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Archive for Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Officials upset over reassembly of 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.

October 23, 2012

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An old home may spur a new battle between Lawrence City Hall and one of the city’s more prominent developers.

A pair of city commissioners said they are upset with how Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel is following through on a deal to rebuild the old Varsity House at 11th and Indiana streets. Fritzel and city commissioners last year agreed to a compromise that allowed his development company to move the 1900s-era Varsity House to make way for a new apartment complex.

But now commissioners are expressing concern that the Varsity House isn’t being returned to the site but rather a replica of the house with largely new materials is being constructed.

“The truth of the matter is, something has to be made right up there,” City Commissioner Mike Amyx said. “The building that is being built up there is not the same building that was taken down.”

Amyx said he wants the city to consider levying a large fine against Fritzel for deviating from an approved site plan. Mayor Bob Schumm said he also wants to have a discussion about how the city could force the project to come into compliance with the agreement that stated the “existing structure” of the Varsity House would be “relocated.” Technically, the city can deny an occupancy permit for the 50-unit apartment building that Fritzel is constructing adjacent to the Varsity House, if the city believes the site plan agreement has not been fulfilled.

“I want to give him the opportunity to address the issues, and then we’ll see where it goes,” Schumm said. “But I’m concerned that if we allow this to continue, we’re sending out a very bad message to developers that rules are bendable and we’re not really that serious about enforcing the rules.”

But Fritzel is speaking out against the idea that he is not upholding his end of the Varsity House compromise.

“I would say we absolutely are following the agreement,” Fritzel said. “I totally disagree with anyone who says we are not.”

This is a controversy that has been percolating since last winter. In December, several community members expressed surprise at how Fritzel had chosen to move the house. Instead of moving the house in one piece to its new site on the lot, Fritzel’s crews essentially chopped the house into three large pieces and hauled it off-site on semitrailers.

City commissioners said they were surprised too.

“The next thing we know, the house is being dismantled and carted away,” Schumm said.

But Fritzel said city leaders shouldn’t have been surprised. He said he met with members of the city’s Planning Department before work began to dismantle the house. He said he told them a consultant hired to determine how to move the house strongly recommended the house not be moved in one piece.

Unbeknownst to Fritzel when he bought the house from Kansas University in a public auction, the house was built using an old-style “balloon framing” method. The framing style meant the house had no headers above the windows or doors and lacked stabilizing floor plates.

“There absolutely was a concern that the house was going to collapse if we tried to move it in one piece,” Fritzel said. “And we told the city that.”

Attempts to clarify what the city was told about the need to disassemble the house weren’t successful Monday afternoon.

The house began to draw attention again this month as crews began to reassemble the house. Members of the public said the Varsity House — which gained its name by serving as a boarding house for the Kansas University varsity football team in the mid-1900s — appeared to be a new house simply made to look old.

The house has all new siding and windows and will have a new roof when it is completed as well. But Fritzel said he told city officials all along that the exterior components of the house had deteriorated to the point that they could not be re-used.

Dennis Brown, president of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance, said his group did know the roof and siding likely wouldn’t be saved. But Brown said Monday that he expected interior staircases, window trim and other materials to be saved to a greater degree than they have been.

“It is basically a new house that uses some salvaged framing materials,” Brown said.

The house does use large amounts of old two-by-fours and floor joists from the original structure, but often times those pieces are directly next to new framing that Fritzel said is needed to better support the house and meet current codes.

Fritzel, who gave a tour of the house to the Journal-World, said the project has done a lot to respect the history of the house, which was built in 1908 but is not listed on any historic registers and is not receiving any historic tax credits. The elements include:

l Saving stone and wood from the front porch to ensure the front of the house has an authentic feel to the original;

l Making exact replicas of window trim that were too rotten to be re-used.

l Replacing the siding of the house with actual cedar shingles rather than the more modern method of using concrete composite replica shingles.

l Interior trim and woodwork that is more historically appropriate than many of the 1970s-style doors and hardware that were installed in the house by KU.

