Runza closed for remodeling; Wicked Broadband co-owner files for seat on City Commission; local PAC has nearly $16K ahead of city elections
In 20-plus years of reporting in Douglas County, one thing I have learned about the public is they are very concerned about any threats to their cabbage-stuffed sandwiches. Over the last few days I started getting messages from people concerned that the Runza at 27th and Iowa streets — perhaps the largest purveyor of cabbage-stuffed sandwiches — had gone out of business. But fear not, the restaurant is closed, but only temporarily for a renovation.
I turned on my lights and sirens in the F150 and went to the scene for a firsthand investigation. Doug Nations, the local franchisee for Runza, said the restaurant is getting an interior makeover. When it reopens, the furnishings will be different, but the menu will be the same. That means the Original Runza, a stuffed sandwich “full of ground beef, onions, cabbage and secret spices” is not going anywhere.
Nations said he expected the restaurant to reopen sometime next week. (Which is good because you don’t want to see people have cabbage withdrawal. It involves people tipping over entire salad bars and yelling at the top of their lungs, “YOU CALL THIS A LEAFY VEGETABLE?”)
Nations said business has been good, and said redevelopment in the area has been drawing more customers to the intersection. In recent weeks, a Buffalo Wild Wings opened across the street, and last year a Dick’s Sporting Goods also opened at the intersection of 27th and Iowa.
“Right now, this is the intersection to be at in town,” Nations said.
Runza has been at the location since about 1986, Nations said, which makes it one of the older restaurants in the city.
In other news and notes from around town:
• It is not as much fun as cabbage, but the race for three seats on the Lawrence City Commission is continuing to heat up. As expected, Lawrence school board member Kris Adair has filed for a spot on the City Commission.
Adair is a co-owner of Wicked Broadband, the business formerly known as Lawrence Freenet that is seeking some city incentives to start a high-speed fiber optic broadband network in the community. She also is the director of the Lawrence Center for Entrepreneurship, a startup operation that she has founded. It has space in the shopping center at Ninth and Iowa, and will provide office space, counseling and other assistance to entrepreneurs in the area.
When I had talked with Adair before, she had said she would resign her position as a school board member, if she won a seat on the City Commission. I’m assuming that is still the case, but haven’t yet got in touch with Adair. Look for a full report on her announcement when I get in touch with her.
• New details also are starting to emerge about PAC activity for the Lawrence City Commission race. Perhaps you remember Lawrence United, a political action committee that was new on the scene during the City Commission election two years ago. During that race, the PAC raised tens of thousands of dollars and sent out mailers on behalf of a trio of candidates it supported.
It looks like the group may be primed to be active again. The PAC has made its state-required financial report, and it shows that it had almost $16,000 in the bank at the end of 2014. There also were indications that the group was seeking new contributions. The PAC raised $1,500 between Dec. 19 and Dec. 22 from two donors: a $1,000 contribution from Emprise Bank and a $500 contribution from Lawrence builder Tim Stultz.
A Lawrence attorney by the name of Casey Meek is the chair of the organization. The better known organizer of the group, though, is Lawrence banker Doug Gaumer. Gaumer, who is a former chair of the Lawrence chamber of commerce, is the group’s treasurer.
I put a call in to Gaumer to get a better sense of how active the group plans to be during this upcoming campaign. I’ll report when I hear back.
The group lists its purpose as supporting local candidates who have an interest in growing jobs and the local economy.
Hostel and banquet hall proposed for site near North Lawrence; updates on Menards and other commercial real estate sales
A little bit of Europe may be coming to rural Lawrence. My wife is rooting for a Cadillac-sized chunk of Swiss chocolate. I'm rooting for a meet and greet with the women's Swiss ski team. (Big fan of skiing.) But some of you are rooting for the European idea of a hostel. You are the apparent winners.
Your prize is that you may be able to sleep in a small bunkhouse with people you don't know, but do so for a very low price. That's what a hostel basically is, for those of you who aren't as steeped in European culture as I am.
Plans have been filed for a new banquet facility and hostel to be located near the Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Lawrence. Work already has begun to remodel portions of the old farmhouse that used to house University Photography at 1804 E. 1500 Road, which is along U.S. Highway 24-40 and caddy-corner from the Airport Motel.
Lawrence resident Shane Powers is the man behind the project. He said his first priority for the business, which will be called The Fete, will be to get established as a banquet and reception facility. But the conditional use permit that he has filed for from the county also would give the property the ability to function as a hostel, and he said he hopes work can begin on that part of the project in about a year.
"I don't think Americans, in general, are really used to the hostel concept yet," Powers said. "But I know a lot of people who travel around Europe or really the rest of the world, and it is common for people to open up their homes to travelers or at least rent a room out."
Powers said his plan is to remodel a second-story portion of the property for use as a hostel. Plans call for a bunkhouse room that could house up to five people, plus a separate room that would house a queen-sized bed that could be rented by a couple.
Not all the details have been worked out on the pricing for the hostel, but Powers said it likely would be in the $15 per person range.
"We're not trying to make it like a bed and breakfast," Powers said. "The idea is to provide some cheap lodging."
Powers — whom I've written about before when he was running a pedicab business in downtown Lawrence — thinks the location will work well. The property is just off of the Kansas Turnpike, and Powers hopes the location becomes popular with some of the touring musicians and such who travel through Lawrence and may be looking for a cheap place to stay.
Powers thinks the location also will serve the banquet and reception business well. The property is technically outside the city limits, and Powers and his girlfriend plan to raise chickens at the site and have some other agricultural elements on the property. Powers thinks the location will fill a bit of a niche for people who want to have a country setting for a wedding reception, but don't want to travel far outside the city.
The business also will focus on smaller receptions and events. The facility will have space for about 85 people indoors, plus will offer an outdoor reception area.
"We would love to have it where people could have a wedding on the lawn and then retreat indoors for a reception," Powers said.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission will consider the project's conditional use permit later this month. The Douglas County Commission ultimately will be responsible for granting final approval to the project.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Perhaps you have seen the sign already, but it looks like a former funeral home is going to become the site for an expanded veterinarian clinic. Gentle Care Animal Hospital has plans to move from its longtime location in the Westridge Shopping Center at 601 Kasold Drive into the former Lawrence Funeral Chapel space at the corner of Sixth and Monterrey Way. I had seen recently in the land transfers where a group led by veterinarian Marguerite Ermeling had purchased the building. A group involving Ermerling and longtime businessman George Paley also have bought the vacant lot between the funeral chapel building and the old Stone Canyon restaurant buidling as well. When I talked with Paley about the purchase, he said there were no immediate plans for development of that lot.
• While we're talking about land transfers, here are some other commercial real estate transactions that have accumulated recently, according to the listings from the Douglas County Register of Deeds.
— For those of you nervous that the proposed Menards home improvement store really isn't going to happen, rest easy. Menard Inc. recently finalized the purchase of the old Gaslight Mobile Home Village and also of the Snodgrass property just to the east of the mobile home park. As we've previously reported, the project won its major zoning approvals from City Hall. Now it officially owns the real estate too, so I would think we'll start seeing work at that site sooner rather than later.
— It looks like folks connected with the Runza fast food restaurant have bought the restaurant's site at 2700 Iowa St. Land transfers show a Lincoln, Neb.-based land holding company — Lawrence Properties LLC — bought the site from a Lawrence-based company led by local businessman Doug Compton. Lawrence Properties LLC is run by a member of the founding family of Runza, according to documents on file with the Kansas Secretary of State's Office.
— There is a good chance that Luminous Neon, the sign company in the 600 block of Vermont Street — may be moving out of downtown and onto 23rd Street. The commercial building at 801 E. 23rd St. — it used to house the G-Force gymnastics academy — has sold. A Hutchinson company, 801-23rd, LLC, has bought the property. Ron Sellers, the president of Luminous Neon, which is based in Hutchinson, confirmed to me recently that he had an option to buy the property. He said Luminous Neon has been looking for better configured space in Lawrence. No word on what may go into Luminous Neon's downtown space. I'll do some more checking and report back.
More LJWorld City Coverage
Well, it looks like a certain basketball-oriented celebration that has been known to close downtown streets has been called off this year. But fear not, there will still be plenty of opportunities to celebrate — and close downtown streets — in the coming weeks.
What sort of a lineup have we got scheduled? What would you say if I told you that you could take out your hatred on tick-borne diseases by participating in a 5K race that will go through downtown and parts of East Lawrence? I would say if you are still ticked off about the KU-Michigan game, here’s your chance to actually take it out on the ticks. (Yeah, that joke sucked. Most tick jokes do.)
