northeast corner of the intersection is closed. But a sign on the restaurant says it will reopen. According to the sign, there was a fire in the kitchen of Jin Shan several weeks ago. The sign wasn’t clear on when the restaurant will reopen, but there was a large Dumpster from a local fire restoration company on site. I’ll let you know if I hear more.
In other news and notes from around town:
• It would take a big pair of chopsticks to tackle a moose, but I’m hearing rumblings that the popular KC-based restaurant Blue Moose Bar and Grill is seriously considering a Lawrence location.
I’ve reached out to the company, but haven’t yet heard back. So this falls into the category of unconfirmed, and you can take it for whatever you think it is worth. But there is definitely talk on the street that the Blue Moose Bar & Grill is working on a deal for a northwest Lawrence location. I’ve heard that the site next to Spin Neapolitan Pizza, which is locating next to the Wal-Mart near Sixth and Wakarusa is a potential site, but again I don’t have confirmation from the company on that.
For those of you not familiar with the Blue Moose, it is not your typical bar and grill food. There are certainly some hamburgers and buffalo chicken and that sort of stuff, but there’s also salmon, pastas, flat bread pizzas, gourmet mac and cheese and other such items. My understanding is the locations also serve brunch.
The restaurant has locations in Prairie Village, Overland Park, Topeka and Lenexa.
Again, I wouldn’t pull the moose antlers out of the closet just yet, but it is a restaurant to keep an eye on. I’ll let you know if I hear more.
• There’s some economic news out that is not bad for the state of Kansas. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis has a new report out that says personal income in the state grew faster than it did many other parts of the country, and, to boot, Kansas is a quite a bit cheaper place to live.
The numbers are for 2013, but those are the latest numbers available, so we’ll take what we can get. The federal number crunchers found that personal income — that’s things like wages, rental income, Social Security payments and a host of other things — rose by 1.1 percent in Kansas, after adjusted for inflation. That’s better than the 0.8 percent rise for the U.S. as a whole.
What’s more, Kansas did better than many of the other states in the region in 2013. (Note: This is the growth rate for total Kansas personal income, not per capita personal capita income.) Here’s a look:
— Colorado: up 1.0 percent
— Iowa: up 0.6 percent
— Missouri: up 0.5 percent
— Nebraska: up 2.2 percent
— Oklahoma: up 0.7 percent.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis also does a neat thing where it tries to show how far a dollar goes in each state. It uses an index that is similar to the popular Consumer Price Index to measure how much the price of goods and services are changing. What it found for Kansas is that prices are about 10 percent cheaper here than they are compared with the country as a whole.
Here’s a look at how we compare with other states. The key to understanding these numbers is that 100 is the national average. So a score of 90 would mean we're 10 percent below the national average on prices, while 110 would mean we’re 10 percent above the national average on prices, for example.
— Kansas: 90.8
— Colorado: 102.2
— Iowa: 90.3
— Missouri: 89.2
— Nebraska: 90.5
— Oklahoma: 89.9
The report also lists per capita income amounts for metro areas across the country. I’m still accessing some of that data, and I’ll bring you more later. But the quick version for Lawrence is that per capita personal income stood at $36,187, up from $36,048 in 2012. That’s an increase of 0.3 percent. I’ll get you some comparisons to other communities as I get through the data a bit more.
The Lawrence construction industry may be getting a little more competitive. There’s news of a Eudora-based company expanding through a merger and opening up a new headquarters to accommodate an expected growth in employees.
Leaders with Benchmark construction have confirmed they’ve completed a deal to purchase Ron Fowles Construction Management Services, a Manhattan-based firm that has done significant construction work for Kansas State University and other large projects in the Manhattan area.
In addition, Benchmark also has struck a deal for a new corporate headquarters building in Eudora. The company has purchased the former Carquest Auto Parts building at 10th and Ash streets in Eudora. Tim Bruce, the CEO of the combined companies, said the company currently has its six executive and administrative positions in a small Eudora office along Kansas Highway 10. He said the company needed a larger office space that would allow the company to accommodate the 10 to 15 new executive and administrative employees that he anticipates over the next three to five years.
“It gives us the room we’re going to need for project managers, operations managers, a safety office and other positions,” Bruce said. “It also gives us some good warehouse space.”
Bruce said he sees good growth potential in the area’s construction market, and he thinks Benchmark is well positioned to compete with large Lawrence-based construction firms such as B.A. Green Construction, First Construction and others for commercial building projects such as office buildings, mixed-used buildings, and educational buildings both for school districts and universities.
Bruce said the new company will operate under two names. Benchmark and RF Construction, and will continue to maintain an office in Manhattan. Bruce, however, said the Eudora office will serve as the corporate headquarters for the new entity.
Bruce said Eudora made good sense for the company in part because the community of about 6,000 people is well positioned for companies that are looking to do business in the Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City areas. The town is located right along Kansas Highway 10, and a relatively new interchange on the Kansas Turnpike is just a few minutes north of Eudora.
“It makes for really good transportation access,” said Bruce, who also is a member of the Eudora City Council and a leader in the city’s chamber of commerce.
