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Renderings show dramatic changes on tap for area across from Memorial Stadium

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You know what they say about a picture: It probably will get you fired if it ends up on Facebook. (Wait, that's not the saying.) Regardless, take a look at these pictures below, and you'll start to get a sense of just how big of a change is proposed for the area across from KU's Memorial Stadium.

As we've reported several times, plans have been filed for a new five-story apartment and retail building at 1101 Indiana St., which currently is the home of the Berkeley Flats Apartments complex. Plans call for about 175 apartment units and about 11,000 square feet of retail development.

As we briefly reported last night, city commissioners unanimously approved the rezoning and preliminary development plan for the project. As part of that discussion, commissioners were shown several renderings that give you an idea of just how big of a change to the streetscape is on the way.

"The building design is reminiscent of a downtown," said Jim Heffernan, a leader with the Chicago-based student housing firm HERE LLC. "We think it will look similar to what a downtown in the 1950s would look like."

But as the pictures show, there will be a few amenities that weren't common in the 1950s. Plans call for not only a rooftop pool, but also an entire rooftop garden. The project proposes to have about 58,000 square feet of open and green space, including the rooftop garden and two interior courtyards.

Heffernan told commissioners the amenities are part of a plan to tap into a new market for student housing.

"Lawrence does not really have what we would consider A-plus student housing," Heffernan said. "We would be the first to the market, and we think this location is perfect for it. Part of bringing the best and the brightest to a university is having world-class housing, and this will bring that to the university."

In addition to the courtyards and rooftop gardens, the project will feature a 592-space, underground, automated parking garage system that will eliminate the need for residents to enter a parking garage to retrieve their vehicles. An automated system of lifts and tracks parks and retrieves the vehicles while residents wait in a secured lobby.

The project also will feature an extensive security system, live-work spaces, and retail space that is connected to the building. Plans call for retail along both Mississippi and Indiana streets.

Now that the zoning has been approved, Heffernan said his company will start arranging financing for the project. The company has had luck in finding financing for at least one other similar project. Work is underway on a 26-story student housing project near the University of Illinois, Heffernan said.

He said the company hopes to begin construction by the end of this year. The project is expected to take about 18 months to build. As we've previously reported, though, commissioners are likely to receive a request for financial incentives for the project. Heffernan confirmed that the company is likely to file an application with the city in the next few weeks. He said a 95 percent property tax rebate through the Neighborhood Revitalization Act is a possibility, but the company was still reviewing its options. Commissioners, of course, will have to approve any type of incentive package.

In other news and notes from around town:

• The big apartment project has a twist to it that has been played out many times in sitcoms over the decades: Giant project builds around a single house. If you have ever studied the current Berkeley Flats apartment complex, you may have noticed that the apartment complex has built up around an old single family home at 1115 Indiana St.

The property's owner, Georgia Bell, has lived in the house for more than 60 years. She didn't sell the property when Berkeley Flats came knocking decades ago, and, thus far, she hasn't sold to the Chicago-based company behind this latest proposal.

According to her son, Norman Bell, Georgia is 91 years old. For years there has been an apparently unwritten understanding that she could drive through the parking lot of Berkeley Flats to access the back door of her home. But with the new development, there will be no parking lot to drive through. It will be covered by a multistory building. City officials have searched, but there is no easement on file for the property. That leaves Bell's only access to the property off Indiana Street. Because of the steep slope, there is a set of stairs that leads from the street to her house. Norman said he did not think his mother could navigate those stairs.

That obviously creates a bad situation, and city commissioners at their meeting last night expressed a lot of concern for Ms. Bell.

"She has the right to be there and we wouldn't try to do anything to make her move," City Commissioner Bob Schumm said. "But I'm afraid she is not going to be very happy there."

Heffernan said his company very much would like to purchase the property, and has had multiple discussions with Ms. Bell. He even took the unusual step of telling commissioners how much the company has offered Ms. Bell for the property: $600,000. The property currently is appraised for taxation purposes at about $93,000.

