There has been plenty of “new” on New Hampshire Street lately, and now we have pictures to go with the latest proposed development along the downtown corridor. As we reported last month, a group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton is planning to build four stories on top of the former Pachamama’s restaurant building at Eighth and New Hampshire streets. The group now has filed its plans with City Hall.
The plans show pretty much what Compton described last month when he confirmed that he had reached a deal to purchase the building: The ground floor will remain available for restaurant or retail uses, while the four new floors built atop the building will house 55 apartments. The project will include a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Plans call for 42 percent of the project to be studio units, while 29 will be devoted to one-bedroom units and 29 percent to two-bedroom units.
But you didn’t come here to do math. You want to see what the building will look like.
Take a look at the picture below. It is what the building will look like if you are standing in the intersection of Eighth and New Hampshire. (Why are you standing in the intersection of Eighth and New Hampshire, by the way?)
This one below shows what the northern facade of the building will look like.
This rendering below shows the western face of the building, which is the portion that has frontage along New Hampshire Street. You’ll notice that the plan calls for the building to be expanded over the little parking area that exists to the south of the building.
Lawrence-based Treanor Architects — which has done the design for the the multistory apartment building and the new Marriott hotel building at Ninth and New Hampshire streets — is the designer on this project. The company also has designed the new multistory apartment/office building that is under construction at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire, which is also a project led by Compton.
Compton has said he wants to have the Pachamama’s project under construction this summer. The project will have to win some approvals — primarily for its design — from City Hall. Thus far, I’ve seen no request for financial incentives from the city. Compton has used tax increment financing and some other incentives on the hotel project and the new apartment project underway at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire. But both of those projects involved constructing a new underground parking garage, which added considerable expense to the projects. Compton is not proposing a parking garage as part of this project. Downtown zoning codes don’t require the project to provide any off-street parking, and thus far the plans call for the building to rely on parking options that already exist in the downtown area.
Soon, the only thing northwest Lawrence residents will be missing to ensure they wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed is the crow of a cock.
Already there is enough coffee near Sixth and Wakarusa — think Starbucks, J&S, Big Biscuit, Dillons and others — to make my bladder hop like a rabbit whenever I get within a quarter-mile of the intersection.
But if you need a jolt with a slightly different flavor get ready for a new establishment that will fluff your tail with items such as coconut creme white tea and sweet potato brownies.
The Kansas City-based restaurant t. Loft has reached a deal to open in vacant space at Sixth and Wakarusa. According to a sign in the window, it is moving into the multi-tenant retail building that includes Burgers by Biggs, Alterations by Sarah and several other businesses.
An employee at t. Loft's State Line Road location in Kansas City confirmed the Lawrence project is moving forward, and I've reached out to the pair of Lawrence residents who are leading the effort.
But the restaurant's website gives a good feel for the place. It promotes tea, juice and clean eats. According to its online menu, it has about 50 teas — white, green, black, matcha, iced, caffeine free, wellness-based and tea lattes. The menu includes about 15 juices, including those designed to give a boost to your energy levels, immune systems and mental capabilities. (Remember, this is right near Free State High, so that last one can come in handy. There is a tea called brainberry, and if such a thing was available when I was in school, I would have soaked my head in it daily to avoid listening in Algebra class.)
The food, however, may be as interesting as anything the restaurant has to offer. The menu doesn't give as many details on the food, but it says there is a bakery case filled with gluten-free and preservative-free items. Some that are mentioned include fresh salads, veggie boxes, fruit and cheese boxes, and some outside-the-box items such as sweet potato brownies and something called apple nachos.
It appears this will be t. Loft's third store, although the first one outside the Kansas City metro area. I don't yet have an estimate on when the Lawrence location will open. But a building permit has been issued to begin renovation work. I'll let you know when I hear more.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Plans for a new "farmers market style grocer" near the northeast corner of Sixth and Wakarusa are still moving forward. But, no, we still don't have an official word on who the grocer will be. Certainly, there is much speculation that it will be Sprouts, a grocery chain that has opened in Overland Park and is expanding in the region.
Final development plans for the site recently were filed at City Hall, but those plans did not list the name of the grocery tenant. But they did provide some color renderings of the proposed grocery building, and also of another multi-tenant retail building that will be next to the grocer. Check out the renderings below.
It looks like that in addition to the grocery store, there will be room for at least four other businesses at the site. After years of waiting, the Sixth and Wakarusa area is beginning to pick up steam. Now, we'll see if the numerous out lots that sit vacant around the Wal-Mart store begin attracting tenants.
