News and notes from around town:
• A lawsuit filed by the Lawrence Community Shelter is shedding more light on how much the organization is paying for a vacant warehouse building that it hopes will house an expanded homeless shelter. According to a real estate contract attached to the lawsuit, the shelter has agreed to pay $2,069,750 for the building at 3701 Franklin Park Circle. The contract, though, also stipulates the sellers of the property — a group that includes Lawrence businessman Tim Keller and Mark Craig — will donate $155,000 to the shelter upon the close of the sale. Even with that discount, the shelter is paying a premium for the space compared to its appraisal by the Douglas County assessor. The county has valued the building at $1.06 million to $1.07 million over the last two years. The fact the shelter is paying a premium for the building perhaps isn’t surprising given that it has been searching for a site for multiple years and has had several other offers rejected because the sellers did not like the proposed use.
The contract also spells out how much money the shelter may lose if it does not prevail in the lawsuit, which centers on whether covenents prevent the shelter from locating at the proposed site. The shelter has put down $75,000 for the building. Of that amount, $37,500 is non-refundable. The remaining $37,500 becomes non-refundable after certain dates. If the shelter hasn’t walked away from the deal by Feb. 1, it loses another $12,500. If the deal is still pending by March 1, it loses another $12,500. The final $12,500 is lost come April 1.
Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny gave the shelter a partial victory earlier this week by expediting the timeline for the lawsuit. The shelter had sought a decision by Jan. 1. Pokorny said that wouldn’t be possible, but she did set a hearing date for Feb. 1, which should allow the case to be ruled upon before the late March closing of the sale.
• The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce will be leaving its longtime offices at 734 Vt. St. in early 2011. The chamber has signed a five-year lease to move into the second-floor space above Talbot’s, 646 Vt. Tom Kern, chamber president and CEO, said plans call for the move to be made by mid-February.
The chamber has been in its current location inside the AT&T building since 1991. AT&T was open to signing another five-year lease, Kern said, but the lease would have required new security restrictions that weren’t feasible for the chamber. Because the AT&T building houses large amounts of telecommunications equipment for northeast Kansas, security measures have been increasing at the facility. The new lease is with a local ownership group led by members of the Fritzel family.
“AT&T was has been great to work with,” Kern said. “We really want to thank AT&T for everything they’ve done for the chamber over the years.”
The new chamber space will be smaller — about 4,900 square feet compared to about 7,000 square feet in the current office. Kern said the reduction would work because the chamber no longer houses the offices of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, which separated from the chamber several years ago. The chamber currently has eight full-time and two part-time employees.
Kern said the KU Small Business Development Center, which currently shares space with the chamber, also will make the move.
• In other chamber news, the organization is seeking nominations for its Citizen of the Years award. The award, now in its 26th year, honors an individual whose “lifetime commitment to the community has made Lawrence a better place.” Nominations are due by 4 p.m. Dec. 23. Nomination forms and a list of past winners can be found here. A group of chamber board members and past winners will select the honoree.
• What town talk are you hearing? Send me a tip at firstname.lastname@example.org.