But Heffernan also told commissioners the property is becoming less valuable to the company by the day. Once construction begins, it will be too late to change any design plans, and thus the only use for the property would be as open space.

Norman Bell attended last night's meeting and told commissioners he is advising his mother to get an attorney and sell the property. But he also noted that she is "pretty independent." The city manager, the city's planning director and other city officials have all had conversations with Ms. Bell to make sure she understands the scale of the proposed project and the amount of disruption it is likely to cause to her residence. But City Manager David Corliss said the city is committed to protecting her rights under the law, if she decides to stay.

City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer, though, seemed to say what was on a lot of people's minds when he urged Norman to really get his mother to consider the company's purchase officer.

"She is getting a heck of a deal at $600,000," Farmer said. "I don't think the company is trying to screw her over at all."

To that, Norman said he agreed. We'll see how it plays itself out.

A view looking down Mississippi Street and down 11th Street. A portion of The Oread hotel is in the background.

A view looking down Mississippi Street and down 11th Street. A portion of The Oread hotel is in the background. by Chad Lawhorn

A view from 11th and Indiana streets.

A view from 11th and Indiana streets. by Chad Lawhorn

A view from Indiana Street. Memorial Stadium is in the background. The white house near the left edge of the picture is the Bell home.

A view from Indiana Street. Memorial Stadium is in the background. The white house near the left edge of the picture is the Bell home. by Chad Lawhorn

Another view from Indiana Street.

Another view from Indiana Street. by Chad Lawhorn

Comments

Leslie Swearingen 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I think the buildings are beautiful. People do respond to their surroundings and the particular aura that a building gives off. I am a firm believer in feng shui.

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Eddie Muñoz 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Holy wow! My initial reaction to the story was negative, but after seeing the renderings... wow, that looks amazing. This is change I like.

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Rick Masters 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Maybe they could create a design that incorporates the old house into the new structure.What could possibly go wrong?

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6 months, 2 weeks ago

I sure would like to hear Mrs. Bell's stories about living in that area of town during the late 1960s! There have to be a lot of memories tied up in that place.

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Eric Moore 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Places like this were built in my home town of Rockville MD. It is nice to look at and nice to have but the problem is that the city didnt upgrade their infrastructure to support the increase in people and traffic. I would suggest also looking into a possible two lane road in front of the building near Memorial stadium if possible to help with this. It may not be a problem now but given the high rise apartments going up downtown, I feel we are going to see more and more people move to Lawrence and traffic start to get worse.

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Bob Forer 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Am glad to hear that the developers showed their hand regarding their willingness to pay six times the FMV for a small parcel of land and a house they will plan on demolishing. In light of those figures, the project obviously doesn't need taxpayer support to be viable.

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George Elmer 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Has anyone heard based upon the zoning if these new apartments will be considered ON Campus?

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6 months, 2 weeks ago

They are not on university property, if that is your question. They are subject to the city's zoning and building codes. Thanks, Chad

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Amy Michelle 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I have a hard time believing that an apartment complex with all of these elaborate amenities is actually going to be affordable for the majority of college students. This is unfortunate because it will eliminate a fairly cheap complex (Berkeley Flats) in an ideal campus location, with an over-the-top high-priced complex with amenities that many students won't be able to afford. The Varsity House, the new complex built nearby at 11th and Indiana rents one bedroom apartments for no less than $1000/month, which is ridiculous for the average student budget. I dislike the idea of turning the streets surrounding the main part of campus into an area filled with exclusive, expensive housing that only a select few can afford. Since when did college living become synonymous with luxury living?

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Mark Rainey 6 months, 2 weeks ago

2 points- At 91, your home of 60 years might mean much more than $600,000. "commissioners are likely to receive a request for financial incentives for the project." Rooftop pools,automated parking sound like luxury living subsidized with our tax dollars.

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