It will be interesting to watch in the coming years whether Eudora is able to take advantage of the new Kansas Turnpike interchange, which is probably five minutes or so from its downtown. The city has an industrial park on the eastern edge of the city, right along K-10, and the community has significant amounts of undeveloped frontage property along the highway. But it also is just down the road from the new Lawrence Venture Park, which is expected to be the property that area economic development leaders focus on filling for awhile.
• That’s it for today on Town Talk. I’m going to be participating as a “victim” in today’s emergency management exercise that is taking place in the Lied Center parking lot and also at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Rumor has it that a terrible hazardous materials accident may befall me. I’m not sure if that will happen at the exercise or as I finish making breakfast here. Stay on the lookout this weekend for a Lawhorn’s Lawrence for a behind-the-scenes look at what happens when a fake disaster hits the city.
Lawrence construction totals on pace for record year; more details on costs of large apartment project; eco devo leaders confirm details of new manufacturer
It is time to keep our eyes open for a possible Lawrence record in 2015, and it involves the use of hammers and saws, which is usually the type of record that causes my insurance agent to lose his job. But no worries here because the record in question is whether Lawrence will have its best building year in history.
The latest figures from Lawrence City Hall show that city building inspectors have issued permits for $89.3 million worth of projects through the end of April. That puts Lawrence within striking distance of the all-time record of $175.03 million worth of projects built in 2000. (Granted, the 2000 numbers aren’t adjusted for inflation, but for those of you hung up on that, I suggest you spend the rest of this column playing with your pocket protectors.)
It is probably a bit of a long shot that the record will fall in 2015 because two of the larger projects expected this year are already included in the $89 million total — a $45 million permit for the HERE at Kansas apartment project across the street from KU’s Memorial Stadium, and an $18.7 million permit for the new multistory apartment and office building under construction at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
We’ll have to see whether there are another $86 million worth of construction projects that materialize in the final eight months of the year. Regardless, it looks like Lawrence is poised to have a building year that is well-above average. To put the numbers in perspective, Lawrence in the first four months of the year had almost as many projects underway as it had for the entire 12 months of 2014. The city issued permits for $99.7 million worth of projects in 2014. For further perspective, look at the downturn Lawrence was in during the depths of the recession. For all of 2009, the city issued permits for only $75 million worth of projects.
Here’s a look at some other facts and figures from the latest building permit report from City Hall:
— The number of single family and duplex units under construction is up slightly in 2015. The city has issued permits for 49 single-family or duplex units thus far in 2014. That’s up from 42 at the same time period last year.
— Apartment construction is back with a bang. The city has issued permits for 351 new units of apartments. The HERE project and the Ninth and New Hampshire project have been major drivers of those numbers.
— April was a busy month for new construction. During the month, city inspectors issued permits for $8 million worth of work. Among the larger projects were $1 million for renovations at the new Peaslee Technical Training Center at 2920 Haskell; $700,000 for the new Chick-fil-A building near 27th and Iowa; $600,000 for a new Ulta Beauty at 27th and Iowa; $540,000 for a new grain storage bin at the Ottawa Co-op at 2001 Moodie Road; and $500,000 for renovations for Port Fonda restaurant, which will be on the ground floor of the new Marriott hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Perhaps some of you remember that during the debate over whether the City Commission should approve financial incentives for the HERE at Kansas project, the development was frequently described as a $75 million project. So, perhaps you are confused why the building permit for the project has come in about $30 million less than that.
It did catch my eye, but city officials have provided me an explanation. They said that the $45 million is the estimated cost of building the actual structure. The rest of the costs are for other items related to the development. Britt Crum-Cano, the city's economic development coordinator, said the developer of the project provided these estimates on the other project costs: $420,000 in utility connection fees; $1,000,000 in public improvements that are being paid for by the developer; $7.9 million to acquire the land; $2.7 million in architectural, engineering and legal fees; $2.1 million for fixtures, furnishings and equipment; $4.4 million for equipment to run the automated parking garage; $1.6 million in interest costs; $2.4 million for contingencies; and $6.7 million in other soft costs.
Those soft costs include items such as demolition, asbestos abatement, specialty engineering; renderings, insurance, marketing, travel, developer overhead, loan fees and a host of other items.
I’m not saying any of this was done wrong here. I’ve never given much thought to how the city determines the value of a project for building permit purposes. But I do watch permits fairly closely, and many times the value listed on a building permit is pretty close to the dollar value that is presented to city commissioners when they are considering issues such as incentives and such. The most recent project I’m thinking of is the hotel development at Ninth and New Hampshire. That was frequently discussed as being about a $12 million to $14 million project. In the end, the city issued a building permit for $13.8 million. The county appraiser lists the fair market value of the project in 2015 at about $13 million.
The only real consequence of the value listed on the permit is the value is used to determine the building permit fee due to the city. If another $30 million were added to the permit value, the developer’s building permit fee would have increased by about $30,000.
The bigger question probably relates to what the project ultimately will be valued at by the county appraiser. The City Commission approved an 85 percent, 10-year tax rebate for the project, in part, based on the idea that the project was going to go on the tax rolls somewhere near $75 million. Once the tax rebate period expires, a $75 million building produces a lot of property tax. I’m assuming that the expectation is that the building will go on the tax rolls at $75 million or so, but I’m double checking on that.
• Last week we reported that an Iowa-based company has filed plans to open a foam manufacturing plant along Haskell Avenue. Well, I’ve gotten a few more details about that project.
