Plans filed for new office development in Warehouse Arts District; developer hopes to add row house project to area in 2016; update on East Lawrence bistro

It seems demand is increasing for a funky vibe at the office, but, no, that smell that’s coming from the break room fridge doesn’t qualify. Instead, I’m talking about office space in an arts-oriented district. The developer of East Lawrence’s Warehouse Arts District has filed plans to add more offices to the area.

A group led by Lawrence developer Tony Krsnich has filed plans to add about 10,000 square feet of new offices in the building at 832 Pennsylvania St. The building is an old warehouse known as the Poultry Building. (I’m assuming because someone left some KFC in the break room fridge for too long.) Or maybe it used to be a building that processed poultry long ago. Regardless, the new plans call for 11 new office spaces to be housed in the building.

Krsnich already has converted one half of the Poultry Building into a multitenant office space. He had left the other half of the building unfinished in hopes of finding a restaurant user for the space. But Krsnich said demand for office space in the district has grown to the point that he’s changing plans.

“Instead of waiting around for a restaurant operator, we though we could make an impact now by adding more space for entrepreneurs and startups,” Krsnich said.

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Krsnich said all nine offices that he’s developed in the Poultry Building currently are leased, and there’s a waiting list for new space. He thinks the popularity has something to do with the funky vibe that comes with having an office in the arts district. He said the office building frequently hosts art events, tenants of the building often stay for social hours on Friday nights, and there’s even a ping pong table that gets pretty heavy use.

“It has kind of turned into a work hard, play hard environment,” Krsnich said.

The Poultry Building already has the proper zoning to house additional office space, so Krsnich just needs some technical site plan approval from the city’s planning office. He hopes to get the approvals for the approximately $220,000 renovation project in the next several weeks.

But there likely will be other, larger projects to keep an eye open for in the Warehouse Arts District. Krsnich confirmed to me that he hopes to break ground this year on a new row house project in the arts district.

He envisions it will be called 9 Del Row Houses, and will be at the northwest corner of Ninth and Delaware streets. That’s catty-corner from Krsnich’s recently completed 9Del Lofts apartment building.

The row house project won’t feature a large multistory building like the lofts project, but rather will include about a dozen single or two-story living units that also could be made into work-live units. That means artists might be able to live on-site and also have a studio in the building. Or, there might be the possibility for some small retail storefronts as well, depending on what type of zoning approvals the project can win from the city.

Krsnich said the 43 apartment units in the 9Del Lofts building were fully rented within 30 days of the building’s opening in mid-2015. He said the project, which is primarily rent-controlled housing, has a waiting list of 60 to 70 people.

There’s another large project in the pipeline for the district. As we reported in December, plans have been filed to convert the old SeedCo building at 826 Pennsylvania St. into a brewery restaurant and apartment building. Longtime liquor executive Matt Williams is planning to open the Lawrence Beer Company, which will include a restaurant, on the ground floor of the old industrial building. Plans also call for 14 one- and two-bedroom apartments to be built on top of the old building. The proposed design envisions adding two stories onto the old 1900s-era building. Krsnich is not involved in that property, other than his group is the seller of the building, but he said he’s excited about what that project will add to the district, if approved.

On a smaller scale, Krsnich said he is still working to open a bistro at Eighth and Pennsylvania streets in the small stone building that is next to the Poehler Lofts. Krsnich said he is in negotiations with an operator for the business, but can’t yet reveal the name of the party who would run the bistro. Krsnich said he still envisions an establishment that would serve both food and drink, with an emphasis on attracting neighborhood residents and the growing workforce with offices in the district.

He said he hopes to have a deal in place that would allow renovation work on the building to begin in April, which would make a fall opening possible.

One last project Krsnich is involved in is the old Turnhalle building, the 1869 stone structure at Ninth and Rhode Island streets. Krsnich in 2014 bought the historic property from the Lawrence Preservation Alliance with hopes of finding a user for what is one of the older buildings in the city.

Thus far, the building remains vacant, but Krsnich said his company has applied for a couple of preservation grants that he hopes to get word on soon. He also continues to market the property to users, but said he doesn’t have a deal to announce. But he does have an idea of what he thinks is likely for the property.

“I would be very surprised if the Turnhalle didn’t have some sort of restaurant component to it,” Krsnich said.