Construction is progressing on the Hampton Inn at 151 S. Cedar Niles and the structure is now beginning to resemble the architectural drawings presented over a year ago. A fall 2018 opening is expected for the 5 story, 84 room hotel and 200 seat Conference Center. Photo taken on Feb 25, 2018. Staff photo by Rick Poppitz

Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
There was substantial growth in Gardner during 2017, with momentum carrying the city into 2018.
Residential growth continued at a steady rate, including expansions of several existing subdivisions and residential growth spreading to new area south of I-35.
The city accomplished a long list of improvements, upgrades and equipment replacement to maintain infrastructure.
USD #231 completed major construction projects in 2017, including a wing addition and interior renovations to the high school, an Advanced Technical Center for career and tech courses, a TRAILS facility for adult students ages 18-21 with disabilities, capital improvements, and technology upgrades.

Hampton Inn
Plans for a Hampton Inn Hotel and Conference Center near the southeast corner of Cedar Niles Road and East Santa Fe Street were approved by the Gardner Planning Commission in late January 2017.
Due to the site’s proximity to an airport, the project also required approval of the Johnson County Airport Commission and the Board of County Commissioners.
On June 20, city and county officials, along with Hampton Inn owners participated in an official groundbreaking ceremony.
For several months, heavy equipment did groundwork on the site. In November, the first visible piece of building structure began rising – that was the first of two fire-walled elevator shafts, one positioned at each end of the high rise hotel building.
In February 2018, the building is beginning to look like the architectural drawings presented over a year ago.
The Gardner Conference Center will be a single story building, that is attached but offset on the south side of the main five story hotel building.
The hotel will have 82 guest rooms, 8,200 square feet of meeting space in the conference center and is targeted for opening in the fall of 2018.

Excellence Learning Corporation
In September 2017, Gardner city council amended a Resolution of Intent for the issuance of Industrial Revenue Bonds for a construction  project at Midwest Commerce Center. That action was the first approval of a deal to bring a $38 million, 615,000 sq. ft. warehouse, logistics center

and manufacturing facility to Gardner.
The name of the future tenant was not revealed until the city officially confirmed the issuance of the $38M in bonds, which they did on Oct. 16 by passing Resolution No. 1974.
Before that, it was publicly referred to only by the code name “Project School.”
Eventually it was revealed that the tenant was Excelligence Learning Corporation, which describes itself as “a leader in the childhood education industry, providing learning tools and solutions to early childhood and elementary teachers and parents.”
On Dec. 11, a groundbreaking ceremony with company officials was hosted by the city and Gardner Edgerton Chamber of Commerce and attended by city, county and state elected officials.
Since then, heavy earth moving equipment has been reshaping the landscape in preparation for the building construction.
Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation played a leading role in attracting this development to Gardner.

CVS Pharmacy
Finishing work is still ongoing at the lot surrounding the building, but the new CVS Pharmacy on the northwest corner of Main and Center is now open for business.
This project has been in development since at least August 2015, when Gardner Planning Commission (GPC) approved early project plans.
Revised plans were approved by GPC and city council in 2016. Construction began in June 2017 and the store opened in Feb. 2018, with a ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled for March 2.
A number of things made this project take a lot of time to come to fruition.
The site had previously been a liquor store and prior to that was a gas station. Plans were delayed when it was determined that old buried gas tanks had leaked fuel into the soil. The removal process required approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Kansas Department of Transportation also had requirements for the surrounding streets which had to be satisfied.
In addition, CVS required more land than the lot that held the liquor store and required the acquisition of additional lots on the north and west sides. Those lots contained occupied residential properties, with owners who had to agree to sell and tenants that had to be given time to find a new place to live.
A piece of trivia to note about the site is that the previous building, that originally was a Sinclair Oil gas station and later the Heidenreich liquor store, was a prefab porcelain building that was assembled in 1962.
It was noticeable that the building was dismantled piece by piece, in a in careful, non-destructive way.
Buildings like these have potential value to collectors, suggesting that it may have been sold to be reassembled again somewhere, someday. There was another one just like it in Lincoln, Ill., that was still standing in 2012. Both stations are featured on

Dairy Queen
The Dairy Queen in Gardner opened for public business at 10 a.m. on Oct. 28, with an official ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by the city on Nov. 2.
DQ corporate had identified Gardner as a desired city for franchise expansion about 8 years ago, but it was 2016 before a potential site was selected and plans began to develop.
In December 2016 the planning commission initiated the rezoning of four lots, two of which were residential, to CP-2 Planned General Business District.
A series of planning commission reviews followed over the first months of 2017, with approval of the DQ Final Development Plan coming on March 28, 2017.
Two residential homes, at 116 North White Drive and 517 East Shawnee, and the previously existing car wash at 518 E. Main, were demolished.
Extensive ground work was done to prepare the site, including replacing the previously existing open storm water drainage that runs through the center of the property with installation of a 260 foot long underground box culvert to handle the northbound drainage.

Urgent Care Facility
Approved in 2017, with construction now underway in early 2018, is a 6800 sq. ft. multi-tenant commercial building at 915 E. Lincoln Lane in Gardner. That’s directly behind, or north of, the strip mall containing LaCaretta restaurant and Dominoes Pizza.
The primary tenant is to be an urgent care medical facility. It will provide urgent care for situations that need immediate medical attention but may not require a hospital emergency room prepared for major trauma.

Groundhouse, Car City, more…
In addition to the above, there were other business expansions and improvements, including:
• O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store at 525 E. Main increased their building size by 40 percent
• Groundhouse Coffee at Main and Elm opened in 2012 and has since become a hometown favorite. In 2017, the owners opened a second location, Groundhouse South, at 18855 S. Gardner Rd. The new location offers a drive through window as well as interior seating.
• In early 2017 plans were approved to convert the vacant convenience store at 905 E. Sante Fe into Bill George’s Car City, the first used car lot in Gardner for many years. The lot opened in June 2017
• The building at 558 W. Main Street made improvements after rezoning to allow two business to divide and occupy the same metal building. Mid-State Rental, an equipment rental company and Sign Here Inc, a sign making shop, share the building

Three businesses lost in Gardner during 2017 were – the Waffle House near I-35; the CherryBerry frozen yogurt shop at 285 N. Moonlight Road; and Gardner Pharmacy downtown, which had been a community fixture for decades.
The Waffle House building was torn down and is being replaced by a smaller structure that will house a drive through Scooter’s Coffee business.
The downtown space at 131 E Main St. previously occupied by Gardner Pharmacy is currently vacant.
The Cherry Berry store closed due to illness. The owner tried to find someone to take over to keep the store open, but was unable to do so.