Archive for Tuesday, October 11, 2011

City approves incentives for Poehler development project

October 11, 2011


Consider Lawrence city commissioners ready and willing to make a big bet on east Lawrence.

Commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting agreed to $1.39 million worth of public infrastructure improvements and other incentives to aid a private developer’s plans to create an affordable housing and artist studio project near Eighth and Delaware streets.

“I know some people may believe this is a stretch,” said City Commissioner Bob Schumm. “I have gotten emails saying it is a very expensive project. And it is in total dollars. But some of this is work that we would have to do eventually.

But what this does for us now is establish a truly iconic opportunity for us to establish an artists community an strengthen the east Lawrence neighborhood.”

Kansas City-area developer Tony Krsnich is proposing to convert the vacant, four-story Poehler Mercantile Co. building into 49 apartments, with all but three of them entered into a rent-controlled affordable housing program. He’s also purchased the former Kansas Fruit Vinegar Co. building, 810 Penn., to convert into about 40 artist studios, a gallery space and an outdoor exhibition and reception area.

Krsnich, who currently is finishing a similar apartment conversion of the old Chatham Hotel in Kansas City, said early on that he expected the $9 million project would need some financial assistance from the city.

Among the improvements approved by commissioners Tuesday are:

• $800,000 to improve Delaware Street from Eighth to Ninth streets. Although currently a platted street, the road basically does not exist today.

• $300,000 to construct a new public parking lot along the new portion of Delaware Street and to improve the alley that runs adjacent to the property. The parking lot would be maintained by Krsnich’s group, and after 15 years his group would take over ownership of the parking lot for $1.

• $100,000 to install a new waterline along Delaware Street between Eighth and Ninth streets.

• $85,000 to pay for up to 75 percent of the costs to install fire sprinklers in the Poehler building.

• $73,538 to improve Eighth Street from Delaware to Pennsylvania streets.

• $36,980 to make sewer, water and fire line utility connections to the Poehler building.

Commissioners approved the request for incentives on a 4-0 vote. Mayor Aron Cromwell abstained from the vote because his solar engineering firm may end up being involved in a solar panel installation for the project.

City administrators have put forward a plan that would allow the project to be funded through new debt, water, sewer and stormwater funds. A tax increase isn’t called for to fund the project.

Commissioners did express concern about some of the incentives — particularly, the idea of building a public parking lot for the development — creating a precedent for other future developments.

But commissioners said they believed they could point to several unique factors with this project, including saving a 1908 building that is viewed to be a catalyst for future redevelopment of the area that includes several other underutilized early 20th-century industrial buildings.

“When it comes to re-investing in east Lawrence, I think this is a very good project,” City Commissioner Mike Amyx said. “We’re going to re-establish a part of a neighborhood and make it very usable.”

The city will not start any work on the improvements until a building permit has been filed for rehabilitation of the Poehler building. The city anticipates work beginning in early 2012.

In other news, commissioners:

• Approved a $25,000 “forgivable loan” to Chris Piper’s Grandstand Sportswear and Glassware. The loan will help the Lawrence-based company move into a larger building at the East Hills Business Park, which is expected to allow the company to add 84 jobs over the next 10 years. The company, which does screen printing for apparel and the international brew pub industry, won’t have to repay the loan as long as it meets certain job and investment targets over the next two years. Commissioners also finalized a previously approved 65 percent, 10-year tax abatement for the firm. Commissioners approved the items on a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Mike Dever abstained from the vote.

• Allowed a compromise to move forward regarding relocation of the Varsity House at 1043 Ind. Commissioners sent a development plan for a 50-unit apartment project back to the Historic Resources Commission for further review. The plan had drawn opposition from historic preservationists because it called for the prominent 1908 home to be moved from its corner location to a mid-block site. But Lawrence architect Paul Werner and leaders for the Lawrence Preservation Alliance announced that City Commissioner Mike Amyx had proposed a compromise that both sides could live with. The compromise involves moving the Varsity House south instead of north on the block. That will actually put the home closer to the corner, which preservationists said they support. The HRC is expected to review the new plan at its Oct. 27 meeting.


OreadHawk 6 years, 2 months ago

Not sure why LPA ( Brown ) does not understand that a move is a move, once it moves it loses it value. It is now about who gets the prime corner display and not about preservation.

lunacydetector 6 years, 2 months ago

so 4 vote yes for the potential benefit of 1 who abstains.... why require a cost/benefit analysis for anything, and is a cost/benefit analysis mandated by law? i wonder if mayor cromwell's company gets the job now?

wouldn't it have been cheaper to buy the lease of the company that was in that building, that eventually moved their jobs to overland park, that used to be owned by commissioner dever?

this incentive was already figured into the city's budget, when no other proposed incentives had been considered.

should someone call the AG?

Steve Jacob 6 years, 2 months ago

Don't mind all the money for "infrastructure improvements" as much as 25K for Grandstand. Because we gave them 25K, in the future, they will create 84 jobs in the future? Do we give all new business start up cash now?

lunacydetector 6 years, 2 months ago

$25,000 or $300,000....they both's only our money.

i need a new driveway, where's mine?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Moving the old home to the south may well prevent the old home from total destruction as a result of a longer move to the North. At least the new apartment bldg is 50 apartments instead of 64 though still a boarding house. Hopefully the underground parking will house all of the vehicles considering there is zero space on the streets. These boarding houses actually represent over fill not infill

The Poehler project is making use of existing resources and not requiring miles and miles and miles of new infrastructure which in essence would be a tax increase. Most of what is getting accomplished would have been required under the plan Bo Harris had on the table. This area will look nice in the end and may well increase property values immediately nearby.

Anyway it's presented the Grandstand plan is local pork barrel standing for a new building that has yet to bring 100% of the property tax dollars to the community after more than 10 years. Yet receives all of the benefits demanded from a municipality. Sauer Danfoss hit the road after 10 years of tax abatements in this same location.

flyin_squirrel 6 years, 2 months ago

Merrill (Kirk McClure),

How is it "Over fill not infill" if there are only 25 registered Boarding House structures in the entire Oread, and they are all full?

Again, quit changing the facts and now you are saying the Poehler project is good? Wow your opinions change fast...

Bob Forer 6 years, 2 months ago

The wealthy business folks did very well at last night's city commission meeting. Can't wait til it trickles down to me.

BruceWayne 6 years, 2 months ago

Lawrnce has become known for two things nationwide. 1) if you are homeless they will take care of you. 2) if you are a wealthy developer they will take care of you. This commission is a joke.

hujiko 6 years, 2 months ago

Why are you so fixated on 11th street's alignment between Indiana and Mississippi? Sheesh give it a break.

You sir come in close second to the true LJW copy/paste master.

leftylucky 6 years, 2 months ago

How will the truck traffic be routed that now goes down Pennsylvania and Delaware . Will the extended Delaware street be designated for truck traffic?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Overfill is using "infill" to push their agenda of too many bedrooms in any neighborhood.

Over fill is abusing the infill concept! Neighborhood people are not excited about this concept. Then again who wants these monsters in their backyards or front yards.

I never thought the Poehler project was a bad project. I've never stated such. Hopefully a landscaped bike/walk path of a sort will be in the plan that might hook up to the river levy path somehow. East Lawrence has wanted some improvement in this area for some time.

Steve Jacob 6 years, 2 months ago

Don't see how more apartments is an improvement.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

The apartments are to be subsidized/rent controlled, I believe, so they may fill a need for more affordable apartments.

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