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Plans filed for new upscale condo development in West Lawrence
The idea of condo living in West Lawrence already has made a good comeback, and now developers are poised to test whether it can make an even bigger one.
Plans have been filed at Lawrence City Hall for a new 22-unit, upscale condo development to be built on the vacant lot east of the Bella Serra condos near Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive.
Jason Todd, of Hedges Realty Executives and a spokesman for the development group, said the new project would be called Bella Mattina and may share some amenities with the adjacent Bella Sera. (In case you fell asleep in Italian class dreaming of linguini, Lamborghinis, and Sophia Loren, Bella Sera is Italian for "beautiful day," and Bella Mattina is Italian for "beautiful morning." According to my Italian teacher, Mr. Googleguini, that is.)
At this point, perhaps you are thinking you don't understand Italian. You thought Bella Sera was largely empty. Well, that was under old management. As we've previously reported, and as the weekly land transfers regularly show, buying activity has been strong at the condo development since new ownership took over in the spring of 2012. At that time, 24 of the 37 condo units in the building were vacant. Now, all 37 have been sold, Todd said.
"If we would have had 10 or 12 more units this summer, we could have sold them," Todd said.
But Todd said the development group will be careful not to oversaturate the market. That means the group won't build one large building, but rather will build four smaller buildings that will allow the development to be constructed in phases. The initial construction, however, could begin later this year, if the project wins the necessary approvals.
Todd said prices for the new units likely will range from about $225,000 to $500,000. Sizes will range from about 1,000 square feet to about 3,200 square feet. The project will feature some innovative design as well. Todd said a handful of the condos will be three-story units, with a garage on the ground floor and living and bedroom space on the second and third floors. Those units will have private elevators. He said it's a design that has started to take hold in several urban areas and is being used on this project to help increase the number of condo units with premium views.
The project isn't a done deal. Todd said he's continuing to work with existing condo owners at Bella Sera to ensure the new development fits in well, and the project must win approval from both the Planning Commission and City Commission before it can move ahead.
In other news and notes from around town:
• As we reported earlier this month, a 90-unit senior rental community near 23rd Street and O'Connell Road also is on the drawing board. But this project comes with a twist. The Olathe development group proposing it wants a 100 percent property tax abatement. Technically the project could qualify for one under state law because the project is proposed as an affordable housing project subject to rent levels set by the state. But city staff members aren't so sure they want to open the door to offering tax abatement to housing projects. City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday evening will be asked to give some guidance.
In a new memo, staff members suggest that providing Industrial Revenue Bonds for the project may be appropriate, which would allow the project to be exempt from paying sales tax on building materials. But the memo expresses concern about granting a property tax abatement because that may give the development an unfair advantage over other complexes.
On Tuesday, commissioners will be asked whether they want to begin formally processing and reviewing the property tax abatement request or nix that idea now.
As part of the request, the development group, Olathe-based Bethel Estates, has estimated rents will range from about $460 a month to $575 a month for one-bedroom apartments and about $700 a month for two-bedroom units.
• This news item about wind farms caught my eye because the idea of wind energy is one Douglas County may need to start thinking more about. As we previously have reported, a wind farm developer has some preliminary interest in property in southwest Douglas County. I think some people have kind of scoffed at the idea of a wind farm in Douglas County. For years we've been told this part of the state does really have much wind energy potential.
But technology is an interesting thing. We're drilling for oil and natural gas in places we wouldn't have thought of 10 years ago, thanks to technological advances. Perhaps the same will happen with wind energy. Or perhaps it already has. The article that caught my eye in The St. Joseph News-Press reports on how a 200 megawatt wind farm development outside of St. Joseph, Mo., near Oregon, Mo., is expected to begin construction this year. The project has about 25,000 acres under lease, and is providing payments to about 100 landowners. The project is expected to be about a $400 million project, according to the report in the News-Press. Maybe the wind is completely different in northwest Missouri, but in the grand scheme of things, Douglas County is in the same region.
Douglas County planners are coming up with regulations that would apply to wind farm development in Douglas County. I think it will be an interesting project — and an interesting set of reactions — to watch.