Archive for Thursday, March 24, 2011

Town Talk: Berry Plastics files for building permit, releases rendering; architect seeking taller apartment buildings; Pink Box Bakery selling out

March 24, 2011


News and notes from around town:

• Work on what is expected to be the largest building ever constructed in Douglas County should begin soon. Lawrence architect Paul Werner confirmed to me that a building permit application has been filed to construct the 675,000 square foot Berry Plastics warehouse and printing plant facility. Werner also provided me a rendering to give folks an idea of what the building will look like. There’s also news about the site that Berry will build upon. As we’ve previously reported, the project is slated for property just west of the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike. Originally, the company believed it would need 93 acres for the project. As a result, planners and county commissioners rezoned 93 acres from agricultural land to industrial zoning to accommodate the project. But now that the design is completed, the company has decided it needs only 62 acres. The owners of the property — a group led by the Fritzel family — are now seeking to have the remaining 31 acres returned to its original agricultural zoning.

Werner said the group is seeking the rezoning because it wants to avoid problems with neighbors, who supported the Berry project but said they didn’t want the whole area to turn into a multi-tenant industrial park. Werner said the property’s owners are continuing to pursue plans to build a rural resort/corporate retreat on the property that surrounds the Berry site. Now that the Berry project is getting started, he said, plans will start moving forward to build a few cabins for the retreat.

As for a timeline for Berry, Werner said the company would like to have the warehouse constructed by early next year.

• Werner also has another project he’s trying to move through City Hall. Werner has recently filed paper work asking the city to create a new multi-family zoning district that would allow more dense apartment development in parts of the city. Werner is asking the city to create a new RM-64 zoning district, which would allow a development to have 64 apartment living units per acre. Currently, the city caps the amount of living units for apartment complexes at 32 units per acre.

Werner said he doesn’t have a specific project yet that is causing him to seek the new zoning category. Instead, he said he’s trying to set the stage for the city to start using more dense projects to combat urban sprawl. His theory is that if the city doesn’t want to continue to spread out, it needs to start letting developers build projects that put more living units in smaller spaces.

A big part of the idea is building taller. Currently, the city limits the height of apartment buildings to 45 feet tall. Werner is proposing that apartments with RM-64 zoning be allowed to be 65 feet tall.

“As a community, I think we have to get over some of our issues about height,” said Werner, who was involved in The Oread hotel project. “I think you get over it by seeing examples. In the right location, this can work.”

Werner said he thinks some areas near the university may be the most likely to be rezoned to the new category. He noted several older apartment complexes in Oread already are more dense than the 32 units per acre because they were built prior to the current zoning code. Several of them are more than 50 years old, and their owners have been hesitant to rebuild them because they would have to be rebuilt with fewer units.

The new zoning category will have to win approval both from the Planning Commission and the City Commission. For folks who are interested in the much cussed urban sprawl issue, it should be worth watching.

• What’s in the Pink Box? A mystery, evidently. As we previously reported Lawrence’s Pink Box Bakery, 727 Mass., is closing its doors. When I last talked to owner Michele Kaminski, she said she was working on a deal for somebody to take over the bakery business. It looks like she has found somebody, but it isn’t clear whether baking will be the main business. Kaminski told me that she if finalizing a deal with a business to take over the spot “within a matter of weeks.” But she wouldn’t give any details about what type of business.

“I think Lawrence will love it,” she said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

Regardless, Pink Box is holding a sale today of many of its odds and ends, such as mixers, bowls, cake stands, and kitchen tools. The sale runs through 3 p.m. today and is expected to take place daily until Tuesday.

Beware, though. My office cubemate — celebrity baker/journalist Brenna Hawley (she was on the Valentine’s episode of "Jayni’s Kitchen") — already has hit the sale. She was there bright and early. She got up before 8:30 a.m. which is considered a feat for some journalists.


Curtis Lange 7 years, 1 month ago

Pretty sure the Kmart Distribution Center will still be the largest building in Douglas Co per square footage....

deadanimals 7 years, 1 month ago

It looks like there are more than a few properties listed on Mondays planning meeting for Werner. They are all concentrated around Bullwinkle's and extend up the hill towards the Wheel.

boxers_or_briefs 7 years, 1 month ago

Is it just me or does Paul Werner just try to get the biggest most dense projects built in Lawrence?

I'm sure Sven wouldn't let this happen.

somebodynew 7 years, 1 month ago

Well, that was kind of a nice surprize. While I still do not favor all the increased semi traffic on the road, I do give kudos and thanks to the Berry people for the rezoning of the unneeded acreage. Nice move and appreciated by at least one neighbor.

jhawkinsf 7 years, 1 month ago

Maybe all those negative posts would rather the plant be built in some third world country. Shipping costs could be offset by paying their workers a buck a day. If the plant is going to be built anyway, and it will because it's good business, then it might as well be built here so the jobs will stay here.

jhawkinsf 7 years, 1 month ago

Through all that rambling and run on sentences I understand you to be saying you disagree with me.

Curtis Martell 7 years, 1 month ago

You can't have a city without people, you can't have a lot of people without jobs, you can't have a lot of jobs without some companies and companies need space to do business. Congratulations Berry Plastics for your success.

deec 7 years, 1 month ago

Have they asked for their latest tax abatement yet?

repaste 7 years, 1 month ago

"Werner said the group is seeking the rezoning because it wants to avoid problems with neighbors" , only reason to rezone is to save on property taxes. period. . They should leave zoning alone.

hipper_than_hip 7 years, 1 month ago

The people who are going to work at the warehouse aren't going to live in Lawrence; they're going to commute from their homes in Topeka. I'd like to know how much money the city and county make from workers who do not live in either the city or the county.

Sunny Parker 7 years, 1 month ago

Topekans won't be able to afford the gas to drive to Lawrence for such a low paying job!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 1 month ago

How much will this cost the local taxpayer? A back door quiet tax increase?

Is annexation expanding our tax base or our tax bills?

There is one consequence that usually goes unmentioned - annexation is draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

Annexation is the result of subsidies paid for by the American taxpayer. These range from the obvious to the obscure and include big projects-like the billions we spend on new roads as well as smaller ones-like the tax-breaks that encourage businesses to move to the edge of town. We've subsidized annexation at such a basic level for so long, that many people believe the status quo is actually fair and neutral. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of developers and the local real estate industry.

How we subsidize annexation:

  • building new and wider roads
  • building schools on the fringe
  • extending sewer and water lines to new developments
  • extending emergency services to the fringe *direct pay-outs to developers

Is it the taxpayers responsibility to guarantee the real estate industry and developers a nice tidy profit on their speculation and/or risky investments? absolutely not!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 1 month ago

I believe all incentives to sell and/or develop property should come from:

  1. Real estate agencies
  2. Property owners
  3. developers
  4. building contractors and suppliers

Never from the taxpayers!

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