Truity Credit Union to build branch along Iowa Street, becoming first tenant in new KU commercial development

photo by: Truity Credit Union

A rendering shows the proposed design for a Truity Credit Union branch to be built north of the 21st and Iowa intersection on property owned by the KU Endowment Association.

A credit union with a historical connection to the University of Kansas will become the first business to locate in a new venture designed to bring commercial development to the edge of the KU campus.

The president and CEO of Truity Credit Union was in Lawrence on Tuesday to announce that the company would build a new branch near 21st and Iowa streets on property owned by an entity controlled by the KU Endowment Association.

If you are having a hard time picturing the property, it is the vacant land on the east side of Iowa Street that is next to Fire Station No. 5. The property is just down the hill from the large dormitories on Daisy Hill.

Aaron Beldner, president and CEO of Truity, certainly didn’t have any problem picturing the credit union locating on the site.

“Our roots here in Lawrence are with the university, and we couldn’t think of a better spot to be than on endowment property,” Beldner said.

Look for the property to house at least two other businesses, whose identities haven’t yet been announced. Truity will take about a third of the site, but the land closer to the intersection of 21st and Iowa remains open for development. KU Endowment is overseeing that development as part of its Crossing project. That largely has been associated with KU’s West Campus property, which is on the other side of Iowa Street. But we’ve long reported that KU also had shown plans to develop this vacant ground on the east side of Iowa Street as well.

“Our understanding is they want this to be a front door to KU,” Beldner said of the development. “We are real excited to be one of the first ones popping up here.”

photo by: Journal-World/Douglas County GIS

The green star shows where Truity Credit Union plans to build a new branch. The blue start shows the general area where KU officials also hope to see commercial development as part of its Crossing project on West Campus.

I’m working to get an update from a KU Endowment official on other possible tenants and a timeline for more development. The Crossing — which is designed to put retail, office and residential development near KU’s research laboratories on West Campus — has been trying to land a grocery store tenant for the property west of Iowa Street. As for what may come on the two remaining lots east of Iowa Street, speculation at Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony was that a fast food restaurant and a coffee/treat business had shown interest.

As for Truity’s connection to KU, some of you may remember that Truity purchased the Kansas University Credit Union. That was all the way back in 1990. Some of you may even remember that Truity wasn’t known as Truity back then. It was the 66 Federal Credit Union, which harks back to its beginnings as a credit union for the giant Oklahoma oil company Phillips Petroleum, also known as Phillips 66.

But I’m guessing not many of you know the other name-related reason that a branch on KU property makes sense — the credit union originally had the word “sorority” in its name. When the company was founded 85 years ago, it actually was the Jane Phillips Sorority Credit Union. The 137 members of the Jane Phillips Sorority — female employees of Phillips Petroleum — banded together to create a credit union because back in the 1930s it was not easy for women to get loans from banks, according to a history posted on Truity’s website.

The namesake of the sorority, Jane Phillips, was the wife of oil tycoon Frank Phillips, who founded Phillips Petroleum Company in 1917. That company has quite a history with KU. Frank Phillips’ hand-picked successor at Phillips Petroleum Company was Kenneth Stanley “Boots” Adams. You might recognize that name today if you have ever been to the Adams Alumni Center on the KU campus. Adams attended KU until his senior year, when he left to take a job and play on a traveling basketball team for Phillips Petroleum. From that start, he ended up as the CEO of Phillips, greatly expanding the fortunes of the company from just an oil firm to one that was a giant in natural gas and the production of synthetic rubber. (Adams’ son, Bud Adams, did graduate from KU and went on to be a pioneer in professional football, owning the Houston Oilers.) Less remembered is that another KU engineering alumnus, Stanley Learned, also served as president and CEO of Phillips following Adams.

So, when the credit union ended up buying a university affiliated credit union, it was not hard to see why KU ended up being the one. On Tuesday, Beldner said the purchase of the KU credit union ended up being one of the key moments in the credit union’s history, creating a solid foundation for the credit union to grow. To this day, on its website, Truity touts that its three major markets are Bartlesville, Okla., where Phillips was founded, Houston, where Phillips had a major presence upon merging with oil giant Conoco, and Lawrence.

Beldner said the 2,500-square-foot branch along Iowa Street is just one project Truity has planned for Lawrence. He confirmed the company plans to build a branch in far west Lawrence in the Mercato development near Rock Chalk Park. Infrastructure work is underway on that larger development, which we’ve also reported is attracting another Oklahoma-based company — Braum’s, the ice cream and hamburger chain. Beldner said he hopes to break ground on the west Lawrence branch by the end of the year.

Beldner also said the company is looking for a location in eastern Lawrence for a branch. However, the company does plan to close its current branch at 23rd and Naismith once the Iowa Street branch opens.

Look for the Iowa Street branch to open by the end of the year, with construction beginning in the next couple of weeks. In addition to having a full-service lobby, it will have two drive-thru lanes equipped not with ATMs, but ITMs. That stands for Interactive Teller Machines.

“You can press a button and a person will pop on the screen to help you with whatever you need, or you can just do it yourself,” Beldner said.

The Iowa Street branch will be the first branch in the company to use a new design that focuses on adding many new higher-tech options, Beldner said. It also will have an outdoor courtyard area that could host an outdoor movie or other such gathering.

“We hope to do a lot with the KU community,” Beldner said.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

A site for a Truity Credit Union branch near 21st and Iowa is shown on April 2, 2024. Fire Station No. 5 and KU’s Daisy Hill can be seen in the background.


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