Proposed affordable senior housing project, looking to break ground in west Lawrence in 2025, earns initial development incentive approval

photo by: City of Lawrence screenshot

Elevation renderings of the proposed Peaks of Lawrence project are shown. The project aims to add 42 units of mixed-income affordable housing for seniors 55 and older in west Lawrence.

A new affordable housing project for seniors is aiming to break ground in west Lawrence by April 2025 and open a year later.

On Wednesday, members of Lawrence’s Public Incentives Review Committee heard more about the Peaks of Lawrence project hoping to develop at 5275 W. Sixth St. and voted unanimously to approve developer Resource Housing Group’s request for industrial revenue bond financing that would provide a sales tax exemption on construction material and labor.

Peaks of Lawrence, according to a presentation from City of Lawrence Affordable Housing Administrator Lea Roselyn, will be a mixed-income affordable housing project serving seniors 55 and older. Plans call for 42 units in total, with 34 of them income-restricted for households living at or below 60% of the area median income. A rent schedule shown at Wednesday’s meeting displays different unit prices based on not only the 60% threshold but also income levels at 40% and 30% of the area median income.

For reference, the project site is located near the intersection of Sixth Street and Branchwood Drive, just west of the array of businesses located in Bauer Farms and the surrounding area. It’s right across Branchwood Drive from another senior housing community, Branchwood Village.

photo by: Google Maps screenshot

The location of the proposed Peaks of Lawrence project at 5275 W. Sixth St. in west Lawrence is indicated by the red pin in this screenshot.

Resource Housing Group plans to build a 46,778-square-foot facility on the 2.45-acre lot. The only structure that’s currently located on the lot is a house that has been vacant for a number of years, which the developer plans to demolish. It wasn’t clear from Wednesday’s meeting how far along the project is in the city-county planning process.

Committee members seemed to come away with a positive impression of the project after hearing more about it at Wednesday’s meeting, albeit with a few questions.

For example, a memo included with Wednesday’s meeting agenda materials notes that units on the property will be held in affordability for a required minimum of 30 years. But one committee member, Douglas County Commissioner Patrick Kelly, wondered whether the developer would commit to permanent affordability instead, and also wanted to know more about the developer’s plans for incorporating renewable energy on the property.

“Ideally, I would love this to be permanent,” Kelly said. “Ideally, I would love it to have solar or some sort of renewable energy package associated with it since that’s the goal of the community. I know that not every project that comes our way is ideal, so I think we have to recognize that we need units and if we hold onto our ideals, we may not get all of the units that we need for affordable housing for seniors.”

Permanent affordability is the ideal for the developer according to one of its representatives, Sam Coats. At Wednesday’s meeting, Coats was on hand to explain more about the project and Resource Housing Group, which is a new player in the Lawrence development scene. The nonprofit, which is registered in Atlanta, has been operating since 1995.

Coats told committee members Wednesday that the nonprofit has historically developed in the Southeast — in states like Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama and South Carolina — but has recently started to explore more work in Kansas and Missouri. Coats said this project would be the developer’s first in Kansas, if it moves forward.

As for incorporating renewable energy, Coats told Kelly that it’s something that Resource Housing Group is definitely interested in exploring.

“That’s a really hot topic in our industry right now,” Coats said. “I think that a lot of developers and folks in the renewable energy business are trying to find ways to marry these properties up with renewable energies. It’s not extremely common at the moment but we’re seeing a lot more of it and we’re definitely intrigued with it, and if it was advantageous in any way to go that route we would.”

This isn’t the only project of its kind working through the process in Lawrence. There’s also New Hampshire Street Lofts, a similar affordable housing project for seniors looking to develop along New Hampshire Street in downtown Lawrence. That project in November 2023 earned a final stamp of approval from the Lawrence City Commission for a development incentives package that, in part, included the same industrial revenue bond financing approved for the Peaks of Lawrence project.

Coats told the committee that Housing Resource Group plans to apply for low income housing tax credits through the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation to finance the project, which are a primary — and necessary — mechanism for financing affordable housing projects. The New Hampshire Street Lofts project has followed a similar path, earning nearly $17 million combined in federal and state affordable housing tax credits last year.

Beyond that, the next step for the Peaks of Lawrence project will be seeking approval from the Lawrence City Commission for the industrial revenue bond request at the group’s next meeting.


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