Casey’s eyes west edge of Lawrence as it files plans to build third store in the city
photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo
A combination of pizza, doughnuts and gasoline have been known to jump-start me on occasion. Now, the trio may do the same for a planned west Lawrence shopping center. Casey’s General Store has filed plans to build its third store in Lawrence, this one near the Bob Billings Parkway interchange on the South Lawrence Trafficway.
Prior to August, the Casey’s convenience store chain didn’t have any locations in Lawrence. Now it has a store operating near Sixth and Wisconsin streets in central Lawrence, and it has one well under construction near 31st and Iowa streets in south Lawrence.
For its third location, Casey’s is deciding to go about as far west as you can in the city. It’s also opted to develop in a corridor that has far fewer commercial businesses. The Casey’s would be the first business for a shopping center development that has been approved by the city since 2013.
If you are confused about the location, the store would be on the northwest corner of Bob Billings Parkway and Langston Way. That puts it about a block east of the Bob Billings interchange on the SLT.
The Casey’s would be one small piece of a shopping center that is planned to have about 125,000 square feet of stores and shops someday. While not the biggest tenant, it is expected to be an important one for the development.
“I think they are going to be a big asset in getting us to our next store,” said Bob Santee, who is part of the local ownership group for the commercial property. “They are a great company, and we are lucky that they chose our location.”
Santee and the ownership group long have hoped to lure a grocery store to the site. The development plans would allow for a shopping center similar to the Hy-Vee development that is at Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive, with a large grocer and several smaller stores around it.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
But Santee acknowledged that landing a grocery store tenant is among the toughest of tasks for a developer. He said the area probably will have to see quite a bit more housing development before a grocer decides to locate at the site. That likely would mean a housing development happening on the west side of the SLT. Such a development likely would create quite a debate.
“Getting over the bypass will be a big decision for the community,” Santee said. “But that is what would make the grocery store guys more comfortable, I think.”
Santee said he doesn’t have any pending deals to announce, but he certainly does have several other types of tenants in mind. He said he thinks Casey’s may help attract a high-tech car wash company to the site. He also can envision a small drive-thru coffee shop or some other food-oriented businesses.
As for the Casey’s, I’m guessing most Lawrence residents are more familiar with the chain now than a few months ago. But if not, the chain sells all the normal convenience store items, but it is particularly big in the food business. It has become one of the larger pizza retailers in the country, has fresh-baked doughnuts on site, and also has a few deli and grill items. Those who know me (and the various stains on my shirt), know that I can’t mention Casey’s without highlighting their breakfast pizzas, a creation that replaces tomato sauce with cheese sauce and features scrambled eggs and various breakfast meats.
The chain, of course, also sells gasoline. The plans for this site call for a large fueling center. The store would have seven gasoline islands, meaning at least 14 vehicles could fuel at a time. By my calculations, the Casey’s not only would be the westernmost gasoline station in Lawrence, it would be the gas station closest to the busy South Lawrence Trafficway, which has been slow to develop with traditional highway-types of businesses.
No word yet on when the Casey’s may open. The store does need to win one set of approvals from Lawrence city commissioners. The land is already zoned for commercial use, but the zoning designation requires a special-use permit for gasoline stations.
Assuming the project wins approval, it seems like most of the Casey’s projects are taking about nine months to a year to build. The store under construction near Target on 31st Street appears to still have at least a couple more months before it will be close to opening.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo