WRITER: Chad Lawhorn

A new fast-food Mexican restaurant, plus other updates on 23rd Street

Let’s do an update on some 23rd Street projects. “Soon” is the key word on that street, just as it is the key word I keep repeating to my kids who have taken on that late-summer feral look. Soon school will start, and soon a couple of new businesses will open on 23rd Street. The “coming soon” sign is up for what appears to be a new fast-food style Mexican restaurant. Pancho’s Mexican Food is going ...

Want a piece of the country? It will cost you quite a bit more in Douglas County than elsewhere in Kansas

My dreams of being a farmer continue to get squashed. First, I planted actual squash in my garden when I thought I was planting cucumbers. (True story, and yes the pickles really are terrible.) And now, I get the latest data on how much farmland costs in Douglas County these days. The Journal-World recently reported on statewide data that shows how much farmland increased in value in 2018. I wondered how ...

New plans filed for the old Sonic in North Lawrence; Perkins says national bankruptcy won't hit local restaurant

Maybe you have driven by a Sonic restaurant and seen the same car there all day, every day. (Apologies, but it is hard to drive with an extra-large limeade, given that the cup takes up most of the front seat.) Regardless, expect to see some long-term car parking at a former Lawrence Sonic location. Plans have been filed to convert the former Sonic in North Lawrence into a used car lot and tow truck headquarters. ...

Sales tax collections show signs of rebounding in Lawrence; online tax still soaring

Lawrence is on a winning streak. The city has posted back-to-back months of positive sales tax growth, and that hasn’t happened since January and February. (Yes, as the HR person explained, that is probably a lame excuse to blow a vuvuzela noisemaker in the office, but when you are a Royals fan you don’t waste a winning streak.) Lawrence City Hall recently received its July sales tax check from the state, ...

Can large pile of cash reduce Lawrence's proposed water rate increases? City is unsure

While water rates are set to go up 8% next year, the city is sitting on a huge pile of cash in its utility fund. How much cash? So much that city officials aren’t entirely sure where it all came from. A review of financial documents by the Journal-World found that the city’s water/sewer fund is projected to end 2019 with nearly $42 million in reserves. To put that in perspective, for every $1 that the ...

The city plans to put a new tax on your drinking water, but some question whether it's fair to low-income residents

In many progressive circles, the most hated tax in the land is a sales tax on food. Kansas is one of the few states that charges it, and opponents decry it as extremely regressive because it forces low-income people to pay tax on a product that is necessary for life. But now questions are being raised whether Lawrence city commissioners — perhaps without much thought — are placing an equally regressive ...

Casey's opens its first store in Lawrence; plans for second store still moving forward

Beginning on this rainy Thursday, Lawrence residents looking for a tank of gas for their car — or maybe their ark — have a new national chain to choose from. The convenience store chain Casey’s officially opened its Lawrence location today. We’ve been reporting for months that Casey’s had decided to break into the Lawrence market. The store at 1703 W. Sixth St. — where the College Motel used to be ...

A guitar shop with a '400-pound iPod shuffle' coming to downtown Lawrence

Whether your dream is to be a rock star or simply to imitate The Fonz, there soon will be a downtown shop designed to appeal to you. A lifelong Lawrence resident has struck a deal to open a Massachusetts Street guitar shop that also will have lots of other music memorabilia. “This shop has been a dream of mine since I came to terms that I wasn’t going to be a rock star,” said Casey Green. He plans to ...

LMH finances take a turn for the worse as drug and labor costs mount; $3 million profit shifts to $4 million loss

At the halfway point of 2018, Lawrence Memorial Hospital had posted an operating profit of $3.3 million. By the midpoint of this year, LMH had an operating loss of $4.2 million. Yes, the hospital is a nonprofit business, but this type of performance isn’t what it expects. The hospital always seeks to have its revenues outpace its expenses so it can invest in new equipment and services — and ensure that it ...

A look at what Lawrence's new city manager has learned so far, and a peek at a possible debate to come

With about one month on the job, City Manager Craig Owens already has made some observations about his new community. For one thing, we have plenty to say in public meetings. Owens has been to three City Commission meetings, and booked about 12 hours as part of them. The long meetings haven’t scared him away. “You care and you should,” said Owens, who previously served as city manager for Clayton, Mo., ...