As we previously reported, EPS Products plans to locate in 60,000 square feet of space in the former E&E Display building at 910 E. 29th St. I had been told that the project likely would include about 20 jobs. Now, an official with the Lawrence chamber of commerce is confirming that information. Brady Pollington, economic development project manager for The Chamber, said at a chamber event this morning that he expects 15 to 20 jobs with an average wage of about $15 per hour.
Pollington also confirmed another piece of information I had heard. The company is coming to Lawrence to be closer to Amarr Garage Door’s Lawrence manufacturing facility. The new EPS facility will manufacture foam that is used as interior insulation for garage doors.
Look for the project to take shape in the next few months.
Plans filed for meat-smoking business in rural Douglas County; large apartment complex near KU tweaks plans; long list of appointments to city boards
Perhaps your barbecue experiments this long, rainy, holiday weekend have left you looking for a new place to buy smoked meats. (As I’ve said multiple times, I didn’t know we used the laundry room that much, and in my defense, I did fully open the window.) Well, plans are in the works for a new Douglas County business to become a regional supplier of smoked meats.
Brian Strecker, a former chef at the now-defunct Pachamamas, has filed plans to open The Burning Barrel on the site of a former Christmas tree farm west of Lecompton. Strecker plans to produce a variety of bacons, hams, sausages and other products that will be sold to restaurants and grocery stores throughout eastern Kansas. Most of the products will be produced from livestock raised right here in the area.
“My main focus is to provide people with a product that is from Kansas, processed in Kansas and that stays in Kansas,” Strecker said.
The idea of farm-to-table is a popular one with the the restaurant industry. Strecker said he has had good response from restaurants thus far. He said The Roost in downtown Lawrence has expressed a strong interest in buying its breakfast meats from The Burning Barrel. Bacon and sausage is expected to be a big seller, but Strecker said the possibilities for products are numerous. He said he’s talking with one restaurant that is interested in a variety of pizza toppings.
Strecker thinks hams will be a big part of the business. He said the large number of smoke and spice combinations offers possibilities for unique hams. He said in addition to traditional hams, he’s been perfecting an Asian-inspired ham that is smoked with green tea leaves and is infused with ginger, soy and Asian-varieties of peppercorns. Other varieties also will be offered.
Strecker plans to use “heritage” breeds of hogs for many of his products. The breeds, such as Durocs, are significantly different from the breeds used by the major pork producers. Strecker said the heritage breeds often produce a darker, more flavorful cut of meat.
Pork products are expected to be the bulk of the company’s offerings, but Strecker said he plans to have some beef products as well.
Strecker’s business plans, however, still need to win approval from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission and the Douglas County Commission. Strecker is seeking a conditional use permit for the property at 292 North 2100 Road. Strecker is only seeking approval to process meat at the facility. There will not be any slaughtering of animals at the location. Strecker has a supplier that provides the local meat already slaughtered.
Strecker hopes to have the approval process completed in August, and the business open sometime in September. The business won’t do any retail sales at the location, but Strecker said he does expect to participate in farmers markets, and reach some retail deals with some area grocers. Strecker said he plans to sell to restaurants throughout eastern Kansas and as far west as Wichita.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Plans are changing slightly for the large apartment complex under construction at the southwest corner of 11th and Mississippi streets. The project, known as HERE at Kansas, has submitted new building elevations for the city to approve. According to an analysis by the city’s planning staff, the major change is that about two-thirds of the building becomes about one story shorter. The number of living units in the project — 237 living units — and the number of bedrooms — 624 bedrooms — are not changing as a result of the design. The project also is not changing its number of parking spaces, which is 577. So, I’m not sure if the height of each story is changing, or how the project is able to reduce its height without reducing its unit count.
Other changes noted by planning staff include a reduction in the number of windows in the parking garage portion of the project, replacement of some brick with cement-fiber panels, and minor revisions to windows and doors on the exterior of the project.
Here’s a look at a before and after version of the plans. This is for the west elevation, which is the part of the building that faces Mississippi Street. Click here to see the elevations for the other sides of the building.
• City commissioners at their meeting this evening will make a host of appointments, including a couple of people who are frequent City Hall participants. Former City Commissioner Aron Cromwell is slated to be appointed to the city’s Public Incentives Review Committee, which provides recommendations on tax abatements and other such issues. Melinda Henderson, who was once active in the Progressive Lawrence Campaign and has been a frequent advocate for neighborhood issues around town, is slated to be appointed to the Joint Economic Development Council, which makes recommendations on eco devo matters for both the city and the county.
Mayor Jeremy Farmer also has submitted a list of names for the new Pedestrian-Bicycle Issues Task Force. Those include: Dee Boeck, Carol Bowen, Charlie Bryan, Clint Idol, Marilyn Hull, Mike Kelly, Erin Paden, Bonnie Uffman, Marianne Melling, Patricia Weaver and Adam Weigel.
• Here is perhaps the number of the day: From Jan. 1 to April 30, the city’s police department responded to approximately 750 calls that were “suicide-related or requests to check on an individual’s welfare.” That’s a little more than six per day.
The number is part of a memo city commissioners will be studying as part of a 3 p.m. study session today. Commissioners are holding the first in a series of study sessions related to setting goals for the city. Today they will focus on public safety and mental health issues. As the number above suggests, there is some crossover between the two.
We’ll see how the discussion proceeds, though. There is a growing debate in City Hall about whether the city’s efforts to build a new police headquarters facility should be linked to the community’s efforts to address mental health care.
On the one hand, a complete review of the police department, including how it can be part of the mental health care system, might be helpful in planning how the department should be structured in the future. But on the other hand, advocates for a new police facility say that the facility needs are immediate. It is uncertain how long a complete review of the department may take.
I’ll be at today’s study session and will report back on the discussion that ensues.
New center for business startups opens near Ninth and Iowa; city plans to discuss gigabit Internet again
Figuring out how to help Lawrence residents build new companies is the big talk in local economic development circles these days. Now, there is a new private effort underway to help budding entrepreneurs as well. The Lawrence Center for Entrepreneurship has recently opened near Ninth and Iowa streets.
If you remember, we reported back in October that Lawrence school board member Kristie Adair was opening the new venture. Adair, who also is a co-owner of Lawrence-based Wicked Broadband, said construction work has been completed and the center is fully operational.
The center, which is in one of the office buildings west of The Merc, offers both office space and access to a workshop that is stocked with several specialized tools that can help in the creation of prototype products. We’re talking about devices like 3-D printers that meld plastic material together to create new objects and a CNC machine that uses computer-generated designs to cut and shape material into new objects. Plus, there’s traditional woodworking tools, an electronics repair station and other such tools. The center also offers classes in how to use some of the more advanced equipment. (That sounds handy because I can’t get my 3-D printer to work. But I suspect I’m just wearing the glasses wrong.)
On the office side of the business, there are shared worked spaces, a conference room, a lounge, desktop publishing software and, importantly, high-speed gigabit Internet service. That means businesses have the same type of ballyhooed Internet speeds that are being offered by Google Fiber in Kansas City. The center sells memberships to businesses for $50 a month, which gives members 24-hour access to the facility, Adair said.
The center also offers a secure computer server room that companies can rent space in to house their own servers or back-up servers.
Adair is serving as executive director of the new center, which is a private venture owned by Adair and her husband, Joshua Montgomery. Adair said it is important for communities to have centers like this one, if communities are serious about being friendly to new startups.
“We really remember what it is like to start out in a small business,” Adair said. “It was challenging, and one of our bigger challenges was finding space.”
Adair said she’s come to learn that sharing space with other startup businesses also can be beneficial.
“You realize you need space, but you don’t always realize that you need somebody to bounce some ideas off to and talk shop with,” Adair said. “Starting a business can be a lonely venture.”
While the center is geared toward business startups, Adair said membership also is available to people who haven’t yet gotten to that stage, but are interested in learning more about 3-D printers and some of the other “maker space” technology.
The Center for Entrepreneurship isn’t alone in trying to reach out to Lawrence startups or home-based businesses that are looking to make the transition into office space. We’ve previously reported on Lawrence Creates, a nonprofit venture in East Lawrence, that offers some of the same types of services but also does more outreach to the artist community as well. The Cider Gallery in East Lawrence’s Warehouse Arts District also offers shared office space and other business services for startups. Adair, though, said she thought the various business centers all would carve out their unique niches in the marketplace.
“I think people are really starting to see the need in Lawrence for this type of service,” Adair said. “Businesses that build jobs one or two at a time really are the backbone of an economy.”
In other news and notes from around town:
• While we’re speaking of high-tech things, there’s an update on Lawrence’s quest to get widespread gigabit Internet service in Lawrence. Perhaps you recall that last week I reported that Eudora was about to jump ahead of Lawrence in its efforts to get the super fast Internet service that is similar to Google Fiber in Kansas City. Eudora is close to signing an agreement with Baldwin City-based RG Fiber that would bring the service to that Douglas County community just east of Lawrence. If the Eudora project proceeds, RG’s leader has said it likely would delay the company’s plans to install the service in parts of Lawrence.
RG Fiber has been interested in installing service in parts of Lawrence for more than a year, but the City Commission has been slow in approving a “fiber policy.” (This one is different from the standard three bowls of Shredded Wheat per morning.) This fiber policy would allow companies like RG to lease unused portions of city-owned fiber optic cable to help complete a network in the city.
Well, perhaps it is all just coincidence, but shortly after Lawrence officials learned that RG was talking with Eudora, city commissioners are now saying they’re ready to pass this fiber policy. Expect it to be on Tuesday’s agenda. New Commissioner Matthew Herbert also forecast that the policy shouldn’t have any problem winning approval.
“I think it is pretty close to just needing a rubber stamp,” Herbert said. “People in the industry are happy with it.”
We’ll see whether Lawrence’s approval of the policy causes RG Fiber to reconsider its timing for entering the Lawrence market.
Another urgent care medical clinic slated for Sixth Street; big announcements from Free State Festival; items of note from City Commission elections
If turkey-on-pita or that wonderfully catchy Spangles jingle was medicine for your body, you’re still out of luck in Lawrence. But soon you will be able to go see a doctor in the Sixth Street location that formerly housed the Spangles restaurant. (And, you can always ask the doctor to sing the jingle. You never know.)
Plans have been filed at Lawrence City Hall for MedExpress to locate in the former Spangles building at 3420 W. Sixth St. If you remember, the fast-food restaurant closed down in late 2013. MedExpress is a West Virgina-based walk-in health clinic that treats everything from broken bones, cuts and scrapes, colds and flus, and a host of other nonlife-threatening ailments.
According to its website, the walk-in clinics are open seven days a week from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. The company has locations in seven states, but it looks like the Lawrence clinic will be its first in Kansas.
It certainly won’t be the first to start the trend of walk-in health clinics coming to Lawrence. West Lawrence residents, I don’t know what you have been doing — but perhaps we can talk in private later — but doctors certainly have been interested in serving you lately. Just a couple of weeks ago we reported that another walk-in clinic company — XpressWellness Urgent Care — had filed plans to build near the corner of Sixth and Folks Road. That’s just a couple of blocks away from this site. Interestingly, Lawrence developer Doug Compton played a hand in both projects. XpressWellness is going into the Bauer Farm development that Compton is a part of, and the paperwork for MedExpress shows that Compton’s First Management now owns the Spangles building.
No word yet on when MedExpress plans to open. The site will undergo a significant renovation. For some reason, it appears the medical office will not be keeping all the 1950s diner-style neon that exists at the Spangles buildings. Plans call for most of the existing building to be demolished. A new structure that is about 2,000 square feet bigger will be built. All told, the clinic will be about 5,000 square feet.
In other news and notes from around town:
• This news is just in: For those of you who didn’t get enough funk in the recently completed election season, one of the masters of funk will be performing a live concert in Lawrence this summer as part of the Free State Festival. The Lawrence Arts Center announced this morning that George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic will be a headliner of the festival, which runs June 22-28.
Noted comedian Bobcat Goldthwait also will be in town for the festival. He’ll be screening a documentary that he directed about comedian Barry Crimmins. Look for more information about the complete festival lineup and more details about showtimes soon.
• My french fry habits alone put me much closer to Bill Clinton than George Clinton, so you should find it as no surprise that I’m better versed on politics than funk. Even though I suspect there are many of you sick of the political season, we should do a quick wrap-up of some items from last night’s City Commission elections. Here are some things I think we learned:
— It was an odd year for money in Lawrence politics. The top three vote winners in the election were the candidates who raised the least amount of money. Leslie Soden, the top vote-winner, raised just less than $7,000 for the entire campaign, according to the most recent filings. The top fundraiser, Stan Rasmussen, raised just more than $25,000. He finished fifth in the six candidate field. The second-highest fundraiser, Bob Schumm, finished sixth. Couple this with the fact that supporters of the police headquarters sales tax greatly outspent opponents in November but still lost. Perhaps the role of money is changing in local politics. Perhaps social media is making it easier to run grassroots campaigns. Perhaps we just caught voters in a particular mood. Likely, it is a bit of all three.
— Any money that even looks like it may have touched the Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity or other such conservative causes is poison to the touch in Lawrence. That seems to be the most likely explanation for why Rasmussen fell from second-place in the March primary to fifth place in the general election. Rasmussen had to deal with a controversy in the final week of the campaign as some voters expressed concern about $4,500 in donations that he took — and then later returned — from a prominent southeast Kansas family involved in conservative political causes. Rasmussen tried to explain that the money from the Crossland family came to him because he was a classmate with the elder Crossland in Leadership Kansas, not because the two shared political philosophies. For what it is worth, several people have come forward and said Rasmussen really isn’t a conservative in the ilk of Crossland. But Lawrence voters, it appears, take no chances on that front.
— This may be the last April election we have. One of the items that got a bit of talk in political circles last night is whether the Kansas Legislature will approve a law that would move the city and school board elections to even numbered years in November. County Clerk Jamie Shew told me he thinks the bill has a real chance of approval. City and school elections would still be nonpartisan but they would be on the ballot with partisan races such as governor and presidential races. Now that the campaigning is done, I’m going to look at that bill more, and I’ll report back. The implication could be large though. For one, some members of the City Commission will have to have their terms adjusted, if elections move to even numbered years. The bigger implication, though, may be how it changes the voter mix in Lawrence. Generally, KU students don’t come out to vote in City Commission elections. Generally, they do for presidential elections. If there are City Commission names on the ballot, will they vote in that race as well? It has the potential to be a game-changer.
75th Anniversary of The Duke and 75,000 fans in Lawrence; police officers association endorses three for City Commission
Well, Pilgrim, cinch up your saddle, pull your hat down tight and mosey over to to the popcorn trough. There’s a new excuse for Lawrence residents to watch a John Wayne movie in the coming days. (As a bonus, we also can walk around saying words like pilgrim, sarsaparilla and boy-howdy without people looking at us odd. Why are you still looking at me odd?)
Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of John Wayne coming to Lawrence as part of the world premier of his 1940 motion picture "Dark Command." The movie wasn’t filmed in Lawrence — if you have ever watched it, you’ll get a kick out of the scenery around Lawrence — but the plot was based in Lawrence. The movie is loosely based on Quantrill’s Raid of the city. The villain and John Wayne’s nemesis in the film is a fellow by the name of William Cantrell.
