Baker University might sell land near wetlands discovery center for affordable housing development

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A private investment company has approached Baker University about buying a parcel of land near the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center for the development of affordable housing, according to a statement from Baker. 

The property is about 16 acres in a triangular shape directly north of the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center. It’s directly southeast of Kansas Highway 10, and northeast of the intersection of North 1250 and East 1350 roads. 

It’s part of the land encircled by the yellow loop trail on the university’s loops and trail map.

The university’s statement said that “This parcel of land is not part of the Baker Wetlands and is not positioned within the floodplain.”

Wetlands_Area_Mapweb-r

According to a map on Douglas County’s website, the land is not within the floodway, but portions of the parcel are in FEMA’s 100-year and 500-year flood hazard areas. 

The triangular property at center is not within the floodway, but portions of the parcel are in FEMA’s 100-year and 500-year flood hazard areas. (Screenshot, Douglas County GIS)

The purchase has not been finalized, and the university has not made a definitive decision to sell the land, according to Baker’s statement. 

Lawrence community members — including activists pushing to save the Wakarusa River Valley amid other talks of development near the river — have voiced concerns about the potential sale over the past couple of days, and the way they perceived the transaction occurring without public engagement. 

“As the project progresses, Baker University is committed to maintaining transparency,” according to Baker’s statement. “Further details and FAQs will be provided to ensure the community has a comprehensive understanding of the project’s scope and intentions.” 

The brief statement did not include a price for the potential land sale.

Although the parcel is nearby the New Boston Crossing project planned for the land southeast of the Iowa Street and K-10 interchange, it is not connected to that project, nor was the land part of any rezoning requests associated with the project.

However, discussion of Baker possibly selling its nearby parcel for development have exacerbated worries for environmentalists who have shared concerns about ramifications for the wildlife and ecology of the area. 

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Baker University is considering selling the triangular parcel of land pictured here. To the left is the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center. Across East 1350 Road, which runs across the middle of this photo, is the land that is planned to become New Boston Crossing, diagonal to Baker’s property that might be sold to develop affordable housing.

Baker received 572.68 acres of wetlands for free through a 30-year Quit Claim Deed in August 1968, according to its wetlands website. The land previously belonged to Haskell

“For immediate questions or concerns, the community is encouraged to contact Baker University at info@bakeru.edu,” according to Baker’s statement. “A dedicated team will ensure responses are provided promptly within 2-3 business days.”

Baker University President Lynne Murray did not respond directly to questions emailed Wednesday. Irene Unger, director of Baker Wetlands, referred questions to Baker’s marketing and communications team.

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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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