National dental chain plans to open in Lawrence; details on record-setting construction year

A long vacant property near the entrance of the SuperTarget retail area in south Lawrence is set to be filled. But don’t look for an exciting new retailer or restaurant. Instead, look for a dentist office with a twist.

The twist: This dental practice will be part of a large national chain. Plans have been filed for Aspen Dental to locate on the vacant lot at the southeast corner of 31st Street and Nieder Road. If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is the empty lot just west of Central Bank of the Midwest and just north of Central National Bank. (Evidently, efforts to find another bank with “central” in its name were unsuccessful.)

W 31st St & Nieder Rd, Lawrence, KS 66046

The location is right at the entrance to the SuperTarget retail area, which may have led some people to believe it would attract a more retail or restaurant-oriented tenant. But don’t underestimate how active the health care market has become in Lawrence. We’ve already reported on LMH’s plans to occupy a retail building along south Iowa Street, and work is underway to convert the former Eagles Lodge on Sixth Street into a doctor’s office and the former Montana Mike’s space further north on Iowa Street into a medical office building. (And having a dentist next to a major retailer kind of makes sense. I know my jaw sometimes gets sore from the sudden drop when I see my total at the checkout line.)

As for the dentist office, Aspen Dental seems to be a bit different from the norm in Lawrence. Traditionally there has been a lot of mom-and-pop dental operations, or slightly larger operations that are still independent, single-location businesses.

According to its website, Aspen Dental has more than 600 dentist offices across the country. Technically, each office is independently owned by licensed dentists, according to the website. But it appears that Aspen provides management services, training, branding, marketing and other such services from its New York-based headquarters. For instance, it looks like the offices all offer the same promotions and such. This week’s promotion is a free exam and X-rays for new patients who don’t have insurance. It looks like the chain has several offers for people who don’t have insurance, including financing options.

It also looks like dentures are a big part of the company’s business. Most of the offices this week seem to be advertising discounts on dentures, and it appears many of the offices have their own denture labs to speed up the process.

According to the website, it looks like Aspen doesn’t currently have any locations in Kansas but is in some of the communities near Kansas City, Mo. Harry Chapman, with Noble Real Estate — which is serving as the developer of the 3,500-square-foot building — said Aspen had put Lawrence on its list of expansion communities.

“We’re excited to have them,” Chapman said. “They will be putting up a really nice building.”

Look for construction work to begin this spring.

In other news and notes from around town:

• I’m hesitant to even mention anything that involves the term “breaking,” as just the word brings back unpleasant memories of all the ice I broke off sidewalks and driveways this weekend. (A man should not have to deal with that much ice unless it is a margarita party.) But I do have news of record-breaking statistics when it comes to Lawrence building.

In December, we reported that Lawrence had already broken its record for the most building construction activity in any given year. But when we reported those statistics, we had numbers only through November. We now have the final year-end 2018 totals, and I know some of you have been losing sleep waiting for them.

Well, maybe not, but it seems like we should report the official record-breaking totals. Here they are:

• City officials issued permits for $276.5 million worth of construction projects in 2018. That’s up from $165.9 million a year ago. It beat the record of $227.8 million in 2015. As usual, the totals don’t include building construction on the KU campus, as university projects don’t go through the city’s building inspection process.

• Permits for single-family and duplex construction totaled 262 units, which was up from 172 units in 2017. While 262 is far from a record — there are years in the 1990s where the city would have about 400 single-family starts — 2018 was the best year in quite awhile. For comparison, from 2013 to 2017, the city averaged 172 single-family and duplex units.

• Apartment construction totaled 392 units in 2018. That’s up from just eight in 2017, but is down from 1,205 in 2016. Apartment construction goes in spurts, and 2018 was just a medium-sized spurt.

• The city collected $1.49 million in building permit fees, up from $1.09 million in 2017.


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