See the latest plans to build large student apartment complex around Lawrence day care

Courtesy: Landplan Engineering/City of Lawrence

It sounds like it should be a reality television show: a day care surrounded by a college apartment complex. (Next on the Discovery Channel: Diapers and Debauchery.) But it soon may just become reality in southern Lawrence.

We reported in September that a concept plan was being floated around town that Gilbane Development — a large, national student apartment company — would build a major apartment complex on largely vacant ground near the southwest corner of Clinton Parkway and Crestline Drive.

The twist with the project has been that the largely vacant ground does include a Lawrence day care, the Lawrence Child Development Center at 2333 Crestline Drive. Instead of purchasing the property, the company had proposed building the apartment complex around the day care. But again, this was all a concept plan, and there was talk the development company would work out a deal with the day care.

View Map

Well, actual plans have now been filed at Lawrence City Hall, and the apartment project is still proposing to build around the day care. The plans show the complex surrounding the day care on three sides. The plans also get specific about how large this complex would be: 206 apartments with 560 bedrooms.

The plans call for two four-story buildings to be built on the property — one north and one south of the day care. Directly behind the day care will be a parking lot — the plan calls for just over 580 parking spaces — and an outdoor basketball court. The basketball court is nearly adjacent to the day care’s playground, although the two would be separated by a retaining wall and fencing. (I’m not sure what the kids will learn from college-age pick-up basketball games. Middle-aged pick-up basketball games, on the other hand, would teach them the benefits of never passing the ball, Bengay and defibrillators.)

I chatted with Ken Prost, the director of the Lawrence Child Development Center. He said he still has concerns about the proposed project.

“We’ve been talking to them trying to get some straight answers, but we haven’t been able to get any real response,” Prost said.

I’ve got a message into a spokesman for Gilbane but haven’t heard back. When I last chatted with a Gilbane representative in September, he said the company had offered a fair market value price to buy the property of the day care center.

Prost didn’t get into any such offer when I talked with him, but he said the day care is open to moving or to staying on the site if Gilbane can help make some improvements to insulate the day care from the apartment complex.

“We are only against the project because it is a risk to our children, our parents and our business,” Prost said. “If I can tell my parents that Gilbane has their children’s interest at heart, then I can probably assist them.”

We’ll see whether a deal is forthcoming. If not, it will be interesting to watch this project move through the City Hall approval process. City commissioners ultimately will have to approve a rezoning of the property before the project can move forward.

In some ways, the project seems to be what City Hall leaders say they want: dense residential development on an “infill property” that is in the city limits. If you are having a hard time picturing Clinton Parkway and Crestline, it basically is a block west of 23rd and Iowa streets. And to boot, the company has not requested any financial incentives for the apartment complex, meaning that the new development would add several million dollars to the city’s property tax base.

But a room full of angry day care parents will complicate the approval process. Plus, there is perhaps a growing segment in the community that has started to push back on new apartment construction. It should make an interesting early test for the new City Commission.

Here’s a look at the site plan proposed for the development, plus a couple of renderings that give you a general idea of what the new buildings — they’ll be a little more than 40 feet tall — would look like.

Courtesy: Landplan Engineering/City of Lawrence

Courtesy: Landplan Engineering/City of Lawrence