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Former East Lawrence scrap yard may become unique housing development


Forget junky and start thinking funky at the corner of 12th and Haskell in East Lawrence.

Plans have been filed at City Hall to convert the former site of the 12th and Haskell Recycling Center and longtime scrap yard into a small scale housing development that would be designed by one of the more avant-garde building companies in the city.

The owners of Struct/Restruct have a contract to purchase the East Lawrence site, and they have dual-purpose plans for the location. First, they want to use the existing building that fronts Haskell Avenue for their woodworking and construction shop.

But the more interesting aspect of the project is what they would do with the large open area that previously housed junk cars, scrap metal and similar products from the recycling center. Plans call for nine houses to be built on the former scrap yard site, and if you are familiar with Struct/Restruct you can bet that they won't be your ordinary suburban-style homes.

"Ideally, it will be a place where we keep getting to try new ideas," said co-owner Matt Jones.

As I detailed in an article last year, Struct/Restruct has been taking several old East Lawrence homes and creating modern additions for them. That often means unique peaks, sheets of glass, and nontraditional exteriors of concrete, stainless steel cables and distinctive timber.

But this project may create some unique designs even by Struct/Restruct's standards. One idea that is under consideration: houses built on piers. That's because neighbors have expressed concern that a housing development could worsen stormwater flooding in the area.

The entire site is in the 100-year floodplain, which traditionally would require the lots to be built up with fill dirt before construction could begin. The state is going through a new floodplain mapping project, so it is possible the area may not be in the floodplain after the new boundaries are drawn. But Jones said that, as a way to alleviate concerns about displacing stormwater, he's kicking around the idea of some designs that put a house on piers, which during heavy rain would allow stormwater to accumulate on the site and slowly dissipate.

The idea is a bit of a new one for this part of the country, but it is not too uncommon in some places, like in Cajun country and along the Gulf Coast. (How cool would it be if this neighborhood adopted some other traditions from that area: Boiled peanuts, crawfish pie, and duck calling competitions. I'm almost certain my wife would consent to a move. Mine, that is.)

Just to add another twist to the potential development, Jones is considering setting aside about two acres on the site for use as a bicycle park. Jones was part of a Lawrence group that was seeking some city parkland to build a BMX bicycle track. Jones said he's not envisioning a traditional BMX track, but rather is contemplating a "pump track," which is a type of mountain bike course with swales and berms that allow riders to build up speed and minimize pedaling.

But before you get out your Spandex, or your Cajun gear for that matter, a neighborhood of pump tracks and pier houses is not yet a certainty. Struct/Restruct's contract with the former salvage yard requires the current owners of the property to conduct environmental assessments of the property showing that it is suitable for residential development. Assuming that goes well, the project also has to win the necessary land use approvals, and the city's Parks and Recreation Department may have something to say about a pump track that would be open to the public.

The project may move forward in a couple of different phases. The idea of converting the existing building on the site into a new shop for Struct/Restruct most likely will be the first phase. Jones said he would like to move forward with that idea in the next three months or so. Currently, Struct/Restruct has its shop in a small building at 920 1/2 Delaware St. in East Lawrence. The 12th and Haskell space would be about four times larger.

If the company is able to move its shop, that would free up the existing shop location for a new venture, Jones said. He said he's working with a friend who has a strong interest in using the building to open a new neighborhood bicycle shop. The company also owns another small building just north of its shop. I had previously reported the Struct/Restruct folks were working with a client that wanted to open a coffee shop/art house in that location. The original tenant for that deal wasn't able to move forward, Jones said, but he said talks with a new tenant for a similar concept are underway.

And, in case you are wondering what happened to the 12th and Haskell Recycling Center, well, you must have been too occupied with your duck calls recently. (It is easy to do.) The recycling center moved several months ago to a new location in the industrial area just northeast of 11th and Haskell. The company moved after multiple neighbors at the 12th and Haskell site had complained about the sights and sounds of a salvage yard operation.


buffalo63 4 years, 8 months ago

My first thought was the floodplain issue, but I am glad to see that the state seems to take care of that issue by redrawing their maps. That seems to be the best way to solve a water problem. Just redraw! Plans from the rebuilding of the houses with piers in New Orleans should be easy to duplicate.

redfred 4 years, 8 months ago

House on piers. Just what I would want during the winter in Kansas :).

irvan moore 4 years, 8 months ago

I really like the looks of the houses they build but am curious about the price range of the houses, they look expensive

Dan Rose 4 years, 8 months ago

Better test the soil there (and/or bring in lots of new topsoil)... unless you want your kids playing out in the yard where the junk cars inevitably leaked oil, antifreeze, etc., and there's always the potential of lead. This was an issue that was ignored for a new commercial expansion in Topeka where there was an old car part junkyard - lots of contamination. No kids playing there, but you know what I mean!


kernal 4 years, 8 months ago

Did you notice the sentence in paragraph eleven which states the contract includes a requirement for an environmental assesment of the property?

patkindle 4 years, 8 months ago

would be great to have a home on stilts so you could have a better view of the city maintenance parking lot with the garbage trucks and wrecked police cars, woo woo

otto 4 years, 8 months ago

The city will either deny the permit or give you millions in incentives. Good luck.

Boston_Corbett 4 years, 8 months ago

I really have to really wonder about the marketing sense of someone who wants to construct housing next to a bike track.

hedshrinker 4 years, 8 months ago

what's the problem?; I live next to Burroughs Trail and it's wonderful; they put in good landscaping and maintain it, NO motorized traffic, great entertainment value watching people on skateboards, bikes,wheelchairs, walking groups,families w kids on tricycles and pets. There's little pocket parks along the way, benches, bluebird nesting boxes, water fountains, trash recepticles the City maintains, and wildflower fields filled with redwing blackbirds. WE LOVE IT b/c it used to be an overgrown mess w the only advantage being that sometimes we would see deer there.

Larrytown 4 years, 8 months ago

I've known (not good friends) Matt Jones for a while now. Comes across as a really, really nice guy. He's an extremely talented carpenter/designer. Glad to see more money being infused into that section (just east of downtown) of Lawrence. Lived here more than 19 years...and that area has so much potential. Now, it really appears to be transforming with all the projects going on over the past few years.

Good luck Matt and company!

pizzapete 4 years, 8 months ago

I think this is a great idea, it sounds like it's going to be a huge improvement to that property.

LogicMan 4 years, 8 months ago

Soil contamination will vary significantly across the site, so just a few random samples won't find the bad spots where oil was dumped and so on.

Concrete for the foundations will wick underground water to inside the houses.

In my humble opinion a general remediation is called for, and then just plant trees. Then come back in a few decades and test again. Or gravel it over, and use it as a parking or storage lot or something similar.

Keith 4 years, 8 months ago

Buy the property, then you can do that!

hedshrinker 4 years, 8 months ago

as opposed to looking at yr PALACE?!!!....why are you SO judgemental? What's wrong w retirees and pedestrians...the houses across the st are an infinite improvement over the junkyard.

smileydog 4 years, 8 months ago

They need to turn it into a commune when it's complete. That would be something Lawrence and Charlie would be proud of. They could call it The Ranch not to be confused with the dance club on 6th Street

hedshrinker 4 years, 8 months ago

Forgot to mention we love the Struct/Restruct folk w their innovative designs, whether adding on existing vintage housing stock or starting fr zero. especially like them utilizing the timber aspects to any tress that may need to be harvested .... they and their designs in the neighborhood have been a real asset for old East Lawrence, certainly better than those hideous Rockhill places.

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