Posts tagged with Lawrence
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.
Compton plans to build five-story apartment building at Pachamamas site downtown; grocery project moving along; West Lawrence RadioShack store to close
Get ready for another multistory apartment project in downtown Lawrence. Local businessman Doug Compton has confirmed he has a deal to convert the Pachamamas restaurant building at Eighth and New Hampshire into a five-story building that will house about 60 apartments.
As we previously reported, the owner of Pachamamas had put the building on the market and plans to shut the restaurant down after Valentine’s Day (which, sweet mother of Holy Roses and Overextended Bank Accounts, is Saturday.) Compton told me he has signed a contract to purchase the building, and expects to close on the deal by mid-May.
But don’t look for the building to get torn down. Instead, look for four additional stories to be built atop the existing structure. The building used to be an armory and was built to a heavy-duty standard. My understanding is the building was constructed to allow a helicopter to land on the roof, and Compton said he has photos of tanks parked on the roof. (Don’t look at me, I wasn’t driving.)
Engineers have attested that with just a few modifications the building can easily support another four stories. Compton said that is appealing because it could put the project on a fast track. He said he plans to have the project under construction this summer. That would mean Compton would have two multistory apartment buildings under construction on New Hampshire Street at the same time.
He said work is expected to begin any day on a seven-story apartment and office building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets, on the site where Black Hills Energy previously had its offices. The project, which was approved by city commissioners last year, is expected to add about 115 apartment units to downtown.
The current proposal for the Pachamamas site would add 56 new apartments, with most being one- and two-bedroom units, Compton said. But unlike the project at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire, the Pachamamas project won’t include an underground parking garage. Downtown zoning allows projects to be constructed without providing off-street parking. Compton said he is not planning to build a parking garage as part of the project. He said by not spending millions on a parking garage, he expects that will allow for lower rental rates than what he has been able to offer at his other downtown projects.
“We’re trying to bring this in at a different price point,” Compton said.
The project still needs to win approval from Lawrence City Hall. It will face hearings at the city’s Historic Resources Commission and also may need City Commission approval, especially if the project requests any financial incentives. Compton didn’t say whether the project would seek any incentives.
If the project moves forward it will be the third major apartment project Compton had undertaken on New Hampshire Street since 2011. He started with the 901 Building at the southwest corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. When the Pachamamas site is completed, Compton’s projects will have added a little more than 225 apartments in essentially a one-block stretch of New Hampshire Street. Compton also was the lead developer on the multistory building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire that houses a Marriott hotel.
“We feel like we’re really close to changing the whole dynamics of New Hampshire Street,” Compton said.
As for Pachamamas, it appears the fine-dining establishment is in its final days. UPDATE: I got in touch with Ken Baker, chef and owner of the establishment, and he said the restaurant will be open through Valentine's Day, but that will be the last night of business for the establishment.
Baker said he doesn't have any other restaurant ventures planned at the moment, but said he wouldn't rule it out for the future.
"There has just been a crazy outpouring of emotion from clientele and staff over the last several weeks," Baker said. "It has been a wild ride, and a big part of me will miss it. But I think there is more on the horizon."
Compton said he did not purchase any part of the restaurant business. He said the ground floor of the building will be used for a restaurant or retail use, but he said he did not have a tenant in place.
“If somebody wants to lease the space and open that type of restaurant again, I’m happy to do it,” Compton said. “I don’t have anything lined up for it yet.”
In other news and notes from around town:
• Compton said that plans to bring a grocery store to the corner of 11th and Massachusetts streets are progressing well. As we previously reported, owners of the Lawrence-based Checkers grocery store want to open a grocery as part of a multistory building Compton hopes to build at the site of the Allen Press property in downtown.
Compton said his group has been tweaking a few aspects of the design and parking plans for the project after having further meetings with officials from Associated Grocers, the wholesale provider for the grocery store.
“Everything is still moving along,” Compton said.
That project, which would be a seven-story building that would include office and apartment uses, must still win several approvals at City Hall.
A group of residents, led by City Commission candidate David Crawford, continue to lobby to have a grocery store project proceed at the former Borders bookstore site at Seventh and New Hampshire streets. My understanding is the group continues to be in discussions with the Michigan-based owners of the building. The owners of Checkers had tried to strike a deal for that site but couldn’t come to terms with the owners. I’m not sure what the group of citizens has in mind — whether it is lobbying city commissioners to provide some incentives to make the site more palatable to Checkers or whether it is working to bring in a different grocery store company.
If it is incentives, it will be interesting to see how commissioners choose between the two sites, which in the grand scheme of things are relatively close to each other. I haven’t timed it officially, but via car, the two sites are probably within 60 to 90 seconds of each other. On foot, they are within a few minutes of each other.
• If you use your Tandy 1000 computer or other cutting-edge device to follow my Twitter feed — @clawhorn_ljw — you already know that we reported yesterday evening that the RadioShack store at Sixth and Kasold is slated to soon close.
The RadioShack chain on Thursday filed for bankruptcy protection, and on Monday a list of store closings was presented to the court. The store at the shopping center at Sixth and Kasold is included on the list, but the store at The Malls shopping center at 23rd and Louisiana is not on the list. But look for changes there as well. National media outlets are reporting that any RadioShack store that isn’t closed will be put up for sale. Some reports say that Sprint will take over about 1,750 of the stores, and the locations will carry Sprint and RadioShack products.
As for the store at Sixth and Kasold, an employee there said she wasn’t authorized to speak to the media. But it looks like going-out-of-business sales soon will start at all the locations that are closing. The company has said discounts will begin at 50 percent off.
The company plans to close about 1,700 stores, in addition to several stores that already have been shuttered. As we previously reported, that included the Lawrence store on south Iowa Street, which closed several weeks ago. The chain had about 4,000 stores.
Chamber CEO talks VenturePark prospects, other projects; questions raised about arts corridor application ahead of commission vote
Lawrence is in the running to land a large manufacturer that would employ an estimated 125 people over the next five years, and would occupy about 120 acres of property at the former Farmland Industries site that the city has converted into a business park.
I’ve been telling you for a couple of months now that economic development leaders have said they have a strong prospect for the former Farmland site, which is now called Lawrence VenturePark. But at a meeting this morning, Lawrence Chamber of Commerce President Larry McElwain gave the most details yet about the prospect.
McElwain didn’t provide the name of the company or a specific industry, but McElwain said the bulk of the jobs would be manufacturing in nature. He said the company would look to make a capital investment of about $20 million over five years.
“This is a really exciting company that is looking at us right now,” McElwain said.
McElwain, speaking at an economic development update breakfast, didn’t say when we will know if the company has chosen Lawrence for its new home. But in conversations I have had with other people knowledgeable about the situation, the current talks have been described as negotiations. Now, whether the company is in exclusive negotiations with Lawrence or also is negotiating with other communities, I don’t know.
I would assume the negotiations involve an incentive package to bring the company here, but I don’t know that for a fact. It has been assumed for quite a while that once the city developed VenturePark, it would become more aggressive in putting together packages to lure companies to the site. Other communities in similar situations have offered free or discounted land to companies that will produce quality jobs. We’ll see what is on the horizon here, but it sounds like economic development officials are still very much in the thick of what could be a significant deal. At 125 jobs, that would be one of the larger new employers to come to town in the last decade or so. A 120-acre site also would be a big one by Lawrence standards. That project would consume about a third of the available industrial property the city has at VenturePark.
McElwain provided updates on a few other projects as well. They include:
— An animal health company that wants to initially locate 11 jobs in the Kansas City area. Over five years, it could provide 55 jobs, with most of the positions being technical or managerial in nature and offering “very high salaries,” McElwain said. The company currently is considering the Bioscience & Technology Business Center on Kansas University’s West Campus, and also is looking at locations in Kansas City.
— An animal health company that is looking for a location to establish its North American headquarters. Initially, the company likely would add 1 to 2 positions, but would add more depending on how its business grows in North America. McElwain said economic development leaders are fielding a large number of inquiries from animal health companies as Kansas City’s reputation as a leader in that industry continues to grow.
“It is amazing the potential for clustering in that industry,” McElwain said. “The University of Kansas is a huge magnet for this, especially the School of Pharmacy.”
— Three local companies currently are considering expansion projects that could in total add more than 100 jobs over the next several years. McElwain said one of the companies is looking at sites in the Kansas City area. He said the companies in question are a mix of manufacturing and technology companies.
In other news and notes from around town:
• A couple of weeks ago, we reported how some East Lawrence residents expressed concern that the Lawrence Arts Center was declining to make public the application the agency submitted to win a $500,000 grant for a project to remake Ninth Street into a unique arts corridor.
Well, as city commissioners prepare to take a vote on the project tonight, the Arts Center has released a redacted version of the full application. It appears some of the new information released has created more questions for some East Lawrence residents who are trying to get a better understanding of the project in their neighborhood.
The application states in multiple places that the Kansas City architecture firm el dorado inc. would serve as the lead designer on the project. That’s despite the fact that el dorado inc. had not been selected yet by the city to serve as the lead designer on the project. In fact, the vote that is set to take place tonight is to authorize city staff to begin negotiating a contract with el dorado. The city is recommending el dorado receive the contract because a city-appointed committee selected it from six design teams that had submitted proposals.
The grant application was not made available to the city-appointed committee reviewing the potential design firms. At least one member of the city-appointed committee is now saying he thinks the application creates the perception that Arts Center officials wanted el dorado to lead the project all along.
Dave Loewenstein, a longtime East Lawrence resident and artist, said too many residents already have a perception that some city projects have involved “back room deals.” Loewenstein, who currently is out of town on a project, said he hopes commissioners will be convinced tonight to delay the project.
“I feel our city commissioners must postpone their vote on selecting a firm for this project until we have an opportunity to look further into how and why the city went forward with a competitive RFQ process even though a design firm had already been explicitly named as a project leader,” Loewenstein said in an e-mail.
