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Archive for Thursday, December 11, 2003

Condos pitched for research park

Planners to consider rezoning request

December 11, 2003

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A west Lawrence area once envisioned as the future home of high-paying, high-tech firms is being proposed as the site for a condominium project.

David Kimbrell, former chief executive of the defunct Oread Inc. pharmaceutical company, has proposed a 65-unit condominium project in the research park area near 15th Street and Wakarusa Drive.

The project -- which would include underground parking garages, a clubhouse and putting green -- would be built on vacant ground on the east side of Research Park Drive between 15th Street and Legends Drive, according to documents filed with the Lawrence-Douglas County planning office. The site is north and west of the UMB Bank building at 15th Street and Wakarusa Drive.

The development would be unique for Lawrence because of its location in the middle of an office park. Planning director Linda Finger said that was a new concept for the city, but one that was catching on in other parts of the country.

"If you look at the business park industry, you'll see a trend of trying to include mixed uses," Finger said. "It is the concept of live, work and become a part of an area rather than relying on vehicles to get you to and from one location to another."

Kimbrell did not return phone calls seeking comment on the project.

According to plans filed at City Hall, the development will include five three-story buildings. Each would include 13 loft-style condominiums. Each building also would include a 24-space underground parking garage. The entire community would be gated.

Finger said developers have told her that the project probably would include penthouse suites and condos about 3,000 square feet in size. A condominium is different than an apartment in that residents own their living space rather than rent it.

Listing prices for the condos were not available.

A pair of rezoning requests -- which would rezone the property from industrial to residential-office -- is scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission at its Dec. 17 meeting.

Finger said planning staff members were intrigued by the development but were still reviewing issues about how a residential development would fit in with the surrounding office uses.

"We feel like we need to take a bigger look at what this whole area is going to be," Finger said. "This is taking us in a new direction."

Condominium projects are becoming more frequent in the city. Officials with Harris Construction are planning a 32-unit condo project in downtown on the northeast corner of Eighth and New Hampshire streets.

Bryan Hedges, a real estate agent with Realty Executives-Hedges Real Estate, said there were more people interested in the condo lifestyle -- which typically includes an association that handles maintenance duties -- but he said they were still in the minority.

"It seems to be people who are either retiring to Lawrence or looking to make Lawrence their second home," Hedges said.

He also said developers were more interested in condo projects because it allowed them to build more units on a single acre of land.

"As land prices increase, it makes sense to build up rather than sideways," Hedges said.

But there are challenges. Greg Cromer, president of American Real Estate & Investments, was planning a 26-unit condo project at the site of the former Southwinds Rehabilitation & Care Center, 1800 W. 27th St.

Neighbors, though, had concerns about the density of the project, so Cromer decided to scrap the plans and build a more traditional development that will have 17-single family homes.

"We ended up agreeing that it would be too big of an impact on the neighborhood," Cromer said.

Demolition of the former nursing home is expected to begin next month.

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