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City to consider approval of proposed housing development southeast of Sixth and SLT, near Langston Hughes Elementary


City commissioners tonight will debate a somewhat controversial development project near the corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway, and this one doesn’t involve a recreation center.

Commissioners at their 6:35 p.m. meeting today will consider plans for a new housing and apartment development on about 27.5 acres of ground southeast of the Sixth Street and SLT interchange.

More specifically, the project is just west of the area commonly known as the Diamondhead subdivision. On the off chance that you are not a planner or a taxicab driver, and therefore don’t know the names of subdivisions (yes, taxicab drivers know that and much more) the area is on the east edge of the South Lawrence Trafficway. It is just a bit northwest of Langston Hughes Elementary.

The project proposes 52 single-family homes, 22 duplexes and 86 apartment units on the 27.5 acres. This project has definitely gone through the sausage making process, as neighbors objected to the amount of duplex zoning that was proposed in the project late last year. Developers responded by cutting the number of duplexes by more than 50 percent, but they were replaced by 23 single-family homes that will be built on smaller-than-average 5,000-square-foot lots.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on a 6-3 vote recommended approval of the project. City commissioners will have the final say on it tonight.

The project is interesting enough in itself, but the more interesting issue is how this entire area near Sixth and the SLT may take off in the near future. There is obviously the $75 million worth of improvements being contemplated across the street at Rock Chalk Park. That tends to wake up developers and land speculators.

But perhaps an even larger factor is the pending completion of not only the South Lawrence Trafficway but a new Bob Billings Parkway interchange on the SLT. The Bob Billings interchange is south of this property.

Below is a picture from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Office that shows the land between Sixth Street and Bob Billings Parkway, bordered by the South Lawrence Trafficway on the west. Look at how much undeveloped land is out there.

The chart to the left of the drawing shows what the land is currently zoned for, and then lists — theoretically — how many housing units could be built in that zoning category. If you total it all up, there is theoretically zoning in place for about 1,300 new homes or apartments in the area.

Plus, that includes two pieces of land that aren’t zoned for anything. Two development groups — Alvamar Inc. and the Diamondhead group — own about 50 acres that are zoned as urban reserve, meaning it will get some sort of residential or commercial zoning in the future.

Commercial zoning certainly is a possibility in the area. Diamondhead owns 31 acres immediately south of Sixth Street at the Sixth and SLT interchange. It will be interesting to see if that property ever gets into the discussion about locations to build more retail to serve the proposed Rock Chalk Park development.

Alavamar also has about 12 acres zoned for commercial uses at the northeast corner of where the Bob Billings and SLT interchange will be built. That also will be an interesting piece of property to keep an eye on.

But perhaps the most interesting land owner in the area is the Lawrence school district. In addition to the property it owns for Langston Hughes Elementary, it also owns about 35 acres surrounding the school. The property is zoned for residential development. The school district, of course, may want to hang onto it for school expansion. But if it decides it isn’t need for such, I’m sure it won’t have a problem finding a buyer for the property.

Anyway, commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today to discuss the Langston Heights development. Here’s guessing that it will be the first of many discussions about development for the area in the coming months and years.

Courtesy of: City of Lawrence

Courtesy of: City of Lawrence by Chad Lawhorn


TheManFromLaramie 5 years, 1 month ago

Just what Lawrence needs. More High dollar homes. Where do people work around here to be able to afford a 300k home? How bout someone build some entry level homes that aren't in the rundown parts of town.

kef104 5 years, 1 month ago

These are not high dollar homes. With only 5000 sq feet per lot, they will most likely be a little more than half of what you project. Not only that, but they will be jammed right next to the neighbor's homes and sit extra close to the street, which will probably be extra narrow as well. This is hardly the scenario for expensive homes.

2cents 5 years, 1 month ago

If there is a demand, someone will probably take the risk and try to meet it. Kudos to them.

Tim Herndon 5 years, 1 month ago

@kef104: the only statement you made that is accurate is the reference to "5000 sq feet per lot". The rest is random misinformation.

bklonnie 5 years, 1 month ago

Random misinformation? Maybe some of it, but the bit about them being jammed right next to the neighbor is absolutely true. Have you seen any of the new homes being built within the last 5 years? The distance between the house edge, and property line is the absolute minimum allowed by code. I'd have to go back and check the code, but if I recall correctly, that minimum is somewhere between 5' - 8'. So, that leaves a distance of about 10' - 16' from house edge to house edge. Not sure where you're from, but we're not in any shortage of space around here; that's "jammed right next to" in my books.

repaste 5 years, 1 month ago

I think it only to base of house as well, does not include overhang, gutters, etc. It used to be 5' which means roof's might be 6' apart,

repaste 5 years, 1 month ago

A 50' by 100' lot does not leave room for much of a house, It is simply way to get more lots,"money", out of the land. Even small homes will be "jammed" next to each other unless they are 4 stories tall.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 1 month ago

Apartments and single family are not a good mix. Apartments have noise like air conditioning, dumpsters, service trucks. And, they tend to have more late night activity. Why do developer s and he city think apartments are a buffer?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 1 month ago

If the apartments allow dogs, there is no place for them to crap except in your yard.

sherbert 5 years, 1 month ago

It sounds like the normal mix of zoning that Lawrence plans, single family on the inside, town houses and/or small houses in the middle, and apartments along the highways.

repaste 5 years, 1 month ago

This land should be forced to develop as it already has all city services provided. Look across 6th to the empty fields, some of which have streets of 7-8 homes on 5 acre lots - that is sprawl. Those homes require the same infrastructure, sewers, police & fire stations, feeder streets, etc. At a much higher cost. 9 homes on 1662 road next to trafficway are on 80 acres, this plan will have 160 homes on 27.5 acres! Those 9 $700,00 homes will pay nowhere near as much in property taxes as the same density of 450+ homes on same size parcel.

