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New owner plans to convert site of troubled North Lawrence mobile home park into single-family neighborhood
Anybody who has ever done a home improvement project with me knows that sometimes you’ve got to make things look a bit worse before they start looking better. (Chad's unofficial home improvement motto: Heck yeah, we need to tear down that wall.)
That seems to be where a once-troubled mobile home park in North Lawrence finds itself. The former Riverview Trailer Park at 827 Walnut St. is in bits and pieces as salvage crews have started dismantling abandoned mobile homes in order to prepare the site for a new single-family housing development.
Mark Bowden of Bowden Complete Construction LLC confirmed to me that he has finalized a deal to purchase the trailer park, which the city cited with multiple sanitation and environmental code violations in April and shut down in August.
But Bowden said he is about to call an end to the salvage part of the operations and bring in heavy equipment to finish the job.
“A day with a big loader out there is going to make the place look a lot better,” Bowden said.
He anticipates cleanup will be completed by Monday. After that, work will begin on creating a new set of plans for the property. Those plans will include building a cul-de-sac through the middle of the property and building 11 single-family homes along the new stretch of road.
Bowden said he anticipates the new houses will be three-bedroom, two-bath homes with two-car garages, and will be priced in the $120,000 range.
“We think they are going to fly off the shelf,” Bowden said.
The new neighborhood will continue a trend of the area — which is near the eastern portion of North Lawrence’s Kansas River levee — becoming a hub for starter housing. Lawrence’s Habitat for Humanity several years ago built a single-family starter housing development, the Comfort Neighborhood, just east of Bowden's land.
Folks in that neighborhood ought to welcome the change. The problems at the Riverview Trailer Park had become one of the city’s messier housing problems in recent years. When city inspectors arrived in April, they found some trailers were emptying raw sewage directly onto the ground and children were congregating around the pools of waste. Faulty electrical wiring and large amounts of debris also were common in the approximately 20 trailers at the park.
Eventually, the city declared that the mobile home park no longer had a valid city permit to operate, and ordered the park closed. By August, all residents had moved out, but left behind were most of the deteriorating trailers, and often piles of discarded personal possessions ranging from old couches to broken toys, and even a toilet on a front porch.
City officials were contemplating undertaking the expense to clean up the property, and hoping to recoup their costs through special assessments placed on future property tax bills. But the city held up on taking that action as it became clear that the mobile home site was drawing interest from potential buyers.
Bowden is paying the cost of cleaning up the property. The property previously was owned by George Warren, a California-based investor. Terms of the recent sale of the park weren’t disclosed, but we previously had reported that the approximately 1-acre tract was on the market for about $190,000.
My understanding is the property already is zoned to accommodate the proposed single-family housing development, but city planners will have to approve specific plans for the development. He said he hopes to start building houses by June.