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.