Talks for city to buy property along Haskell for homeless project end without a deal; future site of ‘shelter village’ unclear

photo by: Douglas County GIS

The property at 800 Lynn St.

Talks for the city to buy a vacant lot near 19th and Haskell for a new homeless shelter project have fallen through, according to an owner of the property.

Tony Krsnich, who leads a group that owns the property at 800 Lynn St., told me that negotiations with the city have ended without a deal. I reached out to Krsnich on Wednesday morning knowing that city commissioners on Tuesday evening met in executive session to discuss the possible purchase of real estate.

“I can confirm that we were in discussions with the city about that site, and although I don’t feel it would be appropriate to get into details, I can confirm that transaction is not going to go through, and we are going to explore other options,” Krsnich said.

The Journal-World on Monday reported that there were indications the city was strongly interested in the 800 Lynn site, which is basically a block north of the 19th and Haskell intersection. Sources told the Journal-World the city was interested in the property for its “shelter village” project that would build tiny shelters for 75 people who are experiencing homelessness.

However, it remained unclear whether the owners of the property were interested in selling to the city. On Wednesday, Krsnich, who is best known as the developer of the Warehouse Arts District in East Lawrence, said he did not want to discuss why the ownership group rejected the city’s offer, but he said it did not involve a disagreement about the selling price of the property.

“It had nothing to do with price,” Krsnich said.

He said negotiations with the city ended on a positive note, but without a deal. Krsnich didn’t provide information about what the ownership group may now seek to do with the property, but he said nothing about the unsuccessful negotiations with the city will deter him as he works with the city on other projects for the East Lawrence area. Krsnich has been involved in multiple affordable housing projects in the Warehouse Arts District, and has one proposed for the downtown area. He also has another historic building renovation project — a 1950s era Quonset Hut — before the city for approval.

“We love working with the City of Lawrence and have a great track record of working with the city, including on national, award-winning projects,” Krsnich said, referencing preservation awards his local developments have received. “We couldn’t be more excited to work with them on projects in the future.”

The end of this potential deal, however, creates questions about the future of the shelter village project. It is not clear where the city might next try to locate the project.

When the Journal-World reported the city’s interest in the Haskell property on Monday, questions came from the public about why the city wasn’t seeking to use land already owned either by the city or the county, and land that is farther from existing residential development.

The city previously has announced its intentions to spend up to $4.5 million to contract with Pallet, a Washington-based company that uses prefabricated parts to assemble small sleeping cabins that can be built very quickly, according to the company’s website.

The city has said it hopes to have the “shelter village” operational by June, but the city has never publicly identified a site for the project.

photo by: City of Lawrence/Pallet

The city of Lawrence approved a project with Washington-based Pallet, which produces small shelters such as the ones shown above, to provide secure places for people who are homeless to temporarily reside.

After word of the Haskell site circulated on Monday, questions emerged about how much the city had studied the possibility of locating the project on county-owned land that is behind the Lawrence Community Shelter, which provides services to the homeless but has had capacity stretched thin recently. Initially, on Monday, a county representative said the county had not ever reviewed the feasibility of such a project on the county-owned land. But on Tuesday, the county said that was a misstatement on its part. The county, at the city’s request, had reviewed the feasibility of putting such a project on the site and had “strong reservations” about using the county-owned land for the project. However, the county wasn’t able to provide to the Journal-World on Tuesday what those strong reservations were. County Administrator Sarah Plinsky was unavailable to provide such information on Tuesday, but would do so today, a county spokeswoman said.

It is unclear whether the the county-owned site will get a new round of scrutiny, now that a deal on Haskell Avenue is not advancing. That may depend on what the county’s reservations are regarding use of the county land.

I’ll provide an update when I get word from the county about those reservations. UPDATE: I’ve written a separate article on the county’s reservations, which they detailed today. You can access that article here.


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