News and notes from around town:
• Keep your eye on the corner of 27th and Iowa streets. News in the development community is that several sets of assessments are being done on the vacant lot that is at the northeast corner of the intersection. Speculation is that the tenant most interested in the site is The Olive Garden Italian restaurant chain. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve chased down an Olive Garden rumor over the last decade, I would have at least seven or eight dollars. But I’ve decided to pass this one along because I’ve heard it from a couple of reliable sources now, and there’s no doubt the site — which years ago used to house a Mazzio’s pizza restaurant — is being actively marketed. Mission-based MD Management — the same group that is working to redevelop several properties near 23rd and Ousdahl — has been shopping the property. The site also is adjacent to the vacant Plum Tree Chinese restaurant site, which means there is a decent amount of vacant real estate on a corner that gets lots of traffic headed to and from South Iowa Street’s big box stores. I’ve got a call into MD Management. No word on whether an Olive Garden would want a special taxing district to help pay for development costs. That is what has been proposed for the area near 23rd and Ousdahl. I’ll let you know if I hear anything.
• It is only one month, but January was a good one for the local real estate market. According to new numbers from the Lawrence Board of Realtors, 54 homes sold in January. That’s up nearly 59 percent from January 2010, when 34 homes sold. The median selling price also was up about 2.8 percent from about $141,000 a year ago to about $145,000 this year. But that number can be a little deceiving because it includes three new homes that sold for about $300,000 on average. When you look at only existing homes that sold — in other words, delete newly constructed homes — the median sales price dropped slightly from $140,000 in 2010 to $139,900. In case you are keeping score at home, that is fairly close to what the county appraiser said homeowners should expect when their change of value notices get mailed later this month.
Even though it is just a one-month snapshot, some in the real estate industry think it might be a sign that the market is beginning to strengthen again. That’s in part because December’s numbers also were up after what was generally considered a very slow fall real estate market in Lawrence.
• A once-closed south Massachusetts Street convenience store has reopened. The former Shell gasoline station at 1733 Mass. is back open under new ownership and a new name. It now goes by Mass. Stop and is owned by R&R Enterprises. The location, however, continues to operate under the Shell banner. But according to an employee at the store, it has changed its gasoline offerings. Previously, the store sold only gasoline that was ethanol free, which often resulted in its price per gallon being higher than other stations. The station still offers ethanol-free gasoline, but it also offers a more conventional blend that contains ethanol and is more comparable to what is sold elsewhere.
• While one convenience store has reopened, another has closed. But perhaps not for long. The BP station at 914 Iowa Street is no longer open, according to an employee with Topeka-based Haag Oil Company. He said Haag — which owns several stations throughout northeast Kansas — has signed a contract to sell the property. A name of the buyer wasn’t released, but the Haag Oil official confirmed that it is being bought by a company that is in the gasoline business.
“But what they plan on doing with the site, I don’t know,” the Haag employee said.