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More details on plans for a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in old Sears building

Yes, Lawrence really is going to get a Dick's Sporting Goods store.

We reported last week that a building permit application had been made that strongly suggested a Dick's Sporting Goods store was set to go into a portion of the former Sears building at 27th and Iowa streets. Well, more paperwork has surfaced that is more definitive.

A site plan has been filed for the former Sears building, and the plan is titled "Dick's Sporting Good Store." And it looks like Lawrence probably will get a new restaurant out of the deal as well. The site plan application shows that a Wichita-based development group is proposing to build a 4,000-square-foot restaurant building in the southeast corner of the Sears parking lot. That will put it adjacent to the Midas auto repair shop along Iowa Street.

Here are details of the project, according to the site plan:

• The Dick's Sporting Goods store will occupy the majority of the building, at 50,395 square feet. In case you are wondering whether this is a mini-Dick's store, it doesn't appear to be. According to a respected retail guide — ChainLinks Retail Advisors — the Lawrence store will be about an average-size facility for Dick's. ChainLinks says Dick's stores come in three sizes: a large store format of 80,000 square feet, an average-size store of 50,000 square feet and a small-scale store of 35,000 square feet. This one's in the middle.

• The southern end of the existing building will have space for 29,221 square feet of retail space. The site plan doesn't give any clues about what retailer may be going into that space, and it's quite possible a tenant hasn't yet been found. There's certainly speculation, though. I've heard several people rooting for Old Navy to make a return to Lawrence. It left town in early 2012, and its space near 33rd and Iowa street was taken over by Ross Dress for Less. Speculation at the time was that Old Navy wanted to remain in Lawrence, but company strategy was dictating a smaller store for this size of market. If that's the case, the former Sears space may not be it. The proposed space at Sears is about 10,000 square feet larger than what Old Navy had in the Pine Ridge Plaza.

• The project will have space for a smaller store, however. The northeast corner of the existing building is being configured to accommodate an approximately 10,000-square-foot retail space. If you are an Old Navy fan, that may be one to watch. An article by the industry publication Retail Traffic reported in 2011 that Old Navy was reducing the size of its average store to about 10,000 square feet. But just to be clear, there isn't any official word on Old Navy wanting to return to Lawrence. It's just speculation at the moment in some real estate circles, and in some cases, wishful thinking among some shoppers that I know. But still, it's probably a name worth keeping an eye on.

I'll make another run at trying to get in contact with the new owners of the property — a group led by noted Wichita developer Michael Boyd — and will report back if I get any new details.

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Vacant Sears building sold; plans at City Hall suggest Dick’s Sporting Goods on the way

It is sure beginning to look like Dick's Sporting Goods is headed for the vacant Sears building on South Iowa Street.

In recent days, the building at 2727 Iowa St. has sold and a building permit has been filed at City Hall that contains clues that suggest Dick's Sporting Goods will be the main tenant for the building. The building permit application doesn't specifically state that Dick's is the tenant, but the architect for the property labeled the remodeling project "Dick's Tenant White Box." White box, for those of you not up on the lingo, is the phrase used to describe a basic remodeling job that creates a clean space for a tenant to begin installing their own shelves, fixtures and furniture.

The plans filed at City Hall also show that the 86,000-square-foot building would be divided into three spaces for retailers, with the large anchor space checking in at about 50,400 square feet. That indicates that there will be room for at least two other significant retailers to locate in the building. There was nothing in the filings at City Hall to indicate who those retailers may be.

As for the sale of the property, TMD Iowa LLC has purchased the property from California-based Sinay Lawrence Kansas LLC, according to records from the Douglas County Register of Deeds.

TMD Iowa, according to records from the Kansas Secretary of State's office, includes Michael Boyd, a noted commercial real estate developer with Wichita-based Walter Morris Companies. That also lends credence to the idea that Dick's is headed for the space.

Talk in local commercial real estate circles is that Walter Morris Companies has had the building under contract for several months, but has been waiting on a final commitment from Dick's before they closed on the building.

"My understanding is they have had it under contract since spring," one source told me. "I'm sure this is a sign that they've finally got the Dick's deal signed."

The source I talked with said the addition of Boyd and the Walter Morris Companies to Lawrence market is a good sign because they are experienced retail developers.

"They were really active in Wichita for a long time," the source said. "They are pretty big players. They have some deep pockets and I think they have long wanted to be in the Lawrence market."

