Advertisement

Archive for Thursday, April 28, 2011

New use envisioned for Masonic Temple downtown

Businessmen would like to create wedding venue but need assistance from city

April 28, 2011

Advertisement

From a Masonic Temple to a wedding temple — that’s the new plan for a landmark downtown building, if city commissioners are willing to lend a helping hand.

Lawrence caterer Steve Maceli confirmed his business is becoming more serious about putting together a deal to convert the former Masonic Temple building at the southwest corner of 10th and Massachusetts streets into a reception and wedding hall.

But Maceli also said the project likely will need some help from the city in the form of property tax rebates and other assistance.

“If we don’t get some kind of assistance to do the work that needs to be done, I’m afraid it will continue to sit empty,” Maceli said. “The building still is a Lawrence treasure. To bring that treasure back to life, we just need some help.”

The building is owned by a group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton. The ownership group has sent a letter to the city manager asking for tax rebates under the Neighborhood Revitalization Act.

The city approved the use of the NRA recently for Treanor Architects to remodel and expand the old Strong’s Office Supply building in the 1000 block of Vermont Street for it new corporate headquarters.

The act only allows a rebate of new property taxes generated by an expansion or an improvement. In other words, whatever the property taxes are for the building today will continue to be paid in the future, but the development group would get a break on the new taxes that would be added to the property as a result of the improvements.

The ownership group is proposing a tax rebate period of 15 years. In year one, the property would have 95 percent of its new taxes rebated. The percentage would decline by 5 percent a year through the 15-year period. After year 15, the property would receive no rebate.

The tax rebate would go to the ownership group, but Maceli said it would help him because it would allow him to pay a lower lease rate for the building, which in turn would allow him to charge more competitive fees for event rentals.

In addition, the ownership group is asking the city to consider ways it could help with installation of a fire sprinkler system in the building.

Maceli said he’s excited about the possibilities. He believes the building could make downtown a major destination for weddings. He envisions the building being a one-stop shop for weddings because the main floor of the building — which has a historic Reuter organ and a balcony — could be used for wedding ceremonies, while the lower level could be used for receptions. Maceli would continue to keep his existing facility at 1031 N.H. for events, and it also would continue to serve as his commercial kitchen.

Representatives of the ownership group have said they’ve struggled to find a tenant for the building. Most potential tenants would have required a complete reconfiguration of the building. Other tenants also likely would need major changes to the Egyptian Revival-style facade of the building, which has become one of downtown’s more recognizable.

Maceli doesn’t want to change the facade and can use the space in its current configuration. But the building needs an elevator and other ADA improvements, plus new wiring, the fire sprinkler system and other similar improvements.

“I think even people who don’t appreciate historic preservation would not want this building to be gutted,” Maceli said.

The building has been vacant since about 2003, when the Lawrence Scottish Rite sold it to move to a new location in eastern Lawrence.

Comments

Eride 3 years, 8 months ago

The ownership group knew what they were getting when they bought the building. They shouldn't be bailed out because they made a poor business decision and now will have to take on a loss to actually make use of the property.

Let them continue to let the property fall into disrepair until they finally decide to accept their poor decisions and take the loss... or the jurisdiction can exercise eminent domain and take it from them.

Granting this assistance does nothing but reward developers for essentially taking our community hostage. "Give us this assistance or we will continue to let this property fall into worse repair until you will give us the assistance we seek." Someone needs to stand up to this and stop it. Our local government isn't supposed to use our tax money to guarantee profits to developers. This isn't free market economics, this is cronyism.

gudpoynt 3 years, 8 months ago

How was it a poor investment? A tough one, sure, but anybody who took ownership would be faced with the same problems.

Are you saying that whoever took over ownership should have been more altruistic?

Or are you saying that the city should take over ownership? Do you think renovation by the city would cost less than property tax rebates over 15 years?

I agree that it is a shame that no tenant has taken up shop there for so long. But blaming the owners for not taking a loss, and claiming that they're "taking our community hostage" is a bit much.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

If they can't get anybody to lease it, and can't afford to bring it up to code, and can't sell it, then yes it's a bad investment decision.

And, that's exactly what they're doing when they buy a building, let it sit empty and deteriorate, and then ask for tax abatements and help from the commission, otherwise the property will just continue to be blighted.

independant1 3 years, 8 months ago

buy a building, let it sit empty and deteriorate, and then ask for tax abatements and help from the commission = Coercion (passive agressive type)

John Hamm 3 years, 8 months ago

Nope, it was a bad business decision or they bought it intending to allow it to sit vacant until they felt the time was ripe to harvest the public coffers once again.

Daniel Dicks 3 years, 8 months ago

Negotiate a deal. Maybe ten years instead of twenty.

true_patriot 3 years, 8 months ago

No more developer welfare. We are talking about closing schools that our children benefit from and consolidating schools which guts critical components of neighborhood unity. Now is not the time to take further hits to city revenue so that the elites in town can get their hands on additional risk-free profit-making with the city and taxpayers shouldering the risk and taking the hit to income.

