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

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

New plans have been filed to try to jumpstart development on the long vacant piece of ground at the northeast corner of Clinton Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. The site, across the street from Clinton Parkway Nursery, hopes to house a combination office/retail building that will have a few apartments on its upper floor.

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 northeast corner of Wakarusa Drive and Clinton Parkway. If you are having a hard time picturing the site, Clinton Parkway Nursery is just across the road from it.

Clinton Parkway & Wakarusa Dr, Lawrence, KS 66047

Plans for the development, dubbed Miracon Plaza, actually have been approved by the city in one form or another since 2006. But one version of the project called for a convenience store/gas station to be the first piece of development on the property. That never has materialized. Now, local developer Timothy Schmidt has filed plans to scrap the convenience store plan and replace it with a two-story, 10,000-square-foot building that would have offices and retail space on the ground floor and three two-bedroom apartments on the upper floor.

“We really are just trying to find what will work for that corner,” Schmidt told me.

The idea of mixed uses has been a popular one in downtown, and the idea is getting tested outside of downtown. Plans for a large retail and apartment complex near 23rd and Naismith have won approval from the city, and the project is awaiting construction. Developer Tony Krsnich also has bought into the idea with the Warehouse Arts District in East Lawrence.

This would be a much smaller test of the concept for west Lawrence. But it still would give a handful of residents a chance to live in very close proximity to some retail shops. Or maybe live in close proximity to their office. The ground floor also could be used for office space. Believe it or not, some people like the idea of a live-work concept. (I decided long ago that if I ever lived at the office it would be beneath the desk. I test it out sometimes.)

Tim Herndon, the land use planner who is designing the project, said construction could begin this spring if the project receives its necessary approvals from the city this summer. If work does begin, it would mark a new phase for a corner that has long been at a busy intersection but has been tough to develop.

The property has a lot of slope to it and is divided by a deep drainage ditch that backs up to a residential area. Herndon said he thought the development has reached a deal with the city to allow most of the trees and vegetation in the ditch to remain, which would help provide a buffer between the commercial development and the neighborhood.

As for the types of uses that could locate in the new building, Herndon said they would be neighborhood-oriented businesses. That could mean a coffee shop, a dry cleaner, a small cafe, hair and nail salons, or service-oriented businesses like an insurance office, financial planner or other such uses.

The building is being designed with a drive-thru/pickup window on one end, which may give the building a better chance to attract a coffee shop or some type of convenience-oriented business.

If the two-story building takes off, the development plans call for two other phases that would be larger projects. Phase II calls for a two-story, 16,000-square-foot building that would include room for a bank and retail space on the main floor and offices on the other floor. Phase III would build a nearly 4,000-square-foot standalone restaurant building, which would occupy the site closest to the corner.

But for now, developers are focused on just getting the project off the ground.

“We feel like if we can get a seed planted, it can’t do anything but promote the remainder of the development,” Herndon said. “Plus, it will clean up the site quite a bit.”

The project still must win City Hall approvals before it can advance. The phase II and III portions of the project already have approvals, but the new phase I plans require a new set of approvals. The project is scheduled to go before the Planning Commission later this month.

Herndon also is part of the team that is trying to bring an even larger commercial development to west Lawrence. He’s working with a development group that has property at the Bob Billings Parkway and South Lawrence Trafficway interchange. I did get a bit of an update from him — no breaking news — on that project. More on that tomorrow.


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