Archive for Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fritzel offers to make $50,000 historic preservation donation to help resolve Varsity House dispute

November 13, 2012


Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel has offered to make a $50,000 donation to historic preservation efforts as a way to resolve a dispute regarding a controversy involving the 1900s-era Varsity House.

The old Varsity House is being reconstructed at the northwest corner of 11th and Indiana streets on the site of the new Varsity House Apartment complex. A deal was struck between the developers, City Hall and the Lawrence Preservation Alliance that the former boarding home, where college athletes used to stay, would be moved to a corner of the property. Once reassembled, the structure will serve as a boarding house next to the new apartment development. But concerns have arisen about how much of the original house will remain.

The old Varsity House is being reconstructed at the northwest corner of 11th and Indiana streets on the site of the new Varsity House Apartment complex. A deal was struck between the developers, City Hall and the Lawrence Preservation Alliance that the former boarding home, where college athletes used to stay, would be moved to a corner of the property. Once reassembled, the structure will serve as a boarding house next to the new apartment development. But concerns have arisen about how much of the original house will remain.

Fritzel delivered a letter to Lawrence city commissioners Tuesday evening offering to either “raise or guarantee pledges” of $50,000 to the Douglas County Community Foundation to further historic preservation in the community.

The donation offer comes after city commissioners last month said they believed Fritzel’s efforts to move the old Varsity House to make way for a new apartment project at 1043 Indiana St. had fallen short.

Specifically, commissioners contended that Fritzel had not followed through on moving the original house but rather was rebuilding the old home using bits and pieces of salvaged material from the house.

In his letter, Fritzel said he didn’t agree with that view but made the offer in an effort to “compromise and resolve our differences.”

“Due to the extensive pre-existing deterioration of the substructure, which in turn created several challenges related to moving and relocating the original structure, the outcome is that the Varsity House was unable to be put back in its original form as anticipated at the time of land use approval,” Fritzel wrote. “This outcome was not done with a desire to ignore the intent of the site requirements. To the contrary, it was the only way to ensure the structural integrity and longevity of the Varsity House, all at considerable additional expense.”

Commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting took no action on the offer, but agreed to add it to their agenda at next Tuesday’s meeting.

“The letter indicates a willingness to work with us,” Mayor Bob Schumm said. “It is a very positive step with this particular situation.”

Dennis Brown, president of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance, said Tuesday evening he had not yet read the letter but was encouraged by what he had heard of the potential deal.

“The Varsity House will never come back,” Brown said. “They are building a nice replica at the site. But if they make a donation that makes a donation that helps some other structure in jeopardy, that will be a point of justice.”

City commissioners received the letter just prior to conducting a public hearing related to a proposed $25 million city recreation center that would be located at a proposed Kansas University sports complex just north of the northeast intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

A group led by Fritzel has been proposed to be the builder for the city and KU complex.


Darth_Vader 4 years ago

Isn't this usually called hush money? Only this time it's out in the open...

David Reynolds 4 years ago

Timing is very convenient on the very night he stands to gain much from the Rock Chalk Park & Recreation Center project negotiations being approved by the city commission. Funny thing about money. Dennis Brown is encouraged by the money donation...What about the original integrity of the building? I guess it doesn't make any difference, they won't see the building anyway with all of those dollar signs in front of their eyes.

zackattackku 4 years ago

Replica looks good so far except for one thing. The third floor side floors are three feet short of the edge where they are supposed to be...Oops!!

sydneymstone 4 years ago

A lot more than 10 people care about the tearing down of historic buildings to make way for a huge ugly set of apartment buildings. Not only are the apartments imposing and unattractive, the construction crews have taken over the entire road for more than a year now causing disruption to traffic flow, problems at intersections in that area, and annoyance of local residents. As someone who parks in the area everyday the construction is awful and I'm sure once students move in the traffic and the presence of red plastic cups will be worse too.

zackattackku 4 years ago

Well he fixed the side walls. It doesn't look half bad now. Still only a shadow of its former self. But not a bad replica.

lawrencereporter 4 years ago

So you can knowingly break the law, knowingly disregard site plan regulations, try and get away with it, oops- get caught, then be threatened with a fine by your friends at city hall and then be allowed to choose your own penalty, offer a ridiculously low dollar amount and then be applauded for a job well done.

