Archive for Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Town Talk: 300 apartment units slated for West Lawrence; detour of trail on Kansas River levee may begin by week’s end; Plastikon begins hiring workers; city to give away bike helmets

April 26, 2011


News and notes from around town:

• Plans are in the works for a major new apartment complex in West Lawrence. A Kansas City-area development group has submitted plans for 300 apartment units along West Sixth Street between Stoneridge Drive and Queens Road. The development, dubbed Pear Tree Village, would have 108 one-bedroom units and 192 two-bedroom units. The project would stretch all the way from Stoneridge on the west to Queens on the east. In addition to the apartments, plans call for some commercial/office development at the intersection of Stoneridge and Sixth. But the zoning on the property won’t allow traditional retail, such as a convenience store. Instead, the commercial office zoning primarily has been used for banks, offices and other professional service types of businesses. The zoning does allow a small amount of retail — such as a sandwich shop — that would be designed to serve the office uses and surrounding area. The development group hasn’t yet submitted any specific plans for what would be built on the commercial/office portion of the project.

The development group previously wanted commercial zoning for the Queens Road and Sixth Street intersection, but planners rejected that idea. Now plans list that area as “urban reserve,” meaning a more specific zoning category will be applied for at a later date. The zoning for the apartment portion of the project already is in place. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission is expected to consider a preliminary plat for the apartments in May.

An attempt to reach a representative with the development group wasn’t immediately successful, but if I hear back, I’ll report back.

• I did hear back from the folks at the Bowersock Mills and Power Company after we reported that a portion of the Kansas River levee trail will be temporarily closed as part of their project to build a new hydroelectric power plant on the north bank of the river. When we last reported on the subject, we weren’t sure when the trail detour would begin.

But now Bowersock representatives believe signs steering people away from the portion of the trail near the Kansas River bridges will be up by the end of the week, assuming that parks and recreation leaders approve of the specific re-routing plan. Sarah Hill-Nelson, an owner of the company, said she expects the detour will be in place for about 20 months. All of this also means that the area right along the base of Bowersock Dam won’t be available for fishing either. The area has been a popular one for anglers, but once the project is completed, there will be a new public dock and canoe portage area that should be a big benefit to people brave enough to eat a fish caught in the Kansas River.

As for the actual building of the power plant, Hill-Nelson said the project is awaiting the final paperwork from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allowing for construction to begin. She expects that the project officially will begin construction in a matter of weeks.

• I have gotten several questions about whether the much-cheered Plastikon Industries project in the East Hills Business Park is still moving forward. Indeed, it is.

The company — which will manufacture medical vials — did complete its purchase of the former Serologicals building several weeks ago. The company is expected to hire about 125 people over the next three years, with 50 of them being hired in the first phase. That hiring process has begun, but sort of quietly. The company has been advertising for a few positions at the Lawrence Workforce Center, 2540 Iowa. Currently, the company has a listing for production/packaging technicians. A representative at the workforce center told me the company is seeking full-time, part time and temporary workers for all shifts, although an estimate of how many positions were being hired wasn’t available. Wage information also wasn’t provided as part of the listing. But when the company went through the public incentives process at City Hall, the company said no full-time position would have a starting wage of less than $25,500 per year and that the average salary at the plant would be about $47,000 per year. To see the job listing, people have to create a free account on the state’s Kansas Works database here.

There has been some talk of Plastikon having a job fair. No word on whether that will happen, but here’s hoping that something like that does materialize. If nothing else, it might provide a nice public sign that efforts to add jobs in the community are paying some dividends.

• A chance to get your kids set up with a free bike helmet is approaching. The Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical Department will host 2011 Helmet Fair from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday just southeast of Kansas University’s Memorial Stadium. The event will be in conjunction with KU’s spring football game. Youth ages 15 and under — accompanied by an adult — can be fitted for a free bike helmet, while supplies last. The event also will include a “bike rodeo,” street bike course and several stations offering safety tips for the summer. A fun zone featuring inflatable games also will be on site. If kids are unable to attend the Helmet Fair, parents can take their children to any Fire & Medical station to be fitted for a helmet throughout the year.


justoneperson 6 years, 8 months ago

Is there anyone that knows what the proportion of unused, unrented rental units is right now? Because it seems like that number is already pretty high to be adding yet another apartment village. Maybe I just live near all the open rentals...

thefactsare 6 years, 8 months ago

Where does it say that they fleeced the city for $100,000?

imastinker 6 years, 8 months ago

It actually says that the lowest paid person there will make more than $25,500.00. The average is $47,000.

deec 6 years, 8 months ago

It says the lowest paid Full Time worker. My guess is they'll have a lot of part time and temp workers so they can pay them less and not offer benefits. If I remember correctly, the original wage estimates included benefits.

persevering_gal 6 years, 8 months ago

Surprisingly, many apartment complexes are full or will be occupied coming in August. I had to search for nearly a month to find an apartment. I actually beat another person in signing a lease by an hour.

the_overnighter 6 years, 8 months ago

Eudora has it's bike safety fair with free helmets on May 7, 2011 from 10-1. Located at the Eudora Elementary School.

kernal 6 years, 8 months ago

Not sure why anyone would want to build a 300 unit apartment complex on the far west boundry of Lawrence. It's not like 300 people are going to commute from Topeka as they have lost a lot of jobs over there. It's not convenient for KU students. Someone in this town must have stats on current occupancy/vacancy rates in Lawrence. Let's have them!

imastinker 6 years, 8 months ago

You think they picked that spot rather than other obviously more convenient spots?

Did you read that article last week about how you can't even demolish an old house downtown?

pace 6 years, 8 months ago

So should the apartment complex be a hundred story building on the site of the old house? I wonder about all the one and two bedroom apts. It sounds like a student orientation but could be senior. Good luck to Plastikon, to the developers and I am glad the kids are encouraged in bike safety.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

That article was not about how you "can't even demolish an old house". It was about one specific dwelling that is considered to have historic importance and is a reminder of Lawrence's early days.

Would you have been one of those that was for the destruction of the courthouse downtown, which was one of John G. Haskell's last architectural designs, simply because it would have been cheaper to bulldoze it and build a new one?

That almost happened! When one owns a property that has a value to the community that is greater than its utilitiarian value you need to maintain it so that the generations that will come after us can have it so that they can appreciate those who have gone before them.

Far to many significant historic structures have been lost as it already is.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

That sounds great! If they all look alike we can spot the drunks as they wander about the place wondering which place is theirs!

deec 6 years, 8 months ago

You just need to paint the front doors different colors like they did in Dublin so people can identify their houses.

Elaine Elliott 6 years, 8 months ago

Ew! Stop building out there. Isn't it like 8% of the homes in Lawrence are empty right now? It looks so nasty out there already.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

Where are the tenants?

Is there a reason to further flood the markets?

Are builders trying to build a facade aka an artificial or deceptive front to lure retailers so they can sell real estate?

Isn't this a form of fraud?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

I think the tenants exist in someone's imagination. I'm not sure whose imagination, but it has to be someone's.

And yes, it might be a form of fraud. I believe, but I am not sure, that the persons being defrauded are the investors that want to finance the project. Maybe they deserve what's coming to them, and the city of Lawrence can certainly use some more tax money. Since after all, the property taxes need to be paid whether or not the apartments are rented or not.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

Damn that extra "or not" at the end. Bummer! I wish we could edit our posts here, seems every single time I post I see an error of some sort or other as soon as it's to late to correct it.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

Isn't pretending to care about the planet while, at the same time, killing it with the deadly exhaust fumes of internal combustion lawn mowers also a form of fraud?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

Yup! Let's drive around and start protesting!

pinecreek 6 years, 8 months ago

I can't believe that the development group is going to sink that kind of money into land and buildings unless they think that they can fill them. But from where? And who will see increases in vacancy? One positive (at least for renters) is that the monthly out of pocket should go down if that many new units hit the market.

But still...300 new apartments? With 492 bedrooms (each with a person and car)? Certainly there has to be more to this story than appears on the surface.

justoneperson 6 years, 8 months ago

I also thought that rental prices should be dropping with all of this over-building of rentals. Somehow, this never actually happened...

Part of the problem seems to be that they are over-building expensive apartments. Other landlords see this and jack up their prices (with little to no improvement on quality, amenities, etc.).

Another part of the problem is perhaps a result of many of the rental units being owned by the same handful of property owner pals.

Steve Jacob 6 years, 8 months ago

You hear about all the shootings and problems in the bad apartment areas like Redbud Lane and you ask how the 300 apartments on the westside will be filled? It's a buyers market, so the landlords that let their places go downhill will pay the price, and I say it's about time.

Adrienne Sanders 6 years, 8 months ago

The folks who live on Redbud lane would not be able to live in the newer places... most places do credit checks and reference checks and stuff like that. The reason Redbud lane is like it is, is b/c the people who own those don't do any kind of checks. It's not fair to people who don't have good credit but pay their rent (which used to be me) but that's what happens.

I currently live in a well-kept up complex with pretty reasonable prices and there are still vacancies all the time. I just don't think Lawrence needs that many apartments.

Steve Jacob 6 years, 8 months ago

...and that is the reason why apartments are being built on the west side, so people can get away from places that don't care who moves into it.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

No, not in Lawrence.

Because we are very liberal here, that is, we lean towards a belief in the socialist system of thought. Therefore, the normal capitalist concepts such as the one you mentioned, the law of supply and demand, do not apply to us.

AlexTJ 6 years, 8 months ago

This made me laugh out loud at work which startled some in the office. I thought you should know!

RoeDapple 6 years, 8 months ago

It's all about choice. Many of the existing complexes are 20,30,50 years old. Built to code at the time, but codes change and buildings age. Given the choice of two apartments, one 30 years old in need of updating and one brand new with little difference in rent pricing, which is the smart buy? Many of the older complexes are dried out tinder boxes with inadequate wiring, plumbing and fire protection. If I were sending a son or daughter to college here (again) you can bet it would be part of the equation. Yes the older ones will blight and drop property values around them but they will eventually be torn down and replaced by homes, businesses or new apartments. It's an endless cycle that if not continued results in much less desirable conditions.

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