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City receives just one proposal to redevelop dilapidated East Lawrence property; rumblings of Buffalo Wild Wings, barbecue and a downtown diner


The Lawrence development community evidently hasn't fallen in love with Rhody Delahunty.

If you remember, city commissioners recently went through the unusual process of taking the house and real estate at 1106 Rhode Island St. by eminent domain. As part of the eminent domain process, the city paid $114,500 for the dilapidated and vacant house and barn that sit just east of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center in downtown.

Commissioners bought the house, in part, because it is in a historic district, and the home itself is an old one. It dates back to the early 1870s, and the site was used by colorful Irishman Rhody Delahunty as the headquarters for his thriving dray wagon business.

Last month, commissioners sent out an RFP saying they wanted to receive proposals on how to redevelop the property, with the caveat that the old structures wouldn't be demolished. City staff members now report that the city received just one proposal.

But as my wife says as she sorts through her stack of credit cards at the checkout line: It just takes one good one. Now, city officials will have to determine whether the lone proposal is a good one.

It comes from longtime Lawrence architect and historic preservationist Stan Hernly's company Hernly Associates. As expected, the proposal involves financial assistance from the city to redevelop the property. First, Hernly proposes to buy the property for 90,000, which is less than what the city paid for it. Hernly says the city paid a price based on what the land was worth in a clear condition, but the condition of the house and barn actually make the property less valuable.

Hernly's group also is seeking essentially a 90 percent, 10-year property tax rebate on the completed project. The group also is seeking $26,100 in development grants to help fund what is expected to be about a $900,000 rehabilitation project.

As for what the project will include:

— The old house would be converted into a three-bedroom, two-bath rental house.

— A new one-bedroom, one-bath apartment would be built above the garage.

— The existing warehouse/barn would be converted into 2,170 square feet of office space. According to the proposal submitted to City Hall, Hernly plans to move his architectural business into the office space.

The proposal goes into detail about how the property will be greatly improved, noting everything from the major structural improvements that will have to be undertaken to the landscaping and site improvements that will clean up what has generally been viewed as a long-term eyesore.

That has been the one part of this project that most people have agreed upon: The property has been a mess, and has detracted from the neighborhood. But the city's actions to purchase the property through eminent domain have been important because it is the first time in recent memory the city has used that power to deal with a dilapidated property.

Now, it appears, purchasing the property won't be the only costs to the city. As proposed it will included taking money out of the city's coffers to complete the deal.

City commissioners have the power to order unsafe and dangerous houses to be demolished, but that option wasn't seriously considered in this case. That's because the history of the house made it likely that the city's own Historic Resources Commission would object to any proposed demolition of the property.

It will be an interesting project to watch. Let's face it, the amount of assistance being asked for isn't going to put a major dent in the city's budget. But there are certainly other old, dilapidated properties around town that the city has struggled to deal with. The more interesting question to me is whether the city has created a new strategy — one centered on the use of eminent domain — to rehabilitate old properties? And if so, what do we think of that? Is it finally a solution to deal with property owners who refuse to live up to their responsibilities, or is it an overreach by government?

Don't look at me. Sometimes I just get paid to ask the questions.

In other news and notes from around town:

• In my line of work, the celebrities I hang around with are city commissioners, and, if I'm lucky, an occasional planning commissioner. So, you can imagine how popular I become at cocktail parties when I start dropping names. But in that tradition, I'll drop a few names here. Like all good name-dropping, I'm a little light on specifics at the moment. In other words, I'll attempt to follow up in coming days on some of these.

— Buffalo Wild Wings: As we have previously reported, the restaurant is planning a new location at the northeast corner of 27th and Iowa Street. Well, there are signs that project is moving forward. The biggest sign is a bulldozer clearing the site. I still don't have a definitive answer on what this means for the downtown location for Buffalo Wild Wings. In the past, officials at the location have told me they don't know what the future holds for the downtown spot. People in the commercial real industry, however, tell me they've been told Buffalo Wild Wings is moving out of the location. It has been awhile since I've check with Buffalo Wild Wings, so I'll let you know if there is an update.

— Blockbuster: The last we reported on the vacant Blockbuster building on 23rd Street was that Wichita-based Hog Wild Pit Bar-B-Q was taking part of the building, and an unidentified mattress store was taking the other part. As far as I know, that's still the plan, and work clearly has begun on the site. I'll see what update is available from the development company.

— Pie: I've gotten word from a reliable source that a new downtown diner is coming to Massachusetts Street. It involves a partnership with an existing downtown restaurant and a pie maker extraordinaire. But I haven't yet got in touch with all parties involved, so I'm going to leave it at that until I have a chance to do so. But trust me, I will. I don't let pie go cold.

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  • Comments

    Matthew Herbert 3 years, 11 months ago

    and this is why you don't take someone's property via eminent domain unless you have a CLEAR plan of action for that property. The city stands to lose big time on this deal, since presumably the property, though not maintained well enough apparently, was paying annual property taxes. Now, that property (it appears) will no longer be collecting property taxes for the city. In addition to losing tax revenue, it appears the city will assume a net loss of nearly $25,000 in the sale of that property to a builder, who will then turn around and beg money from the city to restore the property. And what are we restoring it to be?? A for-profit rental property. Explain to me again how that will satisfy the 5th Amendment's 'public use' clause. Simply another ridiculous mismanagement of taxpayer money. People all over this city are renovating properties and are doing so within the confines of the free market. This home did not need to be a government preservation charity case

    Greg DiVilbiss 3 years, 11 months ago

    Property rights are dying in this country. There have been communities who have through eminent domain taken someones property and turned it into a shopping mall.

    The Supreme Court in In Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a controversial opinion in which they held that a city could constitutionally seize private property for private commercial development. 545 U.S. 469 (2005).


    Clark Coan 3 years, 11 months ago

    The owners had years and years to upgrade the blighted property. They were given chance after chance to bring it up to code. Since they failed to do so, they forfeited their right to the property. How would you like to own a house near the blighted property? That would substantially lower your property values.

    That said, I don't see why Hernly should get any tax benefits to upgrade the property. Either get someone who will pay the fair market price and restore it. If no one wants it, bulldoze it, and make it pocket park space (not a parking lot!).

    April Fleming 3 years, 11 months ago

    The city may have paid too much money for the home. But one could argue that it's in the city's interest to protect historic properties and find suitable developers that will continue to protect them.

    The tax abatement in the short term may be a loss, but over time (especially if the developer does put almost $1M into the renovation), it could pay for itself.

    3 years, 11 months ago

    April, I am curious, why would that be in the cities best interest?

    Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

    Forget any tax money for this old residential project. The suggested money to be spent is more than what market value will bring = not a smart investment. Not on my tax dollar please.

    I say City Hall should not get in a hurry. Someone will want that property one day. Let it sit until the right buyer comes along. At least the property is on the market so no need to panic.

    It makes no sense to buy property and lose money for the taxpayers.

    William Weissbeck 3 years, 11 months ago

    Didn't anyone look into the salvage value of these autos? I believe there are two '57 Chevy's and another mid 50's auto. I'm surprise some auto buffs didn't come across this yard many years ago.

    3 years, 11 months ago

    I say tear down the buildings, all of them, clear off the lot, and then sell the bare lot to someone who wants to build on it. South Park is just a block or so from there, so I don't think making a pocket park would be a good idea.

    Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

    At least the property is on the market so no need to panic. Give it time someone will buy it. Leave it single family residential. Being close to the park and downtown is a thumbs up.

    Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

    East Lawrence is growing by way of new families moving into east Lawrence and/or current families having children. Retaining and maintaining existing assets such as schools has been considered fiscally responsible for probably two hundred years…. down right frugal. New York School is paid for.

    East Lawrence is an attractive neighborhood. East and Old west Lawrence are among the choice neighborhoods for restoring old beautiful homes.

    East Lawrence is about old growth trees,character of housing, easy walking or biking to most destinations like downtown, KU and our public schools.

    East Lawrence has Weavers, Browns Shoe Fit,Dillons, downtown hardware store,D&D tire shop,Liberty Hall,City Library,Senior Service Center, used goods such as the antique mall/Fun and Games, Kring's, Waxman Candle,Foot Print,Mass Street Music, Cottins Hardware, very nice parks and walkable. These are but a few of the wonderful attractions to East Lawrence. And paid for public schools.

    East Lawrence is home to many college graduates, "common laborers", the retired, musicians/artists aka diversity.

    East Lawrence received many thumbs up by urban consultant Placemakers for:

    1. Home designs

    2. layout of neighborhood streets

    3. proximity to neighborhood schools

    4. sidewalks - a walkable neighborhood community

    5. proximity to downtown

    At least the property is on the market so no need to panic. Haste makes waste.

    Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

    One more option is Tenants to Homeowners ... an organization that builds fine quality homes.

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