Susan Tate, the director of the Lawrence Arts Center, said the application wasn’t meant to convey that el dorado inc. had been selected as the lead designer for the project. Instead, the name was meant as an example of the type of firm that would be leading the project. But nowhere in the application does it state that the decision on the design team was still pending.
Tate said it is common practice for arts organizations to list specific artists or designers as part of its grant application. In hindsight, Tate said she wishes she would have written the grant in a way to make it clear that el dorado was just an example of the caliber of company that would be hired for the project.
In addition, Tate seemingly misspoke when she was interviewed by the Journal-World about the subject in early November. At that time she said she had provided the City Commission and the public with a “word-for-word” version of the portion of the grant application that described the project. But upon further review, the document provided to the City Commission did have a slight change in wording. It removed any mention of el dorado inc. and instead simply said “ArtPlace will fund a professional Urban Planner to lead Creative Team . . .” The application that was actually submitted to the ArtPlace grant funders said “ArtPlace will fund el dorado architects to lead Creative Team . . .”
Tate said she didn’t intend to misspeak, and said the mention of el dorado was removed from the document released to the public because it would have been difficult to conduct a competitive request for proposals if the description of the project included a specific design firm. She said city officials were not aware that the ArtPlace grant application listed el dorado as the lead designer.
Tate expressed confidence that all six companies that applied for the city contract were given a fair chance at winning the proposal, and she said he entered the process with an open mind about who should be selected.
We’ll see what commissioners do with the issue tonight when they meet at 6:35 p.m. It is an unusual issue. Folks in the nonprofit world note that grant applications usually aren’t made public. But several people have noted this may be a different case because the $500,000 grant is only a small portion of what is needed to convert Ninth Street into a unique arts corridor. The city also will need to budget about $3 million worth of improvements to the street.
Green energy company to locate headquarters on 23rd Street; a Mangino yard sign; possible changes to how city deals with downtown races
Expect one stretch of 23rd Street to become a little greener. Don’t worry, Lawrence construction crews aren’t changing from orange cones to green ones. Instead, a growing green energy company is setting up its headquarters in a 23rd Street building and plans to use the prominent site to show off its solar and wind technology.
Lawrence-based Good Energy Solutions has signed a deal to locate in the former Diamond Cabinetry building at 641 E. 22nd St. Even though the business has a 22nd Street address, it basically has 23rd Street frontage. It is the building just east of the 23rd Street bridge that was recently rebuilt.
The company plans to put solar panels and solar canopies on the building, have a prominently displayed, solar-powered electric car charging station, and a residential scale wind turbine on the site, company officials told me.
But the big reason for the move was that the company was running out of space in its current location in the 2100 block of Carolina Street. In the last year, the company has grown to 12 full-time employees, up from four a year ago. The company’s revenues have quadrupled in the last year, said David Thiel, the company’s office manager.
Thiel said the price of solar panels have dropped significantly, which combined with some tax credits has made solar energy a feasible option for many residences. He said about 60 percent of the company’s sales now are on the residential side of the equation. He said some of the company’s customers are people who have had their eye on the solar movement for decades.
“It seems like people of a certain age finally have the money to purchase solar, and they are doing it now,” Thiel said.
The company also does wind energy projects and recently has expanded into the LED lighting business.
The company plans to move into its new offices in the coming days, and look for some of the improvements on the site in the coming weeks.
In other news and notes from around town:
• It is campaign season, and yard signs are thicker than the glazed icing on my breakfast this morning. It is easy to become confused with all of them, which is why I almost threw my support for governor to former KU football coach Mark Mangino. You can’t blame me. He does have a yard sign. I was driving on 19th Street the other day and saw a Mangino yard sign, and made a point to go back and take another look at it. You can see it below, but it basically is lobbying for Mangino to be re-installed as the head coach at KU, now that the position is open again.
I have no insight or particular opinion about that. I’ll leave that to the sports guys. But the sign idea, I thought was interesting. The city has sign codes, but the country also has a First Amendment that lets you express your opinion in a variety of ways. Maybe the sign idea will catch on with other important issues as well. World peace, social justice, the creation of an all-you-can-eat country buffet in Lawrence.
As for the Mangino sign, I don’t know if it is an actual movement. I’ve only seen the one sign. But maybe there are more I just haven’t seen them. (I think I could probably get several hundred signs up for the all-you-can eat country buffet, by the way, and probably even sponsorship from a cholesterol drug firm.) Where was this sign, you ask? Well, I’ll give you a hint: It wasn’t in Lew Perkins’ yard. Instead it was in front of Silverback, a Lawrence business that organizes runs and other events across the country. It sets up a lot of the Color Runs around the country.
• Silverback and companies like it may have other issues than the KU football coaching search to keep an eye on. Lawrence city commissioners may have a debate about how they regulate the multitude of 5K races and such that occur in downtown Lawrence and across the city.
Commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday approved a route and necessary permits for the upcoming Kansas Half Marathon, which will benefit Lawrence-based Health Care Access. Commissioners also agreed to donate the services of the Lawrence police and fire departments to help staff the event. That is expected to come at a cost of about $8,200.
It is fairly common for the city to donate those services if the event is a fundraiser for a charity. But City Commissioner Bob Schumm said he wants to have a broader discussion about that policy. He said he’s heard from several residents who have concerns that some of the races that are promoted as nonprofit events have a large profit component.
Health Care Access officials said that is not the case with their event. The race is expected to raise more than $35,000 in funding for the organization that provides health care to uninsured or under-insured. That’s more than half the expected $60,000 in entry fees the event is expected to generate. The difference between the $60,000 and the $35,000 is the expenses needed to put on the event, which is expected to draw up to 1,300 runners. Part of those expenses is paying the for-profit company Silverback to manage the course. That includes providing people to help control traffic along the course, mark the course, and do the other things required to have a safe event.
Health Care Access officials told city commissioners that it wouldn’t be possible for their small staff to put on the race without the help of a for-profit company like Silverback. City commissioners said they understand the need for professional assistance, but Schumm said he wants to ensure that races that are promoted as non-profit fundraisers really do return a substantial portion of all revenues to the nonprofit agency. He said that appears to be the case with Health Care Access’ event, and he voted in favor of the necessary permits for the event.
But he said he also wants commissioners to consider policy that would require any race seeking the city’s donation of services to provide an income statement to the city showing the total amount of revenue raised by the event, and the total amount of money the charity will received. Commissioners took no action on that request, but agreed to look at the issue near the end of the year when the city compiles a report on how much it has donated to these various races.
I’ll also be interested to see if that discussion sparks another discussion on whether the city will try to steer future events out of downtown and onto the extensive trail system that exists at Rock Chalk Park. The trail system would not require city police officers and others to provide traffic control. But I know many race organizers like having the events in downtown Lawrence because of the atmosphere it provides. Some businesses like it too, but there are several businesses who express concern that the street closures that come with the races hurt their normal weekend business.
City collects 50 tons of recycling on first day of new program; update on Sixth and Iowa; Lawrence’s impressive job numbers
Lawrence’s new curbside recycling program is off and running, and city officials are pleased with the first day’s haul. City crews collected 50 tons of material to be recycled on Tuesday, which was the first day of operations. (Yes, upon hearing that number I was nervous that my wife had somehow recycled my collection of beer cans and pizza boxes from KU’s magical championship run in 2008. But fear not, it is still there, and I’ve now put a wheel lock on the semi trailer in the back yard.)
Lawrence Public Works Director Chuck Soules said the Day 1 operations went well.
“The crews did a great job,” Soules said. “And that is 50 tons of trash that will not be going to the landfill.”
Soules said crews are asking residents for a bit of help, however, when it comes to setting out their blue recycling carts. The city is asking residents to place their recycling cart at least two feet away from their green trash carts. In many neighborhoods, the city uses automated trucks that use a robotic arm to pick up the containers. If the containers are too close together, the arm cannot grasp the container.
The city hasn’t touted a lot of numbers about how much material they expect to collect as part of the program. But when the city was designing the program last year, it used a working number of 5,000 tons per year, according to some old memos I dug up. (I keep the memos in a separate semi-trailer.) If the 50 tons per day rate continues — that’s a big if because we’ve only seen one day’s worth of data — the city would more than double that 5,000 ton projection.
It is possible that Lawrence residents may end up recycling more than 50 tons per day. After all, the city takes about 60,000 tons of trash to the landfill in a year. In fact, if the city wants to meet one of its goals, it may need to recycle more than 50 tons a day. City commissioners have adopted a goal of having a 50 percent recycling rate by the year 2020.
Figuring out how much we need to recycle at the curb to reach that total can be tricky because we’re not just talking about trash when we are talking about recycling. The tons and tons of material the city collects through its yard waste program also are counted toward the city’s recycling rate.
Bottomline, I’ve taken my shoes off and I still can’t do the math on how much we need to recycle to meet that 50 percent recycling goal. But what little bit of arithmetic I did do on the subject indicates such a a rate is in the realm of possibility. The city in 2010 estimated it had a recycling rate of 38 percent, which was above the national average of about 34 percent. That was without a citywide, curbside recycling program. A lot of the recycling was the yard waste, and to be fair, there were some questions of whether the city’s method for estimating yard waste collections inflated the totals.
Regardless, it will be interesting to watch the numbers in the months that follow. We should have a good idea of just how much the city is recycling, and whether we can meet our goal of becoming one of the more recycling-friendly communities in the country.
In other news and notes from around town:
• The end is in sight for the road construction project at Sixth and Iowa streets. But motorists may want to avoid the intersection this weekend while crews do some paving work at the site.
On Friday evening, crews will begin milling the intersection, and that is going to create a major traffic issue. Crews will have to close Iowa Street where it connects to Sixth Street. Traffic will continue to be allowed on Sixth Street, but motorists won’t be able to turn onto Iowa Street. Motorists on Iowa Street won’t be allowed to turn onto Sixth Street. The work is expected to begin around 7 p.m. and be done by 10 p.m., Soules said.
