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City Commission Approves Fast-Track Economic Incentive Program

The Lawrence City Commission unanimously approved a fast track economic incentive program aiming to draw tenants to Lawrence VenturePark at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The city-owned business park — located just off of 23 Street on K-10 — opened two years ago and is still looking for its first tenant. The economic development coordinator of Lawrence Britt Crum-Cano says the program is temporary, but has a variety of benefits.

“This is temporary 2 year program. The reason we’re doing this is to try to spur economic development park in our two business parks, primarily Lawrence Venture park and also East Hills venture park. It would give a special incentive program, 50% tax abatement and land at no cost,” Crum-Cano said.

Crum-Cano also says businesses would go through an expedited approval process considered by the commission. To be eligible for the program, industrial businesses and projects have to meet specific size guidelines and the city would prioritize projects that provide employment and tax-base growth.

At Lawrence VenturePark, projects will need to include a new building of at least 75,000 square feet. For East Hills Business Park, eligible projects will be either an expansion of an existing building or a new building of at least 25,000 square feet.

Along with Crum-Cano’s statement, the program provides Industrial Revenue Bonds with a 10-year, 50 percent property tax abatement, along with an additional 20 percent abatement if the project meets specific energy-efficiency guidelines.

City Manager Diane Stoddard spoke to commissioners on why the “Catalyst Program” is needed.

“Industrial space and availability in Lawrence is at 1 percent … it’s very low vacancy rate and frankly, that is a challenge for our community to provide the available space that’s needed,” Stoddard said.

During public comment at the meeting, some Lawrence residents had concerns that the program was backtracking on a previous economic incentive policy passed by the commission in December that considered an in-depth analysis and review, as opposed to this new, 2-year fast-track policy.

Once the two-year period for the Catalyst Program is up, commissioners will evaluate its progress — or lack thereof — and vote on whether to extend it.