The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday night gave the second major vote of confidence this week to a $2.9 million proposal for the city and county to purchase a west Lawrence laboratory building.
“In my mind this is a logical next step for a very important vision that our community is committed to,” Commissioner Nancy Thellman said before the unanimous vote of approval to move the process forward. “It’s a potential producer of some very strong, high-valued jobs, and it is a real example of what we can do when we work in tandem.”
Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday already voiced support for the 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.
The city’s Public Incentives Review Committee is reviewing the proposal, and it will make a recommendation to city commissioners before they reconsider the deal in December.
Supporters said the lab space with renovations is necessary to attract and retain companies, especially startups that run out of space at the bioscience incubator under construction now on Kansas University’s West Campus.
“I think this facility is going to be a necessary part of the infrastructure we want to have in place for growing and keeping these kinds of bioscience high-tech companies,” said Carey Novak, the KU director of business relations and development.
No one spoke out against the deal Wednesday at the county meeting. Tuesday night at the city meeting, some opposed to the deal argued that taxpayers would shoulder too much risk if the project didn’t attract enough tenants.
“Any investment with reward potential has risk,” County Commissioner Jim Flory said. “And this has risk as well. But in my opinion, the risk of doing nothing is far greater than the risk of doing something, and I want to do something.”
County and city commissioners are scheduled to consider giving final approval to the deal in December.
In other news Wednesday, county commissioners also approved the reclamation plan for the Big Springs Quarry, west of Lawrence.
It has been a lengthy process. Mid-States Materials LLC of Topeka proposed the reclamation plan after it bought the quarry in 2007 from Martin Marietta Materials. Neighbors have long had environmental concerns.