New reasons to question whether major shopping center at SLT and U.S. 59 will ever get built

Plans to build one of the largest shopping centers in Lawrence are now in doubt after a local judge this week dismissed a lawsuit against the city. At issue is a proposed shopping center at the interchange of U.S. Highway 59 and the South Lawrence Trafficway in south Lawrence. The shopping center would add about 600,000 square feet — at least eight new stores and that many additional restaurants, plus a ...

Home sales continue to slump in Lawrence, although home prices not yet going down

We’ve heated up, evidenced by the fact that I expect to be doused with a Gatorade bath even for minor victories like getting out of my chair without pulling a muscle. But with half of the year in the books, Lawrence’s real estate market still hasn’t even warmed. We’ve been reporting all year that Lawrence’s real estate market is off to its slowest start — at least in terms of sales — in a long ...

Group that wants to spur tech startups in Lawrence says the community has a lot to learn

I once wanted to be an “angel investor,” but then I realized how much halos cost — and you had better have really good credit if you plan on writing a check for one. OK, so maybe I am confused about what an angel investor is, but so are a lot of other area residents. That was the key takeaway from a local tech startup founder who is trying to create an organization that will help Lawrence become a ...

A different type of development planned for what once was going to be the city's research park

Plans have been filed for a $1.5 million office development on the west Lawrence property that long has been designated to become Lawrence’s first true research park. But this development likely won’t produce a lot of research. Lawrence businessman Roger Johnson has filed plans at City Hall to construct three office/warehouse buildings on vacant ground at 1717 Research Park Drive, which is just a block ...

Multimillion-dollar airport project expected to make catching a charter out of Lawrence easier

A multimillion-dollar construction project at Lawrence Municipal Airport is expected to open the door to more charter jet travel options for area residents. City officials recently issued building permits for $2.1 million worth of construction for a new aircraft hangar and office building just east of the terminal building at the Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Lawrence. The building will house at least ...

Hopes for a new grocery, west Lawrence shopping center are still alive, but a big new apartment complex would help

Summer is for catching up, like on that book I never got around to reading or the garage I never got around to cleaning. (In fairness, the book is “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” so I’m confused whether I should clean the garage before or after reading the book.) Regardless, now also is a good time to catch up on a development project that has been long talked about but not yet built. We ...

New development plans filed for long-vacant corner in west Lawrence

I can certainly picture living above a doughnut shop or a neighborhood diner. (In my picture, the doors are very wide and the floor is reinforced.) But traditionally you only think of those types of scenarios in a downtown setting. A local developer, though, is betting such a concept might jumpstart a hard-to-develop west Lawrence corner. New plans have been filed at City Hall for a development at the ...

New report shows how much retail has shrunk in downtown Lawrence; citywide vacancy rates also calculated

If you were to take a stroll in downtown Lawrence in 2006, a little more than two out of every five businesses you passed would have been a retail shop. Today, roughly two out of every 10 that you pass will be a retailer. So, no, your eyes are not lying. Downtown is different these days. A new city report found downtown’s vacancy rate is higher than it has been in years, and even when the district is full, ...

Lawrence private school begins $5.4 million expansion along Clinton Parkway

When I was in school, I always was nervous to have class in one of those portable trailers. Too many of my teachers had a pickup truck with a hitch. The students at Bishop Seabury may not have the same anxiety, but, regardless, they soon won’t have to deal with those portable classrooms. The Lawrence private school has started construction on a multimillion-dollar expansion. We reported in April that ...

Downtown Grinders restaurant closes, but vows to reopen with new vibe; south Iowa Street chicken chain shuts its doors

If you want to scare a significant portion of the Lawrence population, tell them their city is beginning to look like Kansas City. That has been an attitude for a long time in Lawrence, and perhaps it has played a role in the recent closing of a downtown restaurant. Grinders — owned by a hip K.C. restaurateur — has closed its location at 733 New Hampshire St. In a Facebook post, owner Jeffrey “Stretch” ...