Mark your calendar for 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 11: The Kansas Tick-Borne Disease Advocates will host a race that will begin on Massachusetts Street at South Park, go through downtown to Seventh Street, head into East Lawrence, loop back onto Massachusetts Street at 15th Street and then finish at South Park. Massachusetts Street will be closed for a few minutes at a time as the runners come by in waves.
Several other events either have been approved or are in the process of being approved for the downtown in coming weeks. Here’s a look:
• At 8 a.m. on Monday, May 27 — Memorial Day — organizers will host The Home Run 5K in downtown Lawrence, an event that benefits Family Promise and the Lawrence Community Shelter. Perhaps the Royals pitching staff will participate. They usually are at the scene of a home run. (Yes, I’m a true Royals fan. I know Opening Day is not too early to lose your optimism about the team.)
The race will use the same route as the tick-borne awareness race. City officials, I believe, are trying to convince more events to use that route because it requires fewer resources from the Police Department to control traffic, and it introduces people to the city’s Burroughs Creek Trail that runs through East Lawrence.
• The Tour of Lawrence bicycle races will be back in Lawrence from June 28 through June 30. Once again, the events will happen both downtown and on the KU campus.
On Friday, June 28, downtown will host the Street Sprint portion of the tour. The 700 and 800 blocks of New Hampshire will be closed from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 28. That’s where the sprinting will take place. Eighth Street between New Hampshire and Massachusetts will be closed from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 28. That's where the post-sprint celebrating will take place. The area will have a kids zone and live music, and adult beverages also will be sold.
A word of warning to people who park along New Hampshire Street: Be sure to move your car by 5 p.m. on that day, because towing will take place to ensure the race route is clear. (It's a Friday, so you can tell your boss that it's super critical you be out of the office by 5 p.m. I think I’ll park there.)
On Saturday, June 29, the racing will shift to the KU campus. Several streets on and near the campus will be impacted by the race but none will be completely closed. Here’s a look at that route and others used during the tour.
On Sunday, June 30, the event will finish with a Downtown Criterium, which is kind of like bicycle’s version of NASCAR short track racing, except the pit crews don’t fight at the end of each race. (The spandex must have a calming effect. Maybe NASCAR should try it.) It really is some action-packed racing, and it will require several streets in downtown to be closed from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. That includes much of Massachusetts Street and parts of New Hampshire and Vermont.
As in the past, the event will receive $10,000 from the city’s transient guest tax fund. The event will use the money to help attract elite teams to the race. This year the money also will be used to increase marketing to cyclists in the Chicago and Dallas areas.
• And finally, on the weekend of Sept.14-15, an estimated 2,000 cyclists once again will be camping overnight in downtown Lawrence. The 2013 Bike MS event is set to take place from 6 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, to noon Sunday, Sept. 15, in South Park.
In case you don’t remember the event — which will be making its third appearance in Lawrence — it is a fundraiser for the Mid-America Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Near as I can tell, cyclists ride miles and miles — from the Garmin headquarters in Olathe to South Park — to justify partaking in a large beer tent that has been sponsored by an area brewing company in the past. (Personally, I just drink light beer and skip the miles and miles of cycling part.)
In addition to riders coming from the east, a separate group also will be leaving from Topeka to ride to South Park.
The event will require Massachusetts Street from North Park and South Park streets to be closed from 6 a.m. Sept. 14 to noon on Sept. 15. The Community Building Parking lot also will be closed at that time. Both South Park and the Community Building will be used as an overnight “Cycle Village.”
• This last event isn’t a race and it won’t impact traffic in downtown. But I thought I would mention it anyway because it may impact traffic near 27th and Iowa streets. At least it is likely to when my wife is driving by it, becomes distracted by it and uses the Ford Taurus to create a new drive-thru at the nearby Runza restaurant. Beginning April 13 and lasting for the entire week, there will be 5,860 multi-colored flags stuck into the ground near the southeast corner of 27th and Iowa Streets — in front of Landmark Bank and Runza.
The flags — about 20 inches high — will be commemorating the Week of the Young Child. The 5,860 number is meant to be one flag for every child that is in childcare in Lawrence. The flag idea is being put together by Child Care Aware of Northeast and North Central Kansas, a nonprofit group based in Lawrence.
So, don’t be distracted. I’ve warned you. But Runza folks, if you see a maroon Taurus with a driver pointing at the pretty flags, I’d take cover behind the counter.