“If people would just give us a little more time to do our work, I think they’ll be really impressed,” Fritzel said. “My number one goal is to enhance the environment up there. I feel the Varsity House will be a true enhancement. I really do believe that.”

Commissioners, though still aren’t sure it was what they were promised.

“I can just say that I’m not very happy about how this has happened,” Schumm said. “I would not have voted in favor of this project if I thought what we were going to get was a replica of the Varsity House.”

Commissioners will debate the subject at their 6:35 p.m. meeting tonight at City Hall.

Comments

oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 5 months ago

It sure would make a mighty fine puppet stage. Just think we could have puppet shows on the corner instead of the ones at City Hall.

We could have HRC puppet shows and City Commission puppet shows. I really wish when Fritzel is done, he puts a big bow on the top of the place. Does he have the guts to do that? AFter all, will the commission write a new ordinance dictating the size of bows on houses?

Come on, this is too much fun. But in another matter, can Mayor Schumm tell anyone how an owner can get their house torn down? Does Amyx know? Does anyone know or is this town going to be held hostage by the HRC , Mr. Brown and Ms Zollner and Scott McCullough and the moles in Planning?

Eride, there are no large developers in this town. They will not come because of the backdoor politics and the loonies who want someone else to save something they cannot afford.

But back to 11th and Indiana, that is a backdoor deal with KU. Has been from the get go.

Please Thomas, put a bow on the top! Grow some and give us a nice red and blue bow. if in doubt, call Bows to Go and they will fix you right up.

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Eride 1 year, 5 months ago

Everyone is ignoring whose fault this all really is.

Lawrence. The city staff has consistently reinforced to large developers that they are much better off ignoring planning and code requirements and asking for forgiveness later. The city smacks down the little guy frequently, but if you are a large developer, punishment is few and far between.

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Stacy Napier 1 year, 5 months ago

"The preservation of junk is not a public good."

You aren't kidding. If the wood was rotted and he is replicating the structure to meet modern codes who gives a ..... Do you think the history is in the rot. They already agreed to new windows, floor covering sheetrock and other mechanics. I guess you want him to reinstall the old coal beltching boiler too? Oh no we would not want that. Maybe he should use lead paint and asbestos to make just like it was built.

As long as it looks the same that is all that should matter.

Now go attack some of those houses that are falling down stop wasting our tax money on this.

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Lenette Hamm 1 year, 5 months ago

The minute I heard that Thomas Fritzel was involved in this, I knew what the outcome would be. This particular Fritzel (whose family should make him change his name) has flaunted the fact that he really doesn't give a s**t about what's right or wrong - and tends to lean toward the wrong or sleazy or devious, whatever you wish to call it. He knowingly damaged up property near this site (likely because the owners didn't want to sell it to him just to be demolished) and claimed innocence when confronted . The city needs to seriously fine this guy for this entire mess, for all the other violations he continues to get away with, and be stopped in his tracks if he has another other brilliant plans on the horizon.

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lawrencereporter 1 year, 5 months ago

Commissioner Carter must be busy busing tables at the Oread Inn tonight. Obviously he's to uncomfortable hearing testimony about his friend and possible employer Thomas Fritzel's misdeeds at the Varsity House project so he just didn't show up to the meeting.

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toe 1 year, 5 months ago

An unoccupied building would attract a whole host of problems. The best thing to do is have a group hug and let bygones be bygones. The preservation of junk is not a public good.

