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Group wins grant for new city nature park trail; Lawrence home sales top the 1,000 mark for year
A new Lawrence park and a new Lawrence trail are beginning to look more likely all the time.
A grant totaling up to $55,000 has been awarded to the local nonprofit group Outside for a Better Inside, group founder John McGrew has told me. The grant, from the Topeka-based Sunflower Foundation, will be used to help build a nature trail on the central Lawrence property that used to house the Lawrence VFW.
The trail is a key part of a plan to convert 8 acres in the Pinckney neighborhood into a nature park that will be donated to the city. City officials last month preliminarily agreed to accept the donation of the property, once private funding arrangements could be made for the trail.
The Sunflower grant is a key cog in the funding of the trail. McGrew has estimated the paved trail will cost a little more than $100,000 to build. McGrew — who is a longtime Lawrence real estate executive — has said he is confident the Outside for a Better Inside organization can successfully conduct private fundraising to complete the project.
McGrew believes the trail can be completed by Spring of 2014. I haven't yet talked with city officials since word of the grant, so we'll see what their timelines are. Previously they had expressed optimism that the park, which is around Second and Alabama streets, could be open by late 2014.
Plans call for the trail to go through a hardwood forest and partially around a small lake that used to be a clay pit for an old-time brick factory. As we recently reported, the site has an old cabin and an interesting history as a Lawrence zoo.
The property is owned by the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. Bert Nash plans to donate the back half of the property to the city, but still has long-range plans to develop the front half of the site with a new building that could house medical offices for Bert Nash and the Heartland Community Health Clinic.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Some people sing Home for the Holidays, while other people buy a home for the holidays. Lawrence home sales in November were relatively strong, according to the latest report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors.
Lawrence home sales in Novembers were up almost 13 percent compared to November 2012 totals, according to the report. For the month, 53 homes were sold.
November's showing continues what has been a real good year for the Lawrence real estate market. In fact, November's sales pushed the market past a key milestone: Total sales for the year stood at 1,001 at the end of November. Lawrence has tried to break the 1,000 home sale barrier for a few years now.
Through November, Lawrence home sales for the year were up 20 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Compared to the same period in 2011, sales are up a remarkable 53 percent. The rebound in the Lawrence real estate market really has been one of the more important business stories of the last couple of years.
It is not only sales that have rebounded, but prices are up too. The median selling price thus far in 2013 is $170,000, up 7.3 percent from the same period a year ago. That's a change from what we saw in 2012. Basically what happened in 2012 is that the local real estate market started to pick up steam, in part, because selling prices of homes had dropped. At this point last year, home prices were down by almost 6.5 percent. But it seems clear that price correction was a one year event. It will be interesting to see how the county appraiser values people's homes here in the next few months. This is a key time for the appraiser's office. State law requires him to set a value for every home as of Jan. 1 of each year. We usually get those change in value notices mailed to us in March.
As for other statistics from this month's report:
— The number of listings on the Lawrence market is down to 380. That's down nearly 17 percent from the same period a year ago. If that trend holds, that also likely will put upward pressure on home prices.
— The median number of days a home stays on the market before selling is now down to 42. That's compared to 60 days in 2012.
— The number of newly constructed homes sold thus far in 2013 is 92. That's up nearly 18 percent from the same period a year ago.