To hear some people tell it, the 1940 event is one of the standout pre-war memories people have of Lawrence. A Journal-World staff writer reminisced on the event in a 1998 Journal-World article. It was estimated that more than 75,000 people turned out in downtown Lawrence for the festivities surrounding the world premiere. There was a parade that was estimated to be “more than two miles long as hundreds of local horse fanciers and motorcade fans” joined in the festivities. Both John Wayne and Gene Autry were in town for the event. Wayne was the star of the film. Autry was not in the film but was in town for the event. Roy Rogers, however, was in the movie, although he did not sing in the film. (Cantrell surely would have been brought to justice earlier if there had been more song and dance.)
The Eldridge Hotel hosted many of the film’s stars and had banners draped all over it, including one that read “Lawrence Welcomes Hollywood.”
It is an interesting piece of Lawrence history, and you can learn more about it at the Watkins Museum of History. The museum at 11th and Massachusetts will unveil an exhibit about the movie and the world premier event on April 18. However, the museum has a small display up now. On April 18, the museum will host three screenings of "Dark Command" at 10:30, 12:30 and 2:30.
In other news and notes from around town:
• The Lawrence City Commission race is really in the homestretch now, which means more groups and organizations are announcing their endorsement of candidates. The latest group is the Lawrence Police Officers Association Political Action Committee. It has endorsed candidates Stan Rasmussen, Matthew Herbert and Terry Riordan. That is the same trio of candidates that recently won the endorsement of the Lawrence Board of Realtors. It is always unclear how much these endorsements help a candidate, but two of these three certainly were left with some work to do after March’s primary election. Riordan finished fourth in the primary and Herbert finished fifth. Only the top three vote winners in the General Election will win a seat on the City Commission.
The General Election is on Tuesday.
• I’m getting lots of questions these days about the election and also a lot of questions about the future of City Manager David Corliss. As you may remember, we reported a couple of weeks ago, Corliss is a finalist for the town manager job in Castle Rock, Colo. That’s still the case. The town of about 50,000 people outside of Denver has not yet made an announcement. But I’m expecting one soon. I suspect we’ll have an answer on Corliss’ future before we have an answer on who the next city commissioners will be. I’ve received no definitive word on what will happen in Castle Rock, but just reading the tea leaves around City Hall, I think city commissioners are preparing as if they’ll soon be searching for a new city manager. But perhaps we’ll all be surprised. It should become much clearer soon.
The auto business in Lawrence is booming, and its latest expansion is set for 23rd Street and Haskell Avenue. Lawrence-based Auto Exchange has filed plans to open a new dealership at the intersection.
Auto Exchange has reached a deal to take over the northwest corner of the intersection, the spot that previously housed the Hertz rental car business. Matt Heidrich, managing partner for the business, said the company plans to keep its existing location at 33rd and Iowa streets open as well. He hopes to have the new location at 23rd and Haskell open in 60 to 90 days.
“Our No. 1 problem has been keeping enough inventory,” Heidrich said. “The additional location will allow us to really expand our inventory.”
The deal represents a return to 23rd Street for Auto Exchange. It previously operated at the location down the street that now houses the Lawrence Kia dealership. The new location will be significantly smaller than that spot, but Heidrich said smaller locations are a part of Auto Exchange’s business strategy. The smaller locations allow for significantly lower overhead costs, he said.
“We figured out that bigger isn’t always better,” Heidrich said.
The strategy also works well with the company’s online strategy. Heidrich said the Internet has caused major changes in the dealership industry. He said about 90 percent of his dealership’s business is done online.
“The Internet has increased our business exponentially” he said.
Look for some construction to occur at the 23rd and Haskell site. Plans call for a remodel of the existing building, and the addition of a car wash bay to the site.
In case you are wondering about Hertz, it has moved to 845 Iowa St. It is now located inside The Selection auto dealership.
In other news and notes from around town:
• I know when I go to buy a new car, I always check my bank account first (assuming my wife has told me which bank the money’s at.) Well, there’s a new report out that shows how Kansans did in 2014 when it comes to incomes.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its per capita income numbers for each state in 2014. It wasn’t a great year for Kansas. Per capita income grew in the state — as it did every state — but Kansas’ growth rate was in the bottom quintile. (‘Quintile’ is left over from the days when I had enough money to buy a fancy word dictionary. Otherwise, I would just say the bottom fifth.)
Kansas’ per capita income grew by 2.9 percent in 2014. That’s compared to the national average of 3.9 percent. But a lot of Kansas’ neighbors are keeping us company in terms of lower-than-average income growth. The report notes that states that depend a lot on agriculture suffered some in 2014, especially if they didn’t have large amounts of oil and gas revenues to help their economies.
Here’s a look at the per capita incomes and growth rates for the seven states that make up the Plains Region:
— Iowa: $45,115, up 1.3 percent
— Kansas: $45,546, up 2.9 percent
— Minnesota: $48,711, up 3.2 percent
— Missouri: $41,613, up 2.7 percent
— Nebraska: $47,073, up 0.5 percent
— North Dakota: $54,951, up 5.6 percent
— South Dakota: $46,345, up 1.7 percent
As for our two neighboring states that aren’t included in that list: Colorado has per capita income of $48,730, which grew by 5.6 percent in 2014; Oklahoma checks in at $43,138, and grew at 3.8 percent last year.
In case you are wondering, the fastest growing incomes were: 1. Alaska; 2. Oregon; 3. Colorado; 4. North Dakota; 5. Texas.
