An effort to raise $3 million to move the Lawrence Community Shelter to a site in eastern Lawrence has reached the halfway point, shelter leaders announced Friday morning.
But less progress has been made in resolving concerns from adjacent landowners that a homeless shelter would violate long-standing covenants placed on the property.
At an event honoring U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., for his support of the project, shelter leaders announced they have received $1.5 million in pledges for the new shelter.
“The community is really coming forth and helping us,” said Loring Henderson, executive director of the shelter. “And there will be a lot of additional opportunities for the public to get involved.”
Shelter leaders have not kicked off the public portion of the campaign. Instead, they’ve been raising money through grants, foundations and other large donors. The group is awaiting word from the Tulsa-based Mabee Foundation on a grant that could add several hundred thousand dollars to the effort. A more local fundraising campaign is expected to begin in October.
A cloud of uncertainty, though, likely will remain over the proposed site, which is just east of the Douglas County Jail. Trustees for the business park in which the site is located recently ruled a homeless shelter would violate existing covenants.
“Landowners in the park have informed the trustees that they do not consider the proposed use to be consistent with the ‘business, industrial and governmental uses’ to which the park is (and has always been) dedicated,” the three trustees — Steve Glass, Laura Glass and Howard Hasler — wrote in a letter to shelter leaders.
But Henderson said the rejection has not given him pause. He said he remains confident the shelter will be in a position to begin renovating the former warehouse building once fundraising is completed.
“We still see all of this as part of negotiations, and we have hopes of working things out with them,” Henderson said.
Shelter leaders previously have said they do not believe the covenants control the type of uses that can be located on the property. Instead, they believe the covenants control more general issues related to the appearance of the property.
Todd Thompson, an attorney for the park’s trustees said he’s told shelter leaders the issue could hamper the project. But Thompson said the trustees have no plans to take any immediate action against the project. That’s because the property has not yet been sold to the shelter. Thompson said if the shelter does finalize a purchase for the property and tries to renovate the building in violation of the covenants, legal action could be taken.
“The trustees certainly have cautioned the shelter about the uncertainty of purchasing the building without having this covenant issue resolved,” Thompson said.
Henderson said he still hopes to be moving into the site — which has won the necessary land use approvals from City Hall — in about 12 months.
“It is going to give us so much more space to do more than we’ve ever been able to do downtown,” Henderson said.
The new shelter will have about 15,000 square feet of shelter, dining, classroom and office space. The current shelter at 10th and Kentucky streets has about 7,700 square feet. The new site also has 10,000 square feet of space that the shelter plans to use for a workforce training program.