There were plenty of interesting ideas for that building when it came up for sale by local business owners and citizens but Compton's group outbid them and took this premier piece of downtown real estate and sat on it, blighting the corner with tacky political signs posted on a plywood for years now. They are essentially holding the building and by extension this important downtown corner hostage until taxpayers capitulate and give them more developer welfare.

stevej 3 years, 8 months ago

Why not change the name of the city to Compton KS. Here is a guy that is tripping over his wealth (dont hold that against him, hes a smart businessman), he should spend his own money instead of relying on handouts so he can add ot his fortune. Its a great building but stop with the handouts to compton and his friends.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

Other cities have created tax structures that punish property owners who simply let their buildings sit empty and deteriorate.

Hudson Luce 3 years, 8 months ago

The city should take the property by use of a blight ordinance, which would put a dead halt to "demolition by neglect".

hail2oldku 3 years, 8 months ago

Sounds like the only interior changes Macelli would like to have made would simply serve to make it ADA compliant. That is going to be needed for whoever would take over the space. Thought you were smarter than that wilbur, but maybe I give you too much credit.

rosierainbow 3 years, 8 months ago

as a person with a disability ADA is NOT nonsense. Even the slightest bump in a door jam can be a huge obsticle. God willing you or your own loved ones will never have to know how difficult the most mundane of tasks can be as a disabled person. I hope you dont think we should all just stay home and never go out again, like to a wedding of a child or friend...?

Alceste 3 years, 8 months ago

Hey, not_holroyd:

Given you've been in "attack mode" against oneye_wilbur since the creation of the not_holroyd account (that's why you created the account, right....to make attacks agains one poster; that's what a review of your 650+ post reveals, anyway), why not let the rest of us in on just how many rental places ole oneeye owns? My money says you can't do it because, in fact and truth, I don't think there is a single one. Your entire premise is baseless.....

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 8 months ago

Wilbur, and the rest of you, believe me, the "historic Reuter organ" in the balcony has been neglected for many, many years, is badly deteriorated, and you would all be shocked at what it might cost to renovate it. And you would still have an old, out-of-date instrument that is not suitable for most any modern usage. It is a relic of the 1930's that would be useless in today's musical environment. And I am sure that there is no one in this group with the musical background or mechanical savy of these old pipe organs that can understand the futility of trying to salvage this old fossil.

bangaranggerg 3 years, 8 months ago

Yesterday an article about an elderly wealthy woman giving free water rights to the city of Eudora, and today an article about a development group with some of the richest men in the city of Lawrence claiming they need to reach into the city's pocket to do a job they neglegently put off for a decade. Some disparity there.

Melissa Kounelaki 3 years, 8 months ago

That's the first thing I noticed too. A little b**chy sometimes, but not really mean. Doug can finance his own business and doesn't need help from the City. Actually, maybe the City should ask for a loan from him and Fritzel both to keep things running. Go Steve!

somedude20 3 years, 8 months ago

This smells like the outhouse and I do not care for it!!

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

Wouldn't a truly "free" market allow the owner of the property to tear down that building and build a 35 story apartment building with zero parking? Or build the ugliest structure ever built, with no regard for how it might impact it's neighbors? Right, we don't have a "free" marketplace and I'm not sure we really want one. Allowing a building to sit empty in the heart of downtown is not good for anyone, taxpayers included. A fair compromise that will allow development of what has become a blighted property is the best way to go.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

Except that the reason the property has become "blighted" is because of the owner's ongoing decisions.

Why should we reward him for those decisions?

As I mentioned above, other cities have established tax policies that discourage owners from doing that.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

Perhaps you're right, the owner has allowed the property to become blighted. But did he have reasons that were imposed upon him. Reasons that are contrary to a "free" market. It might simply be a matter of economics involved in bringing the building up to code. I wouldn't even want to guess what it costs to make that building ADA compliant. Not that I'm against bringing buildings up to code, including ADA compliance. I was just suggesting that those rules defy a "free" market. A couple of posters suggested that we allow the free market to take it's course, allowing the owner/developer to suffer whatever loss a "free" market would allow. I'm just saying it's not a "free" market and that's probably a good thing.

BillybobThorten 3 years, 8 months ago

"As I mentioned above, other cities have established tax policies that discourage owners from doing that."....right, like Baltimore, Detroit, Newark and Glouchester......Now those are truly progressive cities that we should emulate!!!

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

San Francisco, the most progressive city in America has an area called the Mid-Market area. Market Street is famous around the world. But mid-Market has been blighted for a generation or more. That's an entire neighborhood in the heart of a major city where tourism is the #1 industry. Progressive and lack of blight have nothing to do with each other. I'm sure blight exists in the most free market cities as well. I'm not sure having a rigid political or economic philosophy will advance the agenda of getting this particular building in downtown Lawrence upgraded from it's current condition to that of being an asset to our community.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

How about Harrisburg, which has made great advances in dealing with blighted neighborhoods with such a policy?

Alceste 3 years, 8 months ago

"Allowing a building to sit empty in the heart of downtown is not good for anyone, taxpayers included."

Is too a "good thing", jhawkinsf as it demonstrates in 3d fashion just how bankrupt a "downtown Lawwrence" concept is! There are 3 distinct "downtown Lawrence":

  1. Boutiqueville during the day which caters to the wealthy, for the most part.

  2. Eveningville which caters to those who seek "fine dining" (AS IF!!!)

  3. Nightimeville for the gun and knife set, which includes collegekiddrunks/thugs.

Downtown Lawrence, Kansas died a LONG TIME AGO and it's high time people understood that the public is being fleeced by a VERY present minority of wealthy "business people".

