Tom Harper: Project to bring new life to prominent downtown Lawrence building

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I have learned that homes and buildings need people. If someone is not there watching, tending, taking care of the needs of the structure, bad things can happen. 

The former Lawrence Journal-World building in the 600 block of New Hampshire Street has endured several years of vacancy and neglect. 

Lawrence is fortunate that 3D Development and Q39 have decided to take on the building as a redevelopment project. It says a lot about our community that they are interested in investing the funds and effort to repurpose versus demolish.

In late January, I attended a presentation for members of Downtown Lawrence Inc. Vince Bryant of 3D Development, a Kansas City company that specializes in renovating historic buildings, discussed his development plans for the building. Kelly Magee, owner of Q39 barbecue, also spoke, sharing her vision of opening a Q39 in the same building.

Tom Harper The movers and shakers of the Press Yards development, from left to right, are Patrick Watkins; Randy Piebes, of Q39; Kelly MaGee, of Q39; Vince Bryant, of 3D Development; Dave Herron, architect with Herron and Partners; and Erik Wullschleger, of 3D Development.

Interestingly, 3D Development has been under contract with the Simons family to purchase the building for around 2 1/2 years. 

Bryant and his business partner, Erik Wullschleger, are the owners of 3D Development. They have used the past several years to carefully think through their development plans, arriving with a plan that makes sense for their business and what they believe Lawrence needs at this location.

Bryant is a 1990 KU graduate. He met business partner Wullschleger while renovating a historic building in Kansas City several years ago. They are the developers who created the new ferris wheel off Interstate 35 in Kansas City, Missouri. Currently, they are renovating the old Kansas City Star building. 

These two know how to take on large projects. 

“We like to bring back to life historic buildings,” Bryant says. The term Bryant uses to describe the life they like to bring back into historic buildings is “recreational hospitality.” 

And Magee is passionate about barbecue. She and her husband, Rob, opened their first Q39 restaurant in Kansas City in 2014 and opened a second location in Overland Park in 2017. Rob died from cancer in November 2021. 

Carrying on the legacy, Magee is excited to open the third Q39 location in downtown Lawrence on the east side of the building on New Hampshire Street, where the old loading docks are located. 

“We believe Lawrence deserves really good barbecue,” says Magee, a 1988 KU graduate.

The development team, along with attorney Patrick Watkins and architect Dave Herron, successfully worked with the Lawrence Historic Resources Commission in gaining approval for the design changes on the front elevation. 

The main hurdle was their desire to paint the brick white. This was important for their branding and to distinguish the building from the rest of the building that is constructed of brick. 

Ultimately, the HRC approved the modified plans with a 5-1 vote. The March 21 meeting can be viewed on YouTube

Our community will benefit in myriad ways from this project — perhaps most simply, this fall: delicious barbecue.

About the writer

Tom Harper is a Realtor at Stephens Real Estate helping people in Lawrence and Douglas County buy and sell real estate. He is the founder of Lawrence Modern, a group whose mission is to raise awareness of midcentury and modern architecture. You will find him posting frequently on Instagram under @lawrencemodern, sharing his daily observations of his favorite place on earth: Lawrence, Kansas. Read more of Tom’s writing for The Lawrence Times here.

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