Archive for Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Longtime resident laments plans to build five-story apartment building along three sides of her home

March 12, 2014

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In this March file photo, Lawrence resident Georgia Bell, who is 91 and lives at 1115 Indiana Street, talks about her dealings with developers who have expressed their interest in buying her property, which is surrounded on three sides by the Berkeley Flats apartment complex.

In this March file photo, Lawrence resident Georgia Bell, who is 91 and lives at 1115 Indiana Street, talks about her dealings with developers who have expressed their interest in buying her property, which is surrounded on three sides by the Berkeley Flats apartment complex.

This house at 1115 Indiana Street sits between two apartment complexes at the bottom of a hill on the west side of Indiana.

This house at 1115 Indiana Street sits between two apartment complexes at the bottom of a hill on the west side of Indiana.

Ninety-one-year-old Georgia Bell already knows a lot about living with college students, but soon it may go to a whole new level — or more accurately, five levels.

Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday approved the rezoning for a five-story, 175-unit apartment and retail building to be constructed near the edge of the Kansas University campus near 11th and Indiana streets.

But the development has a twist: As currently proposed, Bell’s modest home would be surrounded on three sides by the five-story building, after Bell and the development company haven’t been able to strike a deal for her property.

It may sound like a plot twist from a sitcom, but these days it is creating more concern than laughs.

“She has the right to be there, and we wouldn’t try to do anything to make her move,” City Commissioner Bob Schumm said. “But I’m afraid she is not going to be very happy there.”

Bell, who has lived at her home at 1115 Indiana St. for about 70 years, agrees.

“I don’t like any of this,” she said.

For the past 50 years, Bell’s property has been surrounded on three sides by the Berkeley Flats apartment complex. But during that time, Bell at least has been able to access the back door of her home through an unwritten agreement that she could drive through the Berkeley Flats parking lot. But with the new development, there won’t be a parking lot to drive through. It will be covered by the building. That leaves Bell’s only access as a steep flight of stairs that connects Indiana Street to her front yard.

A leader with the Chicago-based student housing company seeking to build the project said he has tried many times to purchase the property from Bell. In fact, he told city commissioners that he has offered her $600,000 for the property, which currently is valued for tax purposes at about $93,000.

Bell said, actually, the representative once offered her $700,000 for the property, and she preliminarily accepted the bid. But Bell never finalized the deal, and to understand why, you have to understand a little bit about her life.

Bell raised six children at the home, primarily as a single mother.

“I didn’t know beans when the bag was open,” Bell said of her naivety.

A conversation with Bell will reveal a host of stories where Bell believes she has been taken advantage of — ranging from insurance claims to lost jobs to disputes with her student neighbors.

“Everything I have ever tried to do, someone else has seen it and thought it looked pretty good and taken it from me,” Bell said. “That is why I am so slow to move.”

Bell said she is still very interested in selling the property. “I’ve had my fill of it,” she said.

It is unclear, though, whether a deal will be struck. Jim Heffernan, a leader with Chicago-based HERE, LLC, said if a deal could be struck in a matter of weeks, the building’s design perhaps could be modified to take advantage of the space. But after that point, the only use for the property would be for open space, and the amount the company is willing to pay for that would decline significantly.

Bell’s son Norman Bell said he has been advising his mother to hire an attorney and complete a deal. But he said his mother is “pretty independent” when it comes to the matter.

As for the apartment complex, Heffernan said the company will seek to secure financing by the end of the year, and construction is expected to take 18 months to complete. As planned, the project will create a major transformation of the property, which is across the street from KU’s Memorial Stadium.

“The building design is reminiscent of a downtown,” said Heffernan. “We think it will look similar to what a downtown in the 1950s would look like.”

Among the plan’s details:

• The building would house 171 to 176 apartment units with a total of 592 bedrooms.

• The development would include a 592-space, underground, automated parking garage system that would use a system of lifts and tracks to park and retrieve vehicles.

• The building would have about 11,000 square feet of retail or restaurant uses, with spaces along both Mississippi and Indiana streets.

The project is expected to ask for some financial incentives from the city, but developers haven’t yet filed an application for a specific request. Any incentive package will require approval from the City Commission.

Comments

Cynthia Schott 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around not accepting $700,000. That would set her and her children up for quite a while. I am not normally in favor of apartment expansion, but really?

1 year, 1 month ago

Yea... how about the cash and an apartment? That would suit me... wish I could run across such a problematic situation.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 1 month ago

This reminded me of a New York skyscraper that I read about many years ago. A very similar problem arose prior to its construction, so the plans were simply changed to build a huge skyscraper around the only landholder that refused to sell, despite a magnificent offer for a small plot of land. Of course, after Lincoln Center was constructed in New York City, that property wasn't worth very much.

This lady and her heirs are in the exact same situation.

It took a bit of searching, but I found what I remembered: A tidbit about the construction of Lincoln Center, in New York City, clipped from 'The New York Times':
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/09/nyregion/09metjournal.html?_r=0

A lonely little red building sits on a short block a stone’s throw away from Lincoln Center. Five stories tall, crisscrossed by fire escapes, it looks as if it escaped from the Lower East Side. Skyscraping apartment towers loom over it like bullies ganging up on an old lady. A parking garage and a flyspeck of green space surround it like a moat.
-end clip-

Surprise! That was not the only case of a similar holdout.

Again, in New York City, clipped from:
http://blog.plover.com/tech/spite-house.html

The Herald Square Macy's still has a notch cut out of its corner; see the picture at right. The Macy's store on Queens Boulevard is in the shape of a perfect circle, except for the little bit cut out of one side where the proverbial old lady (this time named Mary Sendek) refused to sell a 7×15-foot back corner of her lot for $200,000 because she wanted her dog to have a place to play.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 1 month ago

The dog is long gone, and so is the $200,000, but there's still a notch cut out of the Macy's building in New York City!
(click on image to enlarge)

http://www2.ljworld.com/users/photos/2014/mar/12/270387/

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 1 month ago

I got this a bit mixed up, and it's too late to correct it now. The above should have read:

When Henry Siegel, a New York store owner, got news in 1898 that Macy's was going to build a gigantic new flagship store on Herald Square, he bought the corner lot for $375,000 to screw over his competitors. The Herald Square Macy's still has a notch cut out of its corner; see the picture at right.

Correctly for this link:
The Macy's store on Queens Boulevard is in the shape of a perfect circle, except for the little bit cut out of one side where the proverbial old lady (this time named Mary Sendek) refused to sell a 7×15-foot back corner of her lot for $200,000 because she wanted her dog to have a place to play.

I was not able to download the image, but if you click on this link to maps.google.com you can clearly see the notch at the northwest corner, facing 55th Avenue.

https://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=86.803822,62.050781&ie=UTF8&ll=40.735661,-73.874543&spn=0.002669,0.001894&t=h&z=19

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 1 month ago

This just goes to show that Lawrence, Kansas is really going places.
We're facing the exact same problems that New York City faces!

This reminds me very much of a problem that one of my great uncles and his wife faced years ago. They retired to el Cajon, California, which is about 15 miles east of San Diego. It was wonderful, and then in one single year they lost both their sunrises and sunsets to apartment buildings, one built to the east, and the other built to the west.

Addie Line 1 year, 1 month ago

The article doesn't say she turned down the original offer. It actually says she was open to the original offer of $700,000 and still is open to an offer.

As for being slow to move on the deal/not finalizing...let's consider that she's spent the duration of her life and marriage there, raised their kids...I can imagine not wanting to leave a home that holds so many memories. Plus, being an elderly woman navigating a huge offer from an unfamiliar company is probably very daunting.

Matthew Herbert 1 year, 1 month ago

Is it weird that I have a crush on a 91 year old ? Keep on fighting Georgia !

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

I with you for recognizing a feisty 90 year old person that still has her integrity and ethics about her. Taking on the cold hearted boys from Chicago cannot be fun.

Clark Coan 1 year, 1 month ago

She could take the $600,000-700,000 and move her house to a lot in a quieter neighborhood, fix the house up and still pocket a nice chunk of change.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

The big city Chicago boys have run out of space at home in Chicago so now they are raiding Kansas to continue their less than appreciated form of construction pollution.

Do Lawrence homeowners and taxpayers want Chicago type crime rates? They are on the horizon and bringing inflated real estate values with them both of which represent increased taxes.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 1 month ago

The crime rate stemming from the residents living in rather high priced apartments, which these are sure to be, is rather low.

And, the vacancy rate in the apartment complexes already built here is quite high, and that tends to lower home property prices.

So, I don't think that expecting increased crime rates or taxes is very realistic.

Mark Rainey 1 year, 1 month ago

And they will get tax deferments and other taxpayer dollars.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 1 month ago

I think that's only a projection of your thoughts. That is not mentioned anywhere in the article, and I doubt very much that you will be able to find a credible source to back up your claims.

Instead of that, I expect that the property owners will have to pay property taxes just like everybody else. A very valuable property such as the apartment complex discussed in this article will increase the tax base here in Lawrence by millions of dollars.

I think it's good that there will be housing available that is walking distance from the KU campus because that will reduce vehicle traffic, reliance on imported crude oil, and the air pollution here in town.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

Crime rates in Lawrence are on the rise = a secret cost of growth.

Topeka and KCMO metro are shining examples.

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