Perhaps you have heard about it, and now you’ll get to see it too: The proposed $25 million city-owned recreation center in Rock Chalk Park.
The city will host an open house from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on March 26 at City Hall for folks to view plans and renderings for the proposed 181,000-square-foot, eight-gym recreation center.
City officials are getting the open house in right under the wire. About 30 minutes after the open house concludes, commissioners are scheduled give the OK for the city to seek bids on the project.
In other words, if you want to provide any feedback to commissioners that they’ll have time to consider, you may want to take a look at the plans and renderings now. Click here to see what the city has available.
The basic components of the center really hasn’t changed from what has been proposed for many months. Among the major features:
• Eight full-court gyms that also can be used as 16 cross-court gyms or 16 volleyball courts.
• An indoor turf area that will be striped to accommodate one full length soccer field or three cross court fields.
• A gymnastics area.
• A four-lane, indoor walking/running track.
• A dance studio.
• A cardio and weight room area.
• Two party rooms that can be rented for birthday parties and other such events.
But what we haven’t seen much of — especially since the project moved from the west side of Sixth Street and the SLT interchange to the east side of the road — are renderings of the exterior. The city now has a couple of those that they are sharing.
The March 26 open house will be a come-and-go type of event rather than a forum during which the city takes comment about the project. But I’m sure there will be city officials on hand who will be able to answer questions.
In terms of questions, I still get a few from readers about the project. Let me see if I can answer a couple of them here.
• Have all the key votes on the project already taken place? No. On March 5, the City Commission on a 4-1 vote approved a development agreement for the project. That certainly was the most significant vote the commission has taken on the recreation center project yet. It sent the clear message that the city plans to build the recreation center, and the agreement seems to commit the city to pay at least $2 million worth of costs, if for some reason it decides not to build the center.
• What other votes are left to be taken? Well, the city will have to vote to put the project out to bid at the March 26 meeting. That shouldn’t be much of a deal. But there are two more votes that will be a little more interesting because they both will come after a new City Commission is seated on April 9. One vote will be to accept construction bids for the project, and the other will be to issue bonds that will pay for the project. Those votes are where the rubber meets the road.
• Does the current crop of City Commission candidates have any interest in revisiting the issue? Might they choose not to accept the construction bids? Well, legally, the new City Commission could choose to reject the bids or decline to issue debt for the project. There’s nothing in the approved development agreement that forces the next City Commission to do the project.
But whether there are any candidates who have a strong inclination to reverse the decision of a previous City Commission is a bit hard to ascertain. What is clear: Two candidates — Jeremy Farmer and Terry Riordan — have been pretty supportive of the recreation center project throughout their campaign.
Mike Amyx — the lone incumbent in the field — voted against the project. Rob Chestnut, as a member of the city’s Public Incentives Review Committee, voted against recommending the package of economic development incentives for the KU-oriented projects in the adjacent Rock Chalk Park project. But that’s different from saying he doesn’t support the recreation center project and, indeed, he has said he likes the concept, although he has some concerns about the financial arrangements. At a March 6 Voter Education Coalition forum, he made statements indicating he wouldn’t be game for reversing the past commission’s decisions on the project.
The two remaining candidates — Scott Criqui and Leslie Soden — have expressed multiple concerns about the project, but when asked about the project at the March 6 forum, neither said anything about overturning the City Commission’s decision on the issue. But that also wasn’t exactly the question they were asked by the moderator.
At Monday’s North Lawrence candidate forum, Soden, Criqui and Amyx all brought up the recreation issue unsolicited. Soden said she was interested in reducing the size of the building by half, and Amyx made an interesting statement.
“The next City Commission will do more on this project than the current commission,” Amyx told the crowd. “We’re going to be dealing with the financing of it. Three members of this panel right here will become a majority of the next commission. That’s a reason to get out and vote.”
So, tough to ascertain what type of issue the recreation center will be on the campaign trail. But as part of our campaign coverage, we will attempt to get the candidates to more directly answer the question of whether they would consider overturning the city commission’s previous decision on the issue.
But here’s something to remember: Math makes it unlikely that such an overturn will happen. Two existing commissioners will remain on the commission: Bob Schumm and Mike Dever. They are the two strongest supporters of the recreation center project on the commission. That means three candidates who disfavor the current project would have to win in the City Commission election.
After the primary, Amyx, Farmer and Riordan held the top three spots. As we’ve noted, two of those three have expressed consistent support for the proposed project.