Archive for Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Town Talk: Oread apartment project on the ropes over historic preservation concerns; city delayed in producing compost; woodchip sale set

September 21, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

• Look for an episode of This Old House to play out soon at Lawrence City Hall. (No guarantees, but maybe commissioners will wear Norm Abram-style flannel.) At issue is whether an old house in the Oread Neighborhood ought to be moved a few dozen feet to make way for a new apartment complex. As we previously have reported, a development group led by Thomas Fritzel has filed plans to add about 50 units of apartments at 1043 Ind. But there is a catch. The development group says it needs to move the old Varsity House, a 1908 Dutch-Colonial Revival style home, in order to make the project work. Last week, the city’s Historic Resources Commission disagreed. Moving the house a bit farther north down the block would change the “historic environs” of the area, the group decided on a 5-2 vote. Local architect Paul Werner confirmed to me Tuesday night that the development group will appeal the decision to the Lawrence City Commission. There are two interesting issues here. (Well, not Tommy Silva showing us how to mud drywall type of interesting, but interesting nonetheless.) One, is the history of the house. In addition to it being old, it has a neat story. It is called the Varsity house because it once was used by KU to house the varsity football players. (Insert your own joke here.) But its more significant history is related to its designer, Harriet Tanner. It was unusual for a women to be in the business of designing houses in the early 1900s, but she ended up designing and financing about a dozen homes for KU professors. The activity must have had an impact on her son Edward Tanner because he went on to become an architect and the chief designer for the famed Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. But the second interesting angle here is the planned apartment complex. The approximately 50-unit development would be a first-of-its-kind for Oread because it would provide underground parking for its residents. The issue of inadequate off-street parking in Oread is older than Bob Vila’s mustache, and this development is trying to prove that there is a feasible way to address that in some cases. My understanding is that the neighbors have not been particularly opposed to this project. Instead, the concern has come from the Lawrence Preservation Alliance over the moving of the house. Developers originally had proposed to tear the house down (although the Historic Resources Commission could block that too, I’m told by city staff). Now, city commissioners will be asked to decide whether there is a “feasible and prudent” alternative to moving the house. (I think the people who make historic preservation law just like to watch me sit through long meetings. Can you think of two words that have more subjectivity built into them than feasible and prudent?) Anyway, no word yet on when that debate will go before city commissioners.

• If you’re like me (and if you are, then I’ll have my wife come over and yell at you), you’ve been thinking about compost lately. As in when is the city (not city commissioners mind you) going to offer up some compost? Well, the answer is later than normal. I’ve gotten word that the excessive heat and dry weather over the summer caused the city’s composting process to go slower than normal. But the city now has set dates for the popular sale. It will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 20 and Oct. 21 (a Thursday and a Friday), and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 22, a Saturday. (The city often runs out before 4 p.m.) The city sells the compost — which breaks down from the leaves and grass clippings the city picks up each week — for $10 a truck load. The sale is at the city’s mulch and compost lot at 1420 E. 11th St., which is just east of 11th and Haskell.

• I also have mulch on my mind a lot. (It is a lot of fun to be me.) According to the Parks and Recreation Department’s web site, their woodchip sale is coming up. It is set from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct 6 and Oct. 7 ( a Thursday and a Friday) and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 8, a Saturday. It also sells for $10 per pickup load. It, too, is at 1420 E. 11th St. — the No. 1 party spot in town for all gardeners and landscapers.


TNPlates 6 years, 8 months ago

Chad, I sure hope you have an understanding wife! While I enjoy your pokes at her, I hope for the sake of your marriage she finds them funny, too. I enjoy your column.

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 8 months ago

Thanks. I just hope she doesn't figure out how to create her own user account for Chad

somedude20 6 years, 8 months ago

dont worry sure that her posts would be deleted by your co-workers

d_prowess 6 years, 8 months ago

At some point, Chad's wife HAS to be allowed to submit a short response on what it is like to be married to Chad! That would be hilarious!

