Plans filed for events center along the Kansas Turnpike; get ready for pole vaulters in parking lots and shot putters in the streets
You bring up the idea of an event and North Lawrence, and you could be talking about a whole lot of different things. It might be a night on the town at Johnny’s, a fraternity party in a barn, or a Kaw River fishing trip that involves sand in places it shouldn’t be, a “misplaced” boat, and sworn statements to discuss this no further. Soon, the events may get a bit more formal. Plans have been filed for a new events center at North Lawrence’s largest intersection.
If plans are approved, a small indoor-outdoor events center will be allowed to develop right at the intersection of the Kansas Turnpike and North Third Street. Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioners at their meeting on Monday will consider approving a rezoning request at 1235 North Third Street that would allow for the event center.
If that location isn’t ringing a bell, it is at the northwest corner of the turnpike and North Third intersection. The building on the property used to house a surplus store that sold tools and a variety of supplies. It also has housed operations for the Westheffer company that sells a variety of chemical spraying equipment.
The Westheffer folks own the property and are behind the idea of developing a new events center. I’ve put a call into them, but haven’t had any luck in reaching them. So, details on what type of events the center will host are a bit sketchy. But I know that the city has allowed the location to host some events on a temporary basis, including music concerts. A group called Attic Traffic Productions hosted a large event with about a dozen bands at the location last year at this time. The group even had come up with a name for the events venue: Northern Sands Warehouse.
So, perhaps we’ll see more concerts at the site. The location makes some sense for events that can draw a regional crowd, given that folks from Topeka or Kansas City could easily access the site via the turnpike. Perhaps wedding receptions and other such events could be on tap too.
The property’s owners currently are just trying to get the proper zoning for the site so the project can move forward. The approximately 4-acre site currently has industrial zoning. It is seeking commercial strip zoning, which allows for event centers.
Preliminary plans filed with the city indicated the project will use an existing 6,600-square-foot building to house the indoor portion of the event business. Plans also call for a 1,200-square-foot covered outdoor patio, plus significant open space that probably could accommodate events too. The site also includes 7,000 square feet of warehouse space that is connected to the 6,600 square feet of event venue space. Combine it all, and you could host some fair-sized events.
If the project moves forward, more detailed plans about parking and how the property will be used will be required. But I talked briefly with Lawrence-based architect Allen Belot, who is working on the project, and he indicated there likely would be some improvements made to the site, which would improve the appearance of that intersection.
The Planning Commission will consider the rezoning request at its 6:30 p.m. meeting on Monday at City Hall. City commissioners ultimately will have to decide whether to approve the rezoning. The city’s planning staff is recommending approval of the rezoning, noting that commercial zoning fits in with long-range plans that have already been approved for that intersection.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Speaking of events, don’t forget that there is a unique one on tap tonight, weather permitting. As part of the KU Relays, a unique pole vaulting competition will be held in the parking lot of the Salty Iguana at Sixth and Wakarusa. The event is set to be begin at 5:30 p.m.. Several national champion pole vaulters will be competing at the event, and heights of 18 feet or so are expected to be cleared. Keep an eye on the weather, though. Rain and pole vaulting do not mix.
The idea of unique track and field events then will shift to downtown. The annual downtown shot put competition is set for 6 p.m. Friday at Eighth and New Hampshire streets. As has been the case since its inception, that event attracts world class shot put competitors. If you have never gone before it is a sight to see. It is one of the few nights out of the year where you can see people throwing a shot put in the middle of an intersection in downtown Lawrence.
The odds that North Lawrence will be getting an Indian casino anytime soon may have decreased just a bit.
Ever since we reported in July that the Oklahoma-based Delaware Tribe of Indians purchased a prime piece of property along the interstate in North Lawrence, new information about the tribe's plans has been slow to materialize.
Well, new information is starting to churn, thanks to the tribe's quarterly newsletter, which came out today. In it, tribal officials made statements that indicate a casino really isn't in the tribe's immediate future.
"We are in the process of putting together the application for Land-in-Trust Non-Gaming," Chief Paula Pechonick wrote in the tribe's publication, the Delaware Indian News.
