A seven-story apartment building is being planned for a prominent corner of Massachusetts Street, and it may end up including a national drug store chain to serve the growing number of residents in downtown.
Lawrence developer Doug Compton confirmed Tuesday that he has entered into a partnership to develop the former Allen Press properties near 11th and Massachusetts streets.
Compton said his plans call for a seven-story building that will include space for 120 apartments above retail space on the ground floor. Underground parking for at least 120 vehicles would be constructed beneath the building. Compton said he is close to finalizing an agreement with a national retailer but could not yet release details. Multiple sources have said he is working with either the CVS or Walgreens drug store chains.
"It is going to be a beautiful project," Compton said. "I think everybody is going to be very excited who we bring in. It is a type of business we have needed for a long time."
Downtown has been without a drug store since 2009, when Round Corner Drug closed its location at Eighth and Massachusetts, ending more than 140 years of the corner location serving as a pharmacy.
Compton confirmed he has entered into a partnership with longtime Lawrence businessman Rand Allen to develop all the property that Allen owns near the downtown intersection. The property, which used to house Allen Press' printing plant and headquarters, includes a parking lot at the northeast corner of 11th and Massachusetts. It also includes a largely vacant industrial building that has frontage on both New Hampshire and Massachusetts streets. The property begins just south of the Einstein Bros. Bagel building at 1026 Massachusetts St. and stretches to the 11th and Massachusetts intersection.
Compton said the new building will be similar in size and scope to to the buildings he and his partners have been constructing at Ninth and New Hampshire.
"It is going to be a tall building," Compton said at a Lawrence Chamber of Commerce event Tuesday morning. "It has to be a tall building to make it work."
The project will continue a trend of adding apartment space to downtown. Compton and his partners built a seven-story, 55-unit apartment building at 901 New Hampshire St. in 2012 and have approvals to build a 114-unit apartment building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire next year.
"The apartments at 901 New Hampshire are 100 percent occupied, and we have a waiting list for them," Compton said.
Sally Zogry, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc., said her office receives multiple inquires from people wanting to live downtown.
"I get emails and calls, I would say, several times a month at this point," Zogry said. "There are lots of people who want to consider retiring in downtown. There's really a huge demand from a lot of people right now."
The deal is still contingent upon receiving a lease agreement from the national retailer. Compton said the project has received one round of approval from the retailer, and he hopes to have final approval by mid-November.
The project also needs to win approval from Lawrence planners and city commissioners. Compton said he likely will start the City Hall approval process soon because the retailer will want to have a 2016 opening.
Compton's two apartment projects — the 901 building and the proposed seven-story building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire — both received quick approvals from City Hall. But his current project to build a multistory hotel and apartment building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire took about two years to win approval.
"I'm hopeful the approval process will be easier than it was with the hotel project," Compton said. "We can't have a two-year approval process with this one and make it work."
Unlike the hotel project, this development won't abut a residential neighborhood. But the project will be right across the street from one of the signature buildings of downtown: the Douglas County Courthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The new building will have to meet downtown design guidelines that attempt to ensure new projects fit in with the historic character of downtown. An attempt to reach a leader with the Lawrence Preservation Alliance wasn't successful Tuesday. Zogry said members of the business community, though, seem to have taken to the trend of building upward in downtown.
"I haven't really heard any complaints from businesses about development becoming too tall in downtown," Zogry said. "I think most businesses believe that the more people we can get downtown, the better downtown is going to be in the future."
For his part, Compton said he thinks the project is going to be well received as the community embraces the idea of making downtown more vibrant by adding more full-time residents to the district.
"I think the next five years are going to be very exciting for downtown," Compton said. "As these projects get underway, I see a completely different set of dynamics for downtown in the next five to seven years than I do right now."