Work underway on an Oread project that is part restaurant, part apartment; Missouri company submits low bid for SLT expansion

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

A mixed use project that will include a restaurant and an apartment is shown at 14th and Ohio streets in late May 2024.

News and notes from around town:

Call it the duck test, if you will. In the Oread neighborhood next to KU, if something looks like a big house — and all too often sounds like a big house — it is usually a big house. The neighborhood after all is full of students, and they love living and congregating in big houses.

With that said, construction work is well underway on a project in the Oread neighborhood that looks like a big house, but it actually isn’t.

A large house-like structure is being built at the corner of 14th and Ohio streets, directly south of the Jayhawk Cafe — the college bar also known as The Hawk. If it is not a big boarding house, what is it?

New zoning regulations in Lawrence allow for mixed uses within a single building, and that is the case here. We reported on plans being filed for the project at 1346 Ohio Street all the way in May 2023. At that time, we said plans called for a sandwich shop on the ground floor and an apartment unit on the second floor.

That’s still fairly accurate. Lawrence-based architect Paul Werner, who has designed the project, told me details are still being finalized on the ground floor space, but it remains a restaurant use. The second story will be a single apartment unit, he said.

If I hear more details on the restaurant, I’ll let you know. The project may be interesting to watch beyond the food angle, though. It might be an early sign that the 14th and Ohio intersection is going to develop in a more urban way. The project is taking advantage of a nontraditional zoning category that it won several years ago. The intersection is one of the sites in Lawrence that has a mixed-used zoning designation. That is what allows for construction of buildings that combine both retail and residential uses, for example.

There is a fair amount of property near the intersection that has the mixed-use zoning. The entire 14th and Ohio intersection has the zoning, and three of the four corners of the 14th and Tennessee intersection to the south also have the zoning, with the southeast corner being the exception. All the property along 14th Street in between Ohio and Tennessee streets also has the mixed-use zoning.

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I’m still waiting for an official announcement from the Kansas Department of Transportation, but it appears likely that a Columbia, Missouri, company will be in charge of expanding the western leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway into a four-lane freeway.

KDOT last week opened bids for the much-talked-about SLT project. While KDOT has not awarded the bid yet, it did list all the bidders. Emery Sapp & Sons — a company that got its start in Columbia in the 1970s but now has offices in Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas — was the low bidder.

It placed a bid of $170,597,911 to add the two additional lanes to the SLT west of Iowa Street. That edged out Kansas City, Mo.-based Clarkson Construction Co, which bid $175.8 million. Other bidders included: Koss Construction, $179.7 million; Hawkins Construction, $183.3 million, and Ames Construction, $204.3 million, according to the online bid posting on the KDOT website.

KDOT hasn’t yet sent out an announcement awarding the bid. That usually happens a few weeks after the bid letting.

If Emery Sapp & Sons does win the bid, it should know its way around. It was the contractor that completed the eastern leg of the SLT project, which finished in 2016. To give you an idea of how much construction costs have increased, Emery Sapp & Sons received about a $140 million contract to build four lanes for the eastern leg of the trafficway, while this project will be about $170 million for two lanes. That $170 million doesn’t include the far northwest end of the project. The portion of the project that will tie into the Kansas Turnpike northwest of Lawrence will be bid separately in late 2025.

Most Lawrence motorists probably don’t care much who builds the SLT expansion, but anyone who has been on the busy two-lane highway likely cares that it gets done. As we reported last month, the bid letting is a major sign that this project is moving from the drawing board to the construction field. Once the bid is awarded, the project will be on track to have some construction begin this fall, though the pace of work is expected to hit full speed next spring.

The construction won’t be quick, though. The project’s timeline calls for construction to be completed in late 2028. But the good news is that traffic disruptions on the SLT — which is also Kansas Highway 10 — are expected to be minimal during the course of the project. K-10 will remain open to traffic throughout the entire project, KDOT has said.

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