On the other hand, if I can be given a tax abatement on my personal dwelling for...say....the next 20 years, I'll support a tax abatement on this matter. Lawrence has a City Commissioner who doesn't pay his personal real estate taxes. That's the kind of "leadership" this community has and, essentially it seems, wants and hence deserves.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

The problem is that this sort of thing rewards property owners who buy property and then let it sit empty and deteriorate, which isn't something I want to do.

hail2oldku 3 years, 8 months ago

Not to mention jobs, tax revenue, etc.

I'm not a big fan of giving DC any more breaks than necessary, but there are a lot of shortsighted people commenting on this.

pizzapete 3 years, 8 months ago

Or maybe they should make the improvements, make money as a result of those improvements, and pay their 20 apples.

Eride 3 years, 8 months ago

It isn't an option?

I will tell you what shouldn't be an option. The city using its limited tax resources to bail out developers bad investment decisions.

When a project doesn't make financial sense without hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax breaks it means the project isn't viable. Just because Compton over paid for the building doesn't mean he should be bailed out. Just because he has allowed to let it sit and fall into ruin doesn't mean he should be allowed to use that as an excuse to black mail the city into giving him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I will tell you what is a mathematical fact. He overpaid for the building. That is his fault and he should be forced to eat the loss just like the majority of the normal business people in this country have to do.

If he doesn't want to prevent the building from falling into further disrepair and continues to use it as a black mail device the city should condemn and seize it.

tolawdjk 3 years, 8 months ago

Fine and dandy. wonderful.

Except for this part:

"But Maceli also said the project likely will need some help from the city in the form of property tax rebates and other assistance.

“If we don’t get some kind of assistance to do the work that needs to be done, I’m afraid it will continue to sit empty,” Maceli said. “The building still is a Lawrence treasure. To bring that treasure back to life, we just need some help.”"

and this part:

"Maceli doesn’t want to change the facade and can use the space in its current configuration. But the building needs an elevator and other ADA improvements, plus new wiring, the fire sprinkler system and other similar improvements."

See, when you follow the points, its not just the freezing of property taxes that they want. They are looking for a hand out in bringing the building up to code. If Joe Taxpaying Homeowner gutted his place and put it back together would the city be there with cookie jar in hand? Hell no. But you can be damn certain that they would be there with permit fees, inspection fees, and a slew of mini Napoleon complex inspectors slowing the project down.

And why do they want this?

"The tax rebate would go to the ownership group, but Maceli said it would help him because it would allow him to pay a lower lease rate for the building, which in turn would allow him to charge more competitive fees for event rentals."

Because the free market says the project isn't viable without a handout. And its not like the building would supply a huge revenue of tax dollars in the first place. It's going to still sit empty 75% off the time with, at best, only temporary part time employment. Further, why does the city need more event space? Maceli has already shown that there isn't enough demand for event space by claiming that the city was stealing all his business by undercutting his rates. Apparently there isn't enough demand for the supply at the market rate right now...how is adding to that supply going to help? Will the business that the city is going to lose now by adding to the creation of a competing location be offset by some kind of increase in sales tax revenue?

Is there any indication that after the 15 years is up, that the building will still be in use? What happens when someone walks away once the tax level is set to raise? We end up with the same neglected eyesore we started with in the first place.

I can't fault Compton. The rich don't get rich by risking or spending their own money.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

Then they don't need any tax abatements or assistance from taxpayers, do they?

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 8 months ago

After the commissioners capitulated to Treanor and his powerful lobbyist, Ben Dover, for a project with no business receiving this benefit I don't see how they could turn this project away.

This is the kind of project Ben Dover would never get involved in, because it has actual merit.

pizzapete 3 years, 8 months ago

New taxpayer scam envisioned for Masonic Temple might be a more appropriate headline.

kumezzo 3 years, 8 months ago

I would love to house the new Lawrence Opera Works there.......would be an amazing space to see an opera performed. But, the amount of work and money it would take to make this space usable as a theatre space is huge.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

We'll continue to be confronted by issues such as this until the city develops policies in two areas.

  1. Demolition by neglect-- what carrots and/or sticks would prevent it? How do they get implemented and funded?

  2. Abatements, TIFS, rebates-- who gets them, and how do they qualify? Do we really want (and can we afford) a policy that rewards only the Comptons, Fritzels and Treanors, and the banks and development companies they own or partner with?

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

Agreed.

Those are excellent questions that should be discussed, debated, and answered publicly by the city commission.

Bud Stagg 3 years, 8 months ago

My company is struggling, I have 15 employees. My property is run down, I would love to upgrade it to be more energy efficient to save utility money. I'd like to invest in a better workplace but can't because my taxes are high now. Where is my abatement? If you don't help me, I will have to move or close my doors.

If you help these guys, you better help all of us. I just don't think this is the job of government. Government agencies are poor use of dollars, most are inefficiently run. The fewer the better. Fewer programs means less operating overhead for government, which means less taxes. That is the way to get them lower property taxes. Look at the big picture.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

I don't know why you post this as a response to my comment.