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lawrencereporter 1 year, 5 months ago

Here is a link to the city's memo with a link to a letter by Paul Werner. Seriously this must be a joke.

http://lawrenceks.org/assets/agendas/cc/2012/10-23-12/varsity_staff_memo.html

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blindrabbit 1 year, 5 months ago

lawrencereporter: Your comments about the drift of the Fritzel family reputation are right on. I remember buying gasoline at Thomas Fritzel's grandfathers Phillips 66 station at 19th and Mass in the 1940's-50's, a more honest guy did not exist. Also grew up in the 23rd and Ohio neighborhood with Gene, a more reputable individual did not exist in the local building industry. Makes one think that the story about the drift of generations has a lot of merit; maybe like the Romney's, too many competing sons in the Gene Fritzel family.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 5 months ago

Look, this a future KU. bldg. it is being done just as the Phillips oil guys did jayhawker towers. The real estate deal was rigged. the city changed the zoning for the area in 2006 setting the stage to stall development in the area. If there are liars it it is KU that maintained they were keeping the three lots to the north. They did not or maybe it is all underground parking. Now. Nonetheless the three lots were sold in a sweet backdoor approach. Research that J/W.
Schumm and Amyx would serve the public well to clean the parking lots downtown. Cite the owners of buildings downtown for blight and better yet , get ms mile with parks and rec to trimm around the lamps on the lighted pathway. Schumm have a problem finding violations downtown? Saturated carpet throughoutmultipleunits(. Undefined) Lack of fire protection systems (vague). This is just two issues cited by the city to park plaza. Park Plaza didn't get a free sprinkler system as Schumm did.

HRC. is in the real estate business with Lyn Zollner suggesting sites now. She will deny it and Amyzx will side with her and schumm as well.

Mr Schumm. , your downtown is not that much to look at from the backside. check it out. I am sure Mr. Jimenez will be downtown (certainly not on city time). checking on the new sweet shop he is involved with.

11th And Indiana was rigged from the beginning and Shumm and Amyx knew it, If not, they are incapable of leading. TheJW editorial today is just something to keep the controversy going because it gives HRC. and mr brown a cause. They have no life ! L

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scaramouchepart2 1 year, 5 months ago

Oh by the way, the apartment building will only last about five years. It is planned development. Build to last five years and then sell and new owner can't rent because it is shoddy construction. New apartments replace slightly older apartments and this apartment complex will fall in line to be rebuilt within a few years, with city incentives. And the cycle continues. That's called planned development to developers.

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scaramouchepart2 1 year, 5 months ago

Actually the problem lies with you all who don't vote. Cronyism is rampant in this country and it is because the developers, in this case, know they can get the people who will give them anything they ask for in office.

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pizzapete 1 year, 5 months ago

I was up on campus last week taking in the fall colors and walked by the new apartments. I was impressed with how it looked and thought that it fit in well with the other houses and apartments in the area. Although I am a fan of historical preservation, I think it was wishful thinking that the Varsity House could be taken apart, moved, and rebuilt to it's former glory. I agree with many on here who think the house should have been torn down altogether or donated to someone willing to spend the time and money to move it and restore it. The new apartments looks great, but the old house crammed into the corner of the lot looks out of place to me.

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chasler2001 1 year, 5 months ago

Is it just me or does the 'new' Varsity House look to be much smaller in dimension?

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lawrencereporter 1 year, 5 months ago

City commissioners said they were surprised too.

“The next thing we know, the house is being dismantled and carted away,” Schumm said.

But Fritzel said city leaders shouldn’t have been surprised. He said he met with members of the city’s Planning Department before work began to dismantle the house. He said he told them a consultant hired to determine how to move the house strongly recommended the house not be moved in one piece.

Looks like Schumm will blame planning staff instead of Fritzel.

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kerryaltenbernd 1 year, 5 months ago

"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! So says Claude Rains' character in "Casablanca," just before the croupier hands him his roulette winnings.

Apparently our city commissioners don't watch old movies, or what Fritzel is doing would be no surprise. Why should anyone in Lawrence be surprised that a developer might not disclose all the facts about what they really intend to do when applying for a project. If they did, they might not get what they want, especially when they can chalk it up to "unanticipated problems" and get away with it.

Ronald Reagan, who I do not usually quote, one said, "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." I wonder what you should say about an organization that has allowed itself to be fooled dozens of times over the years. "Shame" is too mild a word.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 5 months ago

I hope the windows facing the structure are bathrooms or closets. I would hate to have the new boarding house in front of my living room.

Anyway, Schumm and Amyx are blowing smoke. Amyx is a fence rider and now that McCullough's office closed down some apartments out south, they need something new to do.

I wonder if an outhouse from Clinton Lake could be moved and restored? I am sure some on the commission would make it feel like home.

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JackMcKee 1 year, 5 months ago

The man uses fake grass. Who else does that? Nobody. Just him. What else do you need to know?

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lawrencereporter 1 year, 5 months ago

Fritzel probably can't remember the last time he told the truth. The city knows he can't be trusted, he proves that on a daily basis with his own actions. Why are the city commissioners continuing to talk with Fritzel about the recreation center, why? As you can see even one of his biggest supporters, Mayor Schumm is having trouble protecting him this time. Money can't buy you love, but it seems it can buy you forgiveness in Lawrence.

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JMN 1 year, 5 months ago

I'm so sick of the trolls constantly whining and complaining on here. Where was everybody that loved this house so much when it was falling to pieces the last several decades? You guys love to hate on Fritzel, Compton, and other similar businessmen because they are successful but they're the only ones doing anything to improve the aesthetics of these neighborhoods. Instead of throwing temper tantrums over every little thing these guys do why don't you get off your computers and do something about these so-called landmarks that you love so much. Pathetic losers cowering behind their monitors naysaying and not doing anything productive. Shame on you.

1

skinny 1 year, 5 months ago

The City of Lawrence needs to stop the construction until Mr. Fritzel gets with the program!

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Mark Kostner 1 year, 5 months ago

After I left Lawrence, I lived in Boulder for awhile. Back in the late 70's and 1980s to get around growth control laws, developers would buy old houses and build condos and apartments around them. At least back then they'd make a superficial effort to make the apartments look like the houses they surrounded, although it was still obvious what they were doing. In this case the new building looks nothing like the Varsity House and I wonder why the developer even bothered to save the place. This looks strange. He should have built the new place in the same style and made the place blend in.

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flyin_squirrel 1 year, 5 months ago

In my opinion, keeping the varsity house was a waste and why we need to get rid of the HRC. But with that said, Fritzel pulled another one on the city.

Schumm and Amyx carry some of the blame for this disaster, as well as Mr Brown and the HRC. They all approved moving this non-historic house to the corner. They all approved the design with this house 10 feet away from the apartment, and said it looks good. And they all assumed Fritzel would build the house the way "they intended" not Fritzel.

For Amyx, Schumm and Brown to complain is an absolute joke. At some point when you continue to make deals with the devil, you will get burned.

Fool me once (Oread), shame on you. Fool me twice (Fake grass), shame on me. Fool me thrice (Varsity), shame on Lawrence. Fool me a fourth time (Rec center).....

3

Tricky_D 1 year, 5 months ago

When the big bad corporation folded their tent and left town, as big bad corporations do, one of the leading opponents of that development (think headlights from Borders parking lot shining through his tenants windows) was quoted in these pages, expressing disappointment at Borders leaving, because it was nice to be able to walk over there and buy a book. (What happened to buying locally?) This same guy has now been used by the City to drive a wedge through the ATSF depot preservation effort.

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Budgets_Smudgets 1 year, 5 months ago

And remember, the so-called "rec-center" is being proposed as a "no-bid" project.

Trust us, they say.

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Tricky_D 1 year, 5 months ago

Anyone remember the Borders war? Preservationists, motivated by their dislike of big bad corporations, oppose construction of suburban type development at 7th and New Hampshire, use environs review to try to "save" an old garage that they suddenly have fond memories of and that the community can't live without...remember the Stumble Inn...a vital part of the cultural fabric of the city?

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JackMcKee 1 year, 5 months ago

This building needed fixing and the grass needed plasticizing. An Amazing man that Fritzel. He can build a Tower if Terror on year and turn grass into plastic the next.

