Well, Mike Elwell wasn’t bluffing when he said he had somebody besides the city of Lawrence interested in the unique Abe & Jake’s Landing building along the Kansas River.
It looks like one of downtown’s more prominent land owners and a downtown nightclub operator soon will have control of the Abe & Jake’s building.
Lawrence city commissioners are being asked to transfer a long-term lease for the building from Elwell to an entity led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton and Mike Logan, who is the operator of The Granada in downtown Lawrence.
In case you have forgotten, the city of Lawrence actually owns the late-19th-century industrial building, which is sometimes called the Barbed Wire Building because it once housed a barbed wire manufacturing company. But Elwell essentially controls the building because he was granted a long-term, low-cost lease by the city in 1999 to use the building in exchange for him investing about $2 million to refurbish what had become an eyesore.
Elwell has made no secret that he has been looking to get out of the building, which is just east of Lawrence City Hall. As we previously reported, the city was in discussions to take over the building and use it for office space for the city’s Planning and Development Services Department. Those talks fell through, and Elwell told me at the time he had someone else very interested in the building.
Now we’ll see what Compton and Logan plan to do with the building. In a letter to City Hall, the duo indicated that the building would be a complement to the Marriott Extended Stay Hotel, which is a Compton-led project being constructed at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
“One of our goals is to work together and allow Abe & Jake’s to operate as a venue for weddings, banquets, etc.,” the two wrote in the letter.
That’s essentially how the building is being used now. Elwell previously operated a full-fledged nightclub in the building, but he has since pulled back from that business plan. I chatted this morning with Compton, and he said there are no plans to use the facility as a traditional nightclub. He said under Elwell the building already was being rented out for private functions nearly 50 times a year, and he thinks that number will increase when the marketing forces of the Marriott hotel are added to the mix.
“We feel like it will give us banquet facility space we would not have in the hotel,” Compton said. “It is a beautiful building and has a beautiful setting. It really just continues our interest and commitment in downtown.”
Compton, who owns a multitude of properties downtown, is in the midst of a large building effort. He recently completed the 901 Building, a multi-story apartment and office building at the southwest corner of Ninth and New Hampshire. He told me this morning he hopes construction work will begin in January on the Marriott project on the southeast corner of that intersection. Work is scheduled to begin in May on another multi-story apartment and office building on the northeast corner.
Logan will be the manager of the new Abe & Jake’s operation. Compton and Logan already work together. Compton is the landlord for Logan’s business at The Granada. Logan is one of the more successful concert promoters in downtown Lawrence, so it will be interesting to see if he has plans to use the building — which has extensive views of the Kansas River and tall 50 foot ceilings — as a music venue. I’ve got a call into him and will report back.
As for terms of the deal between Compton’s group and Elwell, they haven’t been released. The terms of the lease with the city, however, are expected to stay the same. Essentially, the lease calls for the tenant of the building to pay $4,800 per year related to use of the city-owned parking garage that is adjacent to the building. The tenant also is responsible for all property taxes, insurance and utilities.
The lease has a series of automatic renewals that could allow Compton and Logan to control the property into 2087, according to the lease. The terms of the city's lease with Elwell essentially gave Elwell the right to sell his interests in the lease to another party.
City commissioners will discuss the proposed transfer at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday night at City Hall.