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Pair of multimillion dollar affordable housing projects proposed for Warehouse Arts District; see architectural renderings for area


I always thought living in a warehouse district was cool, although that time my crate and I woke up in Cleveland wasn’t that great. Something tells me the living arrangements in East Lawrence’s popular Warehouse Arts District are quite a bit different. Regardless, there’s a new plan for many more apartments in Lawrence’s hip warehouse district.

A group led by Warehouse Arts District developer Tony Krsnich is in the early stages of securing financing for two new multistory apartment buildings that also would include commercial space for the area near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets.

City commissioners at their meeting tonight will be asked to get the process going. Krsnich is seeking a resolution of support from the commission that he can use as part of an application for affordable housing income tax credits from the state of Kansas. Krsnich — as he he did with the Poehler Lofts project and others — hopes to use to the tax credits to help finance the construction of two new apartment/retail buildings. Here’s a look at the two buildings he has on the drawing board:

— Penn Lofts would be located on a vacant lot at the southwest corner of Eighth and Pennsylvania streets. It would be a three-story building with about 70 apartments, with a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and some two- and three-bedroom units. About three-quarters of the apartments would be enrolled in the state’s rent control program, which would require that they be offered at below-market rates to people who are at or below 60 percent of the average median income in the county. The ground floor could include as much 12,000 square feet of commercial space, and Krsnich said plans currently call for seven work-live units to be located on the ground floor, meaning there could be space for someone to own a shop and live in the building too.

— Delaware Coop would be located on a vacant lot at the northwest corner of Ninth and Delaware streets. It would have 15 apartments, and 13 of them would be enrolled in the state’s rent control program. The two and a half story building would include a mix of two- and three-bedroom units, and also could include some work-live units. The ground floor is expected to have about 2,300 square feet of commercial space.

Krsnich has long said he doesn’t like the idea of building new buildings that look old, so look for these two structures to have distinctive architecture.

“They will be period appropriate,” Krsnich said. “People 100 years from now will look back and say that is really interesting architecture and engineering.”

Krsnich said the buildings will make extensive use of solar panels and they will be incorporated into the aesthetic of the building. Here’s a look at a few concept plans that have been designed by el dorado inc., the Kansas City architecture firm that Krsnich has used on other projects.

Courtesy: City of Lawrence and el dorado inc.

Courtesy: City of Lawrence and el dorado inc. by Chad Lawhorn

Courtesy: City of Lawrence and el dorado inc.

Courtesy: City of Lawrence and el dorado inc. by Chad Lawhorn

Courtesy: City of Lawrence and el dorado inc.

Courtesy: City of Lawrence and el dorado inc. by Chad Lawhorn

Courtesy: City of Lawrence and el dorado inc.

Courtesy: City of Lawrence and el dorado inc. by Chad Lawhorn

“We probably have 250 people on a waiting list trying to get a rental in the Warehouse Arts District,” Krsnich said. “People want to live and work in the area ... there are lots of small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to be part of the greater downtown area.”

The tax credits, however, will be a critical part of the project. Krsnich said he’ll hear from the Kansas Housing Resource Corp. in May whether the projects have been awarded the tax credits. If awarded, construction would begin by the end of 2017, and the projects could be open in the fall of 2018.

Krsnich said he will seek some city incentives too. The main incentive would be a request for a 95 percent, 15-year property tax rebate through the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program. Krsnich has received similar incentives for his other projects in the Warehouse Arts District.

Krsnich has envisioned asking for a larger incentive package that would have allowed him to build underground parking for the new projects. But he said his read of City Hall is that such a request would not be met favorably. Instead, he’s building some surface parking into the projects, and he plans to convert a gravel parking lot just east of the Poehler Lofts building into a paved parking lot that can serve as overflow parking for the new apartments and for other uses in the district.

These two projects may help the district grow its number of uses. The two apartments will be a bit different from Krsnich’s other projects because they will include commercial space on the ground floor. Krsnich said he didn’t know yet what to expect on that front. He said some of the space could be retail, but he also noted that demand for office space in the district is high. The district houses architects, engineers, attorneys and other professionals in some of the smaller warehouse space along Pennsylvania Street. Of course, the district also has a strong art gallery presence, and that could grow too.

“I’ll leave those details up to the market,” Krsnich said. “I want to build the space and begin conversations with people about it.”