Alceste 6 years, 8 months ago

What I want to know is when are we as a community going to designate Jayhawk Towers as historical given the "varsity football players" used to live there? Heck....maybe they still do.....that's not important.....where they live NOW.....that will be historical later; what is important is where they USED to live and it was Jayhawk Towers. That's a historical landmark. It's got to be.

kshiker 6 years, 8 months ago

You have to love the communists telling a private property owner what he cannot do with his or her property just because it will infringe upon the non-existent "environs" of another property. I sincerely hope the City Commission overturns this horrible decision.

pizzapete 6 years, 8 months ago

Yea, they should totally be able to put an airport there if that's what they want. Damn Capitalist regulations!

kshiker 6 years, 8 months ago

As long as I follow all local zoning and other valid land use regulations, why should I be required to restrict the use of my property to protect the "environs" of someone else's property?

irvan moore 6 years, 8 months ago

the oread neighborhood is an interesting place if you like run down houses and crowded streets and broken glass, if they wanted to save it they should have done it 40 years ago, it's a little late. i don't think the commission should be able to pick and chose which historic places to protect and which to surrender to developers, one set of rules for all would make a level playing field. i'm taking developer for a five spot on the commission approving this.

flyin_squirrel 6 years, 8 months ago

Lawrence doesn't need a Historic Resources Commission. We have very few historic structures that really need saving. The HRC is another reason nobody wants to invest money in Lawrence, and when they do, they have to ask for tax breaks to make the numbers work.

The Varsity House is historic because it was built by a women and housed the football team? I want to know what history class or book has that information, and how that has transformed the history of Lawrence.

flyin_squirrel 6 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for the info, but all you did was prove my point. Tear it down, calling it historic is like calling a tom cat a lion, big stretch....

MISTERTibbs 6 years, 8 months ago

I was wondering about that too. Seems like a limit should be set for the first day, maybe two, to allow others the opportunity to buy. I'd also like to know if there is a residency requirement to buy. Seems like I see trucks heading out of town loaded down with the compost.

down_the_river 6 years, 8 months ago

If the suggestions from the folks who own the landfill site are adopted by the City, the compost sales may become a thing of the past. The quarry owners want all the organic wastes to help boost methane production at the landfill, rather than see the City process it for compost. So, even though this may be a poor round of compost due to the weather conditions, it might be a good opportunity to haul some home while it's still available.

LivedinLawrence4Life 6 years, 8 months ago

The developer always has the option (like Larry Brown and Doug Compton - who walks around like Woody from Toy Story by the way - did with the Masonic Temple) to let the property deteriorate for 10 years. Then, the city commission will give the developer a huge tax break to revitalize it. The Fritzel's are just starting too early on this project I guess?

LivedinLawrence4Life 6 years, 8 months ago

The argument that "There are already too many apartments" doesn't fly because these are privately owned properties in a free market. If the developers think that they can build a better quality place to live compared to what is currently existing, then let them build them and then the consumer choose where to live. As a potential renter, I want more choices and some newly built choices and not just old apartments because "there are already enough apartments". Also, if the developers do overbuild, then they must reduce rent to get the properties filled up, thus we get the affordable housing that we have been asking for.

jafs 6 years, 8 months ago

Has the overbuilding actually resulted in lower rents?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

I could tell you the whole story about the house you mentioned that was called "The Enchanted Cottage" (partly because of all the stained glass) on Tennessee Street because I knew the owner personally, and just before the so-called "renovation" he offered to sell me the property for $40,000 on contract. Length of contract? He didn't care. He just wanted his name off the property, even though it had been his deceased grandmother's house since I don't know when, but at least since before 1920.

The purchase price of $40,000 included the lot next to it, which was part of the property. I don't think it was ever platted out by the city to be a separate lot. I should have taken him up on it!

The reason he wanted his name off of it was because he could no longer purchase liability insurance on the property at any price. He considered the house to be worthless, and I'm sure he was correct. It was the lots that were valuable, because of their location.

