News and notes from around town:
• Fans of the breakfast hot spot First Watch should rest a little easier. An executive with First Watch’s corporate office has confirmed to me that the restaurant at 2540 Iowa St. definitely will reopen. Town Talk previously reported that First Watch closed, but the landlord of the shopping center was optimistic the corporate offices would take over the operations and reopen in one to two weeks.
Chris Tomasso, chief marketing officer for First Watch, told me that is still the plan, but he doesn’t yet have an exact date the restaurant will re-open. But he said the company has made the decision that it absolutely wants to continue on with the Lawrence location.
“No, no, no,” Tomasso said when asked whether the company was having second thoughts. “We are full steam ahead on re-opening that restaurant.”
Tomasso said the company has renegotiated a lease for the location, and that it is now focusing on making some upgrades to the interior, such as new tables, chairs and carpeting.
• There are all types of numbers coming out of the Douglas County Appraiser’s office these days. Here’s a look at several
- Despite a real estate market that has been less than stellar and construction activity that is still below its historic levels, the county’s total assessed valuation is up. Assessed valuation is simply a fancy way of saying the value of all real estate in the county. The appraiser’s office determines the value as of Jan. 1 of each year. For Jan. 1, 2011, the appraiser’s office determined the county’s total real estate value was $1.02 billion. That’s up from $1.01 billion in 2010, or an increase of about 1.1 percent. The numbers aren’t yet final, though. Property owners still have the chance to appeal their values. That process usually reduces the total valuation number by about 1 percent. The numbers are key for two reasons: They are one half of the equation in determining how much property owners pay in property taxes, and they are heavily used by area governments in setting their budgets for 2012. I like them, though, because they provide an interesting snapshot of just how much Lawrence’s real estate industry has grown. Consider these numbers. In 2011, the total value of real estate was $1.02 billion. In 2001, it was $644 million and in 1996 it was $409 million.
- The total value of residential real estate in the county is $703 million. That’s up about $7.6 million from 2010 or about 1 percent. The total value of commercial real estate is $261.2 million. That’s up about $2.5 million or 0.9 percent. The balance is agricultural ground, farmsteads, vacant land and other miscellaneous categories. Community leaders long have been saying the overall percentage of commercial property needs to grow in order to take pressure off residential taxpayers. That didn’t happen this year. Commercial property accounted for 25.6 percent of the county’s tax base in 2011, which was basically unchanged from 2010.
- There is a difference in home prices in Douglas County’s four cities. Here’s a look at the median values for 2011 compared to 2010. Baldwin City: $147,300, up from $146,450. Eudora: $145,370, down from $146,760. Lecompton: $104,910, up from $101,600. Lawrence: $163,200, down from $163,705. Rural: $195,780 up from $191,645.
- There are different prices for different styles of houses too. According to a new study by the appraiser’s office, Victorian style houses have the highest median value in Douglas County at $398,395. Condominiums have the lowest median value at $84,800. Ranch style houses are the most prevalent in the county. They have a median value of $153,400.
See, I told you there were a lot of numbers out there. I’ll be off tomorrow, so Town Talk will return on Monday. Hopefully then we’ll have one other number to talk about — 16, as in the Sweet 16.