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North Lawrence call center closes, moves operations to California ; large south Lawrence apartment complex sells

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It was a little more than two years ago that local leaders were celebrating the opening of a new North Lawrence call center that had plans for employing more than 100 people in the former Tanger mall facility. Well, word has come that the call center has closed its doors and is moving to California.

A spokeswoman with the Rezolve Group confirmed that the company on Wednesday closed its call center in the I-70 Business Center and eliminated 21 positions in the process.

The company operated a call center that helped people, for a fee, fill out their student federal aid applications. But Mary Fallon, a spokeswoman for Rezolve, said business conditions caused the company to make a decision to move the Lawrence call center functions to an existing call center in Sacramento, which is where the company is based.

Fallon said the company will continue to have a "core group of employees" who will work from Lawrence on marketing, technical issues and other matters. But Fallon declined to say how many employees those operations would involve. Fallon also said the future of the significant amount of square footage it leases at the I-70 Business Center was uncertain. Back in 2011, I had reported the company had about 20,000 square feet of space in the center.

The closing actually marks the end for what had grown into a Lawrence success story. Rezolve in 2007 bought a Lawrence startup company called Student Financial Aid Services Inc. At the time it had seven employees, but by 2011 it had grown to 70 employees and was operating a call center in the Golf Course Superintendents Association building in West Lawrence.

When the company in late 2011 made the move to North Lawrence, it tripled its space and said it had plans to grow to 175 employees. I'm not sure how large the employee total ever got in Lawrence. It was 70 in 2011, but Fallon recently said many of those were likely seasonal employees. As noted, there were 21 people who lost their jobs on Wednesday, but I had heard from other sources that other layoffs had taken place at the company in recent weeks.

Fallon said the company's CEO was in Lawrence on Wednesday to make the announcement to employees, and she said a severance package was provided to employees.

I'll keep my ears open for any news about what may go into the I-70 Business Center space. Up until the announcement, the former mall property actually was pretty full. It is home to the headquarters for Protection One, a call center for a home oxygen supplier, and a few other smaller tenants.

In other news and notes from around town:

• It is difficult to keep up with all the real estate sales that happen in the Lawrence apartment market, but the recent land transfers from the Douglas County Courthouse appear to have a big one in south Lawrence.

According to records filed at the courthouse, an entity controlled by San Diego-based PEP-Cactus Student Housing has bought the large apartment complex known as The Reserve, 2511 W. 31st St. Based on a company website, PEP is short for Pierce Education Properties. According to the website, PEP is one of the larger buyers of student housing properties in the country, having completed about $370 million worth of deals since 2007. It currently has apartment complexes totaling about 5,000 beds in major university communities across the country.

The Reserve previously was owned by an out-of-state entity called EDR Lawrence Limited Partnership, which is part of EDR, the publicly traded real estate trust.

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