A major apartment complex for university students cleared its largest hurdle at City Hall on Tuesday.
On a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved rezoning requests for The Exchange, an apartment complex that would put up to 750 units on the southern side of 31st Street, near Ousdahl Road.
"I think this will be an incredibly high-quality project," Mayor Sue Hack said.
Several neighbors expressed concern about the size of the project, the amount of traffic it would add to the area, and whether Lawrence's rental market was in a position to absorb the new units.
"There are some giant concerns for the public with this project," said Bonnie Johnson, president of the adjacent Indian Hills Neighborhood Association.
Developers with Texas-based Fairfield Residential said they hope to begin construction on phase one of the project in April. The first phase would include 324 units totaling 888 beds. Development plans would allow for a second phase of an equal size to be built farther south on the property.
Members of the development group said the Lawrence market was ready for an apartment complex that is designed specifically for students. It will place a heavy emphasis on amenities such as swimming pools, basketball courts, volleyball courts and other recreational areas.
"It really will be a resort-style type of design," said Zachary Johnston, a member of the development team.
Developers and some commissioners also said the community would benefit by having a large-scale development that specialized in providing student housing.
"I think there are a lot of students living in single-family neighborhoods right now who are causing concerns to some people," City Commissioner Mike Dever said.
Commissioner Boog Highberger cast the lone vote against the proposal.
"I'm concerned about the magnitude of it," Highberger said.
Commissioners also approved a smaller-scale apartment project for 23rd Street. Commissioners unanimously approved a site plan for Rylee Court Apartments, a 16-unit complex that would be built on vacant property just east of Checkers Food Store at 23rd and Louisiana streets.
Commissioners did express some concern about the project, in part, because it will create an additional curb cut on a busy portion of 23rd Street. But the development group, Lawrence-based First Management Inc., was unable to reach an agreement with a neighboring property owner to share access.