Archive for Friday, July 29, 2016

Sunrise Project behind on renovating old garden center; seed business gets preliminary OK to locate there

Sunrise Garden Center building, 1501 Learnard Ave.

Sunrise Garden Center building, 1501 Learnard Ave.

July 29, 2016

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The Sunrise Project is designing its renovation of the old Sunrise Garden Center, but after months of fundraising it’s still falling short on the cost to complete it.

While the Sunrise Project — a nonprofit geared toward healthy eating and environmental sustainability — looks to find more funds, a seed business also wanting to locate at the site received its first round of city approval to do so.

The Sunrise Project’s director, Emily Hampton, said the campaign this spring and summer to raise the second half of renovation costs, approximately $40,000, “didn’t go well.” But the nonprofit wants to get started.

“It’s happening,” Hampton said. “Just not as fast as we want.”

Hampton said she’s waiting for a renovation design to be completed before filing a building permit with the city. Once it gets a permit, work at the site, 1501 Learnard Ave., will begin.

In the meantime, those with the Sunrise Project are waiting to hear whether they will be the recipients of another grant from the Kriz Foundation. Hampton applied for a grant with the foundation, which provided $39,000 toward renovation costs last December.

Grant winners will be announced in November or December.

”We reapplied to that same foundation hoping to get the other half,” Hampton said. “So we’ll get started and hope we’ll have the funding come through to finish it off and get moved in, in late winter.”

The Sunrise Project is the largest part of an enterprise to re-inhabit the old Sunrise Garden Center, which closed in 2013 and has since been vacant. In December, the City Commission agreed to rezone the site to “light industrial,” opening up the potential for a mix of different uses there.

Hampton plans to renovate the garden center’s old retail building into a classroom, meeting space, community kitchen and offices.

Local businesses Lawrence Organics, Seeds from Italy and Central Soy Foods are also in various stages of working out of the site.

The Lawrence Planning Commission unanimously recommended at its Monday-night meeting that Seeds from Italy be given its special-use permit to convert a space there.

Seeds from Italy, a U.S. distributor for Italy-based Franchi Seeds, is currently operated out of a home in rural Douglas County and distributes seeds through the postal service.

The family business wants to convert a 1,520-square-foot garage at Sunrise Garden Center into an office and warehouse space. Semi-trucks would make two deliveries to the site each year, according to information provided to the planning commission. No customers are expected there, but the business will create ADA parking and parking for two to three employees.

The City Commission will make the final determination on whether Seeds from Italy can locate to the site. A date for commissioners to consider the request has not been set.

Lawrence Organics is already growing organic transplants on some of the three acres. Central Soy Foods, a Lawrence tofu and tempeh production facility, will start the process of obtaining a special-use permit to locate there sometime in the future, Hampton said.

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