On Saturday morning, paving work will begin. During paving, Iowa Street access will be closed just like it was for the milling work. That work is expected to take place throughout the day on Saturday. Some work will continue on Monday, but the Iowa/Sixth Street connection should be restored by then.
In case you have forgotten, the main purpose of the project was to add a left-turn lane on Sixth Street for westbound motorists wanting to turn onto Iowa Street. Longtime motorists understand why this lane will be useful. You are driving on Sixth Street, minding your own business, day dreaming about KU basketball ball, Free State beer and ways to combine the two perhaps using a large screen TV and a sanitized Jacuzzi. Then, bam, you open your eyes and realize you are in the left lane of Sixth Street even though you want to continue to go straight through the intersection. You stop and spend approximately 23 minutes waiting behind the yahoo in the F150 pickup truck with a U-Haul trailer waiting to turn onto Iowa Street so he can pick up his daily supply of doughnuts from the fine purveyors at Ninth and Iowa Streets. We’ve all been there, right?
Well, by early next week, a left-turn lane should be in place and operational, city officials tell me. The intersection also will have some new right-turn lanes, new striping and other things you’ll want to pay attention to. So, at least for the next few days, keep your eyes open.
• As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday (@clawhorn_ljw) Lawrence in August 2014 had the highest job growth rate of any metro area in the U.S. The numbers come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a group by the name of Talent Tribune took the time to rank the top 10 metro areas for the month.
Lawrence finished first with a 5.9 percent increase in jobs compared to August 2013. During the one-year period, the numbers show the Lawrence metro area (which is Douglas County) added 2,800 jobs. Lawrence was slightly better than Midland, Texas, which grew by 5.6 percent.
The numbers from the BLS are preliminary, so they may get revised at a later date. But as I reported earlier this month, an economist at Wichita State also had pointed out that Lawrence’s job numbers seemed to be on a rebound. So, it is definitely something to watch for.
I chatted with chamber president and CEO Larry McElwain about the numbers, and to his credit, he wasn’t unfurling the Mission Accomplished banner just yet. It is just one month of numbers, after all.
“I still have caution on those numbers,” McElwain said. “I want to make sure they are good jobs and not just temporary jobs. I want to make sure they are jobs that meet the needs of our residents, and not just minimum wage or slightly above.”
It is tough to point to what may have led to an increase of 2,800 jobs in the last year. But it is likely a couple of major employers have added to the totals. If you remember, Hallmark cards did some major reorganizing of its production plants in the region. Lawrence’s production plant ended up being a winner in that process. We reported in March 2013 that Hallmark expected to add about 200 jobs to its Lawrence plant during the course of 2013. That number may have grown some even, I’m told.
General Dynamics, which operates the former NCS/Pearson call center in East Hills also has been adding jobs. In September, we reported that General Dynamics may be adding about 400 jobs for a customer service contract related to the Affordable Care Act. Whether some new General Dynamics jobs started showing up in August, I don’t know.
Part of it just may be pent-up demand by hundreds of small businesses in the area. Lawrence has not grown jobs at the same type of pace several other communities have over the last few years. Lawrence companies may finally just be feeling that they are on a firmer footing and are now expanding. It will be interesting to watch the numbers that come out in the next few months. But for the time being, we can tout that our job growth rate is better than everybody else’s, if even just for a month. Here’s a look at how other area communities fared during August 2014.
— Manhattan: 2.8 percent
— Topeka: 1.7 percent
— Wichita: 1.2 percent
— Kansas City: 0.5 percent.
— Kansas as a whole: 1.1 percent
Reduced parking plan for apartments may have uphill battle; nearly 80 percent of rental inspections finding violations; a powerful video about a Lawrence fire
Just a note to whoever is making the decision about who will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Kauffman Stadium tonight: I’m warmed up and have pin-point control. It is not even 10 a.m. yet, and I’ve already hit my Royal blue shirt with nacho cheese sauce, my Royal blue tie with mustard, and my Royal blue foam finger with relish. Absent that last-minute call from the K, however, I’ll be at the Lawrence City Commission meeting, where commissioners may end up involved in a big game as well.
The future of a proposed $75 million apartment/retail building across the street from KU’s Memorial Stadium may hinge on whether commissioners grant the Chicago-based development group an exception from the city’s parking regulations. The group wants to reduce the amount of parking for the 237-unit apartment complex by 100 spaces. New information suggests the group may have an uphill battle to win approval.
City Commissioner Terry Riordan told me Monday afternoon that he has some concerns about granting the parking exception. It is difficult to see how the project can win approval without Riordan’s support. Mayor Mike Amyx and Commissioner Bob Schumm have been pretty firm in their opposition to the parking request.
“I’m very sensitive to parking,” said Riordan, who lives in the Oread neighborhood. “I wanted to hear something that said our present regulations are too restrictive. I haven’t heard that yet. If we make a mistake and allow too little parking, that will be forever.”
