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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.