Archive for Thursday, March 1, 2012

Town Talk: Lender seeks ownership of Lawrence Athletic Club over default of $2.4 million loan; New York real estate trust buys downtown property; more on chickens and art

March 1, 2012


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.)


Rara_Avis 6 years, 3 months ago

No wonder I had such an ordeal in dropping my membership last fall. I had a feeling this would happen. It's unfortunate. I'd been a member for 16 years but just couldn't afford it anymore. I guess I'm not the only one in a financial mess. Good luck, Rick.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 3 months ago

It's all your fault. With just one more paying member, they could have paid the bills.

NewbieGardener 6 years, 3 months ago

Re: the chicken slaughter section, how was the proposal in violation of the city's animal cruelty law? If the slaughter is done in a humane manner, it seems like a beneficial display for the public.

sleepy33 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm fairly sure you have to be licensed by the USDA when slaughtering animals for human consumption.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 3 months ago

That's what happens on farms all the time. Maybe you should go visit one sometime.

pavlovs_dog 6 years, 3 months ago

Art is more than slapping some paint on a board, in doing so the artist is examining concepts and how we deal with our world and our place in it. Amber Hansen's project was addressing the paradox of the omnivore who kills to live. The fact that her project was funded by a grant is no indication of "goofiness." Somebody bought it. That somebody was The Andy Warhol Foundation. They bought Amber's ideas with a grant. Get it yet? Will that be cash, credit, or grant? If all your ideas about "free market value" are impressive to someone, maybe they will send you a check. Better go wait by the mailbox!

SeaFox 6 years, 3 months ago

If you're complaining a piece of art has no free-market value, I'm afraid you fail horribly at understanding what Fine Art if all about.

labernat 6 years, 3 months ago

I am not surprised about LAC. Rick Sells is a terrible manager/owner! People abuse the equipment and nothing is done about it, despite complaints. You can go in on any given day and at least half of the treadmills are out of order. As a member I hope LAC doesn't go out of business, however I wouldn't be surprised.

elprez 6 years, 3 months ago

You should go to Genesis- All the equipment works there. When they first took over Maximus, I told them about a piece that didn't work and the Management had it fixed in less than 20 minutes. I haven't ran into a treadmill not working since then.

KrampusLawrence 6 years, 3 months ago

There is still a hole in the bathroom wall. One of the squat machines was broken for at least a month.

I can't speak for LAC, but the Genesis management is not as customer oriented as the Maximus crew.

WindowSpots 6 years, 3 months ago

Now that is funny!! Maximus crew and customer oriented in the same sentence. If Maximus had any management at all they might still be in business.

KrampusLawrence 6 years, 3 months ago

I can't speak for the internal workings of Maximus, but I do know that they never "over promised." I knew what I was getting. Genesis has been promising a lot of upgrades since they took over. All I have seen are new classes. . .that I have to pay for, jacked up rates, and decreased the hours.

JackMcKee 6 years, 3 months ago

I always liked the fact that Rick and his wife had two 'reserved' parking spots right by the front door. I've never seen any other business do that. Nothing says 'I put myself before my customers' quite like that.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 3 months ago

They didn't need the exercise of walking, since they owned a gym club.

JackMcKee 6 years, 3 months ago

The first thing I would do if I took over the place would be to remove those reserved spaces. And Rick does indeed need to get some exercise. It's ridiculous for a person who owns a health club to be one of the town'seast healthy residents. I also used to enjoy the notes he woukd leave around the club that were written as if he was speaking to a toddler. I don't think a lot of people are fans of Rick or LAC judging by the comments on this article.

webmocker 6 years, 3 months ago

"I also used to enjoy the notes he woukd leave around the club that were written as if he was speaking to a toddler."

Or as if he was a toddler speaking.

patkindle 6 years, 3 months ago

i hate to see folks lose money on a membership but anyone that has to pay some one to exercise doesnt get alot of sympathy from me

if they have that kind of money they should lose it

like folks that pay money for diet food?? never have got my head wrapped around that one about as bad as buying a bottle of water

Robert Rauktis 6 years, 3 months ago

Aside from the above's poor punctuation, agree wholeheartedly. All you really need to "work out" is gravity and an imagination. Anything else is to impress the cocktail party and neighbors.

somedude20 6 years, 3 months ago

Just in time for the gym closing........the deep fried McRib

Battered, fried, chesses, bacons, weird spit, enjoy The McRibster is in da house

Benhere2long 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm guessing Its probably about time for another "unsolved, mysterious" fire at LAC. There hasn't been one in Lawrence for a few years and the last one at Junkyard's worked so well. It bought the gym another 20 years. Maybe the LJworld will report about it when it happens, and that'll be the last we hear about has happened with virtually all of the other big, commercial fires in town.

GUMnNUTS 6 years, 3 months ago

Rented a house from George once, shrewd businessman or slumlord, either works for me. Had a lawyer break the lease on that rat infested hell hole.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 3 months ago

Urban Outfitters may be the next to shut their doors. Depends on how much the rent is increased.

Knology being bought up may have some back door changes. Of course there will rate increases whether it be an outright rate increase of less services for the same money remains to bee seen. Lay-offs will likely be part of the deal.

Where do banks get the money to finance these inflated price buyouts? BUSHCO rides again.

Jimmy 6 years, 3 months ago

I'd love seeing new management take over the LAC. If their rates were competitive with Genesis, I'd switch back. Heck, I'd be excited to see Genesis take it over!

captainrex 6 years, 3 months ago

I agree. Genesis taking over LAC would be awesome. I suggest keeping your Genesis membership if you have one... don't switch!

Paul R Getto 6 years, 3 months ago

"....public slaughtering would violate the city’s animal cruelty code...." === Perhaps, but it's cruel to feed those mechanically separated chicken parts to human animals as well. I cannot believe this became a big issue. This stuff will kill ya..........for example:

FlintlockRifle 6 years, 3 months ago

Gandalf, like your idea of a yurkey shoot, got the ole flintlock loaded, just need a little power in the flash pan, and away she goes---

FlintlockRifle 6 years, 3 months ago

Gandalf, like your idea of a yurkey shoot, got the ole flintlock loaded, just need a little power in the flash pan, and away she goes---

FlintlockRifle 6 years, 3 months ago

Ops, the "Y" is to close to the "T" on my keyboard, guess I'm not ready after all

guess_again 6 years, 3 months ago

Is the under-counter steroid shop still operating?

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 3 months ago

maybe the city could buy it and make it the new west lawrence rec center...

captainrex 6 years, 3 months ago

I am from Emporia and I am so happy that there is a Genesis Health Clubs here in town now. What they did to that club in Emporia is amazing. Can't wait to see what they do to the club here.

John Senner 6 years, 3 months ago

I am amazed at the number of people, presumably growing up in cities, that have no idea how meat comes to appear in their meals. I grew up caring for chickens, beheading chickens, cleaning and plucking chickens, and cutting into pieces. Everyone needs to at least understand that each of these steps in needed before you can eat chicken.

Robert Rauktis 6 years, 3 months ago

If ya can't clean 'em, ya shouldn't eat 'em. They should get the divas on the cooking shows elegantly cleaning anything (even a house). Martha Stewart Rendering.

Bob Forer 6 years, 3 months ago

Sells would have never gone bankrupt if he had simply prayed a little longer and harder to his Lord and Taylor.

juma 6 years, 3 months ago

I thought the recent city code to allow pot belly pigs was so Billy E. jr. could have some homemade BBQ after the basketball games. Now you say he can't kill them little pigs by the pool?!

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