Fritzel must be hiding more violations that the city didn't find at that project. The sooner this is resolved the less problems for Thomas Fritzel. 50k added to a five million dollar project is chump change. He will get that back x 100's from the city on the recreation center project.

jhawk1998 4 years ago

A bribe is a form of corruption which involves the promise of money or a favor to someone in a position of power, with the hope of influencing that person's behavior. Bribery is viewed as a crime in many regions of the world

Tammy Copp-Barta 4 years ago

Will he get basketball tickets with that donation?

brent flanders 4 years ago

Just doesn't fly, return it to the original condition and/or put the real estate back up for sale...many people would have purchased the house/real estate without the shackles that were obviously in play.

DennisReynolds 4 years ago

I agree. Give the donation to an organization that will do something worthwhile.

kernal 4 years ago

It's easy to get away with deceit when you can buy your way out.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

Oh, goodie. Fritzel and the commission can kiss and make up-- now they can give him a $25 million no-bid contract, without asking the opinion of the the voters who will pay for it.

hujiko 4 years ago

Fritzel lies. Repeatedly.

Building heights, cell towers, astroturf, varsity house...(feel free to add any other unscrupulous occurrences).. etc.

Must be real nice not having recourse to the rules us common folk abide to.

John Hamm 4 years ago

Too little, too late and it's not all his money - note he promises to "raise or guarantee pledges." Not the same as writing a check....

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

They lie because city hall and commissioners are afraid of wealthy developers. Fritzel is not the only property management/owner to not follow site plans.

It seems to me this is common with the exception of homeowners doing an improvement on their own home or whatever.

From the LJW article this is not really a solution. This does not restore the home as agreed upon.

Developers are NOT afraid of city hall. I doubt they have much respect for commissioners . Use them while in office.

irvan moore 4 years ago

like everything else this will be forgotten, remember when douglas county bank bulldozed the properties where the bamk and parking lot are in the middle of the night

gatekeeper 4 years ago

They didn't bulldoze them in the middle of the night. Crack of dawn, yes - two days after the demo permits were issued. It amazes me how people fight to save houses that need tons of work and that no one wanted prior. OWL didn't step up to buy the houses and relocate them. DCB wanted them to, but they didn't have any resources. They had the chance. I remember back then, there were lots of houses in OWL that needed work and were cheap. My parents thought about buying one when I was a student for me and my friends to live in. Was the bank supposed to just sit on these houses for years, waiting to see if OWL could get some $ together? The houses were also a liability for the bank.

Funny how the residents of OWL like to use the parking lot at the bank all the time.

And no, I don't work for the bank. I just think it's ridiculous to expect every old house to be saved. Sometimes old houses get torn down. Get over it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

Some of those houses were in quite good shape, and there were people who had offered to move those houses off of the lots.

But DCB didn't want to delay their project, so the bulldozers were brought in.

gatekeeper 4 years ago

If you go back and read the articles from the time, there in NO mention of people wanting to move the houses. They state that thehouses were the liablilty of the bank and that no one had the money or means to move them. Maybe people wanted to move them, but they had no way of doing it. AGAIN, are we expected to save every old house in town? Did anything significantly historical happen in these homes, or were they just old houses and many in town don't want to see old houses torn down. Funny, on my side of town (N), no one in the entire city would give a rats @ss if any of the old homes were destroyed. All anyone cares about is OWL. Everyone needs to get over it. The bank bought that block and if people were so concerned and just had to save those houses, they could have raised the money to buy them.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

That was 25 years ago, so my memory of every detail of what was involved is not ironclad. But I can say that your recounting is not accurate. The bank was concerned only with their construction schedule, and were completely uncooperative with the efforts of several people to preserve at least some of those houses, which were among the oldest in town, and still in pretty good condition.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years ago

This is just a building, not a holy site. It should have been torn down and made into mulch. Not everyone can or wants to buy a house so that is why apartment buildings are necessary. Remember, people, this is Kansas, not Dubai!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"this is Kansas, not Dubai!"

What does that mean?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

The deal wasn't to make it "better." It was to preserve it.

handlon 4 years ago

Just another sad example of how insider corruption is rampant everywhere. We have let developers run roughshod over the commission at the expense of proper zoning, proven demand or anything else quantifiable other that the need for more profits for the developers themselves.

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