Large, affordable housing apartment complex near SLT moving forward

photo by: Courtesy: The Annex Group

This rendering shows the proposed design of an apartment building that would be part of The Union at the Loop project planned for southern Lawrence.

A more than $40 million affordable housing apartment project is going to happen in south Lawrence after all.

I reported in February that plans had been filed for a 400-plus-bedroom apartment complex to be built near the South Lawrence Trafficway, a few blocks east of Walmart. In addition to being a big project, it was slated to be a unique one because it would be an officially designated, rent-controlled affordable housing apartment complex.

Construction was supposed to start in the spring but never did, which led me to wonder if this project went to wherever apartment projects go to die. (I don’t know where that place is, but I’m willing to bet you don’t get your cleaning deposit back upon exit.)

Not so fast, though. The project’s Indiana-based development group announced Wednesday that it has secured the last pieces of financing to move forward on Union at the Loop, a 248-unit apartment complex at 3250 Michigan St.

Don’t let the Michigan Street address throw you. It is nowhere near central Lawrence. Perhaps you have forgotten that the new street that runs from 31st Street — near Menards — and crosses the South Lawrence Trafficway and leads to Baker University’s wetlands center is Michigan Street.

If you are still having a hard time picturing the location, maybe you know where The Nest is. That’s the apartment complex that is highly visible from the South Lawrence Trafficway because it features a lot of brightly colored house-like structures just east of Iowa Street. This new project will be on 27 acres of vacant ground just east of the Nest. The new project will be along the trafficway and along Michigan Street, but won’t stretch so far north as to reach 31st Street.

But it will be big. Plans filed at City Hall called for 12 apartment buildings on the site. In Wednesday’s announcement, the company says the project will feature 248 apartments, with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

In addition, the project will have a community room, an exercise room, a playground and a computer room, as well as lots of on-site parking.

The project, while right next door to a student apartment complex, isn’t necessarily trying to tap into the student housing market. The developer — The Annex Group — is developing the complex as an affordable housing project. It has tapped into a multitude of state and federal tax credits to help finance the project. Those tax credits will place certain income restrictions on who can rent the apartments, and also how much the company can charge for rent.

Wednesday’s announcement said the apartments will be available to families earning up to 60% of the area’s median income. For a family of one, that means you could earn about $35,800, according to calculations provided by the company. For larger families, you could earn just over $57,000.

I asked a spokeswoman for the company for some basic information on how much it plans to charge in rent for the units, but I haven’t yet gotten that information. However, I did confirm with the Kansas Housing Resources Corp. — the group that oversees the issuance of affordable housing tax credits in the state — that rent limits will be part of the project.

While there are a multitude of affordable housing tax credits, many of them require that rents be capped so that tenants are paying less than 30% of their income for rent and utilities combined.

The Annex Group looks to be a growing player in the affordable housing apartment industry. While it has 20 or so traditional student housing complexes mainly in the upper Midwest, it recently was ranked by a trade group as one of the 50 most active affordable housing developers in the country. The company completed just under 200 affordable housing units last year and had another 350 units in development. In March, the company announced plans for $445 million worth of new developments, including in Montana, Washington, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, Oregon, North Carolina, Kentucky and Nebraska. It looks like the Lawrence project will be the company’s first in Kansas. Its closest project appears to be a student housing complex — The Annex — in Warrensburg, Mo.

In its press release, the company said it was drawn to Lawrence after many metrics showed demand for affordable housing was high.

“When we started looking at the Lawrence area, we saw that almost all existing affordable housing communities had a wait-list of residents hoping to move in,” said Kyle Bach, CEO of The Annex Group. “Because of the student population at the University of Kansas, there are both typical residents and university students in the market, causing a strain.”

The project — which is named Union at the Loop because it is along the SLT hike and bike path that Lawrence has named The Loop — expects to be open by October 2022.


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