In case you missed Wednesday's post: Work planned for Iowa Street this summer; roundabout for Bob Billings?
Compton purchases former Borders Bookstore site; Incumbents, Rasmussen leading the pack in City Commission fundraising
Dreams of a downtown grocery store in the former Borders bookstore building at Seventh and New Hampshire appear to be much like the milk in my refrigerator: expired. Lawrence businessman Doug Compton has signed a deal to purchase the building, and he has no plans to move his proposed downtown grocery from 11th and Massachusetts to the site.
Compton confirmed to me that he has a contract to take over ownership of the building in late May. He said he didn’t purchase the building to squelch the plans of a grassroots organization that has been working to bring a grocer into the 20,000 square foot space. But, that will be the end result.
“I will dictate what goes in there,” Compton said.
Compton said he purchased the building because it makes sense for him to own it given the amount of investment he is making along New Hampshire Street. Compton is the developer behind both the multistory apartment/office building at the southwest corner of Ninth and New Hampshire and the hotel/retail building at the southeast corner of the intersection. His company is beginning work this week on another multistory apartment/office building at the northeast corner of the intersection. He also has filed plans to build an apartment project atop the existing Pachamamas building at Eighth and New Hampshire.
Compton said he doesn’t have any particular tenant lined up to take the Borders space.
“I’m not afraid to own it and lease it,” Compton said. “It won’t sit empty that long. I’ll find a tenant for it. I think interest is going to get stronger in downtown.”
The building comes with its own private parking lot, a rarity in downtown. Compton said he thinks the building has good potential as a retail site, but said he’ll also explore the idea of converting it over to an office building.
“I have heard there was an office tenant looking for 6,000 to 7,000 square feet of space in downtown recently,” Compton said. “That would be a good place for something like that because it is hard to find downtown office space with parking right outside the door.”
Compton also said he may need the building to relocate some tenants from other projects that he would be constructing in downtown.
We’ll have to wait and see who eventually ends up in the Borders building, but there is an even more interesting question emerging: Will the grassroots supporters of a downtown grocery store now get behind the idea of a grocery store at 11th and Massachusetts? Some of the group members — led by City Commission candidate David Crawford — have opposed the plan because they thought the Borders site would be a quicker and better solution. The two sites are pretty close to each other — about a minute by car and just a few minutes by foot — so that likely isn’t the issue.
Compton’s plans call for the grocery store — which would be run by the Lawrence-based Checkers company — to be the anchor tenant for a seven-story building that would also house offices and apartments. The project also would include a parking garage to serve the development.
There is still a big question about whether historic preservationists will object to a seven-story building being constructed across the street from the historic Douglas County Courthouse and the Watkins Museum of History. The project will have to work through that, and the community will have to decide whether a tall building detracts from the character of an adjacent historic building. I know that is a common concern with historic preservationists, but I’m not sure it is with the common man. We’re poised to find out.
The idea of a downtown grocery store has been a rallying cry for many groups for many years. When Lawrence often can’t agree on much of anything, the idea that downtown needs a grocery store has been the one thing that brought us together like a bag of Doritos in front of the television set. It will be interesting to see if the downtown grocery crowd now fully throws its support behind the 11th and Massachusetts plan.
Who knows if that will happen, though? I swear each morning that I’m going to stand up to my wife and tell her that buying milk on its expiration date isn’t worth the nickel we save. Yet, here I am, chewing my milk.
In other news and notes from around town:
• One area where you often don’t find a thrifty nickel is in the world of campaign finance. Even in the world of Lawrence City Commission politics, candidates will spend thousands of dollars to win a seat on the commission. Many times — although not always — they are spending the money of campaign contributors. It usually is interesting to see how much money candidates have raised, and where it is coming from.
The latest campaign reports have been filed, and they do tell a story. There has been speculation that this may be a rough year for incumbents, but thus far that hasn’t been the case in the world of fundraising. Incumbent Bob Schumm is the leader of the pack in the most recent campaign finance reporting period. Terry Riordan, the other incumbent seeking re-election, came in third. In between the two is Stan Rasmussen, who was the leader in the previous reporting period and has raised more than $19,000 since late 2014.
These latest reports measure how much candidates have raised from Jan. 1 through Feb. 19. Here’s a look at the entire field:
— Schumm, a city commissioner and retired restaurant owner, raised $14,155 during the time period. The contributions came from 87 individuals or companies, including a $500 donation from himself.
— Rasmussen, an attorney for the U.S. Army, raised $10,975 during the time period. The contributions came from 85 individuals or companies, including a $300 donation from the PAC Lawrence United. In case you have forgotten, Lawrence United is the political action committee that became active in City Commission elections two years ago, and supports a growth-oriented agenda for the city. During the last election, the PAC — in addition to contributing directly to candidates — did a significant amount of advertising supporting candidates as well.
— Riordan, a city commissioner and Lawrence pediatrician, raised $8,665 during the time period. The contributions came from 67 individuals or businesses, including a $600 from himself.
— Mike Anderson, a local television talk show host, raised $5,430 during the time period. The contributions came from nine individuals, including $2,500 from himself.
— Matthew Herbert, a Lawrence High teacher, raised $3,795 during the time period. The contributions came from 51 individuals and businesses. Herbert also had raised $3,030 during the previous reporting period, which ran from March 21 to December 31.
