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City issues permits for $11 million in apartment construction, $600K expansion at Hallmark


Raise your hand if you believe pajamas ought to be the new business casual. I’m betting today’s blizzard has lots of folks working from home in their pj's today.

One group that you won’t find working in pajamas often is builders. (Trust me, if you try to hang a hammer from a pair of pajama bottoms, bad things happen.) And there is a new report out of City Hall that suggests January was a reasonably busy month for the Lawrence construction industry.

These days, when the Lawrence construction industry is busy, the best bet for the reason behind it is apartments. That’s the case this time, too.

City officials issued building permits for $11.9 million worth of new apartments on the large open site just west of the Wal-Mart at Sixth Street and Congressional Drive. The project — which carries an address of 5100 W. Sixth St., if you are scoring along at home — calls for 264 dwelling units in 11 buildings.

If you are trying to picture the site, it is the location that Lowe’s once was interested in. But as we began reporting last summer, apartment developers became interested in the property after Lowe’s slowed down its expansion plans. I’m not entirely clear on which developer is behind this project. At one time my understanding was that a local builder — although not one of the big apartment developers like a Schwada or a Compton — was behind the project. But the apartment industry has been full of change in Lawrence, so I had better do some more checking before I repeat a name.

I have a feeling we will have a lot of opportunities to talk about apartments in 2013. City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting approved the preliminary development plan for The Links, which we’ve previously reported is a major apartment development that will be built around a nine-hole golf course. That development is slated for the area northeast of Sixth Street and George Williams Way. In other words, across the street from the proposed Rock Chalk Park sports village.

The Links project — which is proposed by a group out of Arkansas — is slated to have 630 dwelling units. Add that to the 264 units that just pulled a permit next to Wal-Mart, and you are to almost 900 new units being built in the Sixth Street corridor alone. Plus, the Langston Heights development southwest of George Williams Way includes plans for 86 apartment units.

It seems that folks are betting on growth again.

A lack of growth in jobs is what Lawrence leaders have been bemoaning though. The January building permit report has important news on that front as well.

The first signs emerged of Hallmark undertaking an expansion to accommodate the extra work that the plant is planned to undertake as Hallmark closes its Topeka greeting card plant.

The company pulled a permit for $600,000 worth of work at the facility. The building permit report categorized the permit as “phase one” of an expansion project.

I’ll do some checking with Hallmark to see if they are releasing more details about their expansion plans. When the Kansas City-based company made the announcement in October of the Topeka closing, it was unclear how many new jobs may be added to the Lawrence facility. The company said it expected its total workforce in Lawrence, Topeka and Leavenworth to drop from 1,300 to 1,000, but the workers would be split between two plants instead of three.

It was clear, though, the move was going to have impacts on the Lawrence plant because it would become the sole manufacturer of Hallmark greeting cards. Previously, it manufactured about two-thirds of the greeting card line, while Topeka manufactured the other third.

Here are some other numbers from January’s building report:

• The city issued permits for $16.8 million worth of construction. That by far made it the best January in recent memory. Over the past four years, the January average was about $3 million worth of projects.

• Activity on the new-home front continued to be a bit slow. The city issued permits for eight new single-family or duplex homes, compared to seven in January 2012.


geekin_topekan 5 years, 4 months ago

Just what we always wanted, more megaplexes, strip malls and walmart. Why dont jococs just go home instead of polluting Lawrence?

Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

Chad, your humor is so corny its actually a little funny. Appreciate your column.

COjayrocks 5 years, 4 months ago

Ugh. I'm very much in favor of the development boom that seems to be coming to Lawrence but please, stop with the mega apartment complexes, especially on major commercial avenues...

KU_cynic 5 years, 4 months ago

I just don't understand for whom all these apartments are being built.

Overall city population growth is very weak; KU enrollments and employment are stagnant at best; USD 497 school enrollments -- not counting virtual schoolers -- weak; prospects for major new employers coming to town -- iffy at best; prospects for attracting new non-working yet affluent senior residents -- also iffy, and these units are probably not targeted at that population anyway.

The prospects for rent growth across town appear dim.

Sure glad I don't own a somewhat dingy older apartment building that has to compete with the new complexes.

Sue Grosdidier 5 years, 4 months ago

I would think marketing reports would show how many apartments sit empty in Lawrence. Talk to people in this business and they will tell you occupancy is not good and we are adding 900 more units. Lawrence is not growing enough to support those numbers.

Joe Adams 5 years, 4 months ago

Yeah, because more retail on that location would have been terrible for the intersection / neighborhood. Big box stores won't build at 6th and the SLT because existing retail is not close enough to the location, but when presented with opportunities to expand the reach of retail, we deny the plan and push more apartments...makes sense, really, it does.

I'm pretty sure that the developers had plans for some retail on that location even after Lowes but it wouldn't pan out because we didn't need more retail. 6th street is commercial / retail all the way from downtown to Wakarusa but adding more after Wakarusa isn't in the plans???

Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

The Hallmark permit is probably related to the conversion of warehouse space to production space for the envelope manufacturing operation moved from Topeka.

kansasredlegs 5 years, 4 months ago

Hallmark pulls a $600,000 building expansion permit to bring above living-wage salaries and benefits to Lawrence and does NOT get a local government handout ala Compton, Fritzel and company with empty promises of job creation. Clear indication of what's wrong with City Hall.

MichaelARost 5 years, 4 months ago

I agree. Incentives (to the extent they are used) should go to attracting new business, not to subsidize speculative development.

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