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The Eudora School District on Friday evening signed a contract to sell the property at 14th and Church Street to longtime Lawrence developer Mike Flory.
That’s the easy part of the story. The complicated part is how this deal will work.
The land the School District is selling is being put into four sections. Sections A and B on the picture above include the baseball diamond and the Old Nottingham Elementary School. This will be the first phase of development. On both of these sections Flory has a 4 month due diligence period to handle things like zoning issues, land surveys, building removal requirements and a variety of there development related needs. (Editors Note: Our lines on this image are close to the location but may not be exact. I write, I’m not a graphic artist.)
Flory has in the contract, allowances for that due diligence period to be extended by 30 days, three separate times. So the “due diligence” period could last up to seven months. The cost for the land in parts A and B are $425,000. Section C and D which are the Laws Field portions, could stay Laws Field for a while. Flory has a 5 year option for these portions of land. The cost of sections C and D are $200,000 each. The grand total for all four sections is $825,000.
Now, what does Flory plan on doing with the land?
“The first thing is that the Parks and Rec Department will likely be offered a portion of land on the south end near the pool area,” Flory told the School Board. “I must say you have a wonderful facility there where I watched my grandson play basketball this winter. But as I ran through the snow to get from my car parked all the way down the parking lot to the building, the thing I thought of was how more parking was needed closer to the building.” Flory also said that he was thinking of possible Parks and Rec facility expansion as well for a portion of the property.
Flory went on to talk about how he would like to see more direct access to the Rec Center via a street through the Laws Field property. He then stated that the first phase (which would start in the A and B sections of the map) would be a mix of multi-family housing units and a commercial development that would be in such a manner to attract smaller retail entities.
The housing would like be on the west side (portion A) and the commercial development would be on the Church Street side (part B). When asked about what specific type of multi-family housing units could be built Flory said he was thinking duplex type units but said that was not absolutely certain at this time. He stated that he was rather happy with his Freedom Creek development located next to Free State High School and hoped that a development similar to that could be accomplished.
In regards to the commercial structure or structures, Flory again brought up the area surrounding Free State High School.
“It would be quality buildings that you see go up much like what is located up near 6th and Wakarusa in Lawrence,” Flory said.
Flory’s last thoughts for the area would be a detention pond located near the southeast corner near the Tennis Courts that could have a fountain placed in it to serve as a storm water runoff and green space area.
We asked if Flory had any possible tenants already lined up for the commercial portion of his development.
“I haven’t talked to anyone yet,” Flory said. “I wanted to wait until I had a signed contract before I began seeking any retailers.”
There are some interesting portions of the contract. During the due diligence portion, Flory can walk away from the deal at any time and owe nothing. The contract stipulates that all earnest money put down during the due diligence period would be refunded to him for pretty much any reason.
If the city wants a portion of the property for Parks and Rec Facilities, they will have to make a deal with Flory. The School District is selling the land in it’s entirety to Flory, albeit in sections and possibly over a long period of time.
The other interesting thing is how this will conform to the city’s Comprehensive Plan for the Nottingham/15th street area. In 2010, the Planning Commission and then City Council passed a series of amendments to the Comprehensive Plan to attempt to ensure that no simple strip mall could be placed in the area .
An interesting side note to the Nottingham guidelines is that some of the ideas Flory has were included in the artists concept drawing from 2010 including a fountain and the continuation of 15th Street from Church to Elm.
The big question remaining was when would all this happen.
“I would expect that by early spring, you might start to see some activity in the area,” Flory told us following the meeting. “There are of course no guarantees about precisely when because of a variety of factors, but I expect that would be a good guess.”
School District officials were extremely pleased with the interest of Flory in the property and commented on how his reputation for building quality projects in Lawrence were a key motivating factor in proceeding with this deal.
The final sticking point could be the tenants of Nottingham and users of the area surrounding it. The Eudora Area Historical Society Museum is currently housed in Nottingham. They are working on restoring the old Trefz building at 720 Main Street as the future home of the museum. Ben Terwilliger of the EAHS stated that he believes the building downtown could be ready by the end of the year, but discussions would have to be held to see if the construction phase of the first floor could be completed quicker so that the museums artifacts could be moved in around the end of the initial four month due diligence period which will be in early October.
As for Farmer’s Market, it should not be affected this year. The market is scheduled to conclude in late August or early September which is well within the time of the due diligence period.
Flory said that in preliminary discussions with the School District, there would likely be no problem with the tenants of the building and users of the area to continue use of the facilities until the end of due diligence period.