LWbored 5 years, 1 month ago

We will need another junior high over there soon....

Keith 5 years, 1 month ago

Maybe the school district could sell some of that land to finance the bond issue they want passed.

Kat Christian 5 years, 1 month ago

That almighty dollar....You'd think these developers would do a little more research of this area WHICH BY THE WAY is traditionally a target for tornados. Weather as a rule comes from that direction. Just a few years ago the apartments lost a few roofs from a tornado. This is an accident in the making. I doubt that they will include tornado shelters in these homes and if they did most likely they won't be up to par to withstand one over F2. But these developers will be rich by then so why should they worry. This reminds me of the movie Poltergeist where homes were built over a cemetary and the featured house had captured all the souls, plus the demon. Mmmmmm what's that saying...art imitates reality?

sherbert 5 years, 1 month ago

Are you talking about a different development? The one in this article is north of Langston Hughes school, almost to 6th St, not exactly where the tornado hit.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

The previous USD BOE blowing $23,000 an acre for 75 unimproved acres SE of town was not necessarily a smart choice. I doubt that price could be had as we speak.

The current USD 497 headquarters aka the cow/milk barn was not appreciated by taxpayers either. I say put this building on the market and bring the BOE into town.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

Draining Wallets

Reckless planning is draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes. Why does city government protect the real estate industry instead of taxpayers? It's OUR money.

Reckless planning has been rightly blamed for many things: destroying green space, increasing air and water pollution, fracturing our neighborhoods and forcing us to drive gridlocked roads for every chore. But there is one consequence that usually goes unmentioned - developers are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

Reckless growth is the result of over four decades of subsidies paid for by the American taxpayer. The subsidies range from the obvious to the obscure and include big projects-like the billions we spend on new roads as well as smaller ones-like the tax-breaks that encourage businesses to move to the edge of town thus killing the downtown business district.

We've subsidized reckless planning at such a basic level for so long, that many taxpayers believe the status quo is actually fair and neutral. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of reckless planning sponsored by the development executives.

Reckless growth definitely wastes our tax money. It pulls economic resources away from the downtown business district and spreads them out over sparse developments away from the core. This is economic displacement which prevents solid and consistent economic growth.

Taxes subsidize millions of dollars worth of new roads, new water and sewer lines, new schools and increased police and fire protection at the expense of the needs of the core business district. This leads to degradation of our older neighborhoods and higher taxes.

Again why does city government protect the real estate industry instead of taxpayers? It's OUR money.

lawrencechick 5 years, 1 month ago

Chad, do you know if Langston Hughes is full? Can they absorb all the development?

GMom05 5 years, 1 month ago

The bond issue is adding one kindergarten classroom to LH. Otherwise the only way to absorb is to change boundaries. What will happen is children will be shifted east until they hit Sunset Hills, where if the bond passes there will be 5 additional classrooms built (approx. 125 children increase) to 'absorb' the growth in the west. What I don't get is, if we're going to change boundaries anyway, why are we building new classrooms, why not just reopen one of the three schools we already own instead of spending the next 22 years paying off new construction?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

Where is the rush on new housing? Is this one of those "planning ahead" gimmicks again?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

What make the property worth a few more bucks? The new Field House.

The birth of this fiasco began about here at least this is about when the public at large got wind of it. This is a high dollar PLAY concept make no bones about it. Does it ever stop? http://www.ci.lawrence.ks.us/currenttopics/PLAY/i_executive%20summary.pdf

PLAY Overview http://www.ci.lawrence.ks.us/currenttopics/PLAY/i_executive%20summary.pdf

PLAY Committee Members Kelly Barth, Mark Buhler, Dave Corliss, Fred DeVictor, Rick Gammill, Mike Grosdidier, Sue Hack, Paige Hofer, Bonnie Lowe, Pam Madl, Julie Manning, Scott Morgan(USD 497), Wayne Osness, Linda Robinson(USD 497), Bob Sanner, Ernie Shaw, Doug Stremel and Doug Vance.

The Mission Statement of PLAY http://www.ci.lawrence.ks.us/currenttopics/PLAY/i_executive%20summary.pdf

Background and Process http://www.ci.lawrence.ks.us/currenttopics/PLAY/i_executive%20summary.pdf

The first step in the needs assessment was to collect data from a variety of sources. Three methods were developed to collect data for this study. The design team has completed the following: http://www.ci.lawrence.ks.us/currenttopics/PLAY/i_executive%20summary.pdf

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