N Kansas Ave. building at center of fight amongst NOTO residents, business owners

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – An empty building in the NOTO Arts District is causing frustration for some residents and business owners but the building’s owner believes it holds many opportunities.

Jon Bohlander says it has been a challenge living next door to 911 North Kansas Avenue.

“It was bought six years ago, it was still somewhat structurally sound but it’s just gone downhill since,” he said.

“Bricks and glass have fallen onto the sidewalk and now the entire inside’s collapsed.”

Bohlander, who is also the owner of The Wheel Barrel in NOTO, said his concerns include the building’s caved-in roof and a risk of materials damaging his building.

“For the district as a whole, it’s an eyesore,” he said.

“We got people from out of state everyday this is what they see a prominent building in such bad shape.”

He is not alone in his worries.

Records from the City of Topeka show that the building has had 15 code violations since February 2016.

The list of violations includes complaints about built-up trash, weed violations and an unsafe structure case opened in August 2016. The case ultimately resulted in a demolition order issued in October 2019.

Dave Jackson, who owns Jackson’s Greenhouse and Garden Center, has co-owned 911 N. Kansas since early 2016.

He said an engineer told him the building is structurally sound.

His goal is to create a rock climbing facility.

He admits, however, it is taking longer than he would like.

“What delayed the process of course is finding somebody willing to invest,” he explained.

“I started with a local guy who said he wanted to do a rock climbing facility but then he at the last minute backed out so we had to start over to find some new people.

He said he is now waiting on a pro forma budget and business plan from a Kansas City company which could make the case for overturning the demolition order.

“We can show we have a developer and a business plan in place that’s been approved by banks and that kind of stuff and everything set in place we can get it lifted.”

Bohlander, however, remains skeptical.

“Honestly I don’t believe him he’s done nothing with the building except let it rot,” he said.

“Everyone down here has worked hard to bring these buildings bac,k we love old buildings but we’re afraid this one can’t be saved.”

“I’m not in it for the building,” Jackson said.

“I’m in it to not lose another building in North Topeka, I haven’t given up on it.”

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