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Archive for Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lecompton builds for prospective residents

April 22, 2006

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Roy Paslay thinks it's time for Lecompton to shed some of its small-town persona.

"My thoughts, as mayor of Lecompton, I'd like to see it get a little bigger," he says. "We need some growth here."

John Chaney, owner of JMC Construction Inc., is ready to assist with that vision. He has plans for the South Crest subdivision east of Lecompton Elementary School.

In late February, Chaney was still working with the Lecompton Planning Commission, but he had hopes of putting a road in the subdvision and building on some lots. There were 26 lots to begin with, and a replatting could add some more, he said.

"I'm going to start a couple of houses to test the market," he said.

Chaney said the houses would be good for first-time homeowners, with prices from $120,000 to $150,000. They will be about 1,500 square feet, and some will probably have basements, he said. He hoped to have the road built in June.

"I'm ready as soon as they'll let me start," he said of construction.

If all goes well, Chaney hopes to have the first houses on the market in July or August. It takes from 60 to 90 days to build them, he said.

Chaney thinks more development is ahead for Lecompton. It's a great rural location but close to Lawrence, he said.

"I look for it to grow," he said. "It's only 12 minutes to the west side of Lawrence."

Tourism hopes

Lecompton's historical ties to "Bleeding Kansas" and the Civil War era make it a favorite tourist attraction. This year tourists will see a refurbished Constitution Hall.

Late last year contractors started peeling away layers of paint and working their way down to the original wood siding of the building at 319 Elmore Street. Built in 1856, it is the oldest wood frame building in Kansas. The wood was being repainted.

"It's really amazing that this old structure has lasted 150 years," said Tim Rues, historian and curator of the hall. "There are very few of these buildings left."

Other improvements also were made, including repairing the old wood and construction of new outside steps designed to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

The cost of the renovation is $47,860. The Douglas County Community Foundation contributed $10,000 for the project. The Kansas State Historical Society's Cultural Resources Division contributed $19,980, and the historical society's preservation office contributed $17,820 in federal funds. Total contributions were $47,800.

Preservation efforts

Efforts also are under way to preserve another of Lecompton's downtown historical treasures. The Lecompton Community Building is nearly 100 years old and needs about $65,000 in repairs. That includes floor, plaster and foundation work.

The old stone building originally was built in 1907 as the Radical Brethren Church, the only such church building of its kind that still exists in Kansas. It also once served as city hall.

Fund-raisers are planned, and supporters of the project also hope to obtain some grants to help pay for the refurbishment.

"There are a myriad of community development grants out there; it just depends on what route you want to go," said Kathi Fair, a Lecompton planning commissioner.

"We're a small community, and it isn't easy to come up with a lot of money," Lecompton council member Jennifer Jones said. "We have to find creative ways to fund it."

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