We’ve been over all this before. Several neighbors are opposed to the request, citing concerns the reduced parking will push more vehicles into the already crowded Oread neighborhood. The development group, HERE LLC, has cited statistics from KU that show only about 60 to 70 percent of students who live on campus bring a vehicle to school with them. Developers say they are expecting that statistic to hold true in their development. Others aren’t so sure that residents of the luxury-style apartments will come to Lawrence without a car.
Riordan lives next door to an apartment complex in Oread. It is within walking distance to the university, and he hasn’t seen evidence that 30 percent of those residents don’t have vehicles.
“Next door to me they have three or four spots open at the most, and most of the time it is full,” Riordan said of the parking lot. “And I’ve never seen a kid take public transportation from there.”
The development group has said the reduced parking standards are “vital” to the future of the project. At last report, the development hadn’t secured financing, despite the city agreeing to give the apartment project — which also includes about 13,000 square feet of retail — an 85 percent, 10-year property tax rebate.
That may be the game city commissioners find themselves playing: Will this project get built if commissioners deny the parking request? How much will the city lose if it doesn’t get built? What will be the consequences of reducing the city’s parking standards?
“I think I would rather err on the side of building too much parking and hope they still build the project anyway. I do think it could be a great project.”
There is one large caveat to all of this: Riordan could still change his mind. He said he’ll be on the lookout for information that could sway his opinion Tuesday night.
So, as they say in the baseball business, it isn’t over until the fat lady sings. (A note to Kauffman Stadium officials in charge of finding the fat lady for tonight’s game: I think I could pull that off too.)
As a reminder, tonight’s meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. instead of its normal 6:35 p.m. start time.
In other news and notes from around town:
• City politics recently have been so dominated by the plan for a new police headquarters building that it has been easy to forget that commissioners passed a politically divisive piece of legislation just months ago: rental licensing.
The rental licensing program is up and running, and we’re starting to get some of our first numbers back from City Hall. The program began conducting inspections and issuing licenses in August. Inspectors have been finding violations.
Through September, the city has conducted 43 initial inspections of apartments, and 34 of them have found violations. In other words, nearly 80 percent of all the apartments the city has inspected thus far have had violations that must be fixed before the apartment can receive a city license. In total, the city found 133 violations in those 43 apartments.
Thus far, the top violations are faulty smoke alarms (50); faulty GFCI receptacles (27); faulty outlet covers (18); faulty windows (13); and faulty plumbing fixtures (9).
The report indicates that landlords have done a good job in fixing the problems. Through September, 24 of the 26 units had fixed all their violations.
I plan to check in with landlords in the coming days to find out their thoughts on how the program is working and provide you a more detailed report. If you are one of the landlords who have been through the inspection process, feel free to reach out to me.
• I don’t spend a lot of time watching videos online. I only recently figured out how to really work my VCR, so I’ve been catching up on a lot of "Cosby Show" episodes I have taped. But there is one online video I watched recently, and it was produced by the city of Lawrence. It tells the story of Brianne Goldston, who survived a brutal house fire that occurred last June in the Oread neighborhood. If you get time, you should watch it because her story is a powerful one.
At one point she tells how she was lying in the hallway of her multistory home thinking how crazy it was that she was going to die in this fire. She talks about how the scenes you see on TV of people running through a fire or even through a large plume of smoke are such Hollywood fiction. She describes how the smoke feels just like the fire. It is super hot and will burn your lungs, and suck the life right out of you. She talks about how the smoke alarms in this house didn’t work they way they were supposed to. And she urged everyone to plan ahead. Take a moment before a fire starts to figure out how you would get out of your home.
The video is on the city’s Web site, and I plan to show it to my kids and wife, and then take a simple five minutes to go over how to open windows or access other escape routes in my house.
City set to approve plans for new West Lawrence grocery store; county and school district ask for more than $500k in fee waivers from city
In the future, please pay no mind to the woman at the intersection of Sixth and Wakarusa pushing a filing cabinet on wheels and muttering about 5 cents off yogurt cups. That will be my wife with her grocery coupons, and you really can't blame her for appearing a bit disoriented. If all goes according to plan, many a grocery shopper soon may be overwhelmed with options at that intersection.
City commissioners at their meeting tonight are scheduled to approve a plan that will allow for a new specialty grocery store to be built in the Bauer Farm development at the northeast corner of Sixth and Wakarusa. That will make for the third grocery store at the intersection, joining Dillons and Walmart, which operates a grocery department.
As we reported in February, the plans call for a 27,000 square-foot building that would house a "farmers' market-style" grocer. The development group, which is led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor, haven't released the identity of the specialty grocer, at the request of the grocer. The best information I have from sources is that it is not a Trader Joe's, which for whatever reason is a store I always get asked when it is coming to Lawrence. The speculation around town is that a chain called Sprouts Farmers Market is the most likely tenant for the spot, but take that for whatever you think it is worth.
