Archive for Sunday, August 26, 2012

Preservation games

August 26, 2012


Who’s kidding whom?

A large apartment building is under construction at the northwest corner of 11th and Indiana streets. No doubt it will be a fine addition to the housing market, and, because of its location, it will be particularly attractive to Kansas University students.

There usually are numerous hurdles in Lawrence for any major development to overcome before getting the necessary approvals and for construction to begin. One obstacle or hurdle in this project was an early 1900s house located on the site. The house is known as “Varsity House” because it once served as a boarding house, with a large kitchen and dining area, for members of the KU football team.

Its true “historic” value can be debated but, in Lawrence, if someone or some group is committed to making “historic” an issue concerning a building or neighborhood, it becomes a high hurdle.

Those proposing the apartments initially gave differing views on the size and location of the project and how the Varsity House could be protected and preserved. It was decided that the structure would be moved to accommodate the apartment complex, but local preservationists were surprised when the developer decided to disassemble the structure and place its pieces in storage, saying it would be reassembled at the site, supposedly looking the same and maintaining its original appearance.

The only trouble, based on a pass-by look at the site, is that the only possible location for Varsity House will be on top of a concrete pad, probably surrounded by some fake green grass and probably not looking anything like the treasured and special original structure. It will have to be jammed into a small space next to the modern apartment complex. The outside shell of the building may retain its original appearance but the lower-level kitchen and dining area obviously will have to be eliminated or relocated, and there is no way the builder or architect will be able to duplicate the special ambiance, feeling, smell and atmosphere of the original structure where football players lived, relaxed and shared meals.

It will be interesting to remember the developer’s pledge and see how the rebuilt Varsity House will fit in with its large modern housing cousin.


joes_donuts 5 years, 7 months ago

Oh where to start...

First off, architecturally there wasn't anything worth saving in this house. You could have made an impossible indoor putt-putt off the uneven/sagging floors.

2) If they would have tried to move this house, it would have collapsed.

3) If they would have moved the house, the basements would have been gone anyway

4) "the special ambiance, feeling, smell and atmosphere" was an ambiance of the homeless shelter on 10th, the feeling of a building that needs to be burnt to the ground, the smell of mold/old carpet/dust/mouse droppings, and the atmosphere of a rundown structure.

5) the HRC in Lawrence has turned into a joke and needs to be disbanded (would save the city money, we can use the state for this service and not see a drop in the level of service we are getting now)

6) what did you expect from the developer who gave us 6 bars in a hotel, secret cell towers on a roof, fake grass even when he was told not to.

7) the only people to blame for this laughable structure we are going to see is the HRC, the City Planning Department, and the City Commission. Don't blame the developer for disassembling an ugly Historic structure that would have fallen down if he moved it, after all he is for once following the rules everyone approved by putting a structure back.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

My guess is that you'd be in favor of bulldozing (or burning down?) any house over 40 years old, so your views on the condition of this house are probably pure straw man, and I suspect that your suggestion to turn the HRC's functions over to the state stem from the belief that this would end all efforts at preservation in this town, which would be alright by you.

And your points 6 and 7 are a complete contradiction. You say that this developer likely had no intentions of following through on his promise to preserve this house, and then you say it's all the fault of the city that he's not doing what he said he would. That makes no sense.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 7 months ago

Typical. No one is going to hold the developer responsible. Especially the Commission. There may come a time when they are put in a similar situation. They do not want to spend money(theirs) to fix a problem they knew was going to be a problem but ignored. Developers do what ever they want knowing their Friends on the Commission have their backs. This will never change because the Commission has no inclination to punish their Friends. They all stand to Gain from this. It is the way they set it up and has been so for many years. I have heard the term Conflict of Interest used a lot when talking to people of our community in regards to what the Commission does for Lawrence. Are you listening Commissioners? We ALL Know what you are doing.You are not even subtle about it.

Sunny Parker 5 years, 7 months ago

Its the 'developers' property. He should able to do with it what he pleases! The Varsity House is/was a dump!

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 7 months ago

It became their property with the stipulation that the Varsity house(No matter the condition) Would be preserved.They agreed to this and signed off on the decision.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 7 months ago

Contrary to popular belief neither a developer or homeowner can do "anything they please" with their property. Codes and Zoning laws as well as a litany of ordinances prohibit this. Fortunately for developers with deep pockets, They can hire Lawyers to get around the laws or have friends in high places change zoning laws to benefit them. Happens more often than you think.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 7 months ago

I predict something will happen to the Remnants of Varsity house and then the developer will not be obligated to put it back. Call it a hunch.

Keith 5 years, 7 months ago

I still say Varsity House will end up being the shed the mailboxes live in.

lawrencereporter 5 years, 7 months ago

If there wasn’t a plan approved by the city for changes made to the varsity house, its site plan, or its replacement or lack of, now what happens? It’s not being restored per the original agreement? The city should withhold all occupancy permits from the new units being built until the varsity house issue is resolved. The city has withheld occupancy permits on projects that have not followed plans or been completed per agreements. This was clearly intentional, never was the builder planning to bring back the varsity house to this site and restore it. Is it possible to set a house on top of a parking garage that wasn’t designed to hold up a house? Would it be safe for the occupants? Will the underground parking garage be removed and proper foundations built.

Hold occupancy and or put a stop to all work at the site. A strong message should be sent to this builder that dishonest conduct that could possibly be illegal is not allowed in Lawrence.

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