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Archive for Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Town Talk: Mr. Bacon BBQ to test idea of “pop-up” barbecue; county sends out 75,000 new voter registration cards to head off confusion; more numbers about Ninth and N.H. parking garage

July 24, 2012

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News and notes from around town:

• Pop-up barbecue — both my cholesterol and my excitement levels have popped up over the thought. Soon, the idea of pop-up barbecue won’t just be a thought in Lawrence.

The Lawrence-based catering company Mr. Bacon BBQ soon will launch a new concept: the occasional restaurant.

Jeff Frye, an owner of Mr. Bacon BBQ, has leased space at 846 Ill. in the same little commercial center that houses Rick’s Place. Frye primarily will use the space for his commercial kitchen for his catering business. But periodically — perhaps one to two times a week during some parts of the year — Frye is going to host “pop-up barbecue” events. That simply involves smoking a bunch of meat, fixing a bunch of sides, throwing open the front door of the business and telling people to come get it while it lasts.

Frye said he has been serving BBQ on a semi-regular basis at the Cottin’s Farmers' Markets on Thursday nights. Plus, the business periodically serves its barbecue at Conroy’s Pub on West Sixth Street. Between the two, Mr. Bacon has developed a good following.

But Frye said he’s not ready to commit to a full-time restaurant because that likely would take away from his catering business, which also has been robust.

He said the idea for pop-up barbecue came to him as he saw how many people were following his business on Facebook and Twitter. The plan is to announce the dates of the pop-up barbecue events at least a couple of days ahead of time on those social media platforms. Frye said food trucks in larger cities have had success with that type of model. In addition to the social media promotion, Frye said he also plans to just put out a sandwich board to alert folks passing by.

“We’re going to use both the high-tech and the low-tech option,” Frye said.

Expect to see signs out for most KU home football games. Frye said he hopes to have his first pop-up barbecue event on Aug. 1, the date students traditionally start moving into apartments around town.

“I figure the neighborhood is going to be crazy with people who haven’t unpacked their kitchens yet,” Frye said. (If they are anything like I was in college, that may still may be the case a couple of months from now.)

As for the barbecue, don’t let the name fool you into thinking it all centers on bacon. According to the company’s website, Mr. Bacon is actually the name of the family’s dog.

But the barbecue does look like it will have a unique flair. Frye said he tries to focus on a little more of an “elevated barbecue or culinary-inspired barbecue.”

That includes a brisket with an espresso-based rub in a smoked garlic sauce and even a smoked meatloaf dish.

• Perhaps you want to just pop in and vote for your favorite candidates in the Aug. 7 primary elections. The problem is, you may not exactly know which legislative district you even live in anymore following the large-scale redistricting that took place.

Well, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew’s office has decided to mail out new voter registration cards to every registered voter in Douglas County. Those cards should start arriving in mailboxes any day now.

The cards will tell you what legislative districts you are in. Shew said state law does not require him to send out the new cards, but he thought it would be wise to do so because all but 10 precincts in the county had at least some sort of change in terms of what districts were included in the precincts. (Precinct boundaries actually did not change.)

The notification, though, comes with a price. Shew said his office printed and mailed about 75,000 of the cards, which cost about $23,000.

If you want even more detailed information, such as a full listing of all the Kansas Senate and House of Representative candidates for your district, the folks at KU’s Institute for Policy and Social Research have created a new computer application for that. Click here to go to a website that lets you type in any Kansas address, and then shows you the list of candidates for the state Senate and House races.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until Aug. 7 to cast your vote. Advance voting is now open. It runs through noon on Aug. 6.

• I am 90 percent confident that tonight’s Lawrence City Commission meeting won’t last until Aug. 7. But the meeting could produce significant amounts of discussion, as commissioners are set to debate a nearly $12 million package of incentives for the approximately $40 million redevelopment proposal at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

There will be plenty of numbers thrown around during that debate, but here’s a set of numbers about the area that is interesting on its own. The city has put together a new report that shows usage numbers for the city-owned parking garage in the 900 block of New Hampshire.

The summary is this: In 2006, the garage averaged 40 percent capacity on a weekday. Now, it averages 61 percent capacity. In 2007, the garage averaged 33 percent capacity on a Saturday. Now, it averages 53 percent capacity.

One of the interesting things about the proposed Ninth and New Hampshire redevelopment is it has caused us to go back and think about the decision made around the turn of the century (my land, that makes us sound old) to build the public parking garage in the 900 block of New Hampshire.

It mainly has been a lesson in the fickleness of projections. Back then, it was projected the construction of the parking garage would spur significant redevelopment of the 900 block of New Hampshire Street. So much so that new tax revenues from the new development would pay for 50 to 60 percent of the new parking garage.

Well, that clearly isn’t going to happen. The economy took a hit shortly after the garage was built, and much of the development didn’t occur.

But this look-back also is a good lesson in the need to pay attention to detail. When it was said back in 2000 that new tax revenues would pay for about 50 to 60 percent of the garage, there probably should have been an asterisk attached to that statement. What really was meant, I believe, is that new tax revenues would pay for about 50 to 60 percent of the construction costs of the garage. But that’s not the same as saying 50 to 60 percent of the costs of the project. That’s because the city debt-financed the garage, which means it must also pay interest costs.

When you add the interest costs into the equation, the city is scheduled to pay $14.5 million for the garage. At no point was it ever expected the development would generate enough new taxes to pay 50 percent of that number.

At one point, it was projected new development would add about $4 million to $5 million in new taxes that could be applied to the garage over a 20-year period. Thus far, new development has added something less than $500,000. But the amount is expected to grow significantly now that the new multistory apartment/office/retail building is on the tax roles at 901 N.H. That large building is expected to add another $1.7 million in property taxes between now and 2020, when the garage will be paid off. All told, development in the block will probably provide a little more than $3 million in new taxes that will help pay off the garage by 2020. That puts the new development much closer to paying for its share of the garage than what looked like would be the case a few years ago.

But if you want to relate any of this to the set of incentives commissioners will consider tonight, here’s an important point to remember: The city is not planning to issue any bonds related to the proposed Ninth and New Hampshire redevelopment. That means if the projections being used for this development don’t pan out, it will be the developer, not the city, who will have to eat the difference.

Comments

flyin_squirrel 2 years, 4 months ago

Thanks Chad for the info on the Parking Garage. I think if people make it to your last statement and comprehend it, they will understand that what happened to the city on the Parking Garage cannot happen on this development because the builder is assuming the risk, not the city.

Build it and it will help all the businesses downtown!

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

Actually, it's also true that the new proposal includes an exemption from the requirement to contribute to the garage costs.

So, the developer gets the benefit of being in a TIF district, while being exempt from funding the garage in any way.

flyin_squirrel 2 years, 4 months ago

So instead, lets not build the hotel and apartments, and let the city still pay for all the parking garage. Compton didn't get the money from this TIF, so it isn't like he is the one who screwed the city initially. Blaming him for the city's past mistakes isn't going to help our downtown grow ( or should I say stop turning into an entertainment district).

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

What?

Compton is taking advantage of an extension of the TIF district, past the time it was set to expire.

And, you said, the city won't have what happened with the garage happen with this project, which of course isn't accurate, since none of the revenue from this project will help cover any of the costs of the garage.

How about extending the requirement to pay for the garage when we extend the TIF?

Catalano 2 years, 4 months ago

And here's a link to confirm your registration and view a sample ballot for the Primary Election:

http://www.douglas-county.com/online_services/cl/ve/ve_voterportal.aspx

Catalano 2 years, 4 months ago

You are so very welcome! Thanks for being a concerned voter!

pizzapete 2 years, 4 months ago

Let's not forget that we the taxpayers supported and paid for this garage to spur more retail development on New Hampshire. The garage was supposed to bring new retail to the area and with it more people and jobs downtown. This new retail area was supposed to generate new sales tax for the city to pay off the garage. The garage itself was going to be the incentive any developer would need to convert the empty properties along New Hampshire into 2 story storefronts similar to what is found on Massachusetts street. These two story buildings were going to be economically feasible because the parking was going to be provided by the city. Instead of new retail we got a high rise apartment building that effectively took over the parking garage. The parking garage is no longer able to be used as an incentive to bring retail to New Hampshire because it is mostly being rented by Compton for the tenants in his apartment. The takeover of the garage has made it so it's not as economically feasible for a developer to put in retail on New Hampshire as more parking is now needed. Instead of new retail on New Hampshire the city is now allowing a hotel to be built and one that won't even help to pay for the existing garage. A hotel needs even more long term parking, so the developer had to ask the city for even greater incentives to pay for it. We wanted and hoped for more retail on New Hampshire with buildings that would look much like the retail on Massachusetts. Instead we have a high rise apartment and a high rise hotel, both of which need more incentives and parking than a smaller retail development would have. If we would have stuck to the original plan of having more two story retail development along New Hampshire this whole mess could have been avoided.

deec 2 years, 4 months ago

Actually the original plan is being followed, just not the one that was used to sell the public a bill of goods.