— Stuart Boley, a retired IRS auditor, raised $3,430 during the time period. The contributions came from 16 individuals, including a $300 contribution from the political action committee of the Plumbers & Pipefitters union. Boley also raised $1,600 during the previous reporting period.
— Leslie Soden, the owner of a Lawrence pet sitting company, raised $2,144 during the time period. The contributions came from 17 individuals plus an unitemized number of contributors who gave less than $50 apiece.
— Kristie Adair, a Lawrence school board member and co-owner of Wicked Broadband, raised $1,655 from 22 individuals. Adair also raised $5,050 during the previous reporting period.
— David Crawford, a retired instructor for the boilermakers union, raised $1,250 during the time period from 19 individuals, including $300 from himself.
— Cori Viola, a KU law student, raised $1,217 from nine individuals plus an unitemized number of contributors who gave less than $50 apiece.
— Rob Sands, a full-time officer in the Kansas National Guard, raised $1,035 from three individuals, including $500 from himself.
Campaign finance reports from candidates Greg Robinson, Gary Williams and Justin Priest had not yet been received at the County Clerk’s office as of this morning.
You can see all the reports and the lists of who is contributing money to each candidate here.
When it comes to numbers and the South Lawrence Trafficway, we can all make jokes about the number of years it has taken to complete, or the number of arguments it has sparked. But when city, county and school board officials got briefed on the project Tuesday, one number was nothing to laugh about: The number of fatalities on the western leg of the SLT is about 55 percent higher than the average for similar Kansas roads.
From 2009 to 2013, there have been three fatalities on the SLT, which runs from Iowa Street to the Kansas Turnpike on the western edge of Lawrence. (Hopefully you’ve noticed the other half of the project, from Iowa Street to Kansas Highway 10 on the eastern edge of Lawrence, is under construction.) If you go back to 2000, the number of fatality accidents on the SLT grows to nine.
Engineers said one of the reasons for the higher-than-average fatality rate is that the road is two lanes instead of four. Another is because the road has some dangerous at-grade intersections, including one at Kasold Drive and another at 27th and Wakarusa. That one is particularly busy as users of the adjacent sports complex enter and leave the facility. That intersection was the site of a fatality when a motorist struck a bicyclist in July 2013.
Eliminating those at-grade intersections and expanding the road from two lanes to four lanes are major goals of the Kansas Department of Transportation. The department has a study underway that aims to create a concept plan for adding two lanes to the western portion of the SLT; the eastern portion is being built with four lanes. The $1.5 million KDOT study was funded before the state’s fiscal crisis really took hold, so KDOT leaders are optimistic the study will be completed. Finding money to design and then build whatever concept the study comes up with is another issue. There is no funding in future budgets to build the expansion, and it's tough to say when that may change, given that the current “concept plan” at the Statehouse involves shaking couch cushions for loose change.
The public should keep its eyes open for a public meeting in late March or early April where KDOT starts revealing ideas for how it could expand the road to four-lanes. Of particular interest to the development community and motorists will be whether KDOT proposes any additional interchanges on the western portion of the SLT.
The idea of an interchange at Kasold seems pretty remote based on comments from engineers on Tuesday. An interchange near the city’s ball fields near Wakarusa and 27th seems more feasible. Engineers also indicated that they might want to make significant changes to the interchange where the SLT connects to the Kansas Turnpike, commonly called the Lecompton interchange.
Tuesday’s meeting also produced a host of other facts and figures about the SLT project, so here’s a look at a few:
— Get ready for a lot more traffic once the eastern leg of the trafficway opens in the fall of 2016. The western leg of the SLT currently carries about 6,000 to 12,000 cars per day. When the eastern leg of the trafficway opens, those numbers are expected to grow fairly immediately to 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day.
— Here’s one reason engineers want to make the western portion of the SLT four lanes: Today it takes about 8 minutes to drive from Iowa Street to the Lecompton interchange on the western end of the road. In 2040, if the road remains two lanes, engineers estimate it will take 28 minutes to make the same trip. By 2040, the road is expected to have about 29,000 vehicles per day.
— Construction is well underway on the Bob Billings Parkway and SLT interchange. Steve Baalman, area engineer for KDOT, said the interchange is expected to be completed by November. Once completed, that will be an area to keep an eye on. That’s the place where the city’s growth probably will first truly jump the trafficway, at least when it comes to large amounts of residential development. How quickly that jump happens will be the big question. Another big question will be how quickly retail develops around the interchange. The city already has approved some retail zoning on the eastern side of the SLT.
— Lots of work has been happening on the eastern leg of the SLT. In terms of dollars spent, about 60 percent of the project is complete. Thus far, contractors only have used 40 percent of their allotted contract days.
— Twenty-four bridges have to be built as part of the project. Work is underway on all but three of them.
— If you remember, the SLT project also includes a project to build a new 31st Street that will run from Haskell Avenue to O’Connell Road. That road is basically 95 percent completed, Baalman said. But it isn’t opened to traffic because the connection to 31st Street east of Haskell can’t yet be made. Baalman said he expects 31st Street to open to traffic before the entire trafficway opens in fall 2016, but he said he can’t estimate yet when that opening will be.