City leaders to consider 5-acre land donation toward affordable housing project with 122 apartments, row homes and duplexes

photo by: City of Lawrence

Plans for an approximately 15-acre site include affordable apartments, row homes and duplexes. Tenants to Homeowners, a local nonprofit organization, is requesting the City of Lawrence to donate 4.64 acres, the area marked in green, toward the project.

City of Lawrence leaders will soon decide whether to donate about five acres of city-owned land toward a project that could build more than 100 affordable housing units — apartments, row homes and duplexes — on a 15-acre site in west Lawrence.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider donating 4.64 acres of land at the southeast corner of Kansas Highway 10 and Bob Billings Parkway to Tenants to Homeowners for the project. The land is valued at $374,430, and if the project moves forward, TTH anticipates requesting additional city support, according to a city staff memo to the commission.

Tenants to Homeowners, a local nonprofit, already owns 10.04 acres directly next to the city-owned parcel, and the organization hopes to build a total of 122 affordable housing units consisting of 263 bedrooms on the 15-acre site, according to plans TTH submitted to the city. The site would also have a resident clubhouse, park, and a commercially zoned area that could accommodate a 4,500 square foot building and parking. Plans call for 110 of the housing units, or about 90%, to be for lease and the remaining 12 to be for purchase.

The 10 acres already owned by Tenants to Homeowners would accommodate 44 units, and the additional acres from the city would allow the project to build another 78 units, for the total of 122 units. A city planning report states that TTH first inquired about the land donation in 2020, and incorporated the “commercial node” in response to city recommendations.

Planning and Development Director Jeff Crick said the city purchased the property in 1993 for a potential public safety center site. Crick said the property is currently zoned for single-family homes and 7,000-square-foot lots. The city ultimately built a new headquarters for the police department on another site in western Lawrence.

More specifically, TTH’s plans for the site include 60 apartments, 50 row homes and 12 duplexes. The apartments and row homes would be for rent, and the duplexes would be for purchase through TTH’s land trust. TTH Executive Director Rebecca Buford states in a letter to the city that the organization also expects to request a grant from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, infrastructure support and economic development incentives.

Buford also states in the letter that the rental units would be affordable for 30 years under the program and that “every effort will be made for TTH to purchase the units at the end of the 30-year compliance period” to keep them affordable beyond that period. The materials don’t specifically state who would otherwise own the rentals, but Buford’s letter mentions “development partners,” and pre-application materials for the planning department list representatives from Wheatland Investment Group, which has been involved in other local affordable housing projects.

The rental units will be part of an application to the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program and would serve families making 30% to 80% of area median income. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development calculates adjustments to AMI based on family size, and in Douglas County, 80% AMI for an individual is $52,950, $60,500 for a family of two, $68,050 for a family of three and $75,600 for a family of four.

According to the plans submitted to the city, the city-donated lot would accommodate all the apartments, some row homes and the commercial area. The apartments would consist of two- and three-bedroom units. The row homes have three layouts: three-story, three-bedroom with a two-car garage; three-story, two-bedroom with a one-car garage; and two-story row houses with either one or three bedrooms and surface parking. The 12 duplexes would be two-story, three-bedroom with a two-car garage.

All the land is currently vacant, and the anticipated timeline for the project is to begin infrastructure work in 2024 and for most of the construction to occur in 2024 and 2025.

In other business, the commission will:

•Consider a request to rezone .52 acres on the south side of West 22nd Terrace from single-family residential to commercial. The area, which consists of lots on 803 and 809 W. 22nd Terrace, borders two commercially zoned lots along 23rd Street and is the proposed site for a Dutch Bros Coffee Shop. Plans call for a 950-square-foot building and two-lane drive-thru, which is separated from the neighborhood by a masonry buffer wall and landscaping. Residents submitted a valid protest petition against the rezoning, and the Planning Commission voted 3-3 on the matter, so the rezoning is being forwarded to the commission without a recommendation. Because of the petition, the rezoning would require a super majority, or four votes from the five-member commission, to move forward.

photo by: City of Lawrence

A proposed site plan for Dutch Bros. Coffee Shop.

•Receive an update on the Field Operations Campus planned for eastern Lawrence. The city announced plans in 2020 to build a multimillion-dollar field operations campus that would span about 75 acres and could house operations of various divisions, including solid waste, streets and vehicle maintenance. In October 2021, the commission voted to make modifications to the plans in an effort to address concerns from neighbors about noise, traffic, odors and other disruptions.

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