Longtime south Iowa Street restaurant to undergo major renovation; plus, updates on several other projects around town

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

The Runza restaurant, near 27th and Iowa streets, is pictured on Jan. 11, 2023.

There are a couple of ways to get a Nebraskan in Lawrence excited. One, tell them they are missing a row of kernels on their corn cob hat, or two, tell them that Lawrence has a Runza restaurant.

The fast-food chain that features a stuffed sandwich with a blend of meat, spices, cabbage and onions is a major deal in Nebraska. There are 13 Runza restaurants in Lincoln alone, according to the company’s website.

Lawrence has had a Runza since the mid-1980s, but local franchise owner Doug Nations thinks the restaurant could stand to be more visible. The company has filed plans to undertake a major renovation of the restaurant site at 2700 Iowa St.

“It needs to be done,” Nations said of the renovation. “I’m so excited. I think we have always been that store where people who live in Lawrence know who we are, but those students or new residents who come to town maybe don’t notice us enough because we don’t have a newer building.”

The renovation project will keep the existing building, but make wholesale changes to its look and amenities both inside and out, Nations said. However, the project will require the restaurant to close for at least a month and a half while certain work is underway, he said. Nations said he doesn’t yet know when that closure will begin, but likely not until spring or summer.

The company recently filed its first set of plans with Lawrence City Hall for the project. Those will need to win approval before work can begin.

The renovation project is a great sign that the restaurant plans to be in Lawrence for years to come. Nations said business has been good. The restaurant is unique, not only because it serves a stuffed sandwich (the menu also includes traditional hamburgers and other sandwiches) but also because the Lawrence Runza is the only one in Kansas, according to the company’s website.

And in Lawrence, it quietly has grown into one of the older restaurants in town. It has been operating in Lawrence since 1984, Nations said. That’s long enough for the restaurant to have become a multigenerational tradition for many families.

“We have people who grew up eating here and now they bring their kids,” Nations said. “We have built our own Runza cult here, really.”

Here are some news and notes on a couple of other projects around town:

photo by: Submitted photo

A renovated independent living apartment at Lawrence Presbyterian Manor is shown.

• Presbyterian Manor recently has completed a $2.1 million renovation project at its Lawrence facility at 1429 Kasold Drive. The retirement community completely renovated 10 independent living units.

“We wanted to modernize them and give them a more modern look, more modern feel and more of an open concept,” said Chris Phelps, sales and marketing counselor for the Lawrence facility.

The project included new flooring, updated kitchens and bathrooms, stainless steel appliances, widened hallways for improved accessibility, and improvements to social rooms and laundry facilities, according to a release.

The project renovated apartments on the fourth and fifth floors of the facility’s Sunflower Tower. Apartments on the third floor had been renovated at an earlier time.

In total, the facility has 41 independent living apartments, in addition to operating assisted living and long-term care divisions.

Phelps said business at the facility had been strong recently, as Lawrence continues to see growth as a retirement destination.

“We have a lot of people who once lived in Lawrence, moved out of town and they wanted to come back,” he said.

Retirement homes have been a growing part of the Lawrence housing scene, and the market has attracted new investment. One of the larger construction projects in town currently is a new retirement complex near Sixth Street and Folks Road. Work that is underway northwest of that intersection — across from Free State High — is for Cedarhurst Senior Living, which is operated by a St. Louis-based firm. The project is building 53 units of assisted living and 22 units for people in need of memory care.

• There are several construction projects underway that generate some questions about what’s being built there. If you are ever in doubt, just guess Scooters Coffee. We’ve reported on all of these previously, but I’ll mention them again as they have become more visible recently. The construction underway along Iowa Street north of Ninth Street — where Johnny I’s used car lot once was located — is a new drive-thru Scooters location. The construction underway at 23rd and Haskell — where the AutoExchange used car lot once was located — is a new drive-thru Scooters location. The construction underway at 25th and Iowa streets — where Pie Five Pizza once was located — is a new drive-thru Scooters location.

Now, add one more spot to the list, although it is not quite in Lawrence. Scooters has finalized a deal to build a drive-through coffee shop in Eudora. City officials finalized the purchase agreement earlier this week, Mayor Tim Reazin told me. Scooters will locate in the Nottingham commercial district, which is a redevelopment of a former elementary school site along Kansas Highway 10, just north of the highway’s Church Street interchange.

That project has attracted a Casey’s, a Wendy’s and we reported earlier this year that Mid-America Bank has purchased property to build a Eudora branch in the development. The Scooter’s coffee shop will be next to that bank location. That leaves just one undeveloped lot along Church Street unspoken for in the development. The next phase of the development will include other commercial lots farther off of Church Street, near an area that will include a plaza area for outdoor events.

photo by: City of Eudora

A schematic for future development of the Nottingham Center in Eudora is shown. Plans for a new Mid America Bank branch would be on lot 4 in the development.


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