As speculation percolates, Girod says KU has no plans to expand football stadium, gateway project into neighborhood

Houses along the north edge of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium are shown in January 2022.

Sitting around my KU football tailgate this fall, there were some common questions: 1. Is Jalon Daniels healthy? 2. Why can’t they make a paper plate that adequately holds my 4 pounds of nachos? 3. When will KU start tearing down houses north of the football stadium for its expansion plans?

On question No. 1, I responded that if he isn’t, I still have eligibility, while on No. 2, I didn’t respond because I was busy changing shirts. But it was on question No. 3 that I spent most of my time. I kept telling people I really didn’t think that KU had any such plans for its $300 million stadium and campus “gateway” project to extend north of Fambrough Drive into the neighborhood that is between the stadium and Ninth Street.

Chancellor Douglas Girod basically had told me that once before, but after continuing to get questions about it, I asked him more directly recently.

“Not as a university,” Girod told me when I asked him whether there are any scenarios where KU would go into that neighborhood with the project. “I can’t speak to what private developers are going to do. It is probably not wrong to think that private developers are going to think about what opportunities exist for them.”

photo by: Douglas County GIS

A screenshot of a GIS map of KU’s football stadium and the surrounding neighborhood is shown.

Indeed, some properties right along the northern edge of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium have changed hands in recent months. The old stone house with a vacant lot at 1030 Maine St. was recently purchased by a group that appears to have some connection to the chief financial officer of Jayhawk Capital Management. The registered agent for the LLC that bought the property is listed as the CFO of Jayhawk Capital Management. While it has Jayhawk in its name, that Kansas City-area company isn’t a KU entity. Rather, it is owned by a prominent Jayhawk, Kent McCarthy. He was a big financial investing executive with Goldman Sachs, before returning to teach classes at KU’s business school in the 1990s, while founding several hedge funds. You also may know the name, though, because of McCarthy Hall, which is the 2015 dorms that house the KU men’s basketball team next to Allen Fieldhouse. His family was the lead donor for that project.

In fairness, the land documents I’ve seen don’t state that McCarthy is involved with the project. It only lists the resident agent. But I bring up the property because it was that property transfer that caused several people in the community to start talking about KU having an interest in expanding the stadium project into the neighborhood.

When I asked Girod specifically about whether KU was doing anything to coordinate plans with any private developers who may be interested in the neighborhood around the stadium, he said KU was not.

“It is not part of our conversation at all,” he said.

A couple of other notable properties near the stadium also have changed hands. A pair of houses at 1030 Alabama St., which are directly across the street from the north bowl of the KU stadium, were bought last summer by a group led by Lawrence entrepreneur Zarif Haque. Some of you may have known Haque from his days when he was in the auto business in Lawrence, but he now is better known as a tech entrepreneur. He’s the founder of the Overland Park firm Draiver that uses new technology to deliver vehicles across the U.S. and beyond. He also has become active in Lawrence real estate. A group of his is the new owner of the historic Turnhalle building in East Lawrence. While I’m not sure of his true KU connections, he surely owns two of the more interesting homes in Lawrence that have past KU connections. I had heard, and then confirmed through property records, that he owns both Danny Manning’s former house and Bill Self’s former house — the one in Bauer Brook Estates — which Self and his family sold last year.

The third property of note is a pair of older apartment buildings near the intersection of 11th and Mississippi streets, which is basically just northeast of the stadium. A pair of groups that involve developer Christian Ablah purchased 1015 and 1025 Mississippi St. in mid-2022 to go along with the adjacent apartment building at 1027 Mississippi Street that one of his groups bought in 2021.

I don’t have any information on what any of those individuals may have planned for the area. It is possible they just bought well-situated residential property without plans beyond that. What’s clearer is that KU isn’t actively involved in those properties, despite rumor otherwise.

“We have no property there and we have no intention to add any property there,” Girod said of property north of 11th Street, which is the city street just north of the football stadium. “We are focused on our part of it and we will let the development community and the city figure out the rest.”

Technically, KU does own a sliver of property north of Fambrough Drive. It is at the intersection of Mississippi and Fambrough. It is the small grassy area immediately north of Fambrough. I believe it used to be south of Fambrough, until the street became realigned years ago. That sliver is adjacent to a parking lot, also north of Fambrough, that is owned by an entity controlled by the KU Endowment Association. KU Endowment also owns other property just north of Fambrough, including a complex of residential units at 1021 Missouri Street, which is just north and west of the stadium.

The KU project, as a reminder, is a major renovation and addition to KU’s aged football stadium. But in addition to traditional stadium amenities, KU also is interested in building a conference center, some retail, a medical office component, and perhaps a hotel in later stages. That $300 million-plus project hasn’t been fully fleshed out, but Girod and other KU leaders have said the university is extremely serious about completing it. So much so that KU has given its sought-after football coach the opportunity to opt out of his contract if the university doesn’t meet certain deadlines for progress on a stadium renovation.

KU should be receiving some key feasibility reports on the project in the coming days, and perhaps will see some more advanced design concepts too. The most recent concept plan called for the conference center, retail and medical office components mainly to be located in a new structure that would be integrated into the north bowl of the stadium.

Girod said he does expect KU eventually will ask the city to undertake some infrastructure improvements in the area to help with the project, and some of those improvements would be north of 11th Street, which also is known as Fambrough Drive.

“We do hope the city will think about upgrading Mississippi between Ninth and Fambrough,” Girod said. “It is going to be such a high volume street.”


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