News and notes: 100-foot mural coming to Ninth and Iowa area; a look at a pair of construction projects on McDonald Drive

photo by: Courtesy Fairtrade America

A digital rendering shows a planned mural for The Merc building near Ninth and Iowa streets.

News and notes from around town:

• A piece of Honduras soon will be occupying a prominent piece of real estate in Lawrence. Motorists near Ninth and Iowa streets soon will start to see a nearly 100-foot mural emerge on the north wall of The Merc, the co-op grocer that anchors the shopping center at the intersection.

The project is part of a national effort by Fairtrade America to highlight farmers and other producers of products that are sold using fair trade principles. In this case, the mural is of Honduras coffee farmer Joselinda Manueles, who owns her own farm and supplies beans for the Kicking Horse Coffee Brand that The Merc sells at its Lawrence store.

Lawrence is just one of three cities where Fairtrade America is installing a mural this year, joining Philadelphia and Providence, Rhode Island.

A spokeswoman for Fairtrade America — an organization that certifies products and brands as being ethically produced regarding everything from wages paid to workers to environmental impacts of production — said the mural is designed to “honor a shared commitment to cultivating strong relationships with the people behind the food we eat every day.”

It is a statement that soon will be hard to miss. The mural, which received a mural permit from the city earlier this month, will occupy the majority of the grocery store’s north wall. Kansas City artists Isaac Tapia and Rodrigo Alvarez will create the mural, with work scheduled to begin this week and lasting through Sept. 25. The duo, which operates under the name IT-RA Icons, has produced about 60 murals since its founding in 2017, including pieces at the new Kansas City International Airport.

The Merc, via its website, said the mural made a lot of sense for the Lawrence store for multiple reasons. In addition to the store selling products that Manueles grows for, she also helped found a cooperative in Honduras, and she is a big user of solar power. The Merc has one of the larger solar arrays in Lawrence in its parking lot, and Manueles has been using solar power for 30 years to power her farm.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Construction work on a three-story min-storage business near McDonald Drive and Princeton Boulevard is shown in September 2023.

• Talk of solar reminded me about last week’s article regarding a proposed solar farm near the Hallmark Cards plant along McDonald Drive. That, in turn, reminded me that there are a couple of other projects underway along McDonald Drive that readers have been asking about.

The first is a large construction project at the corner of McDonald Drive and Princeton Boulevard. Two towers are coming out of the ground on vacant property in front of the Comfort Inn hotel.

That construction is for a very large mini-storage business. I wrote about it briefly in July 2022, but it has taken a while for the project to get to the construction stage. The project calls for a three-story, 76,000-square-foot building that will house 477 storage units, according to the plans on file with the city. The big towers, I believe, are elevator shafts. (Wimps. I got a pool table into a basement without an elevator — and the paramedics didn’t have one to get me out of the basement either.) Look for the business to operate under the Space Saver Storage brand, according to information filed at City Hall.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Construction work for a new parking lot for the Army National Guard Center along McDonald Drive is shown in September 2023.

• The second project involves excavation work underway at the Kansas Army National Guard Center that is near the southwest corner of McDonald Drive and Princeton Boulevard. The Army may well do more before 9 a.m. than most of us do all day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is is exciting. This project is a case in point. The work underway is for a new parking lot, according to plans on file with the city. The project will add about 30 parking spaces to the facility, which might be a sign that the armory will become more active in the future.


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