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Pastor_Bedtime 1 year, 5 months ago

See where cronyism gets you? As a community, we all lose. Time to re-level the playing field and give other folks an opportunity in this two-developer town.

4

DennisReynolds 1 year, 5 months ago

That building was a dilapidated POS that probably should have been condemned. I think it is a joke that the city commission thought requiring it to be moved and reconstructed rather than just torn down was a good idea in the first place. Typical I guess...

0

skinny 1 year, 5 months ago

I was in and out of that house the last 25 years. I can't wait to walk into the basement to see how original it is now! Opps, oh wait, what basement???? I guess they decided not to have a basement in the quote, unquote new Varsity House.

The City of Lawrence better levy Mr. Fritzel some big fines for not placing the house back original as was agreed upon!

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lawrencereporter 1 year, 5 months ago

“I would say we absolutely are following the agreement,” Fritzel said. “I totally disagree with anyone who says we are not.”

Who's "we"

1

Fatty_McButterpants 1 year, 5 months ago

Heaven forbid an old, rundown building be updated to modern standards. Seriously folks, not every old building in Lawrence needs to be preserved because something happened there once.

4

Liberty275 1 year, 5 months ago

So one week we close down an apartment and kicked people out because the landowner did not make adequate repairs, then the next week government is complaining that another owner put new siding and a new roof on his boarding house.

"Any one ever remodeled anything ?"

Exactly. Old buildings need to be updated from time to time. If it's a government-recognized landmark, you hire the $200/hour craftsmen from back east. If it's some place you bought at auction, you hire the $25 yokels. Or you do it yourself. All you need is a sawzall and enough money to fix the stuff you tear up.

0

Keith Richards 1 year, 5 months ago

The house should have been torn down originally. It was a piece of crap.

Although this is a bait and switch, the overall outcome is better than if they would have move a dilapidated, rotting, piece of crap.

3

JackMcKee 1 year, 5 months ago

Sadly I think Fritzel is not a person I'd trust with the rec center.

4

Andini 1 year, 5 months ago

"I think they’ll be really impressed,” That's what he said.

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cowboy 1 year, 5 months ago

Sold at public auction Not listed on historic register No taxpayer subsidy = the whiners have no standing

Id like to see the site plan "contract" I suspect its not worth the paper its written on

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irvan moore 1 year, 5 months ago

these are the people the city want to partner with on a new rec center?

4

Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 5 months ago

Builders motto: " It's easier to ask for forgiveness then permission."

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JackMcKee 1 year, 5 months ago

Yes. Cowboy, I believe it is exactly what we're talking about.

1

kansanbygrace 1 year, 5 months ago

Balloon-framing was the dominant style of residential construction when Varsity House was built. There was no platform construction, with floor and top plates between the floors for another 40 years or so. Dozens of those houses have been successfully moved in Lawrence and Douglas County, and thousands across the midwest. Thomas Fritzell could have consulted any of the craftsmen or the structure movers who have done this work and become educated on the structural style and how to move it. He probably didn't think of that. Being the son of a builder does not necessarily mean all the father's knowledge has been transplanted into the brain of the less experienced, though usually well-intending son. Lawrence "developers" have a long history of doing whatever they feel like, regardless of the knowledge they ignore from more skilled and experienced tradesmen.
All hat, no hammer, to paraphrase Lyndon Johnson.

6

Michael Shaw 1 year, 5 months ago

This project has made Indiana street difficult and dangerous for pedestrians. The building itself significantly differs from the drawings shown to the planning commission. And now the are building a parody of the house they agreed to restore. A model project.

