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Idea for Rock Chalk Village springs up for property near Rock Chalk Park
No word on whether you would have to get a Jayhawk tattoo to live there, or at least promise to wallpaper your house with Andrew Wiggins posters, but there is talk of a new Lawrence neighborhood that would be dubbed Rock Chalk Village.
You guessed it, the neighborhood would be near the Rock Chalk Park sports complex under construction near Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. But the idea of Rock Chalk Village is much less certain than Rock Chalk Park.
The development, though, would be unique. We've reported several times that Kansas University professor Dennis Domer and others have a great interest in creating an "intergenerational neighborhood" that would help make Lawrence more of a retiree destination. Well, Rock Chalk Village is the first proposal by a Kansas City-area development group to create such a neighborhood.
Leaders with Lane4 Property Group have drawn preliminary development plans for about 60 acres just east and south of the Rock Chalk Park sports complex. For those of you having a hard time picturing it, the property is the vacant ground behind the St. Margaret's Episcopal Church. It also would be just south of the new nine-hole golf course and apartment complex that has been approved for the area. Or perhaps you are the type that remembers the names of unbuilt developments in Lawrence. (If so, you need a new hobby by the way.) This piece of ground was platted as the Oregon Trail Addition in 2007 by a group including longtime Lawrence real estate developer John McGrew and construction executive Roger Johnson. It was envisioned as a single family and multi-family neighborhood.
The idea now is for it to be a one-of-a-kind neighborhood. I got in touch with a Lane4 official who confirmed that the group is working on some plans for the property, but he didn't offer other details. What previously has been discussed for an intergenerational neighborhood is a mix of housing styles that will attract both younger families and people who are retirement age. The idea has several concepts, including that people should have the option of aging in place, and that retirees shouldn't be segmented off from younger families. Previously discussed ideas have included public gathering areas for people of all ages, a not-for-profit retirement or nursing home, and a health care clinic.
Again, I don't know what specifics Lane4 is proposing. But the group does have a pretty strong interest in the project, I'm told. Hugh Carter, vice president of external affairs for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and longtime proponent of the intergenerational neighborhood concept, confirmed that Lane4 has made a presentation to the nonprofit Campus Village board that has been tasked with finding a location for an intergenerational neighborhood.
"This is a site that definitely jumps out at you as a good site," Carter said. "But there are just so many details that still have to be worked out."
He notes that the site would be within walking distance of the Rock Chalk Park sports complex, the proposed nine-hole golf course to the north, the proposed Mercato retail development to the west, and also the extensive South Lawrence Trafficway hike and bike trail system that will grow with the completion of Rock Chalk Park.
But despite all that, the development is far from a done deal. The Lane4 proposal may be a bit like a Dayne Crist pass — the timing is just a bit off. (Come on people: Dayne Crist, former KU quarterback. It is time to get into football mode, which unfortunately has meant jokes about KU quarterbacks.)
The nonprofit Campus Village board had figured it could take another four years for all the planning, site selection and development activities to take place for an intergenerational neighborhood.
Carter said the group is sensitive to not rushing the planning process because it realizes it is likely to get one chance to get this neighborhood concept right. The board hasn't yet put out a request for proposals to hear of other possible locations and ideas that other developers may have in mind for such a neighborhood. This proposal from Lane4 was unsolicited.
So, we'll have to wait and see if the Lane4 idea proceeds or whether it is deemed premature. But proponents of an intergenerational neighborhood do find themselves in an interesting situation. There are a limited number of sites in Lawrence that would work really well for the concept. This is one of them, but it doesn't seem likely that it will sit vacant for the next several years while planning is done. Momentum for residential development around Rock Chalk Park certainly is building, so I would expect the property to get developed with a more traditional housing development if the Lane4 proposal doesn't proceed.
Speaking of momentum for housing around the Rock Chalk Park site, a new apartment and single family housing development south and east of the sports complex now has the bulk of its required City Hall approvals.
As we previously reported, Lawrence developer Tim Stultz has plans for a 40-acre development at the northwest corner of Queens Road and Overland Drive. City commissioners already have approved the zoning for the property.
I caught up with Stultz recently, and he gave me a few more details about the project. He said current plans call for up to 172 apartment units and 83 single family homes.
He said the the majority of the apartments will be one- and two-bedroom units, but there will be a few three- and four-bedroom units as well. He said he wants to put together an apartment complex that doesn't necessarily focus on students, but rather young professionals and others who are more interested in renting an apartment than owning a home.
"We've had excellent occupancy rates in our projects over the last decade," said Stultz, who previously owned Remington Square and Ironwood Court apartments but sold them to an out-of-state group earlier this year. "The student housing market is a little bit soft. What we want to do is stay in the 'move-up' apartment market. It will be a bit of an upscale apartment complex. We're not trying to target students out there."
He said more detailed design work on the project will be underway this fall. He hopes to have apartments on the market in Fall of 2015, he said.