As we reported in April, executives associated with Walter Morris Companies were involved in the purchase of the former Tanger Factory Outlet Mall site, now called the I-70 Business Center, in North Lawrence.

I've got a call into Michael Boyd to try to find out some details about this latest purchase. I'll let you know what I hear, and of course, I'll also keep my ears open for the speculation on other retailers that may be interested in the remaining two spaces in the building.

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As Briggs prepares to move out of Sears building, rumors heat up that Dick’s Sporting Goods will be moving in

Here’s what we know: The folks at Briggs Auto Group soon will be vacating the former Sears building at 27th and Iowa streets.

Here’s what’s likely to happen: A whole bunch of speculation that Dick’s Sporting Goods will move into the prime piece of South Iowa Street property.

Rumors of a Dick’s Sporting Goods coming to town are nothing new, but there does seem to be quite a bit of smoke with this particular batch of rumors. And you know what they say: Where there is smoke, there’s usually a kid with a half-dozen Roman candles in each hand and a package of Black Cats in his back pocket. (Actually, maybe they only say that in my neighborhood, although no one would hear it.)

The point is, there may be something to the speculation this time. Mike Neyman, general manager for Briggs Nissan, said the landlord for the Sears building has notified the auto dealership that it will need to vacate the premises by the end of the month because a new deal for the building is being processed.

Neyman said the timeline shouldn’t create a problem for Briggs, because the Nissan dealership already has moved into its new facility in the nearby Lawrence Auto Plaza, and work on the Dodge dealership is expected to be done by the end of the month. (More on Briggs’ developments in a moment.)

Multiple sources in the real estate and development industries tell me that a deal has been struck by an investment group to buy the approximately 90,000-square-foot Sears building. The same sources say that the group has a major national anchor tenant committed to the building. The strong speculation is that it's Dick’s, because the company has been scouting for locations in the city.

“Dick’s is the player here,” one source said.

The chain Hibbett Sports also has shown interest in Lawrence over the years, but it is seen as a less likely option at this location because it usually locates in far smaller buildings.

But speaking of size, it seems unlikely that Dick’s Sporting Goods would occupy all of the nearly 90,000 square feet of the old Sears building. According to press reports in other markets, store sizes for Dick’s usually are around 45,000 to 60,000 square feet.

Local real estate professionals say what is likely is that the old Sears building would be split into perhaps two or three spaces, meaning that other new retailers may be coming to the market as well.

I know there was a lot of interest in that type of concept shortly after Sears closed its store in 2012. A development group tried to buy the building at that time, with the hopes of attracting both Dick’s and Old Navy to the location. But negotiations with the Los Angeles-based real estate group that owns the property were difficult. Early last year, Old Navy closed its store on South Iowa, which was where Ross Dress for Less is now located. I’m told Old Navy, at the time anyway, still was very much interested in the Lawrence market, but needed a smaller space to accommodate a new strategic direction for the company. Whether it is still interested in the market more than a year later, I don’t know.

Once all the smoke clears, we’ll see.

•••

All this talk of rumors can get in the way of what actually is happening. The folks at the Briggs Auto Group are nearing the end of a multimillion-dollar effort to remake the Lawrence Auto Plaza just north of 31st and Iowa streets.

Briggs Nissan has moved into its new showroom and dealership facility right at the Iowa Street entrance to the Auto Plaza. You might remember the location as the former home of the Jim Clark Dodge/Chrysler dealership.

As we previously have reported, the Nissan dealership includes an all-new 20,000-square-foot showroom building, charging stations for electric vehicles and a reconfigured lot for outdoor car displays.

By the end of the month, Briggs’ Dodge/Chrysler dealership is expected to move into its new location, which is on the western edge of the Auto Plaza, where 29th Terrace and Four Wheel Drive intersect. It is where the Nissan dealership previously was located.

Both of those projects are in addition to the Briggs Subaru dealership, which was completed last year in the Lawrence Auto Plaza. All told, improvements to the Auto Plaza by Briggs probably are near the $4 million mark at this point.

Neyman says the company recently added what it thinks will become a new South Iowa landmark: a new time and temperature sign that he says is the tallest sign in Lawrence. I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t know exactly how big we’re talking about. But I know that the Briggs folks like the idea of having an aerial structure that draws a lot of attention. As part of the original development plan, Briggs was planning on adding a wind turbine to the Auto Plaza. Neyman said he thinks that is still in the future plans, but I don’t have any word yet on when that may happen.

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