Since Kmart closed its 2327 N. Harrison location in October, locals have toyed with ideas of what might fill the unusually large space now.

Since Kmart closed its 2327 N. Harrison location in October, locals have toyed with ideas of what might fill the unusually large space now.

Boasting just more than eight acres, the property has a lot of room to fill — too much for the average business opportunity. Community Development Director Justin DeBruin said at 84,000 square feet, there is a limited market interest in the reuse of the former Kmart building.

DeBruin said applicant Amerco Real Estate Company, a real estate subsidiary of U-Haul, for the last 10 years has made it a business to repurpose larger abandoned sites that tend to go unused.

U-Haul has requested a rezone to refurbish the building into a U-Haul Moving and Storage Store.

“Our uses will consist of indoor climate-controlled self-storage, U-Haul truck and trailer-sharing and related retail sales,” Scott Brackin, marketing company president, U-Haul Company of Oklahoma, said.

Likely 50,000 square feet of the building will be used for storage, he said.

“Customers would be able to drive inside and load/unload out of the rain, cold or hot weather,” he said. “I believe we are offering Shawnee residents something different than what's around right now.”

Area residents, however, have voiced disapproval at the plan.

DeBruin said some residents from the Northridge Addition — directly east of the site — are concerned primarily about the conversion to C-3 commercial zoning.

“The current use versus what's allowed for C-3 are basically identical,” he said.

Some area residents in opposition attended the March 7 Planning meeting and more gathered for the City's hearing Monday.

Neighborhood resident Andrea Brown said, though she was glad to hear some of the details that were shared, she still had concerns.

“Loading the parking lot with trucks would possibly decrease our property value just for the fact that it would be such an eyesore,” she said.

“And we have self-storage all over town; it's getting to where we kind of look like we have warehouses everywhere,” she said. “We just want a healthy balance.”

She said it just doesn't look good to be right in the middle of Shawnee.

Brown said she also was concerned about rodents and pests, because people bring their stuff there; that's an issue, she said.

Pam Cook, a manager for a current storage facility, also had qualms about the potential business.

“I don't think it's a good idea,” she said. “It's going to hurt the rest of us in our little businesses and the U-Haul business we've already got.”

She said she thinks it's more than Shawnee needs.

“We are inundated right now with storage,” she said.

Planning Commissioner Cody Deem also expressed uneasiness regarding the aesthetics of the site.

“I would hope that — if we (commissioners) have any further input, not only can we try to make it so that it looks better; I don't want to have another parking lot like the U-Haul we have up on North Harrison,” she said.

She asked if DeBruin could ask for some landscaping.

DeBruin said the site in particular does not fall under required landscaping standards.

“And theoretically they could load that whole lot with trucks,” she said.

DeBruin agreed U-Haul could.

Brackin's response was that — from a business standpoint — it was not his wish to pack the lot with trucks.

“Our goal is to have them out hauling things,” he said. If there are too many on the lot, a rep comes and takes them to places where they are short of trucks, he said.

“Staff finds the subject proposal to be a positive opportunity for the City of Shawnee,” DeBruin said.

The store is projected to employ 10 to 15 full-time and part-time staff positions. The store also will offer a variety of products and services, such as truck and trailer rentals and packing supplies.

Planning commissioners voted in favor of U-Haul's request; the matter then went before Shawnee City Commissioners this week.

Again, Brown stepped up to share her worries with City Commissioners, as did several others.

“The thought of a propane station is scary,” Brown said. “It's just not a good fit.”

Brackin said the 500-gallon propane station would likely be out in the parking lot west of the building, but not near Harrison.

“The vertical tank would be inspected and regulated by the state (as others already are on similar sites),” he said.

Loree Hopkins, representing several at Hopkins Dental Clinic on Dunloup Road, offered a list of objections.

She said her property is directly across from the north-side street entrance into the parking lot. Among her concerns includes the potential for damage to her curbing, landscaping and vehicles by inexperienced drivers.

“Environmentally-controlled storage, of course, is wonderful for when you have something that needs to be temperature-controlled, but there's also a fairly large history of it being used for meth labs, for drug distribution — in extreme situations there have been people who use it for housing when they are desperate; it definitely increases theft,” she said, “and then, of course, just the pestilence and what-have-you that comes with this kind of storage.”

She said problems mostly come after-hours, when it becomes a key-drop off.

She said years ago, on the west side of the clinic, there used to be a U-Haul business. In her experience, people would simply sweep their trash out of the truck after-hours onto the lawn, leaving trash to be blown around and things that would scurry away.

“We are a staff predominantly of women who arrive to work long before dawn and leave sometimes long after dark,” she said. “That's a concern to us.”

She said, “You say traffic will be reduced; We don't necessarily want traffic reduced.”

Hopkins said, “the clinic is based on exposure to a reputable type of traffic. We prefer that.”

She said she would rather see retail, or something that benefits more of the community.

“(Something) that we all would utilize, that we all might go to, and that would also increase the revenue through taxes for the community,” she said.

“This building has sat vacant for a very short period of time,” she said. “Some buildings that could sit vacant for a much longer time are now becoming very productive; We don't feel like it sitting vacant for a long period of time is a concern.”

Mike Johnson, a former truck driver who lives on Gilpin Street, said he knows all too well the damage that can be done by drivers with little-to-no experience handling the large trucks. He said he would prefer a more productive use for the site.

Bill Haselwood asked commissioners to impose some restrictions on the plan — should they approve it — citing the need for some type of noise abatement, lighting, security and a commitment to not use the area behind the store.

Brackin said he would be happy to build whatever type of fencing was needed to ease neighbors' concerns. He also said LED lighting would be placed in the back, facing the ground — not shining outward. Business would, for the most part, be kept on the west side of the building, he said. Though there would not be staff at the site overnight, Brackin said each individual unit would be alarmed and his business can tell what unit is accessed at any time, as well as cameras throughout the building. As the only way to load or unload items into a storage unit would be from the inside, he explained driving into the storage area inside would not be possible after hours, though a person could use an issued swipe card to gain access physically to his/her unit only.

With large trucks entering and leaving the site, Beth Canaday said she was troubled by the lack of a stop light at Dunloup and Harrison.

Brackin, however, has said the side street entrance from Dunloup into the parking lot would not be used.

City Manager Justin Erickson proposed a deferment to afford time to get a more detailed plan from the site owners.

Commissioners unanimously opted to defer the item. City Commissioners James Harrod and Lesa Shaw were not at the meeting.

Watch for updates.