Soon, tall buildings are going to start growing at Ninth and New Hampshire streets like the grass grows in May.
Work on a five-story Marriott hotel under construction on the southeast corner is expected to move into a higher gear in the next month. And leaders of the same development group are asking city commissioners to restart the approval process for a seven-story apartment building at the northeast corner of the same intersection.
“You’ll start seeing things move a lot faster down there,” said Micah Kimball, an architect with Lawrence-based Treanor Architects, which is designing both projects.
Construction on the 91-room Marriott TownePlace extended-stay hotel recently hit a milestone: It moved above ground. For months, crews have been working on the underground parking garage. But when the weather clears, they'll will pour concrete for the ground-floor lobby, Kimball said.
“It is a lot smoother sailing once you are above ground,” Kimball said.
Work on the hotel is moving along well enough that the development group, led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton and architect Mike Treanor, is homing in on a start date for the 114-unit apartment building. Kimball said construction could start mid-year and last about 18 months. Work on the hotel is expected to last until late 2014.
City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday will be asked to set an April 8 public hearing for a final vote on an incentives package for the apartment development. Commissioners gave preliminary approval to the package in the summer of 2012 as part of the incentives deal for the hotel development. The April 8 vote will finalize the details. They include:
• The development group will receive up to $4.75 million in tax increment financing over 20 years. The money can be used to pay for the private underground parking garage and other infrastructure improvements. The money comes from new property taxes generated by the building.
• The building, like the hotel across the street, will be part of a special district that allows an extra 1 percent sales tax to be charged on purchases made inside the two building. Current plans do not call for retail in the apartment building, but if that changes those stores would be subject to the extra tax.
A feasibility study conducted by a city-hired consultant in 2012 found that the apartment project would be marginally profitable without the incentives package, but likely not profitable enough for the project to move forward. The incentives package has won a positive recommendation from the Public Incentives Review Committee, and city staff members also have vetted it.
“This apartment building, along with the hotel, are two elements that will add a lot more people to the downtown area,” said Diane Stoddard, an assistant city manager. “What we’ve found is that the more people we have downtown, the more successful our businesses are in the downtown area.”
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall.