Adopted in 1977, Plan '95 gave Lawrence a single document to help guide its long-range growth from 1975 to 1995. It expanded upon the city's previous plan, known simply as Guide for Growth, 1964-1985.
A comparative glance at the plans' approaches to key concepts:
Guide for Growth encouraged "strengthening of the central business district as a regional shopping center," and included several proposals. Among the most notable: turning Massachusetts Street into a series of cul-de-sacs, with traffic diverted onto New Hampshire and Vermont streets, where public parking lots would be built.
Plan '95 expressly identified downtown as the city's "primary regional commercial center," worthy of protection from other commercial development. Plan '95 would serve as the backbone for a legal case to prevent a "cornfield mall" from being developed in southern Lawrence during the 1980s.
Guide for Growth anticipated construction of eight new elementary schools by 1985. Only two were built: Deerfield and Broken Arrow.
Plan '95 offered strong support for neighborhood elementary schools, and outlined general sites for 10 more schools during the planning period, which was to expire in 1995. Three were built: Quail Run, Sunflower and Prairie Park. Langston Hughes would come later. But Plan '95 offered detailed analyses for planning and expanding schools, and their effects on neighborhoods.
Guide for Growth noted the "excellent" condition of the city's housing, saying that only one in 20 Lawrence dwellings was considered substandard or about half the national average. The plan welcomed implementation of a new zoning ordinance; called for creation of a housing ordinance to set "minimum" standards for upkeep and construction; and encouraged the city to seek federal grants to help improve older neighborhoods.
Plan '95 created a framework for neighborhood revitalization, which led to massive public and private investments in the North Lawrence, Pinckney, Old West Lawrence, Oread, East Lawrence and Far East Lawrence (now Brook Creek) neighborhoods. Neighborhoods were afforded expressed standing in the document, ensuring that any development proposal would be judged based upon its "neighborhood impact," among other considerations.
Linda Finger, the city's planning director, said Plan '95 brought about a new era of neighborhood empowerment, one that would lead families to move back into neighborhoods near downtown and to reclaim homes that otherwise might have been lost to demolition or neglect.
"Plan '95 allowed us to focus our needs to allow us to be more stable in the middle (of town)," she said. "It gave us more balance."