The future of the Oread Neighborhood will take center stage at Lawrence City Hall this evening.
At their weekly meeting, commissioners will deal with a pair of issues that could open the door to future redevelopment of the neighborhood that abuts downtown and Kansas University.
Commissioners will consider a new Oread Neighborhood Plan that spells out how dense development can be in certain areas of the neighborhood and creates general neighborhood goals.
Commissioners also will consider a rezoning request that will turn the area around two longtime Oread bars — The Hawk and The Wheel — into a mixed-use district that could house other types of businesses in the future.
The neighborhood plan has been in the works for more than a year and created several questions from commissioners when it was presented to them in April.
More questions are expected when commissioners meet today. The plan contains a general goal of encouraging more owner-occupied housing in the neighborhood. But some commissioners have questioned whether that’s the best strategy, given the neighborhood’s close proximity to campus and the growing demand for student housing.
“I think we should be focusing on the quality of the housing and not be so concerned with whether it is owner-occupied or rental,” said Commissioner Lance Johnson. “I don’t want to see blight or run-down structures. I want to see a clean, safe neighborhood. But I think you can accomplish that whether it is rental or owner-occupied.”
The plan also calls for the expansion of the city’s rental registration program. Currently, only rentals that are in single-family zoning districts are part of the city’s rental registration program. The plan doesn’t specify how the rental registration program should be expanded, but a previous proposal called for registration and inspections of all rental units at least 50 years old.
Commissioners, though, previously have balked at that idea, citing concerns about startup costs.
On the rezoning issue, neighbors have started to ask questions there too.
Up for approval is an ordinance that would rezone property at 502 W. 14th, 414 W. 14th, 1346 Ohio, 1340-1342 Ohio and 507 W. 14th from multi-family residential to mixed use.
The rezonings would allow for a variety of residential and commercial uses in the future. But owners of the property previously have said they have no immediate plans to redevelop the property. Instead, the zoning is being sought by owners of The Hawk and The Wheel in order to remove the grandfathered status of those two businesses.
The current zoning for the properties does not allow either bar, but both have been allowed to continue operating under a grandfather provision. But if the businesses were destroyed, they would not have a legal right rebuild under the current zoning. The proposed zoning would allow them to rebuild.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall.