A prominent building along the banks of the Kansas River can be yours to use for $1.3 million.
The operator of the Abe & Jakes Landing building — which is just east of City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., and just west of the former Riverfront Mall — is looking for someone to take over his long-term lease after he spent about 10 years renovating the building that used to house a barbed-wire factory in Lawrence’s early days.
“I don’t live in Lawrence anymore and it is just really hard to maintain an active business there because of that,” said former Lawrence businessman Mike Elwell, who now lives in Florida.
Technically, the city owns the 24,000-square-foot building and the real estate along the south banks of the Kaw. But Elwell has a low-cost lease with the city that allows him to operate businesses out of the building until 2087. That lease is what’s for sale.
Elwell has operated a college-oriented nightclub out of the building for years, but he said the nightclub is now only open about one night per week. He said most of the business’ revenue comes from wedding receptions and other private party rentals.
He hopes some type of similar use can be found for the building in the future, but he said he hasn’t yet had a large number of inquires.
“We’ve had a couple of inquires, but I can’t say that we’ve had anybody who has been really serious at this point,” Elwell said. “The economy has put everybody in a holding pattern.”
Elwell said he will continue to operate the business until he finds a buyer. He also said any deal will be structured in a way to honor contracts Abe & Jakes has with people who have booked the facility for a wedding reception or other event.
Elwell said he’s open to working out a deal for the city to take over the building. The city currently leases office space at several location around the city — including for Municipal Court, parks and recreation, and the development services division.
While City Manager David Corliss said he’s aware of the building’s availability and likes its location, he is not in any active discussions with Elwell about it. Although the city owns the building, it would still need to pay Elwell to transfer the lease because Elwell is not interested in walking away from the agreement. Corliss also said costs to renovate the building for office use could be significant.
The building does have several unique features, including 50-foot high ceilings in most places. Elwell began working on the building in 1991 after securing a deal with the city to lease the building in exchange for making it habitable again. The lease does require Elwell to pay the city $4,800 per year for parking considerations in the city parking garage that is adjacent to the building. He completed work on the building in about 2002.
“It took a lot longer to finish than I initially thought,” Elwell said. “When we started, there were a couple of raccoons living in it, 400 pigeons and I don’t know how many derelicts crawling in and out of it.”
Elwell estimated he spent more than $2 million on the renovation.