Construction crews are building concrete and brick ramps for handicapped access in Old West Lawrence.
The city of Lawrence is building nearly 100 wheelchair-accessible ramps in the Old West Lawrence neighborhood, and despite concessions to comply with historic standards, some residents wish the city would drop the project.
The federally mandated "curb cuts" have once again brought the significance of the aesthetics of bricks to the forefront. City officials say they have to place the ramps because of Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, but some Old West Lawrence residents would rather see brick-only ramps -- or none at all. Allen Blair, who is co-president of the Old West Lawrence Neighborhood Assn. with his wife, Angie Blair, said about half of the residents oppose concrete ramps.
"There always has been and still is some opposition," Allen Blair said. "Everything is pretty well split. There are some people who don't care one way or the other, and then there's some who would like it done in a more elegant and historic fashion."
Blair is in the latter group. He said he understands the need for ADA compliance but would rather see more bricks used in the ramps. When city officials first proposed the plan, all of the ramps were to be concrete. After talks with neighborhood association members, the city agreed to use a concrete border with brick inlay on the 42 of the 99 ramps leading to brick sidewalks -- boosting the project cost by $10,736. Each brick inlay ramp costs $749.17, compared with the $493.54 for each of the 57 concrete-only ramps, according to Gayle Martin, the city's communication coordinator.
Penny Construction Co., Lawrence, is doing the project for $125,266. Work began Tuesday and should be done by early October, Martin said. The project covers sidewalks from Tennessee to Michigan and from Sixth to Ninth streets.
Blair said his attempts to have the neighborhood design its own brick ramps were rebuffed by city officials, who said ADA regulations are specific about ramp construction.
Tammy Bannister, the ADA coordinator for the city, met with Blair about the project.
"One of the primary concerns (for neighborhood residents) was that our original proposal for the standard concrete ramps, like we've done everywhere else, would not maintain the historic character," Bannister said.
Since 1993, the city has built about 1,000 of the ramps, she said.
Bob Mikesic, advocacy coordinator for Independence Inc., applauds the city's efforts. He said Old West Lawrence is one of the last remaining areas that need the ramps.
"Lawrence is in really good shape," Mikesic said.
-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.