Krsnich said the market has thus far produced some great results for the district. Krsnich first became involved in the area about five years ago when he decided to renovate the then-dilapidated Poehler Grocery Warehouse building into loft-style apartments through the state’s affordable housing program.

As that project became successful, Krsnich’s company began acquiring other old warehouse buildings along Pennsylvania Street and converted those into various uses, including office space, the Cider Gallery and the recently opened Bon Bon bistro.

“I think this district is a lot about the cool factor and the potential of Lawrence,” Krsnich said. “It is important to understand the idea of smart growth and talent-driven growth. That’s what is happening here. I have just tried to get out of the way of it. It has taken on a life of its own, and it has exceeded any of my expectations.”

Update: Commissioners approved the resolution of support at their meeting Tuesday. The resolution was removed from the commission’s consent agenda, and passed on a 4-1 vote. Mayor Leslie Soden voted against the resolution, but only on procedural grounds. She said she thought the process should be examined to determine whether the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board should first review such requests.

The resolution of support does not give the projects all the approvals they would need from City Hall. The projects would require proper land use approvals, and the City Commission would have to approve any tax rebates or other incentive requests.

— City Hall reporter Rochelle Valverde contributed to this report.


David Holroyd 1 year, 3 months ago

The commission will approve what the developer wants as Mr. Markus will make certain that a consultant is hired to verify the public good of the project.

Krsnich gets tax credits and sells them to his family members, possibly?

Kevin Kelly 1 year, 3 months ago

With all the living units KU is building and all the other recent apartment projects on the horizon there will likely be enough of a glut in the market that supply and demand may create affordable housing without help from the City.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 3 months ago

That should have happened a long time ago. Rent is never going down. We aren't talking about local landlords who run the place themselves. It's easy for these real estate groups to leave vacancies.

Samantha Martin 1 year, 3 months ago

Did Tony wait to submit this project until Soden became mayor. She was one of his first tenants in the Poehler Lofts.

And did Tony ever move to Lawrence, he promised many times he would live here.

Will White 1 year, 3 months ago

Doubt it Samantha. Leslie voted against it tonight.

David Holroyd 1 year, 3 months ago

My Life says he does live in Lawrence. But just wondering if Flint Hills Holding Company located at 832 Pennsylvania is kinda like the deal Mr. Fritzel had going on at the Oread Inn.. Does anyone know exactly what Flint Hills Holding Company is?

Does the Journal World perhaps inquire?

Ms. Soden was a tenant in the Poehler Lofts? Just curious what her rent was and where she may be living now? Of course the same could be asked about the City Manager.

Tim Foley 1 year, 3 months ago

"...he doesn’t like the idea of building new buildings that look old." Whatever that means. These look like containers stacked on top of each other.

Bob Smith 1 year, 3 months ago

The renderings are basically brutalist with some frou frou tacked on.

Sean Rudisel 1 year, 3 months ago

Wonder what would happen to the wishing bench there. We've stopped there so many times over the years.

Allan Dalton 1 year, 3 months ago

let's put another 200 people in the middle of the grocery wasteland, er food desert, or what ever the current PC term is

Scott Callahan 1 year, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Samantha Martin 1 year, 3 months ago

From his website: Flint Hills Holdings Company specializes in innovative real estate development using a variety of unique financing options.

Layering tax credits, tax abatement, tax increment financing, and various grants with public and private lending sources, we create opportunities to develop properties with minimal risk and little or no debt.

Developers that use "unique" and "layering" when asking for taxpayer incentives should be told no.

Scott Callahan 1 year, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Tony Peterson 1 year, 3 months ago

In addition to the proposed buildings being hideous I'm not seeing anything on the map or in the text that indicates where people are going to park.

Kyle Roggenkamp 1 year, 3 months ago

Tony Krsnich is the only developer in this town with the humanity to build NEW, affordable housing. You all make me sick with your belligerent ignorance. And the tax credits come from the affordable units, and they are not from the city. I applaud you Tony. At least one person with money in their pockets gives a shiz.

Brett McCabe 1 year, 3 months ago

I find the early illustrations to be exciting and innovative. I've never like the idea of faux-historical, and it especially has no place in what was a warehouse district. These building look great!

It's an exciting plan that would help energize an area and provide a viable option in the housing market. Love it.

