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Archive for Sunday, October 31, 1999

BARBED WIRE BUILDING BASH LEAVES QUESTIONS

October 31, 1999

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Before tickets are sold for a planned New Year's Eve bash in the historic Consolidated Barbed Wire building downtown, Lawrence city officials think the people renovating that building should have a permit to occupy it.

They also want Mike Elwell and Ron Miller to have a written lease on the city-owned building that requires them, among other things, to abide by state regulations that ensure activity in the building will not interfere with any bald eagle habitat.

A draft agreement that will be on the Lawrence City Commission's agenda Tuesday night would lease the building to Elwell and Miller at $4,800 a year for the next five years with options that could extend that period to 50 years.

Elwell's plans for a New Year's party came to the attention of city officials by way of an article in the Lawrence Journal-World on Oct. 7 that described plans to open "Abe and Jake's Landing" on New Year's Eve, with ticket sales beginning Oct. 11 at the building.

The article also quoted Elwell's wife, Linda, as saying the outdoor deck overlooking the Kansas River would be open to the public, weather permitting.

That struck City Manager Mike Wildgen as peculiar since the Elwells do not yet have an occupancy permit that would allow them to open the building to the public.

"Neither selling tickets in the Barbed Wire building, nor opening for business is legal until you have an occupancy permit," Wildgen wrote in a letter dated Oct. 11.

He also noted that the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks forbids use of the outdoor deck in times of the year when bald eagles are likely to be feeding around the Kansas River.

That season usually runs from Jan. 1 through Feb. 28, but it can start as early as Dec. 15 if cold weather arrives soon enough to freeze 90 percent of the surface water at Clinton Lake.

KDWP imposed the restriction in 1988 when the city first applied for a permit to build what was then being called the Kansas River Plaza.

Originally, the city envisioned that a riverfront mall would be built inside the old Barbed Wire building, which sits on the Kansas River bank just below city hall.

The city granted a lease to the Chelsea Group, original developers of the mall, but when that group changed its mind in 1991 and decided to develop a factory outlet mall closer to Sixth and New Hampshire, they transferred the lease to Elwell and Miller.

Initially, Elwell and Miller were given until 1993 to complete their renovation. The most recent extension of the agreement expired Dec. 31, 1995.

Since then, the renovation has continued, and city officials have not pressed the issue of renewing the lease. That is, not until they read about the Elwells' plans for New Year's Eve.

Lawrence city commissioners will consider the draft lease when they meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.

-- Peter Hancock's phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is phancock@ljworld.com.

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