Do you disagree with it?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

That's because these policies were primarily written to be corporate welfare for those who least need it.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

If I had that kind of money to invest, I wouldn't be asking for tax abatements.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

And, I wouldn't spend that much money to buy that building in the current condition - it's hardly worth that much.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

And, the question is still a good policy question - what kinds of abatements, etc. do we want to provide and on what grounds?

That's a question that should be asked and answered publicly by our representatives, and based on taxpayer ideas/opinions on the subject.

George Lippencott 3 years, 8 months ago

Why do we seem to be asked increasingly to pay for activity in Lawrence that does not pay us back (except emotionally). These are for profit entities. If we are going to provide them what amounts to venture capital perhaps we should get a share of their profits??

pizzapete 3 years, 8 months ago

John Fogerty might have said it best. From the song 'fortunate son"... Some folks are born silver spoon in hand Lord, don't they help themselves, oh But when the taxman comes to the door Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes

PhogPhanatic 3 years, 8 months ago

Really? A wedding hall? That's the best use of this space? What a shame.

tomatogrower 3 years, 8 months ago

It's an historic building. Why can't they go to the Historical Society for some grants. And for making something ADA compliant there has to be some grants out there. Why give them tax abatements that will total a lot more than they end up spending out of their own pockets. If they don't have enough money to fix it up, then the city should claim ownership. At least we would get the profits, instead of someone who doesn't want to risk their own money. They can count it as a loss on their taxes.

xclusive85 3 years, 8 months ago

Absolutely correct on grants. I do think that the city could help them figure out which grants they may qualify for and even help them apply for them.

xclusive85 3 years, 8 months ago

I did a quick search and here are a few I came up with:

Historic Preservation Fund: http://www.kshs.org/p/historic-preservation-fund/14615

Heritage Trust Fund: http://www.kshs.org/p/heritage-trust-fund/14617

Kansas Downtown Redevelopment Act: http://www.kshs.org/p/other-funding-sources/15716

Americans with Disabilities Act: http://www.ada.gov/taxincent.htm

I am sure there are many other sources of funds that could be applied for. These should be exhausted before the city gives any money toward this project.

ilovelucy 3 years, 8 months ago

The temple would not be used for weddings solely. I can think of any number of events that could be held there. It would be a great addition to downtown.

deec 3 years, 8 months ago

If it would be such a great addition to downtown, it should make lots of money and can pay for its own improvements. This is nothing more than more corporate welfare for city hall cronies. If the owner had no clear idea of what he wanted to do with the building other than board it up for years, it would be in better condition now. Why is it the city's responsibility to make sure this developer makes a profit on his investment?

Newell_Post 3 years, 8 months ago

The building has a stage and could be a "multipurpose" venue, if the numbers penciled out. Dinner theater some nights, comedy club other nights, classic movies other nights, concerts when booked, weddings and receptions when booked. It might work.

Handicapped accessibility would be tough for that building. Not impossible, but difficult and expensive.....

Keith 3 years, 8 months ago

What's the current refrain from Washington, "we're broke"? Well, we're broke locally too. DC had to know when he bought this building what it would take to make it a public space, i.e. ADA compliance etc. For him to come now, hat in hand and say it won't work without public assistance is him thinking we're all fools. Let development pay its own way.

Majestic42 3 years, 8 months ago

I dunno, I'm suspicious of anything Doug Compton does. The dude's slimy. Talked with him at some length a couple years ago, and he struck me as the Mr. Burns of Lawrence.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

Hmm, sounds like your kinda guy. Interesting that you describe him as "slimy." (unless you mean that as a compliment.)

deec 3 years, 8 months ago

"Who controls the British Crown? Who keeps the metric system down? We do, we do. Who keeps Atlantis off the maps? Who keeps the Martians under wraps? We do, we do. Who holds back the electric car? Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star? We do, we do. Who robs cave fish of their sight? Who rigs every Oscar night? We do, we do!" Thanks, Simpsons!

JustNoticed 3 years, 8 months ago

I shook his hand once as he was lying to me. I didn't know it at the time but it didn't take long to find out. Now my hand is leprous and soon to fall off.

coderob 3 years, 8 months ago

If they need a tax abatement, the owners have done the math and know it will barely be a viable business.

Kontum1972 3 years, 8 months ago

you guys dont get it...times are pretty damn tuff and your asking for money to build your empire so whats the big rush..to buy this place...like it s really going to go anywhere?

How about u dig into your prvt accounts and eat this yourselves if it means so much too you... screw you...

thoise of you who like this idea go write these guys a check and u pay for it out of your own pocket....

dontcallmedan 3 years, 8 months ago

Doug could sell his zillion square foot house and pay for improvements.

nekansan 3 years, 8 months ago

I think it is a great idea with 3 simple additions to the tax abatement rules.

  1. The clock on the phase out of the tax abatement starts immediately as soon as the plans are approved and the city issues permits for the remodeling & improvements to commence.

  2. The full value of the improvements becomes assessed against the property at the same time.

  3. Any reductions in the scope of the improvements void any and all abatements and the full value becomes due immediately from a tax perspective.

This effectively requires all the improvements to be completed as planned and promised in as rapid a manner as possible. They can't add years to the tax abatement by completing the work slowly or only complete a portion of the work and still claim the abatement. If they are serious about the deal this is fair for both parties.

flux 3 years, 8 months ago

As kids, we were scared to go into the Masonic Temple. All the kids thought it was a church for devil worshipers.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 8 months ago

Put in some grow-lights & it'd be ideal for raising triffids.

kernal 3 years, 8 months ago

A wedding venue? In a town this size with a median income of $31,443 (that was in 2008 so it could be lower now)?

Grandiose ideas for a population with a hamburger budget. Wrong town, wrong economy.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

Except that he seems to need tax abatements and help from the taxpayers.

tolawdjk 3 years, 8 months ago

I say bring it up to code and then start some kind of secret society and have your meetings there.

Sigmund 3 years, 8 months ago

tolawdjk (anonymous) says… "I say bring it up to code and then start some kind of secret society and have your meetings there."

Agreed! It would be a great place for the Kommission and the Downtown Landlords to hold their off the record private meetings to give out special perks fro free fire sprinklers and such.

Shout Demolition By Neglect!

Kyle Chandler 3 years, 8 months ago

I hate to say it, But 'We the People' of Lawrence have allowed our own downtown to be taken hostage by developers who have let great buildings sit empty for FAR too long.

What about the old Wild Oats building? The 'city' should be tax breaking locally owned businesses and the 'developer' should cut some small timer a break. Isn't 'some' money better than none? I guess when your that rich you could care less right?

About ten years ago a few 'small time' business owners bought the Masonic Lodge with hopes of turning it into a live venue/banquet facility and turning the downstairs into an all night diner. Which is something that downtown can use badly. But the 'city' put up so much red tape about what business they wanted to 'allow' in the space. In the end, the discouraged small timers had to sell because the city deemed that a NATIONAL FUTON CHAIN was the only LOGICAL choice for a business there!

FOR SHAME!

Sigmund 3 years, 8 months ago

You will subsidize the downtown landlords. You will provide them corporate welfare. The Kommission will privatize their profits, socialize their expenses, and bailout their failures with your money. The Kommission will freeze out any outsider who doesn't grease the appropriate palm or contribute to the correct campaigns. And if you complain they will have to lay off police officers, fire fighters, and will have no money for basic services.

And all the while Chad will tout the their plans without asking anyone a single difficult question.

captainzeep 3 years, 8 months ago

It looks like a reasonable proposal to me. Get it moving ASAP and we'll book our company xmas party there.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

Best case scenario: The owners bring the building up to code and operate a successful business there. Worst case scenario: No help in the form of abatements and the building languishes, becoming an even greater blight to downtown, driving other businesses elsewhere. Compromise: The greatest likelihood that a win/win situation could happen. The problem with pushing hard for a best case scenario is that it has the greatest risk of ending with a worst case scenario.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

That's why we need some policies that discourage owners from simply letting property deteriorate and become blighted.

What's your compromise suggestion?

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

I say give them the abatement. What concerns me the most is if they don't, a decade from now the same owners or new owners will be going back and asking for an abatement. Nothing will have been accomplished except that it will take more money to fix that building. Obviously, codes change over time. Many are done for legitimate reasons. But let's look at ADA compliance as an example. No one could have envisioned that when that building was built. I would guess that it will take several hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring that building up to code. Then there will be normal start-up costs associated with any business. When you start adding it all up, who in their right mind would do that. So many posters have said things like, "force the owner to fix it and charge them the same tax rate". If it were that easy. The owner will only do it if it makes economic sense and right now it doesn't. Leaving the building vacant will drag down neighboring businesses. Homeless hang out there, graffiti, etc. It adds up. The bottom line is a vibrant downtown is an asset to the entire community. Government hinders businesses by passing new requirements, requirements that are good and needed. It's not unreasonable to give them some incentive to do what's best for everyone.

deec 3 years, 8 months ago

If the building doesn't meet city codes, and being boarded up with rotting plywood I doubt it does, it seems the city code enforcement officers ought to cite it, just as a homeowner who neglects to maintain their property is cited and compelled to repair. Has no one complained to the city about this neglected property? Does it meet basic city codes? If not, why has it not been cited? Regular people who fail to keep up their properties get tickets and either fix the issue or the city demolishes. Homeowners and other property owners downtown maintain their investment on their own dime; why should this particular property be any different?

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

I would guess that buildings have different codes that need to be met if they are open vs. if they are closed. Obviously, this building does not have to be wheelchair accessible until it actually opens. While closed, they don't have to meet that standard.
Again, bringing this particular building up to code will be very expensive, hence the request for an abatement. It's either that or allow it to sit and become a bigger problem.

deec 3 years, 8 months ago

I understand ADA compliance is not an issue for an unoccupied building. But just because it is unoccupied should not excuse it from basic city building codes (roof in good condition, not infested with wildlife, no broken windows, etc.). If this building does not meet those codes, then it should be cited and the owner compelled to bring it up to code, just as homeowners are required to do. The fact that it would cost the owner money to make it a viable business venue is not the city's problem. The owner took on the risk of turning a profit on this building, and any expenses incurred to make it profitable are his alone.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

Well, I was thinking of things going on inside the building. Things like electrical, plumbing, etc. Those codes are always changing, and any new business will likely have to start from scratch with those things.

deec 3 years, 8 months ago

But this is true for any new business. They have to meet the codes in effect at the time they opt to open their business. Homeowners are required to meet codes as well. Ought every property owner in Lawrence be allowed to upgrade their property at the city's expense, benefit from increased equity those upgrades provide, and pay property taxes on the unimproved value? If this benefit is not available for every property owner, then it should not be available for the temple's owner. He wants to make money on his investment. So does every other property owner, whether commercial or residential. If the building fails to meet the codes I mentioned, then the owner should be cited. if he fails to comply, the building could be condemned and/or taken by eminent domain.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

Suppose the government passed a rule that every home in the city must become ADA compliant. Every bathroom in every home must be wheelchair accessible. Every home needs to have ramps. The electrical and plumbing needs to be updated periodically. The economics of homeownership would substantially change. No one would choose to buy a home. That's what happens with businesses. That building presumably was built up to code when it was built. Why the change in rules after the game has begun? Well, there are valid reasons to change the rules. But maybe government can help offset some of the negative effects of the rules they have imposed. Unless you are calling for homes to have constantly changing rules, it's not a fair comparison.

deec 3 years, 8 months ago

Again, I am not referring to ADA. I'm referring to basic codes as outlined above. If the building fails ton meet those codes, then the owner should be treated as every other business owner and homeowner is treated. He should be cited and the city could condemn the property and take it. Every business faces changes to electrical, etc codes, but not every business has their hand out asking the taxpayers to finance their improvements. surely this owner was aware that the building would need upgrades prior to purchasing it. It is not the taxpayers' responsibility to finance his businesses. ADA has been the law since 1990.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

How is giving them what they ask for a compromise?

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

Consider the real life alternatives. Not what's best in theory or in principal. A building left to sit, unoccupied for a long period of time will make a problem into a bigger problem. Just saying bring it up to code so we can maximize our tax collection will not make it so. The building will remain a boarded up eyesore. That will have negative consequences to neighbors and to downtown in general.
Use a carrot to encourage the building owner to do what will have a positive effect on all of downtown rather than using a stick at which point they will keep the building boarded up, attracting homeless panhandlers and graffiti.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

It's not a compromise to simply give them what they're asking for.

A compromise would be something in between that and nothing at all, or punitive tax policies.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

A compromise could be defined as them getting a tax abatement and we get an enhanced downtown.
I think you need to remember, that building in it's current state is an eyesore, but it certainly does not rise to the level of a public nuisance. It could languish in it's current state for years, even decades. In the long run, the city will get less tax money than if there was a thriving business. And what about the neighbors. If two or three businesses decide they don't want to be next to that eyesore (again, with homeless panhandlers, graffiti, etc.), it will start diminishing values of even the new project on New Hampshire St.
The government changes the rules in the middle of the game. Passing laws like the ADA after buildings are already built substantially changes the economics of operating a business. The city can't waive those rules, but they can help offset it's effects. But let me ask you something, if these abatements are not given and the current owners simply decide to keep the building substantially as it is now, who benefits? And if it takes a decade or two until the problem becomes so bad that government intervention becomes necessary, then who benefits?

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

I completely disagree.

They're asking for something, and if we simply give it to them, there's no way that's a compromise.

If I ask you for $100, and you give it to me, is that a compromise?

I've said before, I think we should institute policies that actively discourage owners from doing this sort of thing, in the form of tax penalties. The way the tax code works now, not only are they not penalized, but I believe they can get some tax deductions from the situation.

Was the ADA passed after the current owner bought the building, about ten years ago? I think not.

So, he knew that the building would have to be brought up to those standards when he bought it.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

Yes, the new owners knew that they would have to comply with all code upgrades, including ADA. They also knew that revitalization programs are available to assist businesses when significantly important projects need assistance. That's what they're asking for now.
The argument that they knew about it when they purchased, you're not suggesting that businesses be exempt from new rules and taxes that all gov't. entities might impose in the future, are you? That they be locked in at what the rates are at purchase? That won't happen, nor should it. But again I ask, if the best economic decision they could make is to keep that building boarded up, an eyesore to say the least, but not a public nuisance, then who benefits?

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

You're the one who claimed that ADA compliance created some sort of burden that wasn't known about when the building was built.

If it was known about when the building was purchased, then it's a non-issue.

Well, "grandfathering" is a well-known practice, as far as city codes, etc. are concerned - do you think we should do away with that?

That's why we need to make that not their best economic decision, as I've said.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

I just drove past the building. It's a small eyesore, but nowhere near the point where government intervention is necessary. It would be a perfectly legitimate business decision to let it languish for a couple of decades. Pay their taxes based upon it's current low evaluation. That's a classic lose/lose situation. Or we can give them a tax abatement. They continue to pay taxes based upon it's current low evaluation. A thriving business is put there. They pay taxes based upon the goods and services they provide. They employ a certain number of people who also pay taxes. They spend money, some of which will probably be downtown. Neighboring businesses benefit by the increased traffic and then pay more taxes. Property in the neighborhood increase in value, more tax money. A win/win. I'd rather use a carrot, you're advocating using a stick. I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

Yes, I advocate a stick in this situation.

I am against tax abatements.

The city doesn't give me a tax abatement when I buy a house, fix it up (employing a variety of people to do so), increase the value, etc.

I pay for all of that, and increased taxes if the improvement is significant.

We need to do something so that it's not a "perfectly legitimate business decision" to let property sit empty and deteriorate.

But I definitely don't want to reward those who do just that with tax abatements, and subsidizing improvements they may make.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

The repairs you're going to make on your home are voluntarily done, not imposed by government. But that aside, how exactly are you going to force the building owner to do anything. As long as the property sits as just an eyesore, and not a public nuisance, isn't it his right to just let it sit, even for twenty years? It's not until conditions get so bad that they require government intervention that any stick can or should be used. If you're going to say that ownership carries responsibilities, don't they also carry rights? What do you propose, take away his property? Fine him for maintaining an ugly building? Outlaw plywood? Force him to bring the building up to code even though he plans to keep the building boarded up? What sort of a stick are you going to use?

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

I'd use whatever will work to produce the desired outcome.

Do we want people buying buildings like the Masonic Temple, and letting them sit boarded up for decades while they deteriorate to the point at which they have to be demolished?

I'd say we don't want that.

The biggest stick would be a simple requirement that those who buy commercial real estate must bring those buildings up to current code within a specified period of time.

Another possibility would be tax penalties, as I've mentioned several times, that punish those who let their property sit empty and deteriorate - that would encourage them not to do that.

Somebody above suggested that the city should seize the property with a "blight ordinance".

The point is, that if we do nothing, allow it to happen, and then reward that decision with tax abatements and subsidies for improvements, we are rewarding the behavior we don't like.

That can only serve to increase it, not decrease it, according to basic behavioral psychology.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

You say you do not want people buying buildings like that and then leaving them to deteriorate. That sounds good in theory, but once a person has spent their own money on a property, isn't it their choice to do with it what they want as long as it doesn't constitute a public nuisance? Suppose I bought a building (residential or commercial) hoping values would increase in a couple of years. Why can't I leave it vacant during that time? Having a locked in lease might diminish the value. Why can't I buy farm land just outside of town thinking development will drive up the price in a few years? Must I farm the land in the interim? Until it's a hazard, isn't my right to do, or not do with my property what I want? In it's current state and with it's current use, what laws is this building owner breaking?

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

If that were true, we'd have a "free market", which you argued against initially. Zoning regulations, for one thing, limit what you can and can't do with your property.

Why? The idea is that neighbors, and the city as a whole, have legitimate concerns, and are affected by what decisions property owners make - that we don't live in isolated bubbles.

Farmland seems to me it's in a somewhat different category, in that your decision will probably not affect your neighbors much, if at all.

Using your example, what if the building doesn't increase in value in a couple of years, so you leave it a couple more, etc. And then, like Compton, you say that you can't afford to improve it without tax abatements and city subsidies. Why should we reward you for your poor investment decisions?

I think the idea is that having a bunch of vacant, unused spaces isn't good for downtown, or other parts of the city - Tanger mall, for one.

But I understand your concern about the rights of the owners.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm not against people making bad business decisions and suffering the consequences. And I'm not against zoning regulations. But I think there are opportunities for government and business to work together where both will benefit. I think this is one of those opportunities. As I stated earlier in this thread, a vibrant business here will put more money into the tax coffers than a vacant building. More jobs, more spending downtown, all these things will benefit the city as a whole, even beyond this business and the tax base. It's a win/win. If all that's preventing that is the principle that businesses should not get tax abatements, then it reminds me of that old saying about cutting off your nose to spite you face. But I respect your point of view. We all have principles we are willing to compromise on and others we are not.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

It's not just the principle.

It's the fact that it rewards behavior we want to discourage, and will thus increase that behavior.

If folks buying real estate knew that they wouldn't be able to get this sort of help, they'd make different, and better decisions, and wouldn't let properties sit and deteriorate in the first place.

Especially if we had a tax policy that actively discouraged that, as well.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

One more thought - if the evaluation is low, then their purchase was made at a low price, and they should have money to make necessary improvements.

If not, they overpaid, which was dumb.

scopi_guy 3 years, 8 months ago

About 10 years ago, I saw a woman's head (one of those plastic heads that people in beauty school practice on) on top of the roof of that building. On top of that was a framework in the shape of a star with lights all over it. I have no idea what was up with that. I'm pretty sure it was when it was still being used as the Mason's lodge. Once a week, you'd see elderly people going in there and they were usually pretty dressed up.

JustNoticed 3 years, 8 months ago

I suppose we're lucky Doug hasn't burned it down yet.

Gareth Skarka 3 years, 8 months ago

A Wedding Chapel and Reception Hall?

Yeah, that's a GREAT plan for using the building....

...if we were still living in 1974.

BigPrune 3 years, 8 months ago

As I said before, that building is NOT a treasure. It needs to be wiped clean off the earth. It has stairs that go up from the sidewalk and it has those hideous columns. In my youth, that building scared me because I thought it had dead people in it - like a mausoleum. There's a thought, if the hysterical society people need to keep the exterior just like it has been for 100 years, turn that ugly building into a mausoleum. They can use the broken Reuter organ for tombside services. If it looks like a duck, and acts like a duck, it is a duck - not a wedding reception hall.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

All incentives should be provided by the property owners NOT the taxpayers!

