Archive for Friday, February 8, 1991

OWNER STILL PURSUING DEMOLITION OF CHURCH

February 8, 1991

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The owner of a 120-year-old downtown church said he still was pursuing legal permission to demolish the structure because he had not received what he considered serious offers for its purchase.

"I'd love to have somebody walk in and say, `Here, just sign on the dotted line, here's the money.' Then we'll do it," said Arly Allen, a stockholder in Allen Realty Inc., which owns the Old English Lutheran Church, 1040 N.H.

Although there have been offers for the church, he said, none has included the other eight lots in the 1000 block of New Hampshire Street also owned by the company. Allen maintains that all nine lots would have to be included in any purchase deal.

"Selling the church alone in the middle of those lots is like knocking a tooth out of the middle of a mouth," Allen said. "It just doesn't work."

EARLY LAST month, Lawrence attorney Arthur A. Anderson said he was "within a few weeks" of a purchase agreement on the church but that there was more to the deal than he could discuss.

On Thursday, Anderson declined to discuss the state of his negotiations with Allen Realty, saying only, "It has been a few weeks. . . . We're coming along."

Allen said Thursday he had met with Anderson once, but would not comment further.

The church is one of three in Lawrence designed by Lawrence architect John G. Haskell. The others are Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt., and the First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt. Haskell also designed the Douglas County Courthouse, buildings at Kansas University, and other structures in Lawrence and dozens of buildings throughout the state, including the east wing of the Kansas Capitol. Most of his public buildings have been demolished.

AN EARLY example of Haskell's work, the church has been at the center of a two-year legal battle over its demolition, which first was proposed by Allen Realty in 1988. The company wanted to use the church lot and the others on the block for expansion of nearby Allen Press.

Since then, the church has been tied up in legal proceedings that are continuing to the Kansas Court of Appeals.

Allen Realty is appealing an August Douglas County District Court ruling that the city rehear Allen Realty's request for demolition. The court also ordered Allen Realty to allow inspection of the church by the state historical society before the rehearing. The church was opened for inspection in September.

In exchange for opening the church to inspection, Allen Realty worked out an agreement with the state and local preservationists whereby each party petitioned the appeals court for a delay in hearing Allen Realty's appeal.

Todd Thompson, a Lawrence attorney handling Allen Realty's appeal, said this morning no date had been set for the case to be heard.

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