High-tech firm files plans for Lawrence expansion; LMH provides more details on plan to tear down houses for parking
Finally, a Lawrence business that makes something smaller, other than my wallet. I’ve reported several times over the years about Crititech, a Lawrence-based high-tech firm that makes drug particles smaller. The latest news on the company is it has filed plans to expand its North Lawrence headquarters and laboratory.
Crititech has filed plans with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department to build a 4,100 square-foot laboratory, research and production building at 1849 E. 1450 Road. If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is just north of the North Lawrence city limits, next to the large Heetco propane station.
I’m waiting to hear back from Crititech officials to learn more about the project, but it appears to be a significant expansion. The company currently operates out of an approximately 10,000 square-foot laboratory, research and office building. The application for the project states the need for the expansion is due to company growth. It also says the company will be processing two types of products, and FDA regulations require the work to be done in separate building. Hence, the expansion.
The big question is whether the expansion will result in any new jobs at the company, which generally employs researchers and other good-paying scientific positions. I haven’t heard on that, but I’ll let you know when I do.
The company moved from west Lawrence to North Lawrence in 2013 to give itself more space for growth. At that time, the company had about 10 Lawrence employees, but company leaders then said they could envision that growing to about 50 in five years.
What does the company do that has it growing? In a nutshell, it provides technology to other drug companies that are looking to make their pharmaceutical products more palatable to the body. Often times, that means making the drug particles smaller. For instance, if you can make a drug particle smaller, a pharmaceutical that once had to be taken orally might be able to be delivered through a patch, an inhaler, injections or some other type of less invasive delivery method. Sometimes the smaller particles actually help the body better absorb the drug, making it more effective.
The company ended up in Lawrence because its founder is Bala Subramaniam, a renowned KU researcher. The company continues to have some strong Lawrence ties. Longtime Lawrence entrepreneur Sam Campbell is the chairman of the company, and Matt McClorey, who led the efforts to get the Lawrence Bioscience and Technology Incubator off the ground, is Crititech’s president.
I did a longer article on the company in 2012 when it added McClorey and had signed a deal to put some of its technology into India. The company at that time was reaching a stage that has become dangerous to some Lawrence startups: They become successful enough that outside investors begin looking to buy the company and move it to one of the more traditional high-tech hubs on the coasts.
Campbell back then said he couldn’t make any promises, but that he was working to figure out ways to keep Crititech based in Lawrence for the long term. Keeping promising tech companies in Lawrence is a prime goal of local economic development leaders. These latest expansion plans seemingly provide some evidence that the company continues to have its needs met in Lawrence.
I’ll let you know if I get more details from the company.
In other news and notes:
• On Tuesday I reported on a plan by Lawrence Memorial Hospital to tear down six houses along Michigan Street to make way for an approximately 100-space parking lot. At the time I told you I was waiting to hear some more details from hospital officials. Well, I have heard from the hospital, and the hospital spokeswoman confirmed LMH has heard from quite a few members of the public.
Tearing down any house in Lawrence can become a controversial subject.
“We recognize it is a very sensitive issue,” spokeswoman Janice Early said.
But Early said the hospital is working hard to balance several issues. Among the points she expressed:
— The hospital has considered building a parking garage on site rather than expanding into the neighborhood with another surface parking lot. However, the numbers for a parking garage get big in a hurry. She estimated a surface parking lot costs about $4,000 per parking space, while a parking garage usually costs a minimum of $15,000 per space and often more.
Plus, the hospital is unsure that it really will need a parking garage in the future. New LMH President and CEO Russ Johnson has talked about the need for LMH’s geographic footprint to be more varied in Lawrence. That could mean some ambulatory services would be removed from the hospital’s main campus and relocated elsewhere in the community. That could cause a reduction in parking demand near the hospital.
— On the six houses that are slated to be demolished, Early said the hospital did study whether they could be made available to people who wanted to move them to another site. A consultant, however, recommended against such a strategy. The consultant determined they are not really in a movable condition. Some of the houses also would require significant improvements to meet current standards. For instance, some of the houses have asbestos siding, Early said. The hospital, however, will hire a firm to remove fixtures and other such items from the interior of the homes for recycling, she said.
