During the past 10 years, a series of adaptive re-use projects in Warehouse Arts District of East Lawrence has hosted an organic mix of creative businesses, light industrial uses, artist studios, incubation spaces and galleries. Its industrial urban fabric and contemporary vibe serves as an extension to the eclectic neighborhood culture of East Lawrence and is a perfect compliment to Massachusetts Street, Lawrence’s longstanding historic business corridor seven blocks to the west. The Warehouse Arts District hosts a new generation of entrepreneurship– a vibrant blend of local artists, thinkers and makers that will do their part in shaping the cultural terrain of Lawrence in the years to come.
As Lawrence continues to grow and thrive, the need for affordable housing to support its downtown communities continues to increase. The Lawrence City Commission recently identified affordable housing as one of its top priorities for 2017, and East Lawrence, with its long history of workforce housing, has long served this diverse demographic of Lawrence residents. The Warehouse Arts District, a higher density mixed-use community, has deployed adaptive re-use as a strategy to begin meeting the growing need for affordable housing. In 2012, Flint Hills Holdings, LLC renovated the Poehler Building as a mix of 49 affordable and market rate residential units, which was fully leased prior to completion. A few years later, Flint Hills Holdings constructed 9 Del Lofts, adding 43 more affordable residential units to Lawrence’s downtown market.
In December of 2016, Tony Krsnich, president of Flint Hills Holdings, challenged el dorado to create mid-density affordable housing prototypes for vacant lots within the Warehouse Arts District. Tony asked that the housing prototypes contribute to new and innovative attitudes emerging in the Warehouse Arts District, including flexible live-work concepts, dynamic shared communal space, and sustainable design strategies.
In response, el dorado carefully considered the district comprehensively. Balancing parking needs, pedestrian vibrancy and appropriate urban density, el dorado has proposed a series of 3-story structures that contributes strong urban corners, dynamic street frontages and discreet parking strategies. The structures offer efficient footprints, live-work opportunities, alternative energy sourcing and a mix of affordable housing units, ranging from studios to 3-bedroom family apartments.
Penn lofts, a 71-unit mixed-use building, assertively engages the corner of East 8th Street and Pennsylvania Street, but remains deferential to the adjacent historic Poehler Building in height and massing. A vast, and sculptural array of photo-voltaic panels will harvest solar energy while providing shading for the facade and the sidewalk below. The ground level of the building will contribute vitality to the street by introducing a dynamic mix of live-work units, small retail, and common area amenities. Construction processes that leverage pre-manufactured unit modules, delivered and installed on-site, create a structure whose DNA is in sync with the industrial history of the Warehouse Arts District. An urban-scale breezeway provides the building massing relief while connecting the sidewalk to rear vehicular parking.
Penn Lofts will strengthen the core of the Warehouse Arts District and the City of Lawrence by asserting that progressive, sustainable design can meet the needs of a growing city by providing affordable housing that energizes its site, neighborhood, and community.