Kinedyne to close plant later this year; Heartland health clinic moving to space near LMH; a ranking of Lawrence fans
UPDATE 1:15 P.M. Indeed the speculation is correct. A Kinedyne official has confirmed the company has decided to close its Lawrence production plant later this year.
In response to questions from the Journal-World, New Jersey-based Kinedyne released a statement saying the company has made a decision to transfer its Lawrence manufacturing facilities to a Kinedyne plant in Prattville, Ala. The company expects 23 Lawrence-based production and warehouse workers will lose their jobs by late 2015. An undisclosed number of administrative and office workers are expected to remain in Lawrence through December 2016, but those positions also will be phased out. The company said "many employees" were offered the chance to transfer to Prattville, and "some have accepted the opportunity to relocate."
The news marks an end for a longtime Lawrence manufacturer. Kinedyne has been in Lawrence since 1989 when it bought the Lawrence-based Aeroquip Corporation. The company has become a leader in the manufacturing of cargo straps, winches and other devices used by shippers and cargo haulers.
"The decision to close the Lawrence-based business was absolutely no reflection of the employees or the work they produced," the company said in its statement. "The decision was based upon factual data and a business need to have all of our manufacturing in one location."
I'll bring your more details as I sort through them.
Earlier post: • I’m definitely working to get more information on possible changes to a major employer at the East Hills Business Park. For several weeks now I have been hearing speculation that Kinedyne, a manufacturer of cargo straps and other devices for the shipping industry, may be shifting some production away from its longtime Lawrence plant. I’ve been working to get confirmation from the company for the last several weeks. I still don’t have that confirmation, but I was successful in making contact with company leaders yesterday. They told me they are preparing a response, which indicates to me that it is a situation economic development leaders will want to keep an eye on.
Kinedyne has been a longtime presence in the manufacturing sector in Lawrence. It was one of the first companies to locate in the East Hills Business Park when it opened in 1989. The company has its production plant in the building that sits right at the entrance to the business park. I’m not certain of employee totals at the plant currently, but the Economic Development Corporation of Lawrence & Douglas County lists the local plant with 93 employees.
In other news and notes from around town:
Lawrence’s health care industry is set to become even more focused on the area near Fourth and Maine streets. I’ve gotten confirmation that the Heartland Community Health Center is moving from its longtime home in the former Riverfront mall to space across the street from Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
Heartland has signed a deal to locate in about 10,000 square feet of space in the Medical Arts building on the northeast corner of Fourth and Maine, said Sean Hatch, communications coordinator for the not-for-profit health clinic.
“It is exciting for us for so many reasons,” Hatch said. “It gives us a prominent location and will offer greater access for patients.”
The new location is not only across the street from LMH, but basically is next door to the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and a host of other medical providers.
“We receive a lot of referrals from those places,” Hatch said “And now when we refer people to LMH for lab work, it will just be across the street.”
Heartland provides primary care services to patients without insurance, but also acts as an affordable care provider for patients who do have insurance. It also operates a food pantry and utility assistance program out of its offices, and has partnerships with Bert Nash to provide mental health care as part of the primary medical care it provides to patients. Last year the center had about 9,000 patient encounters, and Hatch said the clinic’s patient volumes have climbed every month thus far in 2015.
Hatch said the clinic plans to make the move in early July. The renovation work will take place in phases. When completed, the center will occupy 10,000 square feet of space for its clinic and administrative offices. That’s up from about 7,000 square feet of space the clinic had on the ground floor of the Riverfront building.
Full disclosure: The Riverfront building is owned by a group led by members of the Simons family, which owns the Journal-World and LJWorld.com.
• Here’s something for you to really gnash your teeth about. Lawrence has landed on another ranking list, and I don’t know how we’ll ever be able to show our faces again. The personal finance website WalletHub — in its efforts to make sure we understand the complex beast known as the economy — has done a study to rank . . . the best cities for baseball fans. I know I’ve certainly made many a personal finance decision wishing I had better information about that very subject.
Well, now I’m beginning to rethink my choices in life because Lawrence ranks a stinking 155th out of 272 communities that were ranked. Folks, that’s a little bit less than average.
I don’t know what to do about this. I know Lawrence has given baseball many chances. But the ball doesn’t bounce worth a darn on the hardwood court; it is very difficult to rebound when it comes off the glass backboard; and when the ball went into the stands one time, I nearly had to fight a guy to get him to give it back.
The ranking primarily focused on communities that have either a major league baseball team or a Division I college baseball team. The good news is that our friends in Kansas City apparently have figured it out better than we have. Kansas City is ranked as the 11th best city for baseball fans in America. Other cities in Kansas seem to be catching on quicker than us as well: Manhattan is tied for 61st and Wichita 98th.