There were a series of meetings in the late 1980s or early 1990s in which the true plan for the area between Mass. and Conn. was formed. Multi-story buildings and retail to Connecticut are planned. If you want to learn more, do a FOIA request, as I know no longer have the documentation.

flyin_squirrel 2 years, 4 months ago

Plans change. No smaller retail developments want to go downtown because we don't have enough customers downtown to support them. So not only are we solving one of those problems, this will help start to attract more retail downtown. Win/Win!

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

If voters vote on a certain proposal with a specific purpose, and then tax revenue is used differently, that's a classic "bait and switch" scam.

I'd say that to maintain integrity, the city should have to put the new ideas to a vote before switching how they use the money.

flyin_squirrel 2 years, 4 months ago

TIF's are not voted on by the voters. They are decided by elected officials.

pizzapete 2 years, 4 months ago

There are indeed enough people who live outside of downtown who come to to spend money there for the unique retail and restaurant choices that we already have and they are the ones that keep our downtown business district vibrant. For those of us who already support local business downtown a new hotel or apartment building is not going to give us any more reason or encouragement to shop downtown like additional retail would. You might hear a Lawrence resident say "I think I'm going downtown tonight I heard there is this great new restaurant that just opened", not "I think I'm going downtown, I heard they built a new apartment/hotel there".

flyin_squirrel 2 years, 4 months ago

Then why are all the downtown businesses in favor of this? And why do downtown businesses keep closing? It is because they are struggling and need more foot traffic/shoppers downtown.

People have to quit looking at it as a hotel and apartments, and look at it as 250 plus people downtown every day. How much are those retail sales worth?

pizzapete 2 years, 4 months ago

How do you know all the downtown businesses are in favor of this? And what exactly is the this you're talking about? Are you talking about the hotel itself or about the tax breaks for a wealthy developer, a special tax district, etc.? Did they all sign a petition in favor of this or did you take a poll? Not that I don't believe you, just wondering where you got your information.

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

Chad, does the existing new building in fact contribute to the garage funding, unlike the new proposal?

And, I'm not sure where you get those numbers - if you add $500K and $1.7million, you get $2.2million, not $3-$4 million.

So, it looks like at best, we'll get about 1/2 of the anticipated revenue for the garage, which is actually about 1/7 of the total costs, including interest.

What a great deal we made! (Sarcasm intended).

Chad Lawhorn 2 years, 4 months ago

The 901 building, which is the one already constructed, does contribute to the garage. The city estimates it will contribute $1.7 million in property taxes between now and 2020. But that is just the 901 building. The 947 building, which is where PepperJax Grill is currently located, along with office space and apartments also will continue to contribute to the garage. The city is estimating it will pay about another $500,000 in property taxes between now and 2020. If a retail tenant goes in and replaces PepperJax after it moves to Mass. St., the property also will generate some sales taxes that will be collected for the garage. The third piece of the puzzle is that, as proposed, the hotel/retail project on the southeast corner will contribute $850,000 to the garage project. The city technically is being asked to remove the hotel property from the New Hampshire garage TIF district and place it in a new TIF district that will benefit the hotel and the proposed multi-story building on the northeast corner. But commissioners have proposed that the first $850,000 of new tax revenues generated by the hotel be directed to help pay off the existing parking garage. That $850,000 payment is about $650,000 less than what the hotel would contribute to the garage if it remained in the original TIF district. But city officials contend if the new hotel isn't placed in a new TIF district, it will scuttle the whole project because it will make it too expensive for the developers to provide the below ground parking that is needed for both new developments. I think if you add up all those numbers I just threw out there, it comes out about $3.5 million. But beware, they're only projections. Hope that helps.

