News and notes from around town:
• A plan to build a lighted sidewalk between downtown and the Oread Neighborhood may finally become reality. The city’s Community Development Block Grant Advisory Board is recommending the project receive $137,010 in funding. City commissioners are scheduled to award the funding at their Tuesday evening meeting. Leaders in the city’s Public Works Department say that with the funding — combined with previous money set aside by the city and Kansas University — that the project will become a reality. Plans call for the lighted pathway to start in South Park, then travel west to 12th Street where it will run along the north side of 12th Street from Vermont to Louisiana streets.
The project has been a high priority for several student groups, who say the lack of well-lighted path between campus and downtown has contributed to crimes in the area, particularly sexual assaults. The city has worked with the neighborhood over the past couple of years on concerns about the lighting, but now believes it has the issue resolved.
This latest round of funding will come from federal money that the city is automatically awarded through the Community Development Block Grant program. Unlike smaller communities, Lawrence does not have to apply to the federal government for specific CDBG projects. Instead, it receives an annual allocation based on the number of low-income neighborhoods located in the city.
In this most recent round of CDBG funding, the city will receive about $875,000 to spend on housing and neighborhood improvement. In addition the city receives about $690,000 in funding from a closely related federal program — HOME — that is used for improving affordable housing options in the city.
Other bricks and mortar projects that are expected to receive funding from the CDBG program include:
- $83,063 to the city’s Public Works Department to partially fund construction of a sidewalk along the east side of Iowa Street from Harvard Road to the High Pointe Apartment complex at Sixth and Iowa. The city had asked for $170,000 for the project, so I’m unclear on how much work the city will be able to do on the project. I’ll inquire about that.
- $35,800 to Community Living Opportunities to do exterior painting of seven group homes owned by the organization.
- $33,000 to Independence Inc. to fund its accessible housing program.
- $8,925 to the Oread Neighborhood Association for painting of crosswalks in the neighborhood. The group plans to stripe crosswalks at 14th and Tennessee, 14th and Kentucky, and 12th and Vermont streets.
- $3,200 to the North Lawrence Improvement Association to build a new sidewalk near Third and Elm streets.
- $1,800 to the Social Service League of Lawrence for a wood awning at its property at 905 Rhode Island.
• In addition to bricks and mortar projects, the CDBG money also is used to fund operations of several groups, in particular the neighborhood association of the low-income areas. Here’s a look at the operational funding the CDBG board is recommending this year. In parentheses is the amount the group received last year.
- Lawrence Community Shelter: $42,054 ($36,489)
- Housing and Credit Counseling: $25,000 ($25,000)
- The Ballard Community Center: $20,000 ($16,000)
- Oread Neighborhood Association: $9,800 ($9,479)
- East Lawrence Neighborhood Association: $9,512 ($10,240)
- North Lawrence Improvement Association: $6,740 ($7,514)
- Brook Creek Neighborhood Association: $6,624 ($6,450)
- Pinckney Neighborhood Association: $6,300 ($2,987)
- Douglas County AIDS Project: $5,000 ($4,000)
This year marks the first time in at least a decade that The Salvation Army hasn’t received funding to operate its feeding program. The Salvation Army provides a mid-day meal on days that Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen (LINK) is not in operation. The Salvation Army did request funding this year, but did not make the cut. I’ll check in to find out what that means for The Salvation Army’s program. The program traditionally had used the CDBG funding to pay about 80 percent of the cook’s salary.
• The idea of later hours for downtown merchants is expected to get some more talk soon. The director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. told me that she’s planning a Downtown Retail Summit for 5:30 p.m. on May 10 at The Eldridge to discuss the idea of whether later hours for downtown shops would make sense. The association doesn’t have any control over the hours the shops in downtown keep, but there are some who hope that several merchants will give the idea a try to determine whether it could boost downtown retail activity. In addition, new city commissioners Bob Schumm and Hugh Carter both have said they want to meet with the group to discuss ideas on how to combat retail vacancy rates in downtown.