News and notes from around town:
• Work to convert the former Strong’s Office Supply store building at 1040 Vt. into the headquarters for Treanor Architects is finally underway.
Lawrence-based Treanor Architects received city approval — including approval of a 10-year property tax rebate — in April. But the summer came and went without work beginning on the $2 million project that will revamp and add another story to the dilapidated building.
“It has taken us longer to get started than we thought,” said Bill Fleming, an attorney and spokesman for Treanor. “But that has mainly just been architects working for architects. You can imagine how particular they have gotten. I can say that since I’m not an architect.”
The office project will allow Treanor to have all its Lawrence employees in one office. Currently Treanor has about 55 employees between its office spaces at 1501 W. Sixth St. and 110 McDonald Drive.
But Treanor — which also has offices in Kansas City, Topeka, St. Louis and Dallas — is designing the building to house more than 70 employees in the near term. The building will serve as the corporate headquarters for the company.
Fleming said the company’s employees should provide a boost to downtown through additional dining and retail purchases. The idea of bringing more daytime workers to the downtown area was a major reason city commissioners supported a property tax break for the project.
Last April, commissioners agreed to use the Neighborhood Revitalization Act to provide a partial rebate of the new property taxes that will be generated by the project. The city, county and school district will continue to receive all of the taxes they currently receive from the property. But as the project is built and the tax bill rises, Treanor will receive a rebate for the next 10 years.
The rebate will start at 95 percent in year No. 1 but gradually fall to 20 percent by year 10. After 10 years, the project will not receive a rebate.
“I know we are excited to be coming downtown, and I think downtown will be excited to have us,” Fleming said.
Treanor hopes to be moved into the new building by late October or early November.
• The project will require some changes to the city-owned parking lot in the 1000 block of Vermont, with the biggest being it will replace several free parking spots with 10-hour meters. The Treanor project — like all downtown commercial projects — isn’t required to provide its own off-street parking. But the architecture firm asked for a change to the little-used city parking lot to make it easier for Treanor employees to use the lot.
City leaders recently finalized an implementation plan to restripe the parking lot and to change the timing on various parking meters in the area.
Here’s a look at the changes on tap:
— City Parking Lot No. 10 — which is adjacent to the Treanor project — will go from 61 free 2-hour spots to 33 free 2-hour spots. The lot also will have 29 spots with 10-hour meters. A restriping of the lot allows for one more parking space than what is in the lot currently.
— On-street parking 1000 block of Vermont currently has 28 metered spots with five-hour time limits and 10 metered spots with two-hour time limits. The new configuration will reduce the number of two-hour meters. Instead there will be 16 meters of 10 hours, 20 meters of five hours, and two meters of two hours. Basically all the changes would occur to the meters on the east side of Vermont Street.
— Parking along North Park Street — which is along the north edge of South Park — also will be changed. Basically five of the two-hour meters will be converted to 10-hour meters.
So, have you got all that? Yeah, me neither. Basically it comes down to three things:
- There will be more 10-hours meters and fewer 2-hour meters in the area.
- Parking in the area near 10th or 11th and Vermont will be harder to come by in a few months.
- My wife will still get a ticket because, shockingly, parking meters don’t feed themselves.
• I reported earlier this week that the land transfers indicated Capital City Bank has purchased all the ground-floor commercial space in the Hobbs Taylor Lofts building in the 700 block of New Hampshire Street. But I didn’t have any details about whether the bank was simply becoming a landlord or whether it had its own expansion plans.
After talking with the bank’s Lawrence president, expansion is on the bank’s mind. Lawrence market president Mark Gonzales told me the bank — which already has its main Lawrence location in the building — is planning for an expansion. The timeline hasn’t been figured out yet, but Gonzales said the bank believes it eventually will need more space for it lending divisions and other back office functions of the bank.
But probably more importantly, the deal signals that Capital City Bank still views Lawrence’s future as bright. Capital City is based in Topeka, but it has strong Lawrence ties through its ownership group — which includes members of the Frank Sabatini family, including Lawrence architect Dan Sabatini.
Gonzales told me he’s not yet ready to say the Lawrence market is on the rebound, but rather it is going through a herky-jerky period at the moment. (That’s my highly technical banking term, not Gonzales’.)
“Some days the phone is ringing off the hook and other days it hardly rings at all,” Gonzales said. “Lawrence is still a flat market right now, but we definitely believe the stars are still aligned right for Lawrence in the future.”
It will be interesting to watch the banking market in Lawrence in the near term. I reported earlier this week about CornerBank being bought by a new bank holding company. I think that new holding company is buying with expansion on its mind. Whether Lawrence is part of those plans, I don’t know.
I’ve also heard speculation — take it for what it is worth — that a western Kansas bank has been calling around about Lawrence commercial space. A separate rumor also has been that a bank may be interested in some of the new commercial space slated for 33rd and Iowa streets in the parking lot of Wal-Mart. I’m not sure about that rumor because the plans don’t seem to have a drive-through.
But hey, the first step to an improving economy is surely rumors about new banks.