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

Thanks - that's a bit complicated, but essentially clear.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 4 months ago

Let's realize that this $12,000,000 tax dollar handout is politically sponsored pork barrel spending directed at the following:

  1. developers
  2. building contractors and suppliers
  3. bankers
  4. investors
  5. Chamber of Commerce (all of the above make up the Chamber of Commerce)

Yet the largest group of stakeholders in this and other similar circumstances is we the taxpayers who are being strong armed into supporting a real estate project we do not support for many reasons.

Taxpayers are providing 12 million tax dollars to make a real estate project profitable which apparently cannot be accomplished standing on its' own which begs the question

"How is this a fiscally responsible use of tax dollars?"

The real estate market is still on shaky ground. Which is to say this property could lose value anytime. Why are taxpayers throwing money at this project? We're not voluntarily.

Nothing has changed much since the meltdown and banks are still playing the same risky investment schemes as before from what I read.

Do the Lawrence cookie jars need ALL of the tax dollars related to any property? Of course they do let's not pretend.

If these tax incentives were put to a city wide vote the incentives would be voted down ..... aka go down in flames. This is why government does not provide the opportunity to the stakeholders.

Then there are guidelines that which are being ignored. Then there are the neighbors quality of life issues and perhaps doing more damage to their property values.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 4 months ago

Of course downtown is important but taxpayers are starting out at $12,000,000 in the hole on this project alone.

Then the same group got millions more in pork barrel corporate welfare on the old Strongs Office Supply building site at 11th and Vermont.

Taxpayers are starting out millions upon millions in the hole.

Can this group NOT make profit without corporate welfare?

Richard Heckler 2 years, 4 months ago

Then there is the $200-$300 million dollar in pork barrel corporate welfare that which is directed at:

  1. Real estate agencies

  2. Property owners

  3. developers

  4. building contractors and suppliers

  5. bankers

  6. investors

  7. Chamber of Commerce

for the SLT. Wait till taxpayers discover a tax increase will be levied locally to build this boondoggle.

This same group has been begging for the NEW $100 million sewage treatment plant that most Lawrence taxpayers will never use.

This same group is behind the who knows how many millions for the new field house out west being disguised as a rec center. This too will be on taxpayers back.

Oh yes the 31st street expansion is for the above group as well...... millions more tax $$$$ in pork barrel spending.

flyin_squirrel 2 years, 4 months ago

Merrill, I don't bother to read your post anymore, but if it says what I think, you are agreeing that this is a great project for tax incentives because:

  • it does not require extended utilities

  • doesn't require more roads

  • doesn't create more area for police to patrol

  • infills some blighted property that has sat vacant for years

  • will bring a larger population living in/near downtown

  • will help all the mom and pop shops downtown

  • and will help keep our downtown a "crown jewel" of Lawrence

I completely agree Merrill, build it now!

pizzapete 2 years, 4 months ago

This doesn't create more area for the police to patrol? What do you think would be easier to deal with a fire in a vacant lot or a fire in a high rise hotel/apartment building? What would be easier for the police to handle, an armed robbery that happens in a vacant lot or an armed robbery in a busy hotel?

flyin_squirrel 2 years, 4 months ago

Wow, really stretching there pizza man...

pizzapete 2 years, 4 months ago

No, just thinking things through squirrel boy.

shnops40 2 years, 4 months ago

Tax roles. A role playing game about property taxes.

George_Braziller 2 years, 4 months ago

"Those cards should start arriving in mailboxes any day now."

If I actually have my mail delivered. I haven't had the same letter carrier two days in a row for months. We used to have a regular carrier but he must have been fired after I filed multiple formal complaints about him.

Not only lost a package I was able to track on-line, he didn't even know where he delivered it! Mailed an art show registration check and form at the downtown post office on June 5. It's still MIA.

EastAndWest 2 years, 4 months ago

Chad, Does the link in the following phrase work? "Click here to go to a website that lets you type in any Kansas address, and then shows you the list of candidates for the state Senate and House races." Maybe it's my connection but it tried to download something for a long time without success. Any suggestions?

FranklinBluth 2 years, 4 months ago

Speaking of BBQ,

Had some excellent BBQ at the Mudstomp Monday/Barnyard Brewery event at The Pool Room... Can't remember the name but it was the best I've had in town in a while. Great stuff!

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