Plans filed for new retail zoning near 23rd Street and O’Connell Road

photo by: Douglas County Geographic Information Systems

The intersection of 23rd Street and O'Connell Road, at center, is pictured in aerial photography from 2017.

I’ve previously told you there was interest from Casey’s General Store about building near the eastern Lawrence intersection of 23rd Street and O’Connell Road. Well, I don’t have news that such a development is about to happen, but there are signs that developers are preparing the area for some sort of convenience store development.

Plans have been filed at Lawrence City Hall to rezone about four acres of property on the southwest corner of 23rd and O’Connell from an office zoning category to a commercial retail zoning that would accommodate convenience stores and several other types of shops.

At the moment, though, it doesn’t look like a particular plan for a new business has been filed for the property. In other words, this shouldn’t be taken as a sure sign that Casey’s has renewed its interest in the intersection. Instead, Aaron Gaspers with CFS Engineers said the owners of the property — a group led by Lawrence businessman Bill Newsome — are seeking the zoning to make it more attractive to potential businesses.

Gaspers confirmed the site has drawn interest from gas stations/convenience stores in the past. He said its location on the south side of 23rd Street made it attractive to businesses that were trying to capture morning commuters on their way to Johnson County and Kansas City.

OConnell Rd & E 23rd St, Lawrence, KS 66046

Motorists would be able to turn right to get into the gas station and could turn right to be back on their way to Kansas City. If you don’t think that is a benefit, maybe you haven’t seen commuters trying to turn left out of QuikTrip near 23rd and Haskell during morning rush hour. (There is one commuter who has been sitting there so long, he’s becoming worried his bosses at Blockbuster are going to be upset.)

There are other possibilities besides gas stations and convenience stores at the site. The CC 200 zoning that the property is seeking could allow for any type of retail store that you typically would see along a highway or next to a big box store.

I have a call into Newsome to try to get some additional information about his plans for the area, but haven’t yet heard back. I did have a brief conversation with Lawrence businessman Doug Compton, though. He also is part of the group that owns the property. He said he was unaware of any specific plans for the property. But he said it makes sense to try to ready the property for some commercial development.

Across the street from the site is the big new industrial building that is under construction in Lawrence VenturePark. There is still no word of a tenant for that building, which is being built on speculation by a Kansas City-based industrial development firm. However, if Lawrence is to land a company that will add a couple hundred manufacturing jobs in one fell swoop, there is a good chance the development would occur in VenturePark. Also across 23rd Street is a new hotel development, the Country Inn and Suites. Both of those projects have provided some reason to be optimistic about development in the area.

But the bigger changes may continue to happen on the residential front. Lawrence businessman R.D. Johnson has been successful with a new single-family neighborhood on the west side of O’Connell Road, and has plans to build additional homes there. Johnson County-based Wheatland Investments also has had success filling Bethel Estates, an apartment complex on the west side of O’Connell Road for people 55 and older.

Expect one more big residential development for the corner in the near future. We reported in January that Compton’s company had filed plans for a 128-unit apartment complex to be built near the southwest corner of 23rd and O’Connell. The apartment complex basically would be just south of the four-acre site that the group is seeking to rezone to commercial.

While construction work hasn’t started on that project, Compton said the development has its necessary approvals and will move forward.

“I think we’re just waiting on a building permit,” Compton said.

Compton said he thinks the eastern edge of Lawrence has more momentum than it has had in a number of years.

The property at 23rd and O’Connell has been on the market for about 15 years without any takers. The Tractor Supply store developed near the southeast corner of O’Connell Road and 23rd Street, and then there is property adjacent to it that is zoned to accommodate anything from a grocery store to a big box retailer. However, no plans have been filed for the property.

As for the proposed retail zoning on the southwest corner, it will need to win approval from both the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission and the Lawrence City Commission.


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