The city of Lawrence finally has taken possession of the former Farmland property on the east edge of the city and can get to work on realizing the site’s significant economic development potential.
Farmland was a solid employer in Lawrence for many years, but the steam-belching fertilizer plant never presented the best first impression for travelers entering the city on Kansas Highway 10. Now the city has the opportunity to turn the 467-acre site into an attractive and productive community asset.
Although City Manager David Corliss said that residents should see noticeable changes at the site within several months, developing the property will be a long process. The city is responsible for addressing contamination issues left behind by the fertilizer plant. Some parts of the property will require more cleanup than others, and the city will have to make significant infrastructure improvements before development can begin. However, with the transfer of the property complete, city officials are in a position to start pushing development forward.
In some ways, it would have been nice if a private developer had stepped forward to manage this property. The primary advantage of that scenario is that taxpayers wouldn’t have had to assume any financial risk for the property. On the other hand, having this plot in city hands gives our elected leaders the control to ensure the property is developed in a way that best serves community needs.
One of the big needs for Lawrence right now is large industrial sites that economic development officials can market to local businesses that want to expand or to outside firms considering a move to Lawrence. The former Farmland site should be able to fill that need as well as providing smaller sites that may be more suitable for bioscience ventures that outgrow their incubator space in West Lawrence.
City officials now have the opportunity to look at the entire Farmland plot and create a plan that not only serves the city’s economic development needs but reserves land for open space and other uses which collectively will provide a handsome and attractive entrance to Lawrence. First impressions mean a great deal.
Corliss said this week that taking possession of the Farmland property “is just the end of the beginning” for the city. That’s true, much work remains, but it’s exciting to see the city ready to start moving forward on a site that holds such promise for Lawrence.