Airport Motel closes, may soon be demolished; area landscape center files new development plans

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

The Airport Motel along U.S. Highway 40 near the Lawrence Municipal Airport has closed.

Maybe at one point in time the Airport Motel just outside of North Lawrence was a high-flying establishment. But that time was long ago, and the aged facility is now officially grounded. The motel has closed, and parts of it soon may be demolished, its new owner said.

Lawrence businessman Brian Pine and his family purchased the property at 1493 U.S. Highway 40 — basically across the road from the Lawrence Municipal Airport — last month, and promptly shut down the motel operations.

Pine, who owns the property adjacent to it, said he wasn’t sure what he would do with the property, but there are no plans for it to be a motel again.

“That’s out of our jurisdiction,” Pine said of a motel business. “I don’t see us being in that business at all.”

Instead, Pine said he expected to tear down at least part of the motel building. That is consistent with one of his desires in buying the property.

“With our ground surrounding the property, it was an opportunity to add to our property, but it also was an opportunity to just clean it up a little bit,” Pine said.

I don’t know much about the history of the Airport Motel, but it was a decades-old business.

The motel always had a bit of a unique place in Lawrence’s hospitality industry. It was never the type of place to host a convention, at least in the traditional sense of the word. It did often house construction workers and others who were working in the area. Other stories you may have heard about the place I can’t vouch for.

Pine already has filed for a permit to tear down the buildings, but he said he didn’t have a timeline for the work to begin.

Pine has other projects in the area that likely will keep him busy. His family’s Pine Landscape Center operates just south of the motel property. He has filed plans to renovate and rearrange that center, which sells sod, mulch, rock and other materials for both professional and do-it-yourself landscapers.

The center currently has most of its products in an outdoor bulk storage yard on the east side of East 1500 Road. The sales office for the landscape center, though, is on the west side of East 1500 Road. Pine has filed plans with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department to move the storage yard to the west side of the road so that it can be more convenient for customers.

“It is going to be a lot easier to manage and a lot more efficient for our customers,” Pine said.

Eventually, the move also may allow the company to expand its inventory. Pine said the configuration would make it easier for the new business to expand inventory to adapt to changing trends in the landscaping business.

The business focuses on providing supplies for some of the bigger landscaping or “hardscaping” projects that a property owner may undertake. It also sells materials to professional contractors.

Perhaps some of you have been following the national business news that reports companies in the home improvement market — Home Depot, Lowes, etc. — have seen a dramatic uptick in business during the pandemic.

Pine said his family’s business has seen some of that.

“We sure haven’t seen a dropoff in business, but I also wouldn’t say business has exploded,” Pine said.

But the fact that people are often stuck at home looking for things to do has had a positive impact on the business, he said. Pine said he had heard that directly from some customers.

“Especially in the first few months (of the pandemic), we had calls from families with kids at home, saying, ‘help us, we need a project to do,'” Pine said.

(We had that plan too, but I must have sent my 17-year old son to the wrong supply house. He came back every time saying that motivation was still out of stock.)

Pine said a timeline for completing the project hasn’t yet been determined. He said the company continued to monitor the economy and hoped the project would happen relatively quickly. While Pine has bought the adjacent motel property, he said he’s not currently planning on using any of that property for the landscape center. The landscape center will continue to be farther back from U.S. 40 rather than right along the highway.


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