“Let’s go, Farmland!”
Well, it may not have the same rockin’ sound as the more familiar “Let’s go, Jayhawks,” but it’s worth shouting in some quarters just the same.
On Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission set March 12 as the date to receive bids on what’s expected to be $10 million worth of roads, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, water and sewer lines to move forward on converting the old Farmland Industries fertilizer plant into a business park on the city’s eastern edge.
The project carries with it many exciting possibilities for our community.
The vision to create an attractive campus for business, industry and research goes back many years now, and included the process of acquiring the derelict site in 2010 so that the city would have control of it. To date, work has included removal of buildings and equipment and remediation of environmental issues. Now, the city hopes that construction of the infrastructure will start in April, converting the 467-acre site into parcels ranging in size from 5 to 80 acres for future tenants.
Community interest already has been expressed in the possibility of making a new vocational and technical training facility one of the first tenants. The Lawrence school district has earmarked about $5.7 million of the $92.5 million bond issue on the April ballot to bring together regional community colleges and the city’s high schools for vo-tech course offerings that could include health sciences, machine technology, computer networking, commercial construction and culinary arts.
The original concept was for those programs to be housed in an existing building west of 25th and Iowa, but the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence-Douglas County Joint Economic Development Council have broached the idea of putting the facility and its campus at the old Farmland site, to enhance its visibility.
Although the cost of such a facility would exceed the amount allocated in the district’s bond issue, it’s an idea worth further discussion — regardless of whether the bond issue ultimately is approved.
The overall business park project (and, really, somebody needs to give this acreage a new name of its own) carries great potential for job creation for our community. It’s especially noteworthy that there is enough money in the city bond and interest fund to carry out the proposed infrastructure improvements without a tax increase.
It’s exciting to think about — and worth cheering about.