Anyone that either knew anything about what was actually done with the house or watched it in the process would know that what was done was hardly a renovation at all. Only fragments of the original gingerbread and parts of the second story structure were still there when it was finished, so to even think of it as the same house is a joke.

Here's a phrase that completely describes the end result of the "renovation" project:

Cute, but very, very expensive.

It was only by building another house on what used to be the garden that made doable, and even then it was financially feasible only in an accountant's fantasies.

Actually, what I would have wanted was his grandmother's car - a 1950 Studebaker convertible!

zackattackku 6 years, 8 months ago

The fact that Fritzel and Werner even are considering not tearing it down is great to me as a friend and I did a documentary on the house and the need for not constantly demolishing old buildings that can still serve a useful purpose. I liked the idea of moving it because at least it would be spared demolition. The LPA told me that was out of the question because they could forget getting tax breaks for restoring it and it would no longer be in its original context. That being said if moving it is out of the question my advice to Fritzel and Werner would be to flip the project around and have the new building on the other side of the structure rather than moving the house so that the new building dominates the corner. Let the old house dominate the corner like it has for the past 100 or so years.

Alceste 6 years, 8 months ago

zackattackku (Zach Ingalls) says "Let the old house dominate the corner like it has for the past 100 or so years."

Yeah? So what? Simply because it's there makes it "historical" and "important" and, hence, able to "call the shots" all about the neighborhood?

These Historical Resources Commission people need to be replaced after first being soundly dressed down for their prior idiotic and emotive decision making.

OMG: Underground parking? In Lawrence, Quantril-is-a-piece-of-history Kansas? Modern parking? We can't have that in sireebobcattail......bizness as usual.....meanwhile the Oread neighborhood rots as the infrastructure caves in; the alleys become more useless than they already are; the "quality of life" becomes a non-factor, unless you're a tea and crumpett, card carrying member of the mysterious Oread Neighborhood Residents Association (and then you go to fellow party members houses and cluck and lay eggs, as that's what hens in the barnyard do); and people willing to put money into the Oread Neighborhood, and who are thwarted at every turn in the road to change determine it's far more functional to just invest that money somewhere in East Topeka....aka West Lawrence.

I'm just about out of popcorn and cane sugar based Coca-Cola.....let me make a run to the store so I can stock up and watch this continuing train wreck......

Alceste 6 years, 8 months ago

well....the balance sheet IS ever increasing.....always " the black...." (can I say that here>><<<?????) and so far the City has not inspected the occupants. All is well.....all is well.....mind your own beeswax, please.....

zackattackku 6 years, 8 months ago

You can't widen that street. Not enough room to do it without tearing down either parking garages, buildings, or hillsides and lawns in the process. Reduce the traffic would help. If they wanted to align Indiana with Oread they should have done it before the monstrosity on the hill was built.

zackattackku 6 years, 8 months ago

I know quite a bit about Lawrence history and I thought you meant north south Indiana not east west 11th. Ask me a question about Lawrence history and I probably know it.

Clinton Laing 6 years, 8 months ago

"the monstrosity on the hill" is exactly that. It is a monument to the venality of the city government, and to a docile populace that allowed it to be built. The only virtuous action surrounding its construction was by the "anarchist" who managed to get a hose running into the pit being dug for its foundation, causing delay while waiting for it to dry out.

Seriously, "comes the revolution" this should be the first pile of cr4p to be dynamited.

kshiker 6 years, 8 months ago

You are right. The dilapidated Yello Sub and the Crossing were such an attractive piece of the neighborhood! How dare we have a hotel and meeting facility near campus capable of hosting groups visiting Lawrence and the university??? This truly is a travesty of epic proportions!

Kookamooka 6 years, 8 months ago

I don't think students will be able to afford these apartments. They are likely being built so alumni with money can live near the stadium on game day -too bad our team....well, you know the rest. (As if the Oread monstrosity wasn't enough) I'm betting the whole complex will be a party town. Mistressville.

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