The trust application is a key piece of paperwork. The trust process is how the federal government recognizes land as "Indian land," which conveys a special status as owned by a sovereign, federally-recognized Indian tribe. As officials with the Bureau of Indian Affairs have explained to me, there are two types of trust applications — one that would allow an Indian casino to be located on the land and one that would not allow a casino.
News that the tribe is pursuing a non-gaming trust for the property, the longtime Pine Family Farms sod farm property just east of the Kansas Turnpike interchange in North Lawrence, is significant. Previously, tribal officials had refused to make any definitive statements about the issue of Indian gaming.
What the tribe told me in July is that its plans were likely to include housing, child care and a medical clinic to serve a portion of the state's American Indian population. But on the issue of whether a casino would be a part of the plans as well, tribal officials told me that was a subject they weren't yet prepared to discuss.
If tribal officials follow through and file a non-gaming application for the North Lawrence property, that would be the clearest indication yet that the tribe isn't planning on a casino — at least not for that particular piece of property.
The several articles in the newsletter about the tribe's Kansas land purchase make it clear there is a strong desire on the part of tribal leaders to establish at least the tribe's administrative headquarters on Kansas land. That would resolve a situation where the tribe currently is located on land controlled by the Cherokee Nation, which can make it difficult for the Delawares to receive direct grants and other financial payments from the federal government.
The newsletter also reports that Chief Pechonick and other tribal leaders met with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback in late August to discuss the land purchase. According to the report, Brownback asked to tribe to consider holding a town hall meeting in Lawrence to spell out in more detail what the tribe hopes to do with the Lawrence property. The newsletter made no mention of a date being set yet for such a meeting.
It also is probably worth noting that the newsletter didn't have any articles or statements disavowing any future interest in a casino in the Lawrence area. Probably the key question, which I don't have the answer to, is whether an application to put this land into trust for non-gaming purposes forever closes the door on the property being used as a casino. Based on conversations I've had with a few people familiar with the issue, I don't think it does, but I'm still looking for someone to be more definitive on that point. I've chatted with several people about land in trust issues over the past couple of months, and all I'm really certain of at the moment is that it is complicated.
But it is worth remembering why the question of a casino arose in the first place. I'd say there are at least three big reasons:
• In 2000, the Delaware tribe publicly expressed strong interest in building a casino complex on 80 acres of North Lawrence property in the same vicinity.
• As we reported in August, the Delaware tribe is involved in a federal lawsuit in Oklahoma where court records indicate the tribe in 2011 entered into a development agreement with company that would be tasked with financing and building a casino for the tribe somewhere on the Kansas side of the greater Kansas City metro area.
• In March, the Leavenworth Times reported that Dee Ketchum, a former Delaware chief and a land consultant for the tribe, told the Leavenworth County Commission that the tribe was looking for property in the area for a headquarters, but acknowledged that gaming could be part of an economic development effort for the tribe, but said "that's not the whole reason for relocating."
I've got a call into Chief Pechonick, and a few other officials as well. Stay tuned for updates.
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Iwig Dairy seeks license for mobile food truck in North Lawrence; also considering future North Lawrence store
Mobile milk — and you don’t even need an app for it — is set to come to North Lawrence.
Iwig Dairy has filed for a permit to have a mobile food truck that sells fresh milk and dairy items in a city parking lot near Second and Locust streets in North Lawrence.
Tim Iwig, owner of the Tecumseh-based dairy, told me the food truck idea is a bit of a test to determine the level of demand in the North Lawrence market. He confirmed his company is looking at a permanent store location in a small, vacant building a bit north of North Second and Lincoln streets.
It won’t quite be the grocery store that North Lawrence has long said it needs, but it might meet a bit of the demand in that category.
“If we could get it started, then we could see what we could pull together,” Iwig said. “We have guys who like to bring us produce and eggs and that sort of thing. If we could get people going to the location, I think it could make a difference for us and for North Lawrence.”
