Proposed buyer of Turnhalle building still looking for a tenant; McDonald’s on South Iowa to close for remodel; World Series produces change-up at City Hall

I’ve had a few plans based on beer, bowling and gymnastics (I still contend the tumble I took in the ninth frame was gymnastics.) But I’ve never had a business plan based on the trio. Apparently others haven’t either, and that’s bad news for fans of the Turnhalle building, the 1869 building at Ninth and Rhode Island streets.

If you remember, the Turnhalle building has one of the more unique histories in Lawrence. It is believed to be the oldest community building in Lawrence, and it was built by a German-American social organization called the Turnverein. The club used the basement of the building for a beer garden and a bowling alley, while the main floor frequently was used for gymnastics. The club’s members were required to do a certain amount of gymnastics.

In July, Lawrence developer Tony Krsnich reached a tentative deal to purchase the Turnhalle building from the Lawrence Preservation Alliance, which previously had bought the building because it was badly deteriorating. But the deal was contingent on Krsnich finding a use for the building. Thus far, Krsnich’s search hasn’t been successful, and the time period for Krsnich to find a use for the building has expired. But Krsnich said he and the LPA have extended the contract to give more time for potential users to emerge. He expects to keep looking until mid-November.

“If we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down in flames because the building deserves to be saved,” Krsnich said.

Krsnich said he’s heard a lot of ideas for the building. The idea of a beer garden and an old-time bowling alley in the basement is an intriguing one, he said. The idea of a restaurant is a good one. Event or theater space also could be successful. Simply using the space for a professional office could be workable as well, he said. But Krsnich said thus far the ideas mainly have come from people who have good ideas for what the building could become, but no real desire to open a business in the space.

He said he’s now extending his search to include Kansas City companies, and he’s also willing to transfer his contract to purchase the property over to any local nonprofit agency who may be looking for space.

“If there is a nonprofit who wants to own it, I would assign the contract to them and teach them everything I know about tax credits and work with them as a consultant,” Krsnich said.

Krsnich is estimating that the building needs about $1 million worth of repairs and renovation to make the building viable as commercial space.

Krsnich, who is the developer behind the popular Warehouse Arts District in East Lawrence, said he’s still holding out hope that an entrepreneur with a viable plan will emerge. He notes that the Ninth Street corridor that Turnhalle is located on will undergo a major revitalization. The street was selected for a national ArtPlace grant to transform the street into a platform for public art and a variety of visual and performance arts.

“That project is going to turn Ninth Street into the most interesting street in Lawrence, and really well beyond,” Krsnich said. “Somebody is going to wish someday that they did something with the Turnhalle building. Now is the time.”

Krsnich said he’s working to develop another public forum to solicit more ideas for the building. He said that event likely will be in the next couple of weeks.

In other news and notes from around town:

• Keep your eyes open for more development in Krsnich’s Warehouse Arts District. He told me he is close to signing a deal for an operator to open a bistro in the small building that is just west of the popular Poehler Lofts building. The bistro concept has been in the works for several months, but Krsnich said he believes a deal is near. Krsnich said he also has plans to open another art gallery in one of the old buildings along Pennsylvania Street. I’ll bring you more details on those projects as they become available.

• Do not panic. I repeat, do not panic. The McDonald’s on South Iowa Street is not going out of business. But it will be closing for a few weeks, while it undergoes a significant renovation. The Dobski family, the Lawrence-based owners of the area’s McDonald’s franchise, have filed plans to build a side-by-side double drive-thru lane at the location, 3241 Iowa St. Plans also call for new seating and decor, and an extended front counter.

The restaurant will close on Monday and is expected to be closed for at least two weeks. The restaurant, which opened in December 2000, is expected to have grand reopening festivities near Thanksgiving.

• Do not panic, do not panic, take two. I know you all have been torn about whether you will go to Tuesday night’s Lawrence City Commission meeting or watch Game 1 of the World Series, featuring the Kansas City Royals. Well, city commissioners are trying to allow you to have your cake and eat it too. They have moved the start time of the World Series game. No, no. They didn’t do that. But they have moved the start time for the City Commission meeting to 5:30 p.m., instead of the normal 6:35 p.m. The World Series is scheduled to begin at 7:07 p.m. There are a couple of items on this week’s agenda that are expected to produce public comment. They include the temporary closure of a portion of the 800 block of New Hampshire Street and a request for reduced parking standards for the proposed HERE apartment complex near Memorial Stadium.

The earlier start date certainly is a welcome development for us Royals fans. I, of course, will be at the City Commission meeting. But to be safe, I likely will bring my roller grill full of bratwursts and my 55-gallon drum of nacho cheese sauce. And my giant foam finger, which come to think of it, would probably come in handy at most City Commission meetings.