But there is some good reason to think Sprouts is on the way. The company has been on an expansion path, and it has opened a store in Overland Park. The company's website describes Sprouts as a "healthy grocery store offering fresh, natural and organic foods." The company was founded in 2002 in Arizona, and now has more than 170 stores in nine states. Again, there is nothing official on this, but we'll see if lips begin to loosen once plans for the project receive City Commission approval.
The project comes to the commission tonight with a positive recommendation from both the planning staff and the planning commission. The grocery store development has been the headline grabber, but there are other interesting elements to the plan. They include:
• The development group wants the master development plan for the area to show a 108-room hotel near the corner of Wakarusa Drive and Overland Drive. When I last talked to a representative of the development group, there was no tenant for such a hotel, but the group wanted to show it on the plan so marketing for such a tenant could begin. I was told developers think the site may have some potential for a hotel as more visitors come to the Rock Chalk Park area.
• A changing of the plans to allow for an 11,623 square-foot retail building that could house several smaller tenants. It would be next to the grocery store development.
• The addition of six multifamily apartment buildings to the plans. The buildings would be on property east of the current Lawrence Community Theatre property.
In total, the changes would allow for 122,000 square feet of retail development at that corner of the intersection, up from a previously approved cap of 72,000 square feet. Retail caps at the intersection have been a contentious issue in the past. Neighbors have opposed some retail development at the intersection because of fears that the area will become overwhelmed with traffic and other issues that come with big-box retailers. The most recent opposition was when the City Commission rejected a plan for Lowe's to locate in Bauer Farm. There have been some letters of opposition related to this current proposal, but thus far the amount of opposition has not approached what was seen with the Lowe's development, or the Walmart development before that.
On the apartment side of things, the proposed changes would allow for 342 dwelling units on the property, up from a previously approved cap of 272.
A change that is tougher to quantify is how the overall feel of the Bauer Farms development will change. The project was originally touted as an example new urbanism, a development philosophy that really mixes residential and commercial uses and promotes pedestrian activity and other features that you would be more likely to see in an urban, rather than suburban, environment.
The development as it has been built does have a mix of uses, and it does have a bit of a different look than traditional developments. For example, many of the commercial buildings are closer to the street and often have their parking more out of view from the main thoroughfare. But the planning staff's recent report notes that these proposed changes move the project closer to a "more conventional retail development form."
The Bauer Farm development in its beginning years certainly had to deal with a national economic downturn that caused a lot of plans to be changed. But I think it also is fair to say that the project has created the question of how large of an appetite Lawrence currently has for new urbanism development.
The city several years ago spent a lot of time, and some money, exploring the idea of new urbanism and traditional neighborhood designs. It will be interesting to see if community leaders continue to push for that type of development in the future.
In other news and notes from around town:
• City commissioners will have an interesting decision to make tonight that will affect two of its fellow local governments: Douglas County and the Lawrence school district.
Both governments are asking the city to waive some fees that are charged as part of development projects. City staff members are recommending against the fee waivers.
Douglas County is building a new public works facility on East 25th Street near the Douglas County Jail. As part of the project, the county is asking for a waiver of an approximately $265,000 sewer and water system development charge, or more commonly known as an impact fee. The city has been charging such fees since 1996, when new projects hook onto the sewer and water system. It is designed to help the city keep up with expanding water and sewer plants and other big-ticket items that are necessitated by a growing number of users.
The school district is asking for a waiver of about $280,000 in building permit fees associated with a variety of expansion and remodeling projects related to the $92.5 million school bond issue.
City Manager David Corliss is recommending that the fee waivers be denied. The general argument is that even though these are public projects, they still will be creating costs for the city. In the case of the public works facility, the city says it is another connection point on the city's system, and thus must be accounted for in future capital improvement planning. As for the school district project, the city will be sending building inspectors to the construction sites, and there is a cost to do that.
The school district issue, however, has an interesting twist. School district officials note that Kansas University isn't required to even go through the city's building inspection process. The school district believes it has found a lawsuit that says it is not required to go through the city's full building inspection process either, although it says it does want to do so. The city, however, doesn't agree with that legal analysis. Regardless, the school district says it wants to spend as much of the $92.5 million in bond money on children as possible.
"Like KU, USD 497 is an educational institution seeking to spend public monies to educate kids," Superintendent Rick Doll wrote in a letter to the city.
Although neither party mentioned it, it does seem the matter has been complicated by another decision by the City Commission. The commission last year agreed to rebate a whole host of building permit fees and other fees as part of the Rock Chalk Park project. The city was under no obligation to do so, but decided to offer the rebate as part of an "economic development grant" to the project. That grant was in addition to the city ultimately agreeing to pay for the vast majority of all the infrastructure needed to serve the privately owned softball, soccer and track and field facilities that will be leased by KU. I suppose the school district could make an argument that $92.5 million worth of improvements to the education system in the city will have a positive impact on economic development, and thus is worthy of a similar grant. We'll see how it goes tonight, and whether any of the three governments leave City Hall with hard feelings.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall.
