Leaders of Lawrence Community Shelter have abandoned plans to build a homeless shelter at the former Don’s Steakhouse site, and now are proposing a shelter near the Douglas County Jail.
Shelter leaders Wednesday withdrew an application for a permit that would have allowed the site, 2176 E. 23rd St., to be converted into a 125-bed shelter. They now are seeking a permit to convert a warehouse at 3701 Franklin Park Circle into a shelter and homeless jobs program.
Shelter director Loring Henderson touted positives of the new site.
“This is about as far away from things as we can get,” Henderson said. “It is not that we totally want to be far away, but we are listening to neighbors.”
The new site does have several businesses nearby. Jerry Taylor, owner of Hillcrest Wrecker & Garage Inc., said he was surprised shelter leaders would choose such an isolated location. “I’m kind of astounded for one thing,” he said. “I just can’t imagine a homeless shelter out in this area with nothing around. I guess it would remove the problem from downtown and put it in my backyard.”
Shelter officials said they plan to begin meeting with businesses surrounding the site this week. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission could conduct a hearing on the new permit as early as March. City commissioners ultimately will have to approve the permit.
The new proposal comes after neighbors near the Don’s site had expressed multiple concerns and after the planning commission deferred action on the permit until it received more information about how the shelter would operate. After that deferral in November, the shelter lost its option to buy the Don’s site.
Doug Brown, a commercial real estate agent on the shelter’s board of directors, said the shelter was approached by Franklin Business Center LLC about its 25,000-square-foot building, which comes with 4.1 acres of land. Brown said the warehouse is not yet under contract and will mainly need interior renovations, which should cost less than the Don’s property. “This new site could speed us up by a year,” Brown said.