Lawrence City Commission to consider incentives for mixed-use housing development

photo by: Rendering by H2B Architects

Penn Street Lofts

City leaders will soon decide whether to provide close to $2 million in incentives for a mixed-use housing development planned for the Warehouse Arts District.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider an economic incentives request for Penn Street Lofts. The project comprises a four-story, $11.8-million development planned for three currently vacant lots at 800 Pennsylvania St.

As the Journal-World previously reported, the city’s Public Incentives Review Committee and its Affordable Housing Advisory Board voted to recommend the economic incentives. The building’s ground floor would consist of about 4,500 square feet of commercial and retail space and seven market-rate live/work rental units. The upper floors would house 47 affordable units.

The project’s developer, Tony Krsnich, requested a $550,000 grant from the city’s affordable housing trust fund, which is largely funded by a special sales tax that Lawrence voters approved in 2017. Krsnich also requested $1.4 million in economic incentives, including a 15-year, 95% Neighborhood Revitalization Area property tax rebate; an Industrial Revenue Bonds sales tax exemption on construction materials; and a rebate of approximately $14,400 in building permit fees for the affordable units.

More details from previous coverage

Feb. 6 — Public Incentives Review Committee supports $1.4M in incentives for affordable housing development

Feb. 10 — Board recommends Warehouse Arts District project receive $550K from city affordable housing fund

City staff is recommending that commissioners approve those requests at the conclusion of a public hearing Tuesday. The commission received correspondence from PIRC member Eric Kirkendall asking them to vote against the incentives package. Kirkendall, who was the lone vote against all three incentives, said the affordable apartments should be for the lowest income bracket, or those making 30% or less of area median income, or that the project should create more jobs. He also said the grant money could be better spent supporting rental vouchers.

Commissioners will not be discussing a public camping ordinance or limits on occupancy in temporary shelters. Those topics were deferred to Tuesday from a previous agenda due to the virus and requirements to limit public gatherings. The commission is scheduled to defer the topics indefinitely.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St, but the city is asking residents to participate virtually. The meeting will be broadcast live on the city’s YouTube channel and on public access cable channel 25. Residents who have internet access are asked to submit comments electronically due to health orders put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Instructions for submitting electronic comments are available on the commission’s agenda, which can be found on the city’s website, Lawrenceks.org. Comments will also be accepted in person for those who do not have internet access. More information regarding the commission’s new meeting procedures during the coronavirus outbreak is also available on the city’s website.

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