Downtown affordable housing project requests $550,000 from city housing trust fund; proposed designs also updated
photo by: H2B Architects
Plans continue to develop for an affordable housing project on a long-vacant lot on the south end of New Hampshire Street in downtown Lawrence, including design updates and funding requests.
The developer for the New Hampshire Street Lofts project updated designs for the building this spring to align with downtown requirements, and recently submitted an application for a $550,000 grant from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Additional economic incentive requests are forthcoming.
Plans were filed at Lawrence City Hall in January to develop the vacant lot in the 1000 block of New Hampshire with a four-story building. Those initial filings called for apartments on the upper floors and work-live units on the ground floor, meaning a business owner could operate a shop in the front half of the space and live in the back half. Architecturally, those designs were very similar to the recent apartment building that the developer, Tony Krsnich, built in the Warehouse Arts District that is east of downtown, which consisted of a simple design of brick and cement panels.
photo by: Courtesy: H2B Architects/City of Lawrence
That design did not meet downtown standards, and the Historic Resources Commission subsequently referred the project to its architectural review committee to work with the developer on design options that would meet the city’s historic preservation requirements and downtown design guidelines. As the Journal-World reported, the committee called for various changes to the look of the building and some modifications to mitigate the building’s impact on the historic environs of the area, including the historic English Lutheran Church directly south of the proposed project.
The updated plans call for the use of brick, stone, and cement panels on the outside of the building, as well as more architectural detail, such as stone windowsills and cornices. The building also “steps down” from four stories to three next to the church, with increased green space between that portion of the building and the church. A circle drive around the building was removed and angled parking was added along New Hampshire Street. Commercial storefronts were also added on the west side of the ground level, which is the side that faces New Hampshire Street. Historic Resources Administrator Lynne Braddock Zollner said the HRC has approved the new design, and the only outstanding item is the final building material selection, including color.
Though not requested by the architectural review committee, the updated plans also remove the work-live units on the ground floor and instead call for 15,000 square feet of commercial space. The upper floors will house 48 apartments that will remain rent-controlled for 30 years as part of a federal affordable housing program. The plans call for the apartments to consist of six studios, 35 one-bedroom apartments, six two-bedroom apartments and one three-bedroom apartment.
The developer recently requested a $550,000 grant from the city’s affordable housing trust fund, and the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board reviewed the request earlier this month. In a letter to the board included with the application, Krsnich states the owner will partner with the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority and other local agencies and will accept housing vouchers. The letter also notes that the project plans to request other city economic incentives, namely a property tax rebate and a sales tax waiver on construction materials.
The Affordable Housing Advisory Board had not yet opened its funding application at the time of the request, but Krsnich told the board the timing of his application was based on the timeline associated with his application for state tax credits for the project. While the board expressed support for the project, members voted on July 11 to deny the request for a funding award outside the board’s usual cycle and instead recommended that Krsnich wait until the next application opens.
The city’s trust fund currently has $175,000 available and the city estimates an additional $1.2 million will be available next year. Several board members said they wanted the request to be evaluated alongside other requests for the 2023 funding. The Lawrence City Commission approved the board’s most recent funding application on July 19, and applications for the 2023 funding are due by Sept. 23. AHAB will make its funding recommendations on Nov. 14, and they will be considered by the City Commission on Dec. 6, according to the projected timeline.
As far as other approvals go, Planning and Development Director Jeff Crick said that at this time no other development applications have been submitted related to the project. Crick said he anticipated that some development review applications would be necessary, at minimum a platting application and potentially a special use permit, but that would depend on the uses proposed for the building.
As the Journal-World has reported, the New Hampshire Street Lofts project is part of a larger redevelopment project in that area of downtown. Krsnich signed a deal that gives him redevelopment rights to the entire chunk of Allen Press properties on the south end of downtown. This New Hampshire Street project is the first part of what Krsnich envisions for the area. Krsnich states in the letter to AHAB that the New Hampshire Street Lofts project will function as a catalyst for the development of the larger Allen Press property.