A $2.9 million proposal for the city and county to purchase a west Lawrence laboratory building to boost the community’s standing in the bioscience community won a key vote of confidence Tuesday.
Lawrence city commissioners unanimously voiced support for a proposal that would have the city and county team up to purchase the former Oread Labs building near Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. The nearly 18,000-square-foot building would be leased out to bioscience companies — including CritiTech, a Lawrence-based pharmaceutical company looking for room to grow.
“We can either take a passive approach to economic development or we can take a proactive approach,” said Commissioner Lance Johnson. “This is what you do to get jobs. You get down and dirty. You can’t just send out glossy brochures and hope people will come.”
Commissioners did not give final approval to the project Tuesday. Instead, they directed the city’s Public Incentives Review Committee to review the proposal and make a recommendation. The committee will meet at 4 p.m. Monday at City Hall to discuss the project. County commissioners will discuss the project at their meeting tonight.
City commissioners were told there is some risk with the project, particularly if the building does not attract as many tenants as projected. Members of the public weighed in on both sides of the issue.
Supporters told commissioners the building was a key part of a long-term strategy to grow above-average jobs in the community.
Opponents argued that taxpayers were being asked to shoulder too much risk because the bonds for the project ultimately would be paid off by city and county taxpayers if the project didn’t attract enough tenants.
City commissioners are expected to discuss the proposal again in early December.