Work completed on $20 million apartment complex along 23rd Street
photo by: Contributed photo: Proxi Lawrence
My college apartment complex was more likely to have a phone booth than a podcasting booth. In other words, podcasting wasn’t a thing, but now it is becoming the type of amenity that’s showing up in new upscale student apartment complexes in Lawrence.
“People are finding it really fun,” said Rita D’Agostino, director of real estate development for the parent company behind Proxi Lawrence, the apartment/retail project near 23rd Street and Naismith Drive.
Construction crews completed work earlier this month on Proxi Lawrence, which features 330 bedrooms and 8,200 square feet of retail space. The project was one of the biggest construction projects in Lawrence over the past two years, with the city issuing about $21.5 million worth of building permits for it in 2019.
The complex, 1401 W. 23rd St., is geared toward students, in a community where apartment construction has been outpacing both population growth and student enrollment in recent years.
That makes amenities a big deal for such new projects. The podcasting booth is an example of a newer trend, but the project also includes more traditional items like a large outdoor pool area, barbecue and fire pits, private study rooms, an outdoor fitness park and an indoor fitness center that includes a spa and sauna.
photo by: Courtesy: Proxi Lawrence
But the biggest selling point for the complex, D’Agostino said, is location. For people who have been wondering why so many new apartments have been built in Lawrence in recent years, D’Agostino said location issues are a big reason why. She said the market has been lacking newer apartments that are really close to campus. Projects like HERE, the big multistory complex near the Kansas Union, started the trend of building luxury apartments close to campus. Other large developers have started targeting the city too because the numbers show a need, D’Agostino said.
“The inventory in Lawrence is a lot of older homes,” D’Agostino said of living options near campus. “The age of the inventory near campus is definitely one of the reasons why you’re seeing more construction. You are seeing a real desire to be closer to campus. Other universities have more off-campus housing that is closer to campus than Lawrence does.”
The Proxi project is about three blocks from the southern edge of the KU campus. While that is within walking distance, D’Agostino said the developers have emphasized multiple modes of transportation. The project was the first housing development in Lawrence to use the Smart Code development standards. That allowed for a smaller-than-normal parking lot to be constructed, while also allowing the project to feature a covered bus stop and something called a “bike oasis,” which is a spot where residents or other bikers can get a drink of water, air up a tire or conduct other basic bike maintenance with equipment provided onsite.
“We are starting to see more students who don’t want to bring a car,” D’Agostino said.
The big, centrally located, amenity-filled complexes, though, come with a price. The ProxiLawrence website lists four-bedroom, four-bath apartments starting at just under $650 per person per month, while one-bedroom, one-bath models are listed at $1,329 per month.
D’Agostino said residents started occupying parts of the building in August. She said some construction delays did require a few tenants to be housed elsewhere for a week or two while their units were being finished. Construction crews completed all construction at the property earlier this month. D’Agostino didn’t provide information on occupancy levels of the project but said the property is getting good response given the current environment.
“As a whole, it has been tough in the industry because the kids have been staying home,” D’Agostino said. “Not all of them, obviously, because we do have a number of kids here, but it is not what it normally would be.”
The industry, though, is betting the drop-off will be temporary. The level of inquiries for the next school year has given industry officials hope.
“Boy, do the kids ever want to be here,” D’Agostino said, “because they are ready to not be at home.”
As for the retail part of the project, the building’s ground floor has over 8,000 square feet of space. The project is looking for its first tenant. D’Agostino said local real estate broker Allison Moore of Colliers International is in negotiations with a tenant currently, but she could not release details.
But the developers do have ideas in mind for the types of tenants that would fit well in the project. Those include sandwich shops; smoothie stands; other types of food and drink establishments; and nail, hair and massage services.
“We would love to see a small bar,” D’Agostino said. “A small type of ‘Cheers’ kind of space.”
Proxi was developed by The Opus Group, which is based in Minnesota. The property previously was an aging strip mall that housed a party supply store, a hobby shop, a computer repair business and a few other establishments.
Apartments along the 23rd Street corridor haven’t been much of a trend in recent decades, but it will be interesting to see whether the new mixed-use idea of combining apartments with retail will spark a resurgence along 23rd Street, which otherwise has been seeing a slowdown in traffic since the completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway.
“We think this will revitalize that area,” D’Agostino said. “We are proud to be part of it, and want to be part of the revitalization of 23rd Street.”