A portion of East Lawrence slated for redevelopment is one step closer to placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
A cluster of five former industrial buildings near and along Pennsylvania Street, between Eighth and Ninth streets, has been nominated to the register by state historic preservationists.
"The district really represents a time period of when Lawrence was in its industrial heyday," said Patrick Zollner, the state's deputy historic preservation officer.
A development group led by Lawrence developer Bo Harris hopes the buildings - which include the former Poehler Grocery Warehouse building on East Eighth Street and the former home of Polk Oil Co., near Ninth and Pennsylvania - can come to life again.
Harris in 2002 proposed creating a mixed-use development, to include about 75 units of apartment-style housing, offices and retail development.
"We think this is a good way to preserve the existing buildings that are there and make them useful," said Harris, who is the chief executive officer of Harris Construction Co. "And the second exciting part of this is that it is a short distance from downtown. It really is only about four short blocks."
The historical designation would allow developers to apply for tax credits for restoration of historic buildings that are used as income-producing properties. For preservationists, the designation would further ensure that renovation of the buildings will preserve their historical feel.
"It doesn't mean they have to be museums, but it means that the historical character of the building remains," Zollner said.
Nomination to the national register automatically places the property on the state register of historic places. That requires any future work in the area to go through appropriate historical reviews.
Zollner said the National Park Service - which reviews the nominations for the national register - should make a decision within 45 days.
The redevelopment project, though, still has several more steps.
Some neighbors have expressed concern about the density of the project. Some buildings proposed for the west side of Pennsylvania Street would be three-stories tall and would have a mix of commercial and residential uses.
"We're concerned about what could happen," said Nicolette Proudfoot, a neighbor who lives immediately west of the project. "It seems like he wants to pack a lot of people in there. It is a lot of density and it could be a lot of cars."
Harris said he's been meeting with the groups in the neighborhood for three years and believes the project can be designed in a way to make the uses compatible with the existing single-family homes.
The project is tentatively slated to go before the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on March 15. The project also would have to receive approval from the Lawrence City Commission.
The Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review recommended two other Lawrence-area sites for inclusion on the national register: ¢ The Stony Point Evangelical Lutheran Church, on N. 600 Road near Vinland. The 1883 church is the last standing building of Stony Point, a once active rural Douglas County community. Officials said the building was an excellent example of a late 19th century one-room church. Plus, the interior is largely unchanged from its original construction. ¢ 80.8 acres that represent most of the commercial area of downtown Ottawa. An active downtown Main Street program has been advocating for the area's inclusion on the register.