Lawrence leaders grant first round of approval for Turnhalle development incentives

photo by: Austin Hornbostel

The Turnhalle is pictured Jan. 24, 2024, at 900 Rhode Island St.

Lawrence leaders on Tuesday started the process of granting development incentives for a project seeking to convert the historic Turnhalle building into an event space and restaurant.

At Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission meeting, commissioners voted 4-0 to preliminarily approve three types of development incentives for the project involving the stone structure at 900 Rhode Island St. near downtown Lawrence, which was built in 1869. Vice Mayor Mike Dever left midway through the meeting and did not vote.

As the Journal-World has reported, the incentives package that earned its first stamp of approval Tuesday includes a 15-year, 70% Neighborhood Revitalization Area rebate; a 20-year, 2% additional sales tax via a Community Improvement District; and Industrial Revenue Bonds providing a sales tax exemption on construction materials and labor.

“It’s a great project,” Commissioner Lisa Larsen said. “I’m really, really pleased to have this come before us.”

The Neighborhood Revitalization Area — part of a property tax rebate program applying only to the value of new improvements made to a property and not to its base value — would allow for a 70% rebate on only the new elements of the project.

The Community Improvement District, meanwhile, would see the Turnhalle project’s additional sales tax collections capped at $1.9 million through the life of the project, meaning it would exist either for a 20-year period or until the developer has collected roughly that amount in sales tax, whichever comes first.

While a Community Improvement District is established simply through a city ordinance setting any terms presented in a development agreement, the other two types of incentives are subject to approval from more than just the City Commission. They also need the approval of the Douglas County Commission and Lawrence school board before they can return to the City Commission for final approval.


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