News and notes from around town:
• It sure looks like members of the Lawrence Athletic Club will want to pay attention to what happens to their club in the days and weeks ahead.
Meritrust Credit Union has filed an action in Douglas County District Court seeking to make it clear the credit union now owns the club facility at 3201 Mesa Way, all the club’s equipment, its business name and all other business interests.
The filing comes after longtime Lawrence Athletic Club owner Rick Sells and his Junkyard’s Jym corporation defaulted on a $2.4 million note with Meritrust.
According to the filing, it looks like Sells has agreed to turn the property and the business over to Meritrust. The filing states “Junkyard’s Jym, Inc. has quit claimed its interests in the subject property to the credit union.”
Attempts to reach Sells for comment were not successful.
It isn’t real clear whether Sells remains involved in the management and operation of the club. Eric Bruce, an attorney for Meritrust, was guarded in his comments about the case. He said to the best of his knowledge Sells was still involved in managing the club. As for the ownership issue, Bruce said the court filing was an attempt to ensure no other parties had a legitimate claim to the property or business. The lawsuit indicated there may be other parties that may try to make a claim. One of those was listed as the Lawrence real estate company The Caspian Group.
As we reported in August, The Caspian Group, which is led by longtime Lawrence landlord George Paley, won a nearly $400,000 judgment against Junkyard’s Jym in Douglas County District Court. That ruling stemmed from a lease dispute at 1202 E. 23rd St., which housed Lawrence Athletic Club East before it shut down.
Shortly after Sells lost the $400,000 judgment, he filed for bankruptcy protection. At the time, Sells told the Journal-World that the athletic club had been in business for 27 years and he planned “to be here another 27 years.”
This week, the attorney for Meritrust tried to assure club members the facility would remain in operation.
“I’m confident that everybody involved wants all the people who are working out there to be able to continue working out there without interruption,” Bruce said. “Nobody wants to cause problems for anybody who is a member of the organization.”
But Bruce also acknowledged that another owner for the club likely will have to be found.
“If this goes as we want it to, we won’t own it and somebody else will,” Bruce said. “Meritrust is a credit union. It doesn’t want to own a gym.”
• Speaking of owning things, I told you last week the Urban Outfitters building at 1013 Mass. had been sold by Johnson County-based Jayhawk Equities LLC to a group called OLP Lawrence LLC.
But, at the time, I wasn’t able to find much information about OLP Lawrence or who is behind the venture. Well, I did a little more digging and found it is tied to a New York state real estate investment trust. OLP stands for One Liberty Properties. Based in Great Neck, NY, the company owns about 5.4 million square feet of commercial and industrial space across the U.S. The purchase of the 8,600 square foot Urban Outfitters building is just the second purchase in Kansas for the company. It also owns the real estate where Havertys Furniture is located on Rock Road in Wichita.
I haven’t chatted with anyone at the company, so I don’t know what drew them to the Urban Outfitters site or to downtown Lawrence. On its website, the company generally explains how a property ends up in its portfolio.
“Our analysis focuses on the value of a property, determined primarily by its location, use, and by local demographics. We also evaluate a tenant’s financial ability to meet operational needs and lease obligations. We believe that our emphasis on property value enables us to achieve better returns on our acquired properties and also enhances our ability to re-rent or dispose of a property on favorable terms upon the expiration or early termination of a lease.”
I think that means they thought it was a good deal.
• If your idea of a good deal is a chicken in every pot, you may be disappointed. There won’t even be a chicken in every coop in Lawrence.
What in the name of chicken salad am I talking about? Well, it is that controversial art project that was to involve a public slaughtering of chickens in Lawrence to make a point about how disconnected Americans are from their food sources. If you haven’t been following our reports on CNN (the Chicken News Network), local artist Amber Hansen received a grant to stage an art project calling for a coop of chickens to be displayed at various locations around town, and volunteers would help care for the birds. The exhibit was slated to end with public slaughtering of the birds, which then would be served up as a meal.
But then earlier this week, Hansen said the project would be changed to comply with a City Hall interpretation that the public slaughtering would violate the city’s animal cruelty code. Hansen also was notified of several regulations she would have to meet if she even wanted to keep chickens on a piece of private property as part of the exhibit.
Hansen, though, told me the project would go on in some form, although it wouldn’t involve a public slaughtering in the city limits. I thought perhaps, though, the project may include a slaughtering outside the city limits that Hansen would film or photograph to make her point. (Not that I’m sitting here with a bib on rooting against the chickens or anything.) But that won’t happen either.
Instead, Hansen plans to have an empty chicken coop on display at various places around Lawrence, beginning on March 30. The show will end on April 21 at the Percolator art gallery, 913 R.I. Local chefs will share and prepare some food with the community, but Hansen stresses that “chickens will not be displayed, nor slaughtered and eaten as part of the project. Instead, a handful of invited speakers will share stories about their experience caring for chickens with an open discussion to follow.”
If your interest in the project hasn’t been killed, you can check out Hansen’s blog to find out more about where the project is heading.
(By the way, I googled Chicken News Network. There might actually be a real one of those, and I wanted to make it clear I do not work for them. But, I can pass along the number of my agent.)