300-plus bedroom apartment complex planned near Clinton Parkway and Iowa; south Mass attracts smaller apartment project
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
The idea of a large apartment complex on vacant property just southwest of Clinton Parkway and Iowa Street won’t go away. Neither will the day care center that sits near the middle of that vacant property.
Plans once again have been filed for a more than 300-bedroom apartment complex to be built on an approximately 9-acre site at 2300 Crestline Drive, which is about a block from Clinton Parkway and Iowa. The plans call for the apartment complex to surround on three sides the Lawrence Child Development Center, a day care that has been operating at 2333 Crestline Drive for the last five years.
If all this sounds vaguely familiar, it is probably because a different set of apartment developers filed plans in 2017 to build and mostly surround the daycare with an apartment complex. That plan fell apart as opposition mounted.
photo by: Nick Krug
This plan, however, does have a key difference. Instead of two or three large apartment buildings each housing many apartments, the current plans call for a little more than 60 smaller buildings that each would house two duplex-stye units. Each building would be two to three stories tall. In total, the project would have 128 living units that would include 312 bedrooms, according to the plans filed at City Hall.
The plan is different in more than just design. By using duplex-style structures, the development group is claiming that the existing residential-office zoning on the property is sufficient for the development. The previous development plan was seeking the property to be rezoned to multifamily zoning, which requires public votes by both the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission and the Lawrence City Commission. This new plan would not require such votes. With the appropriate zoning already in place, it would require only site plan approval, which is handled administratively by the city’s planning department.
It remains to be seen whether city officials will agree with the developer’s contention that the zoning is correct. The site plan is still under review. What seems more certain is that the owners of the adjacent daycare don’t like the plan anymore than they did the last one.
“This is the same dog with a different color,” Teresa Prost, an owner of Lawrence Child Development Center, said. “They are embellishing it, but all they want to do is put student housing apartments here.”
• Dec. 31 — Town Talk: Update on Crestline apartment plans
The plans filed with the city don’t label the project as a student housing development, but the development group does specialize in student housing, according to its website. Fountain Residential Partners out of Dallas is seeking approval for the project. I have both a call and an email into its lead executive on the project, but haven’t yet gotten additional details on the project.
The plans on file with the city list the project as having a pool and clubhouse with associated amenities. It also notes that several of the buildings won’t have balconies, which I assume is a reference to concerns that Prost already has begun to raise. She doesn’t want multistory buildings next to her daycare, which includes an outdoor playground.
“Because the buildings will be so tall, they will be able to look onto my playground, and that is one of my biggest concerns,” she said.
She also said she is worried about the amount of traffic the development would create. Plus, she is convinced that an apartment complex would be a violation of the area’s zoning, which she relied upon when buying the property.
“The land needs to be developed, but respect the city zoning,” Prost said. “It is zoned for single family and offices.”
Exactly what the zoning district allows probably will be a key point of contention in this project. The city’s development code does list duplexes as an allowable use in the RSO zoning district. But it also says the RSO zoning district is meant for low to medium density development. What that exactly means could be important. As I noted earlier, the project is still in the review phase at City Hall. I’ll let you know if I learn more about if or when the project advances.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
There is another unique — albeit much smaller — apartment project planned for south Massachusetts Street. After all, it is not every day that you see plans to convert an old convenience store site into an apartment. (No, camping out near the doughnut case to get the morning’s first batch does not make a convenience store an apartment or require me to pay rent, I’m prepared to argue in court.)
Indeed, plans have been filed to tear down the vacant convenience store building at 1733 Massachusetts Street and replace it with an apartment building. If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is the old Shell gas station and convenience store that is basically across the street from the Dillons grocery store.
I don’t have detailed information on the apartment plans, including who the developer will be. Lawrence architect Paul Werner has filed the plans on behalf of a client. Werner told me the project will be a relatively small infill project.
He didn’t provide an estimate on the number of units the project may have, but based on the zoning it is seeking — RM24 zoning, for those of you keeping score at home — the half-acre site probably would be approved for something less than a dozen apartments.
More interesting is this is another example of a commercial space being converted into a multifamily space. It happened on a much larger scale along 23rd Street with the Proxi apartment/retail project I recently wrote about. This isn’t anywhere near that size, but in arguing for the change in zoning, Werner says such commercial conversions may make good sense in today’s world.
“Sadly we are seeing far too many commercial properties sitting vacant,” Werner’s firm wrote in its application. “This has been going on for awhile, but it is now exacerbated by the current pandemic. I’m not sure people are going to be willing to take the risks to open new commercial businesses in the near future. If this property is only able to be used for commercial uses, it could remain vacant for a long time.”
Indeed, the property has been vacant for a number of years. Since the project is seeking a new zoning designation, it will need to win approval from both the Planning Commission and the City Commission.