Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Housing proposed near Farmland

September 17, 2003


Redevelopment of the former Farmland Industries Inc. fertilizer plant east of Lawrence could begin with a 55-acre residential and office project.

A group led by Lawrence developers Doug Compton and Bill Newsome have filed plans with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Office for a mixed development at the southwest corner of Kansas Highway 10 and O'Connell Road.

The project -- which would include single-family, duplex, apartment and office uses -- would mark the first redevelopment of Farmland property since the Kansas City, Mo.-based company closed the plant in May 2001. The proposed redevelopment doesn't include the former plant, but rather a piece of buffer ground south of the plant.

Newsome said the development group, Eastside Acquisitions LLC, thought the location was a natural for residential development.

"We feel great about the east side," Newsome said. "We think we can deliver low-priced building lots, if not the lowest-priced building lots in Lawrence today. We think it will be a good opportunity to create some options for first-time homebuyers."

Newsome said the cost of developing on the east side of the city should be lower than on the west side of town because the land is generally flatter and has less rock, which will cut down on infrastructure costs. He anticipated the lots would sell for about $40,000.

The plan will be up for preliminary approval by Lawrence-Douglas County Planning commissioners at their Sept. 24 meeting. Planning staff member Sandra Day said timing of the project would be important because commissioners want to make sure the development coincides with necessary infrastructure improvements in the area.

The development would require the eastward extension of 25th Street and improvements on O'Connell Road, she said. City officials already had plans to widen and improve O'Connell Road. That project was expected to begin in the next year, Day said.

Newsome said he would like to begin construction work on the housing development early next year.

The developer's plans call for zoning 23 acres for duplexes, 9 acres for single-family homes and 23 acres for a mix of apartment and office uses.

The duplex and single-family portions of the development would allow for about 100 living units on the property. Newsome said the number of apartment units that might be built on the 23 acres was undetermined.

"That part of the project is really not on the front burner right now," he said.

City commissioners would have to approve a site plan for any apartment complex to locate at the site. Newsome said office uses, like a bank or other service providers, might be part of the plans for the 23 acres. The project would include no retail development.

But Compton and Newsome also own 125 acres of former Farmland property that is on the south side of Kansas Highway 10 and east of O'Connell Road. Parts of that property are expected to be used for retail development.

Newsome said the group expected to file plans for that property in the next 60 days. Developers envision creating a commercial area at least as large as the area at Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive. He said the area would be marketed to grocery store companies.

"There is nothing we would like better than to deliver a new grocery store to that side of town," Newsome said. "That is our long-term plan."

Eastside Acquisitions in May paid $5.8 million for the two pieces of Farmland property in an auction that was part of Farmland's bankruptcy proceedings. Farmland still is seeking a buyer for the 467-acre fertilizer plant north of Kansas Highway 10.

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