Changes on Bluemont approved

By Burk Krohe

City commissioners approved two actions that will change areas in the Bluemont/Anderson Avenue corridor Tuesday.

Commissioners granted a demolition permit for a property at 1446 Laramie Street, near Manhattan Christian College, and approved the rezoning a portion of land to be developed as a hotel just north of Aggieville.

Calvin Emig, owner of the property on Laramie, applied for a demolition permit because the rental property has become out of date.  But the property is within the historic environs of the KSAC radio towers, listed on the National Register of Historic Place, and therefore needed approval from commissioners to be demolished.  Owner of the nearby Anderson Village retail center, he plans to tear down the house and use the lot to expand parking in the area.

However, Kathy Dzewaltowski, president of the Manhattan/Riley County Preservation Alliance, said there were feasible alternatives to demolishing the house and she implored commissioners not to grant the permit.

“The Preservation Alliance also believes that Mr. Emig has neglected to adequately maintain 1446 Laramie and has been practicing what’s known as ‘demolition by neglect,’”  Dzewaltowski said. “Demolition by neglect is a term used to describe the situation that occurs when a property is destroyed through abandonment, lack of maintenance or intentional damage by its owner.”

Commissioner Jim Sherow agreed that there seemed to be feasible alternatives to demolishing the structure and noted he has used tax credits to restore homes in historic environs. The other commissioners didn’t agree, though.

Mayor Loren Pepperd had difficulty seeing why the house had any historical significance

“I could see if it was a neighborhood with a bunch of historical houses but what’s built up around it is new,” Pepperd said.

Commissioner John Matta contested Dzewaltowski’s characterization of demolition by neglect.

“To say it was purposefully left was left to rot, I don’t know,” Matta said. “You can say it but I don’t think that’s the case.”

He added that the numbers show that it’s not feasible to make an ongoing economic investment. Commissioner Wynn Butler agreed.

“People like to say it’s prudent to sell it or renovate it, but prudent for which party?” Butler said. “It’s always prudent if you’re spending someone else’s money.”

Kevin Ingram, president of Manhattan Christian College, also supported Emig’s plan. Ingram said the parking would be a welcome addition to the area and guaranteed that any neglect happened decades before Emig.

“He does not do well to bear that burden,” Ingram said.

Commissioners also approved the rezoning of lot at N. Manhattan Avenue and Bluemont Avenue, being developed as a hotel. The Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board previously reviewed the project and forwarded a recommendation of approval to commissioners.

The original development plan, from Excel Group LLC, called for a four-story hotel with 72 rooms, which would take the place of four two-story multiple family houses on the corner of N. Manhattan and Bluemont. The amended project calls for a four-story hotel with a partial fifth floor and 111 rooms. It will take the place of the four multiple family homes as well as a two-story 18 dwelling unity apartment building at 1212 Bluemont.

The hotel, being referred to as Bluemont Hotel, will have a mixed red brick and limestone facade to match the character of both Aggieville and the Kansas State University campus.

The first floor will include a lobby, dining lounge, two small retail spaces, an indoor pool and model rooms. The plan includes more than120 parking spaces on site between a garage attached to the north side of the building and a level of underground parking.

“This is a bold attractive addition to the Aggieville area,” Sherow said.

The rezoning passed unanimously, but Butler said he would like more data on drainage issues on the site before the second reading.

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