Land once reserved to protect neighbors from the smells, sounds and steam emanating from chemical industry is poised for conversion into new homes, duplexes, apartments and offices in southeast Lawrence.
And that's just the beginning.
A 54-acre patch of open land along the south side of Kansas Highway 10, at the eastern edge of Lawrence, is slated for construction now that it has been purchased by Lawrence developers Doug Compton and Bill Newsome.
The owners, operating as Eastside Acquisitions LLC, intend to set aside 35 lots for new homes, 54 lots for new duplexes and 18 acres for a mixed-use development that includes:
- 55 townhomes in 10 buildings.
- 200 apartments in 12 buildings.
- 24 parking spaces in three buildings, plus a pool, pool house and clubhouse with five apartments.
So much for watching the grass grow.
"We feel there's a significant amount of pent-up demand," Newsome said. "We feel like our timing is right for moving ahead in the next few months."
The land has been idle for years, since Farmland Industries opened its nitrogen fertilizer plant across K-10 in 1954. Farmland held the land in reserve as a buffer between the intense industrial operations and the residential development expected to pop up nearby.
The plant closed in 2001, and a year later Farmland found itself embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings. Compton and Newsome soon stepped up and spent $5.8 million for 180 acres of the buffer property, land long considered ripe for development.
Compton already had created the 10 Marketplace shopping center along the north side of East 23rd Street, just west of the site planned for new residences and offices. The partnership also has plans for building more retail space east of O'Connell Road.
"We feel great about the east side," Newsome said.
But all the talk of development has raised concerns among existing neighbors.
Dozens of residents of Anderson Acres -- a 35-home neighborhood started in 1957 south of K-10 -- have urged government officials to deny a push to extend 24th Street from O'Connell Road to Harper Street, a connection that would pave a path for traffic to cut through the neighborhood.
Such a connection would destroy the "slower pace and solitude" of the neighborhood, said Brent Smith, who moved in nine years ago. He intends to move out of Lawrence if officials agree to allow the extension of 24th Street and 24th Terrace to meet developers' needs.
"We understand the need for growth, and that a new housing addition was imminent after the closing of Farmland," said Smith, in a letter to city officials and signed by his wife, Cherryl,and children Ryan, Ralley, Haley and Carley. "These proposals would destroy the quiet living and allure of this neighborhood."
Newsome said Eastside Acquisitions continued to revise project plans to create the best project possible.