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