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Another project hoping to attract retirees files plans in west Lawrence; looking at whether local Gap store will close

Maybe the ghost of a Furr’s cafeteria roams the intersection of Sixth and Queens Road. Maybe it was the site of Lawrence’s first canasta game. Whatever the reason, the intersection is becoming a magnet for retirees and other senior living projects.

As we have reported, construction is underway on the Village Cooperatives, a 52-unit senior living facility on the southwest corner of Sixth and Queens Road. Now, plans have been filed at City Hall for a senior living project at the southeast corner of the intersection.

Robert Wilson — owner of the Lawrence-based Bridge Haven group of assisted living facilities — is seeking to rezone about 2.5 acres at 5275 W. Sixth St. to accommodate a small, gated community for active seniors or retirees.

“I can see it being more for active seniors who had a house, sold it, like to travel but still want that home setting,” said Wilson, who noted the plans are still in their early stages.

Wilson said his current thinking is the development would be about 12 to 15 units and would be marketed as more of an upscale development with a small clubhouse. Residences would be built with seniors in mind, and that means more than just wide halls, one-floor living and other such standard features. It also includes lots of storage because Wilson said he hears from seniors all the time that they “accumulate a lot of stuff,” during a lifetime. He said many of the units probably would have extra-deep two-car garages that could provide a lot of storage.

The zoning request with City Hall said the property likely would include a mix of duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes.

Unlike Bridge Haven properties, this development won’t be an assisted living facility. But Wilson said he really liked the property and saw an opportunity to do a development that is a bit different from other senior communities in town.

“I just think it is going to be a really good fit,” Wilson said. “I’ve seen it done in other towns where there is a small community for active seniors, and it is really popular.”

Wilson said he thinks the property also will be a drawing card. If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is a little slice of the country that has become surrounded by the city. A white farm house with some outbuildings sits on top of the hill on the southeast corner of the intersection.

“It is probably one of the higher lots in Lawrence,” Wilson said. “You have some great views.”

Wilson said he hopes to begin construction on the project this spring. The development still must win several approvals from City Hall. The land does not currently have the proper zoning for the development and also will require site plan approval.

The site of a proposed retiree community near Sixth and Queens Road.

The site of a proposed retiree community near Sixth and Queens Road. by Chad Lawhorn


In other news and notes from around town:

• I’m wearing an outfit today that may cause some people to think all clothing stores closed down sometime around 1988. That, of course, is not the case, but there is reason to wonder whether Lawrence’s Gap store is set to close.

The company earlier this week announced that it plans to close about 200 Gap and Banana Republic stores. Some of you have been asking whether the Lawrence Gap store at 643 Massachusetts is on the list of stores to close?

The simple answer is Gap has not yet released a list of stores it plans to close. The company also hasn’t released a timeline for when it will do so. Whether Lawrence will land on that list would be nothing more than a wild guess. The company is looking to close underperforming stores to address “significant and acute” sales downturns at both the Gap and Banana Republic.

Statistically, Lawrence has a good chance of avoiding closure. Gap’s parent company operates about 2,000 Gap and Banana Republic stores combined. The company plans to close 200 stores across both chains, so roughly 10 percent of the total.

One other item to keep an eye on with Gap’s parent company is plans to expand its Old Navy chain of stores. That chain has been performing better, and the company plans to open 270 new locations for Old Navy and Athleta. Old Navy used to have a store in Lawrence — where Ross is now located in the south Iowa street corridor — but it closed at the end of 2011 when the company was changing its strategy to have stores with less square footage. Old Navy, I was told by sources in the real estate industry, wanted to remain in Lawrence but was unable to renegotiate its lease for a smaller footprint. I continue to hear that the retailer is interested in returning to Lawrence. It has been publicly mentioned by the development group seeking to build retail south of the SLT and Iowa Street interchange as a retailer who would be a likely tenant for the center. Of course, there are some other vacant spaces in town too, so it will be interesting to watch whether Old Navy tries to move into one of those spaces.

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