— The plans submitted to City Hall showed several angled parking spaces would be added along Arkansas and Maine streets. Early said the hospital has decided not to move forward with building those new spaces. She said the new lot along Michigan Street is expected to be adequate to meet parking demand.
— Early said the new parking lot will include a substantial amount of landscaping, and the project will install a new sidewalk along much of the east side of Michigan Street, according to the plan.
— The parking shortage that the hospital faces can be severe at times, Early said. The hospital has expanded its free valet parking service for patients and visitors, but that doesn’t address staff parking issues.
“We definitely are spilling over in the neighborhood today,” she said. “Both staff and visitors are parking on residential streets in front of people’s property.”
Neighbors have noticed that. She said LMH has met with the Pinckney Neighborhood Association to discuss the parking lot proposal. She said the hospital heard supportive comments about the proposed parking lot because it would cut down on the amount of on-street parking that occurs in the neighborhood.
If the plans are approved — both the Planning Commission and the City Commission will have to consider them — the hospital hopes to have the lot completed by early fall.
Trio of educators opens new furniture business that focuses on items your mother probably threw away
Lawrence residents know if you want to see old hippies, take a Sunday stroll on Massachusetts Street. (ESPN executives evidently do not know that, or else they wouldn’t have shown us soooo much of broadcaster Bill Walton during Saturday’s KU-Texas game.) If Lawrence residents, though, want to see old furniture, they’re quickly learning to go to North Lawrence. Indeed, there is news of another vintage furniture store opening on the north side of the river.
A trio of paraeducators who worked together at Langston Hughes Elementary School have opened The Art House, a vintage home decor store that focuses on mid-century furniture, along with farmhouse and rustic-style pieces.
“We found that when other people were going to happy hours, we were going to estate sales,” Tracy Ford Stacey, one of the three owners said of the decision to start the business.
The shop is located at 700 Locust Street, which is part of the small commercial area that has gained the name North Lawrence Marketplace. Several other home-oriented stores are located in the district, including Amy’s Attic, Tooter & Tillaye’s, and the Topiary Tree, which previously was in the 700 Locust space but recently moved into larger space across the street.
Stacey said The Art House sells dining tables, dressers, kitchen islands, and pretty much every other type of furniture except beds and mattresses.
“If it is something we would want for our homes, we buy it for the store,” Stacey said.
Many of the store’s pieces come from auctions, estate sales or word of mouth. Most of them require Stacey and her partners to do some work to get the pieces back in top shape. But she said the store’s philosophy is to keep the pieces true to their original design and look.
“I think elbow grease is our biggest ally,” Stacey said.
The store has found a particularly strong following from people who like mid-century furniture, which generally comes from the 1940s, '50, and '60s.
“A lot of people describe mid-century as the things your grandparents bought, your mom threw away, and now you want it,” Stacey said.
The store focuses on a lot of items that have straight, clean lines and that appeal to the trend toward minimalism.
In addition to the mid-century pieces, the store carries several pieces that fit into what people call a farmhouse style. If you have ever seen the popular HGTV series "Fixer Upper," farmhouse style is often what designer Joanna Gaines uses on that show. Indeed, Stacey said the store gets a fair number of people who have seen something on the show and want to buy something similar. To help accommodate that trend, the store has recently created a partnership with an area craftsman who will build custom farmhouse furniture for people who come into the shop.
The store also sells a few other items that aren’t furniture-related. Older jewelry is a popular seller, and some of the pieces can get pretty unique. The store carries one line of earrings that are made out of vintage plates. To be clear, they are made from a portion of the dish, not the entire plate. (I was interested until I learned that. The all-you-can-eat buffets I go to always seem to run out of plates.)
Like most of the stores in the North Lawrence Marketplace, The Art House is open only on Fridays and Saturdays. But business is good nonetheless, Stacey said. She has quit her job as a paraeducator while her business partners Leslie Goertzen and Julie Buller continue to work at Langston Hughes Elementary.
“It has been a really fun adventure so far,” Stacey said. “Lawrence is so supportive of these types of businesses.”
