Efforts to attract a cancer research company to downtown Lawrence are moving ahead.
City commissioners are expected to consider in early May a request for a special-use permit that would allow the second floor of the building at 647 Mass. to be converted into laboratory space.
“We feel like we have a good chance to bring quite a few well-paid individuals downtown every day, which would be a good thing for merchants and businesses,” said Mark Andersen, a Lawrence attorney representing the ownership group of the building.
Andersen said he is unable to identify the company that is interested in the space. Andersen said the building’s ownership group — which is led by executives of the Gene Fritzel Construction Co. — are in discussions with the company and hope to have a preliminary lease in place by early May.
The idea of adding laboratory space to the building that houses Starbucks and other retailers on the ground floor won a positive recommendation from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on Monday.
Planning commissioners recommended approval of the permit on a 5-3 vote, with Commissioners Lisa Harris, Kenzie Singleton and Stanley Rasmussen voting against it. Some commissioners said they wanted information on the specific tenant so they would have a better understanding of the specific type of activity that would occur in the laboratory.
The proposed permit does place several restrictions on the type of laboratory work that could be done at the site. The permit would prohibit any radioactive materials on the site, use of any known type 1 carcinogens or any toxins or pathogens, and animal research at the property.
The city’s planning staff recommended approval of the permit after Andersen’s clients agreed to add the prohibitions.
“After looking at it, we don’t believe the activity there will be much different than a lot of the office uses downtown,” said Sandra Day, a city planner reviewing the permit application.
Andersen said much of the analytical work conducted by the company would be done on computers. The type of laboratory work will involve small-scale mixing of solvents and substances, and should not produce any more of a danger than a typical high school or junior high laboratory, the building owners said in their application.