Tuesday's sale of the historical Eldridge Hotel is good news for Lawrence in a number of ways.
The hotel was purchased in a bankruptcy auction by an investment group led by former Kansas University football All-American Bobby Douglass and Texas attorney and KU alumnus Mitchell Chaney. The group's goal is to revitalize the hotel and return it to a prominent and active role in downtown Lawrence.
First, there was the unexpectedly high price -- $2.92 million -- paid for the property. An earlier deal to sell the hotel for $2.3 million had fallen through because Rob Phillips, the hotel's majority owner said that amount wouldn't allow all the hotel's creditors to be paid. A bidding war between the Douglass-Chaney group and a group led by Lawrence developers Doug Compton and Bill Newsom and hotel operator Stephen Craig drove the price well over the earlier figure.
The active interest in the property is good news for the creditors but it also is a great vote of confidence for Lawrence. Phillips summed up the situation pretty well at the close of the auction: "My hat's off to Doug Compton for pushing the bidding up that high, to the Chaneys' for sticking with it and to the city of Lawrence for creating a downtown environment that allows this building to attract that type of price."
In real estate, it's always location, location, location, and the price the Eldridge property drew on Tuesday is a pretty good indication that downtown Lawrence is one of the best locations around. Lawrence should be proud of that.
The purchase also is another example of the important role that KU alumni play in Lawrence's vitality. The positive memories that KU graduates carry with them about their student years in Lawrence often push them to look for opportunities to come back and get re-involved in the city. That's a wonderful legacy and a credit to the community.
Hopefully, Tuesday's sale will be the beginning of a new and positive chapter in the history of the Eldridge Hotel. The structure that has played such an important role in Lawrence's history deserves to be not only preserved but re-energized so that it can remain an active and important part of the community.
Thanks to the Douglass-Chaney investment group for showing so much faith in Lawrence and best wishes as you pursue your goals for renovating and revitalizing the landmark Eldridge Hotel.