North Lawrence has been known to have loud trains, cool motorcycles, and even the occasional misguided boat. (We only were stranded on the sandbar for a week.) Soon, the neighborhood also may have a hip truck — or more accurately, a hip food truck.
Zach Thompson, the former executive chef at downtown’s popular 715 restaurant, has filed plans with City Hall to open Dottie’s Food Truck just off of North Lawrence’s main drag. Thompson is seeking approval to permanently place a food truck in the parking lot at 912 N. Third St.
As for what Dottie’s — named after the nickname of his grandmother — will serve, Thompson isn't saying much. He said the main theme is that it will be local, it will be organic, and it will be food that people can easily eat on the go.
“It will be really well-crafted, seasonal organic food,” Thompson said. “Whatever that ends up being is what it will be. We’re going to play around with the market a little bit.”
Thompson, who was the executive chef at 715 for a little more than two years until leaving at the end 2016, said he’ll be buying Kansas beef, Kansas pork and locally grown produce. Thompson didn’t provide many specifics about the menu, but said there certainly will be sandwiches.
“I want to do a riff on a smoked beef something,” Thompson said. “It may not be barbecue, but it will be my tip of the hat to the barbecue scene of the midwest.”
If you are having a hard time picturing where the food truck will be located, it will be in the parking lot of Lawrence Vintage Cycle, the cool place that sells old Harleys and restores them. If you still don’t know where that is at, you need to find an excuse to wear leather chaps more often. Perhaps you know where the O’Reilly Auto Parts store is located. It just a bit north and east of that building, about a block off the main drag of North Second Street.
Thompson said the owner of the property is a partner in the food truck, and that was a key consideration in the location. Thompson noted Lawrence’s strict regulations regarding food trucks. Unlike in other communities, it is difficult for a food truck operator to set up business in a public parking space or other high-traffic location in town.
But Thompson said he’s also intrigued by the North Lawrence food scene. For years there has been Johnny’s Tavern, and more recently the Levee Cafe opened. But many of the other offerings in North Lawrence are just a handful of fast food chains.
“It is almost like the Wild West out here for food, because there are not a lot of people over here doing anything,” Thompson said. (The Wild West comment confused me. Can I wear my hat and chaps now? I was led to believe that was never again a possibility.)
Thompson also is excited about perhaps being able to do some things out of a food truck that are difficult to do in a restaurant. While at 715 he took pride in producing not just good food but stylized food. But the equation isn’t exactly a cheap one in downtown Lawrence. He said he chose the food truck route because he doesn’t want to have to contend with the ever increasing rents that restaurant locations command in Lawrence.
“We are about eating better,” Thompson said. “The whole thing about doing this food truck is hopefully I can offer these better products at a better price. Downtown you see a lot of high price points. I don’t think it has to be that way, if you can get yourself in the right environment.”
As for a timeline, Thompson hopes the food truck will be open in April. In addition to the food truck, the site will be modified a bit to provide a small outdoor seating area. But the major part of the project is building the food truck, which technically won’t be a truck. Thompson said he already has acquired a 1946 Spartan trailer that is being renovated to house the food operations.
In other news and notes:
• Perhaps this has caused you to wonder whether the Kansas Food Truck Festival once again will be held in the Warehouse Arts District in East Lawrence. It sure appears so. The event has filed for a permit to host the event on May 6 at the Warehouse Arts District near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets. The event’s website also confirms that date. Details on what food trucks are participating in this year’s event weren’t available on the website yet.
• While we are on the subject of events, it looks like a unique one that got started last year will be back for a second time around. A permit has been filed at City Hall to allow the Kansas Relays Pole Vault Competition to be held in the parking lot of the Salty Iguana restaurant on April 20. The Salty Iguana, of course, is at Sixth and Wakarusa in west Lawrence. Organizers converted a portion of the parking lot into a pole vault pit to host world class vaulters last year.
Look for more details about the event as the date gets closer. The pole vault event is kind of a spin off from the popular Downtown Lawrence shot put competition that also is held around Kansas Relays time. That has grown into a Lawrence tradition, and I’m sure will be back too on a separate day.
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.
More LJWorld City Coverage
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.