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Commissioners to consider plans for new multifamily development along O'Connell Road

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Here's a chance to play with the crayons in your desk drawer. Take out your Brick Red (or, heck, even your Razzmatazz or Razzle Dazzle Rose) and circle all the Lawrence neighborhoods that will have easy access to Johnson County, Topeka and the South Iowa Street shopping district once the South Lawrence Trafficway is completed.

There will be several areas circled, but none should be circled more brightly than the Prairie Park neighborhood in southeast Lawrence. We're already getting a glimpse of the changes a completed SLT may bring to the area.

If you remember, we reported in August that a pair of Lawrence businessmen had filed preliminary plans for a new multifamily complex near 28th Street and O'Connell Road in the Prairie Park neighborhood.

Well, those plans have advanced and are now up for a round of approval at Lawrence City Hall tonight. City commissioners are set to approve an annexation of about 11 acres of ground just north and east of the roundabout at 28th and O'Connell. Commissioners also are set to approve a request to rezone the property to RM-15 multifamily zoning.

Jeff Hatfield and Heath Seitz are the developers of the new project, and Hatfield recently gave me some details. Plans call for the project to be built in two phases. Phase one would start work soon on building 38 to 40 one-bedroom apartments on the site. Phase 2 would come later and would accommodate about 60 to 65 additional apartments on the site. Whether they would be one-, two- or three-bedroom units hasn't yet been determined.

Not surprisingly, the completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway in the next couple of years is one of the factors Hatfield is citing in moving forward with the project. The eastern interchange for the South Lawrence Trafficway will be just a minute or two east of the 23rd and O'Connell intersection. Once the trafficway is built, Prairie Park suddenly becomes a convenient home for commuters not only to Johnson County, but also to Topeka. As part of the South Lawrence Trafficway project, the city also is extending 31st Street from Haskell Avenue to O'Connell Road. That means Prairie Park residents will have an easy new route into the South Iowa Street retail district as well.

But Prairie Park also has another factor going for it. It is the closest neighborhood to the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant, which is being converted into Lawrence VenturePark, the city's next big business park. Developers are betting that new companies will locate in that park, and workers at the companies will jump at the chance to live in a neighborhood that is just a stone's throw from the office.

Hatfield, who is a real estate appraiser and a veteran in the local housing and apartment markets, envisions a gradual 10-year transformation of the area out there.

"I think what really will control the growth out there is the number of new businesses that locate in the business park," Hatfield said. "If we get some employers out there, then the rooftops will follow, and then I'm really hopeful a grocery store will say this is where we need to be."

Property at the southeast corner of 23rd and O'Connell already is zoned for retail uses, including a grocery store, but a company hasn't yet stepped forward.

As for the apartment development, Hatfield and Seitz have drawn up a plan that uses single-story four-plex units that are designed to look more like houses than an apartment complex. Hatfield said the design is trying to create an "Aspen craftsman" type of look that features lots of stone, exposed wooden beams and rough-sawn lumber. As currently designed, about half the units will come with garages. You can see one of the proposed renderings below.

Hatfield said he expects the development's target market to be either young couples who don't yet need a larger unit, or single professionals who either are working in the area or want a convenient home to commute to either Kansas City or Topeka.

As we have previously reported, look for other activity in the area as well. The Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority has partnered with a private development group led by Lawrence businessman Bill Newsome to develop about 125 rent-controlled apartment units near the southwest corner of 23rd and O'Connell Road.

So, you may want to keep those crayons out. There may be more to circle in this area in the future. Now, where did I put my Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown and my Mango Tango? I've got serious work to do.

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  • A rendering of what the units will look like in a proposed multifamily complex near 28th and O'Connell in southeast Lawrence

    A rendering of what the units will look like in a proposed multifamily complex near 28th and O'Connell in southeast Lawrence by Chad Lawhorn

    Comments

    Andrew Dufour 1 year ago

    Whew, for a moment there I thought we might run out of apartments in Lawrence, thank goodness developers are reading the tea leaves and building more.

    /snark

    Greg DiVilbiss 1 year ago

    Exactly how many new or old apartment complexes are their on the east side of town?

    Greg DiVilbiss 1 year ago

    Exactly, The West side of town has a plethora of options for people to live in shiny new apartments. This complex will give our Eastern community an opportunity to upgrade their apartment living environment if they choose to. If there are no options in the East and they would like the new amenities they currently would have to come West.

    My point with Andrew is, it does not really matter how many Grocery stores are in Lawrence, if you don't have one close to you....Lawrence is a whole and yet it, it is also a series of neighborhoods each with their own particular needs.

    Brett McCabe 1 year ago

    The renderings look nice, much better than many of the recent complexes built in the city. Multi-family housing helps build density and reduces sprawl. In the case of these proposed units, the location makes a great deal of sense.

    Southeast Lawrence needs an identity and a thoughtful plan to give it a community feel. If the complex is well served by sidewalks and a bicycle connector, it could be a great addition to the city.

    Richard Heckler 1 year ago

    (Reuters) - A dismal job market, a crippled real estate sector and hobbled banks will keep a lid on U.S. economic growth over the coming decade, some of the nation's leading economists said on Sunday.

    Speaking at American Economic Association's mammoth yearly gathering, experts from a range of political leanings were in surprising agreement when it came to the chances for a robust and sustained expansion:

    They are slim.

    Many predicted U.S. gross domestic product would expand less than 2 percent per year over the next 10 years. That stands in sharp contrast to the immediate aftermath of other steep economic downturns, which have usually elicited a growth surge in their wake.

    "It will be difficult to have a robust recovery while housing and commercial real estate are depressed," said Martin Feldstein, a Harvard University professor and former head of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Housing was at the heart of the nation's worst recession since the 1930s, with median home values falling over 30 percent from their 2005 peaks, and even more sharply in heavily affected states like California and Nevada.

    The decline has sapped a principal source of wealth for U.S. consumers, whose spending is the key driver of the country's growth pattern. The steep drop in home prices has also boosted their propensity to save.

    "It's very hard to see what will replace it," said Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate and professor of economics at Columbia University. "It's going to take a number of years."

    One reason is that U.S. consumers remain heavily indebted. Consumer credit outstanding has fallen from its mid-2008 records, but still stands at some $2.5 trillion, or nearly one-fifth of total yearly spending in the U.S. economy.

    Another is that many of the country's largest banks are still largely dependent on funding from the U.S. Federal Reserve and the implicit backing of the Treasury Department.

    Kenneth Rogoff, also of Harvard, argued that if the U.S. government ever "credibly" pulled away from its backing of the financial system, then a renewed collapse would likely ensue.

    He cited government programs giving large financial institutions access to zero-cost borrowing as artificially padding their bottom lines.

    "There's something of an illusion of profitability," he said.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/01/03/us-usa-economy-dismal-idUSTRE6021LK20100103?feedType=RSS&feedName=businessNews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reuters%2FbusinessNews+%28News+%2F+US+%2F+Business+News%29

    Richard Heckler 1 year ago

    Yes a secret cost of growth is an increased crime rate as we speak

    We need a plan that realizes the more the city expands outward the more all sorts of taxes will be increased.

    We also need a vision that realizes that the Lawrence,Kansas quality of life is being threatened by an increased crime rate which is directly connected to unchecked and irresponsible population growth.

    More cops and an expanded LPD budget cannot and will not stop crime growth.

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