The same "architect" who "designs" my home "improvement" projects must be in charge of the new Menards project near 31st and Iowa streets. The project is growing before it even gets started.
But unlike the addition of a knitting cabinet in my game room, this addition was expected.
Menards officials have a filed a new annexation and rezoning request at City Hall to add 8.4 acres to their development, which is just east of the Home Depot on 31st Street. The land is part of what is known as the Snodgrass property, but perhaps you recognize it as that ranch-style house that sits next to a nice pond just east of where the Gaslight Mobile Home Village used to be. (Or, if you are some sort of postal freak, maybe we'll just call it 1352 N. 1300 Road.)
Menards has a contract to purchase the westernmost portion of the property, and it plans to create another commercial lot to supplement its Menards store. The pending land purchase won't change the size of the planned store. It still is designed to check in at about 175,000 square feet.
But the purchase will mean that there will now be room for six additional retailers, restaurants or other similar users on the property surrounding the Menards store. The new purchase will allow for a fairly large store to locate on the site. According to a traffic study submitted to City Hall, the lot can accommodate about a 60,000-square-foot store. For comparison purposes, the Hobby Lobby store on 23rd Street is about 50,000 square feet, according to county records.
If you want to compare to some stores that aren't currently in Lawrence, places like Burlington Coat Factory, Toys 'R Us and several major theater chains often open in buildings around the 60,000-square-foot size, according to the industry publications I read. (Since my wife nearly bent her knitting needles due to excitement, perhaps I should clarify: Those names are just for comparision purposes. There's nothing to indicate any of those are coming to Lawrence.)
In fact, Menards said in its application that it expects the lot to sit vacant for awhile. Menards has said it does not plan to build any buildings on speculation - which means building then hoping to find a tenant. Instead, it will wait for a solid deal — or in this case, deals — to emerge.
Menards will have space to offer to several retailers. In total, the development will have space for 296,966 square feet of retail and commercial development. Menard's takes up about 175,000 square feet of that and the Snodgrass property will accommodate another 60,000. That means the remaining five lots likely will house stores or restaurants in the 5,000- to 15,000-square-foot range. There are a lot of players that can fit into that space.
The Snodgrass deal still has to win the necessary land use approvals from City Hall, but planners have been expecting this application. When city commissioners approved the Menards deal in June, store officials said they were looking at the Snodgrass property then. Menards successfully lobbied the commission to change the city's area plan for the 31st Street corridor to show this portion of the Snodgrass property as being slated for commercial development in the future. The annexation and rezoning appear to have a clear path to approval at City Hall, but the weather has been known to change rapidly at the corner of Sixth and Massachusetts. So, we'll see.
Regardless, the property is bound to change. After construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway, the property will be at a new intersection, the corner of Michigan and 31st streets. Michigan Street will be the name of the new street that will be built about a 1,000 to 1,500 feet east of 31st and Ousdahl. Michigan Street basically will replace the portion of Louisiana Street that is south of 31st Street. That portion of Louisiana will be removed as part of the SLT construction. Menards plans to build Michigan Street a few hundred feet north of 31st Street to serve as an additional access point to its development.
In a few months, the world will look quite a bit different along 31st Street. Heaven help me if the new look includes a knitting store.