Tony Kisner 3 years, 8 months ago

They should lease it to a group of people who like to gather, have common interest and perform charity work. Also if they could wear funny hats, have secret rituals and ride little motor cycles in local parades. I think this type of group would put the space to good use.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

Weddings? How may more wedding spaces can be necessary? The old library,train depot,on the, hill in the churchs...... Let's get real.

Kansas City,Mo is cutting back on tax dollar give aways. They appear NOT to be paying back the taxpayers.

This Masonic Lodge deal will never pay back the taxpayers. Neither will the architecture tax dollar deal.

Where in the world will people park for a wedding or any other special event? Are we taxpayers about to get hit AGAIN for more free parking? The 9th and New Hampshire and the Treanor Architecture deal are getting a ton of free parking no matter how it is described.

Isn't it questionable how one development group can grab so many tax dollar give aways in such a short period of time? Now all of a sudden socialism is acceptable? Do First Management and their owners pay taxes? Or do they enjoy tax dollar havens? Is First Management behind on personal property taxes?

The real estate/developer industry is the only one who makes out big time and they know it. This is where the tax dollar incentives should come from. The real estate/developer industry should sweeten the deal for their customers not the taxpayers who are on the losing end and need money for public schools,libraries,new sidewalks in old Lawrence neighborhoods,Bert Nash,Health Care Access etc etc etc.

I say First Management should sweeten the deal for Maceli's not me or other taxpayers.

The three projects named above are not a real problem for me in and of themselves. Shouldn't wealthy corporations stand on their own two feet?

BruceWayne 3 years, 8 months ago

Compton is pretty smart, I will give him that. He gets Maceli and the tax payers to help with the renovations. He then kicks Maceli to the curb, and puts his bank in there like he has wanted to do all along. D & D Tires will soon be a bank drive through for Dougs bank. The city will be building the banks parking with our tax dollars.( did you REALLY think you were voting for a library?) Compton a media fave of the LJW, but to this day not a word about HIS zebra ripping off that young mans arm. I would think it newsworthy that he then shot the zebra, it jumped the fence, and died in Bill Selfs back yard.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

Time to do away with all Free Lunch's! Lawrence Taxpaying Voters should weed out the city hall “Free Lunch” program!

Here’s what happens. http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans

http://www.uua.org/events/generalassembly/2008/commonthreads/115777.shtml

============================================================== Tax abatements do not attract firms or retain business. The enforcement of tax abatements in Lawrence is shameful with the majority of abated firms failing to perform as promised and the City doing nothing. It makes Lawrence the laughing stock of site selection officers. Yet our employee, the Chamber of Commerce, continues to advocate for this failed program.

Kirk McClure

funkdog1 3 years, 8 months ago

I like Steve. He's a great businessman and a great asset to this community. But I have a huge problem with what he's asking. Basically, he's asking on behalf of his potential landlords for handouts from the city.

Why? Compton can afford to bring the building up to ADA standards. Compton could afford to install sprinklers. (Shouldn't he HAVE to? Why does the leasee have to do that?) Compton could afford to work out a deal with Steve wherein Steve paid a lower lease amount for the first ten years and then would agree to pay more after he'd built up his business. I mean, the building is sitting there empty, right? So some rent is better than zero rent.

Why can't this be worked out in the private sector? Why does the city have to get involved? This is where big business ends up screwing the average citizen out of our tax dollars, then making a killing and walking away.

pizzapete 3 years, 8 months ago

You bring up some great points here funkdog1 and I agree with all of them.

Worldtourphoto 3 years, 8 months ago

Apparently the LJWorld reported the incident, if not the location. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/jul...

Richard Heckler 3 years, 7 months ago

Let the Voters Decide When Spending Their Tax Dollars! Why ?

Simply because the Chamber,City Commission and Planning Commission cannot seem to make the most practical and prudent decisions.

Let The Voters Decide every November!

Residential growth does not pay for itself because the funding of revenues generated by residential does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

*Yes or No on light industrial sites – Let The Voters Decide Every November!

Let the voters decide on new retail development. Being more than one million square feet over built is an indication voting taxpayers need to become an active part of the equation annually.

How many is the question?

Which sites are fiscally prudent?

What does the Cost of Community Services Indicate?

What do the market impact studies Indicate?

The only real urgency is the developers lack of patience and accustomed to getting their way upon demand which is usually at a cost to taxpayers with no real benefit in the end.

Are tax increases to increase the wealth of local developers considered a benefit .....NO!

Growth over the last 20 years has been promoted based on a "boom town economy" model = unsustainable and high taxes.

Why Do YOU Think Lawrence Economic Growth Is Lagging? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/sep/why_do_you_think_lawrence_growth_lagging/

Flap Doodle 3 years, 7 months ago

Wow! A 4 year old poll! Surely nothing's changed since then!

Richard Heckler 3 years, 7 months ago

I endorse Funkdog 1 for city commission ASAP!

Good thinker!!!

Grundoon Luna 3 years, 7 months ago

From what I understand the 8th Street Taproom guy wanted it for a music venue: The Sonic Temple. Which I thought was a fatasic idea. I also understnad the city said: NO! I bet he woudln't have come begging to the city for a handout. . . .

Commenting has been disabled for this item.