Warren-McElwain Mortuary sold to new owner; Eudora ranked in family-friendly survey; properties to be added to local historic register
The certainty of death and taxes never changes, but the owners of funeral homes do, even for those that have more than a 100-year history in the community.
Longtime funeral director Larry McElwain confirmed to me that he's finalized a deal to sell Warren-McElwain Mortuary to a veteran funeral home operator who is moving from California to Kansas.
Jim Larkin of Caring Funeral Service completed a deal last week to purchase Warren-McElwain. But both Larkin and McElwain stressed that little will change with the business, which operates funeral homes in both Lawrence and Eudora. The Warren-McElwain name will remain, and the company will continue operating at its current locations. Even McElwain will remain on the staff as a funeral director.
"I will continue to be there full-time," McElwain, 65, said. "I still love what I do. I'm not tired or burnt out. I just think it is a great opportunity for me. It will be nice to have a little more time to see my wife and kids and family."
Larkin, 63, said he plans to operate Warren-McElwain as an independent, locally owned funeral home. Larkin has owned up to 16 different funeral homes in California, but he is in the process of selling all of those establishments. His family largely is from the St. Joseph, Mo., area, and he said he was ready to move back to the Midwest to be closer to them. Larkin said he is in the process of moving to Lawrence.
"As soon as I learned the firm could be for sale, I began to act," Larkin said. "I knew it had an excellent reputation, and Lawrence is an excellent community. That combination doesn't happen too often."
McElwain has been considering a sale for many months. He said finding a buyer that was not one of the large chain operators of funeral homes was important to him.
"Selling to a corporate buyer would have changed everything," McElwain said. "People would have been reporting to somebody in Houston or New Orleans or wherever."
Larkin said all of Warren-McElwain's employees have been retained as part of the deal. That includes Phil Padden, who had been a partner in the business with McElwain until 2011. McElwain solely owned the firm at the time of the sale last week.
The roots of Warren-McElwain date back to 1904 with the founding of the Schubert Funeral Home in Eudora. In 1909, Funk Mortuary was founded in Lawrence. By the 1950s, the two businesses were merged together by Fred Cooper and William Warren. McElwain began working in the business in 1968 as a college student. He and his father, Keith, then purchased the business in 1974 following the death of Warren.
Larkin purchased his first funeral home in 1972 in Iowa. He began operating funeral homes in California in 1999.
"Warren-McElwain was so well run that Larry really had a lot of choices of whom he could sell his funeral home to," Larkin said. "I feel honored that he selected me."
In other news and notes from around town:
• So, there is a reason why my Eudora home often looks like a scene from "The Lord of the Flies" — dozens of kids who aren't mine ruling the backyard and raiding the snack cabinets: Eudora is one of the top places in Kansas for young families, according to a new survey.
The financial website NerdWallet ranked the top 10 Kansas cities for young families, and Eudora finished No. 7 on the list. It was the only Douglas County community to make the list.
The eastern Douglas County community of about 6,000 fared well in terms of its school rankings, home affordability and its community growth. The editors of the website also highlighted short commute times for Eudora residents and an abundance of parks and recreation opportunities for a community its size.
The study looked at academic performance ratings for schools, median housing values, monthly homeowner costs and the community's growth rate. Lawrence did not make the top 10, but there must be something along the K-10 corridor that makes it attractive to families. De Soto, just east of Eudora, was ranked No. 6; Overland Park was No. 8.
Andover, a suburb of Wichita, was ranked No. 1. Click here to see the entire top 10.
• Three Lawrence properties may soon get listed on the city's Register of Historic Places. City commissioners at their meeting tonight will consider the following properties:
— The Turnhalle Building at 900 Rhode Island St., which is an 1868 building that housed the once popular German social club Lawrence Turnverein.
— The Kibbee House at 1500 Haskell Ave., which is a large 1909 farmhouse near the corner of 15th and Haskell in East Lawrence.
— The Joseph Savage house at 1734 Kent Terrace, which likely is one of the older homes in Douglas County. It was built as a rural farmstead in 1855.
Placing homes on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places has taken on new importance in recent months. Previously if properties were listed on the state or national registers of historic places, the area — or environs — around the properties had to undergo a special review before new development could take place.
But the Kansas Legislature during the last session passed a law that eliminates those environs reviews for state and nationally listed properties. But properties listed on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places do still trigger a review of any development that happens within 250 feet of the listed property.
The local environs review is generally considered less stringent than the previous environs review process associated with the state and national registers. For example, the state and national environs review was triggered whenever development occurred within 500 feet of a listed property.
As we reported in June, some historic preservationists said the law change will make it more important to get properties listed on the local register. There are many properties on the state and national registers that have not taken the time to get listed on the local register, mainly because there are no tax credits or other financial incentives that come with the local listing.
Before the state changed the environs review law, there were about 3,200 properties that would have required a historic environs review before development could have occurred. In other words, there were 3,200 properties within 500 feet of a listed property. After the law change, city officials estimated that number fell to about 1,500 properties.
But if the Lawrence register is expanded, that number will steadily increase. Expect it to grow tonight. Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. at City Hall.