John Brazelton 1 year, 3 months ago

The one thing that I notice about Lawrence commenters is the huge amount of NEGATIVITY about anything that might improve less than idea parts of the city. Not everyone who lives in Lawrence makes a KU university salary. Any development that improves the city should be welcomed.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 3 months ago

They would probably be all for it if it wasn't affordable housing. I mean overprices, luxury apartments are okay, but three quarters affordable? Horrors.

Steve Jacob 1 year, 3 months ago

"Tax credit developments will always be at the core of what we do, but finding viable ways to see increased returns on investment for our company and our investors will always be our primary objective."

Bill Pasquel 1 year, 3 months ago

Nice! Looks like rusty old shipping containers revamped and slopped together from the drawings...Just to fall apart after 5 years. Did our former Mayor Farmer have anything to do with this "project"? Interesting and artful rendering of the pictures displayed. Looks like it will be for white people only. Not the East Lawrence that I grew up with at all. Oh well....Caleb?

Bill Pasquel 1 year, 3 months ago

" It would be a three-story building with about 70 apartments, with a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and some two- and three-bedroom units.".....YES!!!

A studio apartment in Lawrence, Kansas!! Now THAT is living! And you would be rolling big time when you are the phone to share complaints about the cost of living with your buddy in Fremont, CA. (the view is just wonderful) who rents out a closet for the same amount...

Lawrence, Kansas. A small college town in the Midwest. Nothing more. Nothing less. Leave it alone.

Michael Kort 1 year, 3 months ago

How many parking spaces assigned for each unit of the various sizes and are these truely to be assigned or are they open public parking for shops or offices and tenants to fight over ?

That has to be a big Lawrence issue ?

I am not a fan of buildings of any type that have "soft first floors" that have little "wall beneath wall" for the second or third floors support because seismic stuff happens when it happens and soft first floor buildings are more likely to collapse with the second floor etc, becoming the "uninhabitable first floor" on top of that which is crushed below them as gravity does its' thing .

If one is going to bridge a second and third floor of apartments with live people living in them with other first floor users below them, over an open floored, minimally walled first floor plan, that is mostly just glass from what I see pictured here, then that bridging or beams for the upper floors support, should be built to seismic standards of great earthquake resistance to collapse, which is much cheaper to do as you build it as opposed to doing a later retrofits or junking it and starting again after a disaster .

It is easy to be Sophmoric ( wise fool ) and pretend that because it has never happened here that it sImply won't or that pretty buildings that are built are somehow exempt from gravities desire to move them back down to as flat as they can go to the earths surface .

I said what I said and I didn't ignore something that I see, .....that is glaring to me .....but I don't write the building codes or run public commissions made of elected officials but "soft first floors" have been a major earthquake issue in California, costing billions to prop up after the fact of being mindlessly built over centuries .

I kind of hope that the idiots who are injecting waiste oil production water causing the small Oklahoma earth quakes don't unwittingly set off something much much bigger on the Nemaha Faults that runs quietly north and south thru eastern Kansas that nobody might see coming as in one big sudden release of static energy,.... thru misadventure .

Call me paranoid but who imagined hundreds of small quake in OKLAHOMA ?

Why we all know that that will never happen in our lifetimes !

Chris Ogle 1 year, 3 months ago

The buildings look good to me. I just hope he has enough parking. We certainly don't need another HERE parking disaster.

Kathleen Christian 1 year, 3 months ago

I'm hearing that the biggest issue is PARKING. I agree. So if they plan to build underground parking (which I would never use anywhere) in an area that may have earthquakes and certainly tornados is unpractical at best. Michael has a point about stability having open area shops holding up 2 floors of apartments in this area too. And I bet they will have concrete floors. I hate concrete floors, except for a garage. I am not a fan of this new trend of rust colored boxy metal looking buildings. Clean lines YES, inviting and warm NO. I hate the look of our new Library. Come to think of it I don't visit it that often now, because it just doesn't feel inviting. When I do go in and I get what I need then leave quickly. Bad Chi. I also noticed in the renderings for these new apartment buildings that it has no plan for a play area. Surely families with children will move in or is it assumed these will only be made for young college singles? Now we get to the solar panels. Will these mean no electric bills? How will these panels save tenants on electric cost? Or will the savings go to the owner? I like having this district improved, but not at the cost of having it fall into disrepair and looking ghetto or becoming too expensive to live there in the future.

