Lawrence-based real estate firm to renovate old retail building, move its headquarters
photo by: Stephens Real Estate and Hoke Ley architects/Contributed Image
A 40-year-old retail building will get a major overhaul as it prepares to become the headquarters for a Lawrence real estate agency that has been in town even longer.
Plans have been filed for a complete renovation of the Stone Meadows Square shopping center at Sixth Street and Lawrence Avenue, and leaders with Stephens Real Estate have confirmed their company will be moving into the center later this year.
“We really are excited to take the plunge into owning our own facility,” said Chris Earl, who, along with Pat McCandless and Oliver Minnis, owns and operates the Lawrence-based real estate company.
If you are confused about the location, it is basically a block west of Stephens’ current offices at 2701 W. Sixth St. If you are further confused, the shopping center — which has had a liquor store, hairstylist, massage shop and other such businesses — is across the street from the Dillons grocery store at Sixth Street and Lawrence Avenue. So, now it will be easier to go to the store and get a dozen eggs, a brick of butter and a new house. (I know, unrealistic. Who buys a single brick of butter? That doesn’t even get my family through communion.)
The plans filed at City Hall don’t call for the building, constructed in 1980, to be torn down, but the project will involve an entirely new exterior and a gutting of the interior.
“It will be a complete renovation,” Earl said. “There won’t be a whole lot left other than the site and the shell.”
Plans call for about $1.4 million worth of construction at the site, according to the documents filed with City Hall.
photo by: Stephens Real Estate and Hoke Ley architects/Contributed image
Earl has owned the building since 2017. He grew up near the property and remembers how the shopping center was highly thought of in the 1980s, serving some of Lawrence’s newer west Lawrence neighborhoods, including his Deerfield neighborhood where he would ride his bike to a cool video store located in the center.
“When I bought it, I didn’t have this plan for the property,” Earl said. “I just thought there was something better we can do there.”
In time, the plan became to move the Stephens offices into a large part of the approximately 10,000-square-foot building. Stephens doesn’t own its current office space on Sixth Street.
“As a real estate company and real estate investors, it has been on our radar to own our own building,” Earl said.
Plans call for Stephens to occupy all of the second floor of the building and about 40% of the ground-floor space. That could leave space for two or three other tenants in the building. The property will remain zoned for retail, but Earl said it was likely that some other real estate-oriented companies may want space in the building. He didn’t provide information on any potential tenants, but it is not uncommon for title companies, insurance agencies and other home-financing type of companies to seek space near real estate agencies.
The company has about 60 agents and employees. The new office space will be similar in size to the existing location but will feature significant upgrades in technology for agents. It will also have more meeting and collaboration space, Minnis said.
“We’ve met with every stakeholder in the business about what works great with our current building but what could be better,” Minnis said. “We’ll make sure the building has the tools that can help them in their daily activities.”
Stephens has been in its existing building for just more than 40 years, moving in shortly after its 1978 founding. Earl said finding a location near the company’s longtime home was important.
“After looking and assessing, we really love this location we’ve been blessed with,” Earl said. “We feel like we’re really part of Lawrence as a whole from this location, and not just on the west side or the east side. We refer to this area as midtown anymore.”
Look for renovation work to begin on the building this spring. Stephens hopes to move into the offices by the end of the year.
The shopping center does have a few tenants that either already have moved or will be moving soon, Earl said. A sign on the door said that Sizzors, the hairstylist in the center, has moved across the street to 543 Lawrence Ave. Spirit Liquor is the other major retail business in the center. It remains open currently, but owner Paul Benner told me he has decided to close the liquor store rather than relocate. The store’s last day of business will be Jan. 31.
As we’ve reported, Benner is getting into a new line of business. He’s the owner of a new one-hour eyeglass center that is opening in North Lawrence. He said Hour Glasses would be open at its location at 725 N. Second St. on Jan. 20.
As for the current Stephens building, no word on what may go into the approximately 7,000-square-foot office space. Members of the Stephens family, who founded and subsequently sold the real estate company, continue to own the building. I’ll let you know if I hear of a new tenant there.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo