Get ready to watch a new community spring up just east of the Douglas County line.
Work on redeveloping the former 9,065-acre Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant will kick off Thursday morning with a public groundbreaking ceremony.
Kise Randall, executive director of the Sunflower redevelopment project for the Kansas City, Mo.-based development firm of Kessinger/Hunter & Co., said the project is sure to change the entire Kansas Highway 10 corridor.
"This really is the missing link between the metro area and the Lawrence area," said Randall, whose firm was chosen earlier this year to redevelop the idled plant. "We're very excited about the opportunity to bring this property back to productive use."
The property - about 12 miles east of Lawrence - is slated to become a "community in a park." It will feature 6,000 acres of property that will be developed into thousands of homes, offices, retail space and research parks. The development will be surrounded by a 2,000-acre greenbelt that will include parkland and trails.
Thursday's groundbreaking, though, is more ceremonial than substantive. Work on cleaning up the property - which was left with major environmental contamination related to ammunition production - has been ongoing since the mid-1990s when the federal government announced it would return the land to private use.
A public groundbreaking ceremony for the redevelopment of the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant will begin at 8 a.m. Thursday at the main entrance to the plant.
The plant entrance can be accessed by taking the Lexington Avenue exit off Kansas Highway 10 at De Soto. Signs leading to the event will be posted.
The ceremony is designed to celebrate the final phase of clean-up on the property, although Randall said there's still much more work to do - the final phase of cleanup is expected to take seven years. She said it is possible some areas of the property could see construction before the seven-year period is completed, but said the company had not yet made a decision on when to start developing ground that is already environmentally clean.
The beginning of the end, though, is good news to Kansas University. As part of a deal negotiated between federal, state and Johnson County officials, KU will receive 300 acres of property to be used for future bioscience research. It will be in addition to 200 acres that the university already owns in the northwest corner of the property. The KU property will be near 250 acres set aside for a private research park, leading to hopes that KU will be able to collaborate with private companies on research projects.
Several other entities also are scheduled to receive property, including:
¢ Kansas State University, 342 acres for research and horticulture test fields
¢ the De Soto school district, 30 acres to build elementary schools
¢ the city of De Soto, 12 acres for its water treatment facility
The Sunflower plant was built to produce ammunition during World War II and later manufactured nitric and sulfuric acids. Most of the plant has been inactive since 1971, with final production finished in 1989.