A planned waterline replacement project along Massachusetts Street could begin before Kansas University commencement this spring.
The prospect of getting an early start on the project - work to replace aging water pipes beneath downtown's main street, from Ninth Street to just past 11th Street - was among the updates presented Tuesday during the city's Downtown Summit, conducted at the Lawrence Arts Center.
The broad goal for City Manager David Corliss' presentation was to strengthen lines of communication between City Hall and the central business district, an area of businesses, offices, residences and institutions long supported by the city's government.
Whether it's improving waterlines or laying the groundwork for future redevelopment, Corliss said, the city's "public square" deserves the public's investments in time, expertise and financing to see that it remains alive and well.
"Our unique downtown is worth fighting for," he said, after addressing about 80 business leaders, property owners, developers and others gathered for the summit. "But we've also got to be wise. :
"It's not something we're trying to preserve. It's something we're trying to grow and find opportunities to make better."
To that end, Corliss encouraged attendees to provide feedback to his office about what they see as the highest-priority issues facing downtown.
Corliss also updated the crowd about ongoing issues and projects. Among them:
¢ Applications are being accepted for city grants that will cover 75 percent of the cost of installing fire-suppression sprinklers in qualifying downtown buildings, using a $250,000 fund provided by the city.
Corliss encouraged property owners to make plans as soon as possible, so that work could be completed before the city moves ahead with the yet-to-be-scheduled resurfacing of Massachusetts Street, from Sixth to 11th streets.
¢ Permanent bathrooms could be installed in a city parking lot in the 800 block of New Hampshire Street in time for the opening of the Saturday editions of the Lawrence Farmers Market, which starts in late April. The project would cost an estimated $25,000, and would have limited hours.
¢ The 2007 phase of the downtown waterline project likely will be designed to keep Massachusetts Street open during construction, and possibly could begin before KU's May 20 commencement ceremonies. "If we start it sooner," Corliss said, "we can end it sooner."