News and notes from around town:
• Have you been wondering what all that construction is near the intersection of Sixth Street and Stoneridge Drive? Well, it is nothing but the largest construction project in Lawrence in 2011. As we previously have reported, the site is set to become new apartments. The city has issued permits for $28.5 million worth of improvements related to the Hunter’s Ridge Apartments. The project includes a clubhouse, detached garages and nine apartment buildings that will house a total of 300 apartments. The project basically will stretch from Stoneridge to Queens. The development group — Kelly Enterprises — is from outside the Lawrence area. I tried to get in touch with it back in April when we first reported on this project, but with no luck. If I catch up with them, I’ll let you know more. The $28.5 million project makes it the largest in the city by far this year. If you are scoring at home, here are the top five largest projects issued building permits:
- Hunter’s Ridge Apartments, $28.5 million.
- Bowersock North Power Plant, $11.3 million.
- Comfort Inn & Suites, 150 N. Iowa, $3.3 million.
- Wastewater Treatment Plant improvement, 1408 E. Eighth, $3.1 million.
- LMH kitchen renovation, 325 Maine, $2.6 million.
• The apartment project gave Lawrence’s building totals quite a boost in September, but the city’s single-family home building industry continued to struggle as much as ever. The city’s latest building permit report shows only four permits for single-family homes/duplexes were issued in September. For the year, the city has issued 84 permits for single-family/duplex units. That’s down from 137 — a drop of 38 percent — from the same period a year ago. The total also is below the 2009 and 2008 levels of 93 and 103, respectively. But when you factor in apartment construction, Lawrence is having its best year in quite awhile when it comes to adding new places for people to live. Including single family, duplexes and apartment, the city has issued permits for 447 new living units. That’s up from 348 in 2010, 265 in 2009 and 434 in 2008.
• On the home-selling front, Lawrence’s real estate market basically held steady in September. According to the Lawrence Board of Realtors, 70 sales were booked in September. That’s down from 71 in September 2010. As has been the trend lately, the number of newly constructed homes sold has been minuscule. Realtors sold just three newly built homes in September.
For the year, Realtors have recorded 860 sales, which is down nearly 15 percent from 2010 and about 10 percent from 2009. Sales of newly built homes total 51. That’s down 40 percent from a year ago and 22 percent from two years ago. The median number of days a home sits on the market is now at 60, up from 40 during the same time period a year ago, an up from 45 in 2009. But curiously, there is one number that is not showing signs of decline. The median selling price of homes is holding basically steady from a year ago. The median selling price checks in at $157,500, compared to $158,000 through September of 2010. That data is telling a different story than what the Douglas County Appraiser’s office is seeing.
As we previously reported, the Douglas County Appraiser’s office has indicated it is seeing a decline in property values. Some government leaders are bracing for a 3 percent to 4 percent drop in the county’s property tax base. The county appraiser, of course, is trying to make a judgment about the value of every home in the county, not just those that are for sale, so perhaps that has something to do with the differences. But the Board of Realtors is standing by its finding that the prices buyers are willing to pay haven’t dropped considerably.
“If anything, the average sale price and the median sale price have remained flat or increased just a small amount since 2009,” said Bob Kocour, president of the Realtors group.
• Well, Happy Halloween, and here’s hoping that you have your costume already picked out. The scariest costume I ever wore was that of a groom. I got married on the day before Halloween, 12 years ago. You may not be up to that type of fright, but if you are looking for something a little spooky with a local feel, here’s a video for you. As we previously reported, The Eldridge Hotel was featured on national television on the show "My Ghost Story," which airs on The Biography Channel. It has already aired, but if you are like me, you might have missed it. There was a KU football game on that night, which provided all the chills I needed. But I watched it recently and it was pretty interesting. Former Lawrence mayor and current Eldridge executive David Longhurst was the Lawrence person interviewed for the show. Longhurst comes right out and says he’s pretty convinced that the spirit of Col. Shalor Eldridge still occupies the hotel.
“There is something going on at The Eldridge Hotel that cannot be explained in normal terms,” Longhurst told the show.
The show cites several examples, including an old promotional photo that shows what appears to be a shadowy, mist-like figure in the Eldridge’s elevator. The show also recounts the story of an Eldridge bell boy who went into a basement storage room of the hotel — the room where Col. Eldridge’s favorite chair is stored — and found a figure sitting in it. Longhurst hasn’t seen that, but he said he thinks there is something up with the chair. He said the room it is stored in is extremely dusty, yet the chair never seems to collect any dust. (My wife may soon invite this ghost to our house.)
One of the bigger story lines of the piece is about room 506. Longhurst has a pretty interesting opinion about that room too.
“We think 506 is the portal that spirits can come in an out of the hotel through,” Longhurst said.
Well, would they, though, if you hung up the “do not disturb” sign? (See, I’m a problem solver.) Longhurst told the show a story about how he tried to enter the room, but it was locked from the inside, even though, no one was in the room. No human, anyway.
The show also includes a paranormal investigator who definitely believes a spirit occupies The Eldridge. He has some sound recordings that he finds interesting, some odd images on film, and he measured a 14 degree drop in temperature in three minutes in one room. He said that was a sign of paranormal activity.
You can watch the whole show here. There are several other ghost stories that are part of this episode. The Eldridge’s story begins at about the seven-minute mark.
Here's hoping your spirits are contained tonight. (A glass and ice generally contain mine just fine.)