Timeline update: City of Lawrence hopes to open Pallet Shelter Village by winter

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The city’s village of cabin-style shelters for people experiencing homelessness, previously slated to open on North Michigan Street in July, is running a few months behind schedule.

An updated timeline shows the city anticipates the Pallet Shelter Village site, which was formerly home to Veritas Christian School at 256 N. Michigan St., could be ready for the cabins to be delivered and installed in late October or early November.

The site will include up to 75 individual cabin-like units (with up to 85 beds) that each include a heating and cooling source, locking doors and windows, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. They’re part of a village setting that includes restrooms, laundry and shower facilities. Part of the goal is for people who are experiencing homelessness to have safety, privacy and dignity to help them transition into permanent housing.

The Lawrence City Commission in December 2022 set aside about $4.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay for the project. In March, commissioners approved a $725,000 land purchase, a contract for $1.114 million of the temporary shelters and a resolution suspending zoning and code enforcement on the property for a year.

Danelle Walters, housing initiatives manager for the City of Lawrence, prepared a memo to the Lawrence City Commission ahead of Tuesday’s meeting detailing the updated timeline for the project to come to fruition.

“At this juncture, we anticipate opening the Pallet Shelter Village in approximately six months, this fall before the winter temperatures hit,” Walters wrote.

• Demolition: The site purchase closed on April 10, and the existing buildings on the site should be demolished around the end of June, according to the memo.

• Operations: The city is seeking a contractor to operate the site 24/7 once it is open.

The city issued a request for proposals on May 2 and later extended the response deadline to Tuesday, June 6. The RFP seeks an operator to run the site for a three-year initial term, with an optional additional three-year term.

Chansi Long/Lawrence Times The city announced plans to purchase land at 256 N. Michigan St. for a Pallet Shelter Village. The site is pictured Wednesday, March 15, 2023.

Among services the RFP seeks from the contractor are management of the site; development of trauma-informed rules and procedures; disciplinary and grievance procedures; cleaning and maintenance; coordination with the community to address issues that arise; security, including prohibition of drugs, alcohol and weapons; monitoring prescription medications; and outreach to local and regional service providers to facilitate client connections to services.

City staff members anticipate the operator will be selected by mid-July, according to the memo.

• Fencing: The city plans to build a fence around the land and issued a request for quote (RFQ) for the work. The city received no bids, so it updated the RFQ and reposted it. It will close on Tuesday. Staff members estimate the fencing installation could be completed by the end of July, according to the memo.

Pallet conceptual draft (via City of Lawrence)

• Site analysis: The city has contracted with Professional Engineering Consultants to provide site analysis and planning for the infrastructure. If all goes as planned, the site could be ready for the cabins to be installed by the end of October, according to the memo.

“This analysis and planning is necessary to ensure all grading and below and above ground infrastructure on the site are properly constructed,” the memo states. “The time required for site analysis and planning is approximately 8-10 weeks and upon completion we will have construction documents in-hand. We will be prepared to engage one of the City’s on-call excavation contractors to begin construction as quickly as possible following the site analysis and planning task.”


The update also states that community engagement will be ongoing throughout the project.

“Staff plans to engage neighborhood group members, service providers and people with lived experience in the process of reviewing operations proposals submitted by prospective contractors,” according to the memo. “Additionally, we still anticipate opportunities for Pallet community engagement team to meet with community and neighborhood members.”

Mayor Lisa Larsen and staff members from the city manager’s office and housing initiatives division have participated in Pinkney Neighborhood Association meetings in recent months. “Staff will continue to provide written updates to the neighborhood groups as project milestones are approached and achieved,” according to the memo.

The impact to the city’s budget was being updated and would be provided before the meeting, according to the memo.

City staff members have previously said they plan to keep the North Lawrence camp open at least until the Pallet Shelter Village opens. They have also said they do not intend to open the Winter Emergency Shelter at the Community Building again this year.

The memo is part of the city manager’s report to the commission, which is at the end of the meeting agenda. The memo is below; see the full meeting agenda at this link.

The Lawrence City Commission will meet at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, June 6 at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. Meetings are also livestreamed on the city’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/lawrenceksvideo.

Commissioners accept written public comment emailed to ccagendas@lawrenceks.org until noon the day of the meeting. People may also give public comment during the meeting in person at City Hall or via Zoom. Register for the Zoom meeting at this link.

Here’s the full memo to the commission:


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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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