E. 700 and N. 1800
A new plan has emerged to keep a proposed $21 million warehouse project in Douglas County.
A development group led by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel is seeking to rezone 60 acres west of the Lecompton turnpike interchange to house a 600,000-square-foot warehouse for Berry Plastics.
“We think this is a home run for the community, if Berry builds this here,” said Paul Werner, a Lawrence architect and a representative for the development group. “The worst thing that could happen is for this warehouse to be built outside of Douglas County.”
The new site — at the intersection of the Farmers’ Turnpike and East 700 Road — is about 1.5 miles west of the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike. The interchange is where Berry originally sought to build its warehouse, but an ownership dispute and a pair of lawsuits by neighbors have delayed those plans.
Now, developers are hoping this new site will draw less opposition and can be approved quickly. Berry has been awarded federal stimulus bonds to help finance the warehouse, but the project needs to be progressing by the end of the year for the company to keep those low-interest bonds.
Werner said the development group is seeking I-2 industrial zoning, which is a limited type of industrial zoning that would not allow manufacturing uses at the site. He also said the project is being planned for only one user.
“We’re not talking about doing an industrial park here,” Werner said.
Neighbors around the property were just being informed of the filing late Monday.
The developers are not seeking to annex the property into the Lawrence city limits, which means the warehouse — expected to be the largest building in Douglas County — won’t be on the city’s tax rolls.
But according to the filing, a separate agreement between the city and the development may be sought in order for the city to provide fire protection for the building. The developers also are asking the city to provide more wholesale water to Rural Water District No. 6, if the district deems it necessary to serve the warehouse.
If approved, the warehouse will be the second major development for the area near East 700 Road. Fritzel already has won approval to build a corporate retreat that would include about 40 cabins and a lodge/restaurant facility. That project, Werner said, will continue. The corporate retreat will take about 60 acres of ground, and the warehouse would take another 60 acres. Werner said the projects would be designed to work together well.
Finding a site for Berry — which operates a drink-cup manufacturing facility in Lawrence with 950 employees — has been a major undertaking in the Lawrence development community. At least one other site was under serious consideration.
A 51-acre site just east of the Lecompton interchange — south of North 1800 Road and west of East 1000 Road — was proposed to Berry by a group led by Lawrence businessman Steve Schwada.
Schwada on Monday filed plans with the city for that site to be annexed and rezoned to general industrial property. Schwada said even though the property was no longer being considered by Berry, he wanted to move ahead in order to market the property to other potential industrial users.
Both the Berry site and the Schwada site are expected to go before the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning commission in November. The Berry site will need to win final approval from the Douglas County Commission. The Schwada site will need various approvals from both the city and the county.