Town Talk: Old Chicago to close; home sales continue second half decline; Bishop Seabury prepares for 6th graders

News and notes from around town:

• Lawrence’s Old Chicago restaurant, 2329 Iowa St., is about to become an old memory. A manager and multiple employees at the restaurant confirmed the Lawrence location will close on Friday. Lawrence employees weren’t authorized to give any details on the reasons behind the closing. No word yet on whether another business is slated to take the space, which is near the busy 23rd and Iowa intersection.

• Lawrence’s real estate market continues to be in a second half slump, according to a new report. Lawrence home sales in November were down 38 percent compared to November 2009 totals, according to a new report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors. The November slide continued a trend of lower sales totals in the second half of 2010. Officials with the Realtor board said home sales in the first half of the year grew mightily as buyers pushed ahead with purchases to tax advantage of federal tax credits.

But now the second half slump has nearly wiped out those gains. For the entire year, total local home sales are up just 0.7 percent — or eight sales — from the same period a year ago. That brings up the possibility that 2010 homes sales may finish below 2009 totals, despite the aggressive federal tax credit offered earlier in the year.

Some other stats from the report include:

• The median sale price for a home is $159,000, up from $154,900 a year ago.

• The median number of days a home is on the market is 40, down from 45 a year ago.

• 94 newly built homes have sold in 2010, up from 73 during the same period a year ago.

• Bishop Seabury Academy, 4120 Clinton Parkway, has filed paperwork with the city to add portable classrooms to its campus. Don Schawang, head of school at Bishop Seabury, said no decision has been made yet whether to add portables. But he said the private school wants to have the option to add up to two classrooms for the 2011-2012 school year. The school needs the flexibility because it will add sixth grade classes to its curriculum. The new classrooms would be on tennis courts just west of the main school building. The school, which is on the site of the former Alvamar Racquet Club, has other tennis courts that it will be able to use if the portable classrooms are added. Schawang said a decision on the need for portable classrooms should be made in February or March.

• City and county planners are taking steps to better define what types of “environmentally sensitive” lands should be protected as part of future development projects. City and county code has included a provision that calls for environmentally sensitive lands to be protected in certain situations. But planners report the process for determining which lands to protect — and how much must be protected — has created confusion. City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will consider making changes to the code to make it clearer.

The proposed language spells out these types of environmentally sensitive lands that should be protected in applicable situations. It lists them in the order of priority that they should be protected. They are:

  1. Regulatory floodways as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  2. Regulatory floodway fringe areas as determined by FEMA.
  3. Wetlands as determined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  4. Stream corridors.
  5. Stands of significant mature trees, which will include at least a half-acre of trees that include many that are 25 feet in height or are greater than 8 inches in diameter and create a continuous or nearly continuous canopy.
  6. Archaeological or historic sites listed on local, state or federal registers.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

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