I was pretty concerned about this for awhile, until I saw which city was ranked No. 1: St. Louis. Then I realized maybe this ranking was just a joke. After all, how can a city that gets so excited about a single arch win any type of award? Most every community of a decent size has at least two arches, and they’re golden, and next door to them you can get cheap hamburgers and good French fries. I’ve been to the very top of that single arch in St. Louis, and there were no cheap hamburgers to be found.
Lawrence lands on national list of cities that love to volunteer; City Hall set to impose new restrictions on payday, title loan companies
You know what they say about Lawrence: We’re a town full of do-gooders, which explains why there are people in the street jousting with snow shovels today to win the privilege of shoveling their neighbor’s sidewalk. Well, maybe that hasn’t quite been the case, but there is a national ranking out that does show Lawrence residents are more volunteer-minded than most.
The huge professional networking site LinkedIn has been studying the data of it is millions of users to find out how many of them list volunteer activities on their LinkedIn profiles. Come to find out, Lawrence has one of the higher percentages of LinkedIn members who identify themselves as active volunteers.
Lawrence had the fourth-highest concentration of volunteers of any city in the country. Based on a blog entry from the company, I think that means LinkedIn looked at the number of users it has in each community, and then calculated the percentage of users in each city that listed activities under the “Volunteer Experience and Causes” section of their profiles.
College communities seem to do well in the ranking. That makes sense because the study also found that millennials were the group most likely to have volunteer experience listed on their LinkedIn profiles. The complete list of communities in the top 10 are:
Fort Collins, Colo.
State College, Pa.
In other news and notes from around town:
• UPDATE: Upon further review, I need to correct a couple of statements about the proposed regulations for title loan and payday loan businesses. After re-reading the city memo, a special use permit isn't proposed as part of the regulations. The League of Women Voters had asked for such a requirement, but it isn't included in the proposed code changes. Instead, the regulations create definitions for payday and title loan companies. They also spell out which zoning categories the businesses would be allowed to locate in. It appears that there are still 14 zoning categories where the businesses would be allowed to locate, so I'm not sure it will create many restrictions on the businesses. My apologies for suggesting otherwise. I simply misread the staff memo.
Original post: One area that Lawrence evidently is not feeling too charitable about is the idea of payday loan or car title loan businesses. City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday are set to approve new regulations that would place additional restrictions on where such businesses could locate in Lawrence.
City commissioners as part of their consent agenda will consider new code language that will require future payday loan and title loan companies to receive a special use permit before being allowed to open an office in several zoning districts in Lawrence. Normally special use permits are required for businesses that have some noxious land use impacts. Bars are required to have special use permits in some situations, like when they are part of a mixed-used development, for example. Businesses that have large amounts of outdoor storage, like recycling centers, sometimes are required to get special use permits too.
As the code is written now, payday loan and title loan businesses can locate about anywhere a traditional bank would be allowed to locate. But planning staff has noted that several neighborhoods have raised concerns about the businesses, and some zonings in the past have had conditions added that would prohibit such businesses.
What is mildly interesting is that the information being presented to the City Commission doesn’t really get into any detail about what problems the businesses are creating. Are repossessed cars being stored in the parking lot? Are they creating traffic problems? Are there noise problems?
Certainly, there have been concerns raised about some of the lending practices and whether such companies are taking predatory actions against their customers. City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer even has suggested creating city regulations regarding how the companies can operate. But a quick legal review found that creating city regulations that would fit into the state framework of regulations may be difficult.
I’m not sure that a special use permit will give the city much leverage in regulating how payday loan businesses operate, such as regulating the interest rates they can charge and such, but the new regulations will create a new hoop for such businesses to jump through before they can open in the city.
Commissioners meet at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
I pity the poor guy who occasionally speeds a bit to get to work on time at the East Hills Business Park. There's a chance that he may not have to avoid just a single patrol car, but rather the whole Lawrence police force. There are new signs that the city's proposed police headquarters building may go on industrial land adjacent to East Hills Business Park.
City Hall officials have released a report updating their search for property to house the potentially 100,000-square-foot police headquarters building. A site at the city's newest industrial park, VenturePark, is getting a serious look. For those of you not up on your industrial park names, VenturePark is the former Farmland Industries site, which is just west of East Hills Business Park.
The city is evaluating anywhere from two to five lots that are basically at the northwest corner of 23rd and O'Connell. The city hasn't decided to move forward with the site, but the recent report said "One site that may be most favorable is on land already owned by the city at VenturePark." That may be what the folks in the literary business call foreshadowing. (Calm down, English majors. That was not your cue to start a lecture on To Kill a Mockingbird.)