David Holroyd 1 year, 3 months ago

Next the developer will want the city compost station removed and the sewer plant as well. SMELL's bad, both and the development.

Ms. Christian, maybe the electric is included as is in the Parsonian, a 55 and older community. At the Parsonian the water, sewer and trash is included in the rent.

As for underground parking...can only imagine the pump system..Remember how east Lawrence had some flooding problems and the water lapped at Riverfront Mall .Bout time to tear that failure down and start again from the river and go south. Maybe then the Simons could get something down with their property. Hey...thinkin' about this...if Krnisch is so good ,why isn't he doing something with the Simons property or are they waiting for STAR bonds?

David Holroyd 1 year, 3 months ago

Apparently the general public, taxpayers do not care that Mr. Krnisch got free streets surrounding the development all the while the city could care less about alleys in the area.

At least the commission should see the inequity in the give away to the Krnisch development.

Just curious if the Journal World would inquire what the affordable rents are for the Parsonian in Parsons , KS.

And why would Mr.Krnisch sell his tax credits. One would think he would use them to offset his income. But then again, maybe the sale of tax credits gives him CASH to build what he is building and with the city give aways like streets and abatements the tax credits are easy money.

Would the Journal World inquire about the use of tax credits and what those who get them, do with them? Are they just an easy way to get free money in the end?

When tax credits are sold by the person or entity receiving them, just how much are they sold for? 50cents on the dollar?

Maybe it is time for the city auditor to look into the perpetual scheme,but then the city Mangager Mr. Markus would not like that.After all, it was Markus who wanted to get rid of the auditor through a budget scheme....

Where is the auditor anyway? What does the commission have to say about the auditor's position?

Or will we find out in the next city commission election ? At the swap meet, it is rumored that Dever is running again along with Herbert and even Rasmussen.

Let's see if the sewer plant construction company donates to Rassmussen again and will Rexroad donate to Dever.

Remember, Dever brought HERE to here . And what's going to happen with the retail at HERE that Mr. Herbert fought to have parking spaces for. Speaking of parking, how's that convoluted deal with Endowment going along for more parking for HERE. You recall that KU Endowment is partnering with a private dorm developer, aka HERE.

Carol Bowen 1 year, 3 months ago

Low in income housing is the only void in Lawrence's housing market. First impression is that these projects would benefit the city, especially, the two and three bedroom units. Hopefully, they would not fill up with students. That's not the target population.

I have some questions:

1) How does this concept fit into the surrounding area - not just the traffic, but the aesthetics. I am not familiar with the area.

2) "Projects" have not always been successful. Crowding a lot of people into close quarters can be an environment for vandalism and crime. Projects have been torn down because of this.

3) What would the residents see? What is the view out the windows. Where is the visual relief? Where would children play?

Will White 1 year, 3 months ago

Carol, good questions. Speaking to #2, I would suggest you look at a report by CohnReznick about the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program over the last 30 years. The failure rate is very very low. In fact, it is less than 1%. This probably has to do with the significant reporting and compliance burden on the property manager, along with the limited partner (who put up a LOT of cash) ever watchful of their investment. The other interesting fact is that these properties really don't generate the cash flow to the owners that market rate developments do. They are designed that way. The benefit to the developer is largely "down the road" when the limited partner exits the deal, and developer assumes 100% ownership.

These are interesting programs to bring affordable housing to a community. Im sorry to see so much negativity to a program with this level of success.

Carol Bowen 1 year, 3 months ago

Thanks, Richard. I forgot to ask,"What is the rent range or condo cost?"

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Affordable housing consists of:

How well is it built?

How much energy efficiency is built into it?

How much will it cost to inhabit regarding utilities and such?

Last but not necessarily least ---- rent or mortgage payment?

The real answer is not more affordable housing projects. Let's talk about those real good jobs that the Lawrence movers and shakers have been planning for say maybe for the past 30 years. That's why tons of new construction was being approved so they said ----- "planning ahead" I heard a lot of.

Now while living in that part of town might be cool how much impact is this really going to have on downtown economics? How can anyone speak to that? After all there some new establishments in that area as we speak that might work against downtown?

And what about the 1,000 finished new apartments coming on line in Lawrence,Kansas?

Is the cart before the horse again?

Lawrence needs lots of jobs that pay $64,500 a year minimum. Where are they?

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