Archive for Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Editorial: Varsity loss

October 23, 2012

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It looks as if the fears of local residents concerned about the future of the Varsity House near 11th and Indiana have been realized.

The significant house, which once served as home for the Kansas University football team, found itself in the way of “progress” last year when Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel submitted plans for a 50-plus-unit apartment complex near the house. Fritzel originally proposed demolishing the house, but after local preservationists objected, he agreed to move the structure closer to the corner to accommodate his development. Based on that promise, preservationists dropped their objection to the project but were shocked when Fritzel decided to “move” Varsity House by dismantling it and putting the pieces in a warehouse. At the time, observers questioned whether the house ever could be reassembled in a way that would preserve its historic character.

That question now has been answered. The house is being “reassembled,” but with almost none of its original materials. The smaller house that is being constructed with mostly new materials on a concrete slab is not the Varsity House. Only the first floor of the three-story building has been rebuilt, but it’s clear this structure will be nothing more than a poor replica of the original structure, without any of its distinctive elements, such as the stone foundation.

Lawrence city commissioners have added an item to their agenda for tonight to receive a “staff update” on the Varsity House project. Unfortunately, any discussion city commissioners have at this point won’t save this significant structure. The city can fine Fritzel or perhaps take other action — and it should consider all the available penalties — but it cannot bring this house back.

This is the third time in recent memory that Fritzel has ignored city regulations or approved plans and gone in a different direction without informing city officials. There were substantial changes to the exterior appearance of The Oread hotel and Fritzel’s decision to install artificial turf at one of his apartment complexes even after city inspectors informed work crews that the turf violated city codes. In each case, including the Varsity House, he made a conscious decision to move forward, knowing that what he had in mind didn’t meet the spirit, or perhaps even the letter, of city law.

The history of this developer should give the city some pause as it moves toward constructing a major recreation center in which Fritzel almost certainly will be involved. His past actions don’t inspire the kind of trust the city needs to have in the people with whom it works.

Comments

Patty Buchholz 2 years, 10 months ago

Great editorial, just hope city leaders read it and take heed.

Take_a_letter_Maria 2 years, 10 months ago

It isn't news. It is an editorial, and clearly labeled as such. There is a difference.

Take_a_letter_Maria 2 years, 10 months ago

Sorry if I sound snarky, but someone not being able to distinguish between the two is a pet peeve of mine.

skinny 2 years, 10 months ago

The City ought to stop construction until Mr. Fritzel gets back on track with what he agreed upon!!

gccs14r 2 years, 10 months ago

Maybe Fritzel should have his business license suspended for a year or two. That might get his attention.

JackMcKee 2 years, 10 months ago

Fritzel is unethical. This needs to be a point at every future proposal he or his family members (Cramwell) make.

Gareth Skarka 2 years, 10 months ago

It would be nice if the commissioners had the strength of conviction to enforce a "three strikes and you're out" policy with Fritzel, and simply blacklist him from any further development approvals by virtue of his violations.

I won't be losing any sleep waiting for them to suddenly grow an ethical spine, however.

lawrence_born 2 years, 10 months ago

No wonder Mr. Fritzel has to "ignore" city regulations...if builders didn't this town would constantly be held hostage by those that don't want to see any development or progress. Hey folks...that's Lawrence. I remember that house, it was a POS and not anything truly worth saving. Yeah, I would also like to see the old bar and the Yellow Sub instead of the Oread. Not.

cowboy 2 years, 10 months ago

Good points Larrynative Seems the drama queens on the CC think all you have to do is throw a public tantrum and you get a settlement. Not. Litigation is not that simple and since the city has no leg to stand on , and the HRC is simply an interested bystander with dubious background I'd bet Fritzel is within his rights to proceed as he chooses to.

victor_lustig 2 years, 10 months ago

It's time to dig deep. It's a case of bait and switch. The city knows there are many more site plan violation at the Varsity House apartment project. The obvious, was the faulty replica of the original Varsity House, it was blatant and impossible to not mention. So to protect Thomas Fritzel and KU the city put on a show. The show was scripted, and city commissioners were the actors. Publicly spanking Thomas is what Schumm wanted to cover up their friendly relationship. Good cop, bad cop. Now that they have silenced the vocal few they can let Fritzel finish his dirty work. It's time to check the rest of the site and building. What's built is not what was permitted.

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