Owners make deal with College Hill developers

Julie Knapp

At last week’s Topeka City Council meeting, a standing-room only crowd was at odds with each other over the issue of eminent domain for the College Hill redevelopment project. Because the developers and owners of the properties in College Hill reached an agreement last week, that issue will not have to be considered at this week’s City Council meeting.

On Thursday, Jerry Morgan, owner of Jerry’s Bike Shop, 1415 S.W. Lane, reached an agreement with Washburn Lane Parkway LLC of Topeka to purchase Morgan’s house, his T-shirt shop called Richey T’s and the vacant property in the back of Jerry’s Bike Shop.

The proposed plan for Jerry’s Bike Shop was to put a residential area on that property, but the developers will now be forced to build around the shop, putting two stories of living area to the south of the shop and three stories to the north of it. The developers have also agreed to fix up the front of Jerry’s Bike Shop so that it will match the outside of their other buildings, and they are considering putting an extension on the front of the building to make it appear taller.

“I’m pleased we were able to reach an agreement,” said Bill Newsome, of Southwind Capital LLC and a partner in Washburn Lane Parkway LLC. “Obviously, this was not in our original design, but you’ve got to take situations as they come.”

On Friday, another agreement was reached between Jeanne Swanson, owner of Oscars at 1416 SW 15th, and the developers. Washburn Lane Parkway LLC will be purchasing her building, and she will be purchasing two buildings right across from the development site at 1422 Lane St. and 1424 Lane St. The financial terms of the agreement were confidential.

“I think it was her desire to stay in the area,” said Newsome.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, because agreements were reached, the issue of eminent domain won’t have to be considered, but the council will consider whether or not to help pay for the restructuring costs with tax-increment financing.

The council did pass this funding ON THIS DATE, but TIF funding for the College Hill district must also be passed by USD 501 and the Shawnee County Commissioners. The Shawnee County Commissioners did not approve TIF funding for it again, but developers are hoping that this time around they will be successful.

Developers are hoping to have the project, which will include 24,000 square feet of retail space, 169 apartments and 26 town homes, started by July of this year, and their timeline allows for the project to have the residential areas open by the Fall of 2007, to allow students to move in.

At last week’s Council meeting, the developers were concerned of the setbacks if the deals were not reached this week.

“If these projects don’t follow the time frames, they don’t happen,” said Newsome, at last week’s City Council meeting.