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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.