The city is looking for a site of at least 13 acres. That would require at least two lots in VenturePark to be taken out of circulation for industrial purposes. The park, however, still would have about 15 other lots that could serve a variety of business and industrial users.
It will be interesting to see if the city commissioners pull the trigger on the site. It would save the city potentially $1 million or more on land acquisition costs. The site also is across the street from the Douglas County Jail, has easy access to not only 23rd Street, but soon to the South Lawrence Trafficway. It is also close to the Humane Society, which will make it handy for police department's animal control division.
City officials will have to consider whether having a police station in an industrial park would sour any potential industrial tenants. In some cases it may be a benefit. Some businesses may like the knowing that there is 24/7 police presence just down the street.
Commissioners also have other options, including another city owned site. The report says the 29-acres of city-owned property at Overland Drive and Wakarusa Drive are being evaluated. The property is basically behind the Wal-Mart, and once was considered as a potential site for a city recreation center.
If you remember, the city also received seven proposals from local landowners earlier this year. City staff is recommending a majority of those proposals be rejected for reasons ranging from size problems, geography problems or access issues. But staff members are recommending three of the sites receive further consideration. They are:
• Up to 50 acres along the southern edge of 31st Street between Ousdahl and Louisiana. The property would be adjacent to the South Lawrence Trafficway. Staff is recommending the site remaining in the running, but noted there could be potential floodplain concerns.
• Two sites in the Fairfield Farms commercial development near 23rd and O'Connell Road also are receiving further review. Both sites are around 15 acres and generally are near the area where Tractor Supply is located. Both sites have good access to 23rd Street and the future South Lawrence Trafficway, and are near the Douglas County Jail.
• About 14 acres along Franklin Road in what is known as the Mt. Blue Addition. The property is near the Douglas County Jail. Staff is recommending this site receive further study, as a potential alternative to the Fairfield Farms site.
The city report also said there has been some interest shown in the vacant property that is just east of the Hallmark Cards plant and adjacent to the administration building. But that property, which is along the Kansas Turnpike, is 47 acres, and thus far the property is only being offered as a single piece. The report notes the city may have interest in that property if a smaller tract could be purchased.
The city also acknowledged that early in the process it unsuccessfully tried to strike a deal with Kansas University Endowment for a piece of well-situated West Lawrence property. The city was interested in vacant property at the southeast corner of Kasold Drive and Bob Billings Parkway. They city and the university have a history of striking some deals, including the use of university property to house Fire Station No. 5 near 19th and Iowa streets. More recently, the city agreed to a deal to pay for substantially all the needed infrastructure for the Rock Chalk Park sports complex that will be primarily used by KU. But the city was notified that the university's "long-term plans for the property made it unwise to commit to a non-university related use at this time."
There's been no timeline announced for how quickly the city may make a decision on a site for the police headquarters, but the issue has picked up considerable momentum in the last few weeks. Commissioners will receive the report at their Tuesday evening meeting, so it is conceivable they may direct staff to begin focusing on a particular site.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Earlier this week, we reported on an expansion project at API Foils in the East Hills Business Park. Well, I now have more details, and it appears the project could produce five to 15 new jobs at the manufacturer in the near term.
Currently, API's Lawrence operations have about 70 jobs, with a mix of administrative and production positions. The new jobs largely would be production jobs, Brad Mueller, president of API Foils, told me.
Mueller said the expansion project — which already has begun construction — is designed to improve the capacity and quality of foils produced at the plant. The foils are used in a variety of consumer packaging applications, ranging from greetings cards to candy to health care products.
The expansion product is expected to cost $4 million and increase the plant's production capacity by about 25 percent, Mueller said.
"Ultimately, we have found some customers that we can grow with," said Mueller. "It is a service-oriented business, and we have been blessed to form some good relationships."
Mueller said he expects the expansion project to be completed by mid-July. He said the company could start hiring in the fourth quarter or in early 2015.
• Get ready for a longterm traffic disruption on 31st Street. The Kansas Department of Transportation has announced that the portion of 31st Street between Louisiana Street and a point just a bit east of Ousdahl will close on Tuesday. The road is expected to be closed through the summer of 2015.
As previously reported, the closing is part of the work on the South Lawrence Trafficway. Eventually — perhaps in July — the portion of 31st Street between Haskell and Louisiana also will be closed for a long period.
This most recent closing also means that motorists won't be able to cross 31st Street at Louisiana. There is one small business area south of 31st Street that will be impacted by the closure. Visitors to the area — which includes Steve's Place, a meeting and reception hall — will need to take a series of county roads to access the business.
According to a representative of the business, motorists will need to travel south on Iowa Street to North 1100 Road, then travel east on North 1100 to East 1400 Road, then travel north on North 1400 Road to the business.
City receives just one proposal to redevelop dilapidated East Lawrence property; rumblings of Buffalo Wild Wings, barbecue and a downtown diner
The Lawrence development community evidently hasn't fallen in love with Rhody Delahunty.
If you remember, city commissioners recently went through the unusual process of taking the house and real estate at 1106 Rhode Island St. by eminent domain. As part of the eminent domain process, the city paid $114,500 for the dilapidated and vacant house and barn that sit just east of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center in downtown.
Commissioners bought the house, in part, because it is in a historic district, and the home itself is an old one. It dates back to the early 1870s, and the site was used by colorful Irishman Rhody Delahunty as the headquarters for his thriving dray wagon business.
Last month, commissioners sent out an RFP saying they wanted to receive proposals on how to redevelop the property, with the caveat that the old structures wouldn't be demolished. City staff members now report that the city received just one proposal.
But as my wife says as she sorts through her stack of credit cards at the checkout line: It just takes one good one. Now, city officials will have to determine whether the lone proposal is a good one.
It comes from longtime Lawrence architect and historic preservationist Stan Hernly's company Hernly Associates. As expected, the proposal involves financial assistance from the city to redevelop the property. First, Hernly proposes to buy the property for 90,000, which is less than what the city paid for it. Hernly says the city paid a price based on what the land was worth in a clear condition, but the condition of the house and barn actually make the property less valuable.
Hernly's group also is seeking essentially a 90 percent, 10-year property tax rebate on the completed project. The group also is seeking $26,100 in development grants to help fund what is expected to be about a $900,000 rehabilitation project.
As for what the project will include:
— The old house would be converted into a three-bedroom, two-bath rental house.
— A new one-bedroom, one-bath apartment would be built above the garage.
— The existing warehouse/barn would be converted into 2,170 square feet of office space. According to the proposal submitted to City Hall, Hernly plans to move his architectural business into the office space.
The proposal goes into detail about how the property will be greatly improved, noting everything from the major structural improvements that will have to be undertaken to the landscaping and site improvements that will clean up what has generally been viewed as a long-term eyesore.
That has been the one part of this project that most people have agreed upon: The property has been a mess, and has detracted from the neighborhood. But the city's actions to purchase the property through eminent domain have been important because it is the first time in recent memory the city has used that power to deal with a dilapidated property.
Now, it appears, purchasing the property won't be the only costs to the city. As proposed it will included taking money out of the city's coffers to complete the deal.
City commissioners have the power to order unsafe and dangerous houses to be demolished, but that option wasn't seriously considered in this case. That's because the history of the house made it likely that the city's own Historic Resources Commission would object to any proposed demolition of the property.
It will be an interesting project to watch. Let's face it, the amount of assistance being asked for isn't going to put a major dent in the city's budget. But there are certainly other old, dilapidated properties around town that the city has struggled to deal with. The more interesting question to me is whether the city has created a new strategy — one centered on the use of eminent domain — to rehabilitate old properties? And if so, what do we think of that? Is it finally a solution to deal with property owners who refuse to live up to their responsibilities, or is it an overreach by government?
Don't look at me. Sometimes I just get paid to ask the questions.
In other news and notes from around town:
• In my line of work, the celebrities I hang around with are city commissioners, and, if I'm lucky, an occasional planning commissioner. So, you can imagine how popular I become at cocktail parties when I start dropping names. But in that tradition, I'll drop a few names here. Like all good name-dropping, I'm a little light on specifics at the moment. In other words, I'll attempt to follow up in coming days on some of these.
— Buffalo Wild Wings: As we have previously reported, the restaurant is planning a new location at the northeast corner of 27th and Iowa Street. Well, there are signs that project is moving forward. The biggest sign is a bulldozer clearing the site. I still don't have a definitive answer on what this means for the downtown location for Buffalo Wild Wings. In the past, officials at the location have told me they don't know what the future holds for the downtown spot. People in the commercial real industry, however, tell me they've been told Buffalo Wild Wings is moving out of the location. It has been awhile since I've check with Buffalo Wild Wings, so I'll let you know if there is an update.
— Blockbuster: The last we reported on the vacant Blockbuster building on 23rd Street was that Wichita-based Hog Wild Pit Bar-B-Q was taking part of the building, and an unidentified mattress store was taking the other part. As far as I know, that's still the plan, and work clearly has begun on the site. I'll see what update is available from the development company.
— Pie: I've gotten word from a reliable source that a new downtown diner is coming to Massachusetts Street. It involves a partnership with an existing downtown restaurant and a pie maker extraordinaire. But I haven't yet got in touch with all parties involved, so I'm going to leave it at that until I have a chance to do so. But trust me, I will. I don't let pie go cold.