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Number_1_Grandma 1 year, 5 months ago

Just another example of the city not wanting to "look antidevelopment" and the developer taking advantage. The system in place at city hall requires doing to plans. If problems arise, you FIRST get with building officials about the need to change the plans and have THEM sign off before proceeding! This must not have happened for this problem to happen. The commission HAS TO put some bite into these kinds of builder/developers who knowingly take advantage of the submissive commissioners. By the way, the city can always put a "stop work order" to make the developer get back to plans or face fines/money and time. Prosecute in court or take his license to work in this town!

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JackMcKee 1 year, 5 months ago

Cowboy, what are your thoughts on plastic grass?

1

thuja 1 year, 5 months ago

Spoiled entitled rich boy developer.

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lawrencereporter 1 year, 5 months ago

Thomas Fritzel certainly has trashed his family's name. It was once known for quality and honesty. Thomas Fritzel is the family's appointed leader, he is driven by greed and dishonesty. If any commissioners chose to defend Fritzel's blatant dishonesty and lack of respect for the law regarding this project it might be time to investigate their relationship(s) to Fritzel. Three strikes and your out, when is enough, enough.

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cowboy 1 year, 5 months ago

Any one ever remodeled anything ? Thats how Ive made my living and when you start tearing into things you never know where it may lead. These same a$$hats that are griping from the city would be over there telling them to bring it up to code if they left it as it was. Might as well do it correctly if youre going to bother erecting it.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

"Unbeknownst to Fritzel when he bought the house from Kansas University in a public auction, the house was built using an old-style “balloon framing” method. The framing style meant the house had no headers above the windows or doors and lacked stabilizing floor plates.

“There absolutely was a concern that the house was going to collapse if we tried to move it in one piece,” Fritzel said. “And we told the city that.”"

That's complete BS. First, anyone who knows anything about building techniques in use when this house was constructed should have known that this building was built with balloon framing. And there have been countless such houses moved without their collapsing.

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Sherry Warren 1 year, 5 months ago

I can't wait for this construction catastrophe to be over. These donkeys have been messing up the road and traffic for too long. Yeah yeah...I know - I am in a big ole rush to get up the hill so I can isolate myself in my ivory tower.

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LWbored 1 year, 5 months ago

Fritzel sounds like he is taking care of this ugly building just fine. The city should just relax and let the man take care of his tiny, 108 year-old eye sore.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 5 months ago

This has been a charade from the beginning. Nothing more than actors playing their part, reading from their scripts. Both sides deserve their respective Oscars.

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Barclay 1 year, 5 months ago

Fun news to read, but a very silly debate. I am sure an injunction could stop this project for the next 20 years. “I can just say that I’m not very happy about how this has happened,” Schumm said. “I would not have voted in favor of this project if I thought what we were going to get was a replica of the Varsity House.” I thought Schumm's complaint was that he wanted the original.

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kujayhawk7476 1 year, 5 months ago

Give me a break, Schumm! Lawrence is not the "mecca" of history and preserved buildings! It is time to move into the 21st century! There is a word in the dictionary everywhere in the world except for Lawrence; that word is 'progress'! Embrace it!

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JackMcKee 1 year, 5 months ago

Mr. Tower of Terror. The plastic grass king. Where's Cramwell? Hmmmm. I wonder. The tackiest builder in Lawrence. He didn't follow through on his promise? You don't say. Idiots.

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happyp 1 year, 5 months ago

Really? Did the commissioners really expect Fritzel to do what he said? Let's think back, gentlemen, the Oread, the apartments with the artificial grass. Why does the city commission continue to allow Fritzel to get by with these things? I assume I will allowed the same privilege when I build an addition to my house. Please think long and hard about the recreation center in Northwest Lawrence. How can he be trusted? Please think about the large fine and some type of punishment for continually ignoring his agreements.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Give them more time and the city commission will do nothing. It is NOT unusual as commissioners think for site plan violations to take place. Most often these violations are ignored.

Look at Baur Farms...... one monster site plan violation. Where did new urbanism go? Probably could not find tenants.

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auntmimi210 1 year, 5 months ago

Oh my God, whaaaat ? I'm so surprised. Nobody saw this coming.

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