Historic preservation board approves first phase of apartment and retail project along Kaw in North Lawrence

photo by: Contributed Image

A rendering shows changes made to a five-story mixed-use apartment building proposed for North Lawrence at the intersection of Second and Locust streets.

The city’s historic preservation board has voiced its approval of the first phase of the North Lawrence Riverfront Development project, which includes a five-story building that will stretch along North Second Street.

As part of its meeting Thursday, the city’s Historic Resources Commission voted unanimously to approve a certificate of appropriateness for the project. The commission’s vote came after project architects made changes to the designs of two of the buildings following meetings with the commission’s Architectural Review Committee.

The Riverfront project is proposed for a 16-acre site along North Second Street that surrounds the Johnny’s Tavern building and is across the street from the historic Union Pacific Depot. The certificate of appropriateness is required because the project is within the environs of the depot, so the commission must approve the design, aesthetic elements and height of the buildings.

The first phase of the project calls for an addition onto Johnny’s, an addition to the top of the stone retail building next to the Gaslight Gardens pub south of Johnny’s and a multistory building directly north of Johnny’s along North Second Street. The buildings will include multiple uses, including office, commercial, hotel and residential uses, according to a city staff memo to the commission.

Following the architectural reviews, changes were made to the height and design of two of the buildings. Historic Resources Administrator Lynne Braddock Zollner told the commission that the multistory building directly north of Johnny’s along North Second Street is no longer proposed to be five stories all the way across. Instead, it will step down to four stories and then down to three stories adjacent to the Johnny’s Tavern building. She said there were also some changes to the design and building materials to make the building look more cohesive.

Specifically, a memo to the commission states that the five-story building would be redesigned to change the parapet heights and sections of the building so the overall façade would not be divided into so many sections. In addition, the base of the building would be made of stone.

The addition to the top of the stone retail building next to the Gaslight Gardens pub was also reduced. Zollner said that instead of adding three stories to the building, the project now only calls for adding two stories in order to make the building more compatible with its surroundings. Regarding the design changes, the memo states that the column supports for the addition would be designed to differentiate the old from the new.

Project architect Paul Werner told the commission that the developers liked the idea of stepping the five-story building down to three stories next to Johnny’s in order to blend better with the height of the tavern. Werner said they were pleased with the new designs and hoped to get things moving with the project.

Dennis Brown, president of Lawrence Preservation Alliance, said that the LPA appreciated the work of the Architectural Review Committee and that the developer was willing to go through the review process. Brown said he thinks the results are a lot better.

The commission also approved several recommendations from city staff about what should be done with future changes to the design. Minor changes won’t have to go back before the commission; instead, the commission will allow staff to sign off on them. Similarly, any changes related to building materials may be approved by city staff with guidance from the Architectural Review Committee. Any other revisions or modifications to the project, however, will be forwarded to the Historic Resources Commission for review.

The commission’s approval is the second key approval that the project has received in recent months. In February, Lawrence city commissioners voted to approve the preliminary development plan for the 16-acre North Lawrence Riverfront Development.

The Historic Resources Commission’s action on phase one of the project will be incorporated into the project’s final development plan, which will require additional approvals. The larger project, which calls for additional multistory buildings and a boardwalk along the river, is proposed to be built in phases over a period of several years.

Related stories

Feb. 20, 2019 — City gives key preliminary approval to apartment and boardwalk project along Kansas River in North Lawrence

Dec. 20, 2018 — As boardwalk project along the Kaw seeks approval, familiar question arises: How tall should the buildings be?

Nov. 14, 2018 — Dreams of a Lawrence boardwalk on the Kansas River re-emerge in new development plans


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