The former Farmland Industries site on the east edge of Lawrence should play an important role in the city’s future, and it’s great to see local officials getting close to finalizing a deal that will get the project moving.
On Tuesday, Lawrence city commissioners will review a plan that would transfer ownership of the 476-acre property, along with $8.5 million in trust funds for environmental cleanup, to the city. Although the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has estimated it will cost about $13.3 million to clean up the former fertilizer plant site, city officials have pared down that figure and, thereby, reduced the city’s risk in accepting responsibility for the job.
City Manager David Corliss said that about $2.1 million of the total was contingency funds and that using city employees for some of the work would reduce the costs. The city also hopes that interest rates will return to more normal levels and allow the city to earn about $4.4 million by investing the trust funds until they are needed.
The plan is not without some risk — interest rates may not meet expectations and various factors could raise the cost of the cleanup — but given the potential benefits the plan carries for Lawrence, it’s an acceptable risk. Even if the city ends up paying a little more than expected to get this property ready for business and industrial development, it still will be a good investment for Lawrence.
Having a private developer take over the Farmland site would have had some advantages, but no one was stepping forward. Having the city take over the property not only gets the project moving ahead, it also gives the city more control over how the property is developed.
Lawrence is in desperate need of sites to market to businesses that want to relocate or expand their operations here. Providing those sites has to be a key part of any strategy to build the city’s tax base and increase and diversify the jobs available in Lawrence.
The Farmland property on Kansas Highway 10 is perfectly located for such development. Farmland Industries was an important business in Lawrence for many years, but whatever development replaces it on that property is bound to be more welcoming and aesthetically pleasing than the former fertilizer plant.
City officials have been working on this deal for about three years. It’s too bad the project couldn’t have moved more quickly, but it’s great to see the table now set for a development that has the potential to benefit Lawrence for many years to come.