Pair of office buildings to be constructed near Wakarusa Drive corridor in west Lawrence

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Construction work is in its early stages at 1319 Wakarusa Drive, the future home of a new multitenant office building being constructed by the local CPA firm The Roark Group.

Sometimes you get your tax bill and think you need your eyes checked. There are a pair of building projects underway in west Lawrence that might play a role in both. Plans have been filed for two new office buildings — one for a tax preparation and accounting firm and another for an eye care center.

First, let’s do the taxes because they wait for no one (at least, not without penalty and interest.) The Lawrence-based certified public accounting firm The Roark Group has filed plans for an approximately 10,000-square-foot building at 1319 Wakarusa Drive.

In fact, construction work in recent days has started on that property, which is the vacant lot across the street from the Sunflower Bank branch.

The Roark Group has been in Lawrence since 1980 and long has been located in the office area just north of Sixth Street and Kasold Drive.

“But we have just outgrown our location,” said Chris Fisher, a CPA and an owner of the company. “We have a building and a half right now, and we just want to all be in one building, and we want to be able to spread out.”

Fisher said The Roark Group would take between 6,000 and 7,000 square feet of space in the building. About 3,000 square feet will be available for another office user who wants to rent space in the building.

Fisher said the company has seven CPAs, three bookkeepers and two administrators. The building will give the company room to expand, she said.

“We are swamped with business,” Fisher said.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

A sign at the site shows a rendering of the proposed building being constructed by The Roark Group along Wakarusa Drive.

Fisher said she hoped the business would move into the new building by the end of the year. She said the company and its real estate broker, Kirsten Flory at Colliers, hadn’t made any decisions about what other business might take the additional space in the building, but she said it would be some type of professional office user.

Next, on to the eye center. Ad Astra Eye has filed plans to build a new medical office building at 4955 Research Park Way. That is basically across the street from where Ad Astra currently has its offices. The vacant site is on the south side of Bob Billings Parkway — about a block off Bob Billings and about a block west of Wakarusa Drive.

Ad Astra Eye is the practice run by Dr. Scott Hickman. Currently, he is the only doctor in the practice. Immediate plans don’t call for that to change, but the new building will give the business an opportunity to expand further down the line.

“This is a 10- or 15-year plan for us, and this will give us the space to add a doctor or two in the future,” said Aya Hickman, general manager of the practice.

The new building basically will allow the business to double its size to about 4,000 square feet, Aya said. Importantly, it also will allow the business to move into space it owns rather than occupy a rented office.

As for the services, the additional space will allow the company to ensure it has the needed space for equipment for a variety of procedures. The business is an ophthalmology practice, which means it does several procedures related to cataract removal, glaucoma treatment and other advanced eye care.

“We are a medical doctor’s office,” Aya said.

However, she said the new space wouldn’t be a surgery center, so the business will continue to use LMH or a private surgery center for procedures that require a full surgical suite.

Aya said part of the hope for the new space was just to have more room to make the practice more inviting to patients. She said Scott, who grew up in Lawrence, likes using the practice as a way to connect with community members.

“He definitely enjoys chatting with the patients,” Aya said of Scott, who also is her husband. “He enjoys hearing their stories. We can’t imagine doing this anywhere else. That’s why we really wanted to have our own building here.”

Aya said a timeline for moving into the new space was uncertain. She said they had hoped to move by the end of the year, but the project is still awaiting some planning approvals by the City of Lawrence.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Ad Astra Eye has filed plans to construct a new medical office building on the vacant lot at 4955 Research Park Way.


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