I-70 Business Center has new owners; VFW purchases south Massachusetts Street properties; Habitat for Humanity completes land deal

Spring has brought some new activity to the commercial real estate market, according to the lastest report of land transfers from the Douglas County Courthouse. So, let’s get right into some of the more notable deals.

• The I-70 Business Center in North Lawrence — formerly known as the Tanger Outlet Mall — has new ownership. Lawrence Gateway Investors LLC has purchased the property from I-70 Business Center LLC.
I-70 Business Center LLC was a group led by several local businessmen, including contractor Bo Harris, retired insurance executive Bob Johnson and North Lawrence commercial property owner Samih Staitieh.

Lawrence Gateway Investors — the new ownership group — is a recently formed company, so documents aren’t yet on file with the state showing the members of that company. But the resident agent for the company is Thomas Boyd, who is a noted real estate agent and developer with the Wichita-based Walter Morris Companies.

The former mall property — which is at the North Lawrence interchange on the Kansas Turnpike — long ago was converted from a retail center to a business center.

The I-70 Business Center group has had good success in finding tenants for the property. For many years the property was largely vacant, but that is no longer the case. The center has three anchor tenants: the corporate headquarters of Protection One security; a call center operated by Home Oxygen 2-U; and the Rezolve Group, a company that provides services for the student loan industry.

“It has been a good property to own,” Johnson told me. “I think it is a better property now than it has ever been. I think the new group bought it because they can see the future in it.”

Johnson confirmed to me that none of the members of the I-70 Business Center LLC was part of the new ownership group, but he said he wasn’t familiar with the principals in the new group. I’ve reached out to Boyd, the Wichita real estate agent, and will report back if I hear anything interesting.

• It looks like the Lawrence VFW Post has shifted gears on its plans for a new facility. The Alford-Clarke Post #852 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars has purchased 1741 and 1801 Massachusetts St. from Bruce Banning. That’s the former location for Bambinos Italian Restaurant and the current location for Beat the Bookstore.

The purchase comes after the VFW had filed plans with City Hall to build a new club near 27th and Haskell in eastern Lawrence. But as we reported a couple of months ago, VFW leaders said they also were looking at other locations. Now we know what other location they were looking at.

The group has filed a site plan to use the former Bambinos building for its clubhouse. It hasn’t filed any plans for the Beat the Bookstore building. I’ve got a call in the VFW post, but haven’t yet heard back. A member of the VFW told me the plan that has been described to members involves using the former Bambinos property as the bar and club for the facility, and the Beat the Bookstore property would continue to be leased to the bookstore or other businesses in the future to generate revenue for the VFW. I’ll let you know if a VFW provides me new information.

• Lawrence’s Habitat for Humanity has made a purchase that gives the nonprofit a multi-year supply of housing lots in eastern Lawrence. Habitat for Humanity purchased nine vacant lots from Steven George near 17th and Lindenwood.
Lawrence’s Habitat for Humanity has been building about three to four homes per year, said Lindsey Slater, community outreach coordinator for the organization. Habitat was looking for more property, in part, because it has only two available lots left in the Comfort Neighborhood in North Lawrence.

Slater said George donated a portion of each lot to Habitat in order to help make the purchase financially feasible for the organization. Habitat builds affordable housing for families that meet certain income guidelines and who are willing to invest “sweat equity” by helping build the home and others for Habitat.

“We’re really targeting hardworking families that wouldn’t be able to qualify for a traditional home loan otherwise,” Slater said.

• To see a complete list of the land transfers for the week ending April 8, [click here.][1]