But first, the food truck. Iwig hopes to have his business up and running within the next week. He said he plans to sell most of the items that he currently sells in his Lawrence store at 19th and Massachusetts. That means milk, cheeses, butter and probably some ice cream. Iwig, by the way, said the mobile food truck is not meant to replace the store’s 19th and Massachusetts location. (In case you are wondering what the construction is at 19th and Mass., there’s a coffee shop that will be going into a space next to the dairy store. I’ve got an interview with the owner and likely will report back tomorrow.)
Iwig hopes to have the mobile food truck up and running within a week. I don’t yet have days or hours for the truck, although Iwig has indicated it likely would be open a couple of weekday afternoons and Saturday afternoons.
In case you are confused about what location we’re talking about, it is the city-owned lot that basically is caddy-corner from Johnny’s Tavern. (I knew providing directions from a bar would help some of you.) It will be interesting to see if the city has helped start a trend here. If Iwig has success at the lot, will other mobile food vendors seek permission to locate there?
Food trucks are big business in some cities, and they usually take off when there is a spot that allows them to co-locate and build up some critical mass. That North Lawrence parking lot wouldn’t have been the first one to come to mind as a candidate for such a location, but I guess you never know.
What I do know is a cup of fresh ice cream, a fishing pole, the Kansas River, and perhaps a cold beverage other than milk sounds like a pretty decent afternoon. (And this time, I’ll keep the ice cream farther away from the bait bucket.)
Work at former Kaw Motors site is for Advantage Metals, but city halts construction until permit issue is resolved
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me in the last week or so what is going on at the former Kaw Valley Motors site in North Lawrence, I would have eight or nine dollars. (And for a man who has a wife that has put JEWELRY in capital letters on her Christmas list, those dollars would be helpful. I figure it would get me about halfway there.)
If you haven’t driven by the Tee Pee Junction lately in North Lawrence, most of the old buildings that were part of the defunct Kaw Valley salvage yard have been removed, and major dirt work has begun on the site.
The project is the same one we reported on in March: Kansas City-based Advantage Metals is working to build a state-of-the-art metal salvage yard at the site.
But right now, the best way to describe the project is halted. The city of Lawrence issued a stop-work order for the project late last week.
Planning Director Scott McCullough told me the issue involves the project not having the necessary state floodplain development permit.
The city issued a floodplain development permit — the site is right next to the Kansas River but is protected by a levee — on the belief that the project didn’t need a state permit. But upon further review, McCullough said the project does need a state floodplain development permit from the Division of Water Resources. McCullough said the decision was made to issue a stop work order on the excavation that was occurring on the site until that permit is obtained.
“I don’t see any of this as a prohibition on what they want to do at the site,” McCullough said. “They just have to go through this process.”
The permit could be issued in early 2013. The state currently is processing the permit application, and a public comment period on the application runs through the end of this month, McCullough said.
But it appears likely that the site ultimately will be a salvage yard again. The approved plans for the project, however, ensure the area will look quite a bit different than the old Kaw Valley Motors site.
Plans call for a new 14,000 square foot building to be constructed along North Third Street. I believe it is fair to say that Advantage Metals will have more indoor storage of materials than Kaw Valley did. Outdoor storage areas will be fenced and screened.
Based on the company’s Web site, it appears the business will accept about any type of metal — including cars, appliances, lead acid batteries, electric motors and such.
Several folks in the area may already be familiar with Advantage’s operations. The company is based in Kansas City, but also has locations in Topeka, Fort Scott, Columbus, Emporia, and several cities in Missouri. (I hear Mizzou officials several times this season tried to trade in their football team at the locations. Yes, it is tough to make living off of Mizzou jokes when the ‘Hawks are 1-11. But, hey, I’ve got jewelry to pay for.)
With this latest delay, I don’t have word on when Advantage may open. Obviously, the project is setting up a battle between Advantage and North Lawrence-based Lonnie’s Recycling, which has been a fixture across the river for years. In addition, the 12th and Haskell Recycling Center also has plans on the book for a new location in East Lawrence, just northeast of 11th and Haskell. I need to get an update on the latest with that project.
In the meantime, it is off to jewelry shopping. Hey wait a minute. Advantage Metals. Metals. I wonder if they have a deal on jewelry.