A plan to create design guidelines for the Oread neighborhood east and north of the Kansas University campus is a positive step because it recognizes that various parts of the neighborhood serve different purposes and have different needs.
The Oread neighborhood wraps around campus on the north and east from Ninth to 17th streets and from Michigan Street to downtown. While areas adjacent to campus are heavily populated by students living in multi-family housing, other parts of the neighborhood still include more single-family homes, some of which have a historical character worth preserving. There always has been a certain amount of tension in Oread between single-family property owners and multi-family landlords. Recognizing and formalizing some natural divisions within the area is a valid way to stabilize the neighborhood and allow various uses to happily coexist.
Although details of the plan still are being fleshed out, the basis of the new design guidelines is to separate the neighborhood into distinct areas. Most of the area just east of campus from 10th Street to 16th Street would be designated as a high-density district to accommodate the many multi-family uses that already exist in that area. An area that’s generally just east and north of the high-density district would be designated as medium-density, and several blocks just north of Memorial Stadium would be low density.
The maps currently under discussion also recognize to two historic districts: the Hancock Historic District, which covers a small area where 12th Street dead-ends west of Indiana Street; and the Oread Historic District, which covers a considerably larger area and includes a number of notable structures just north, east and south of KU’s GSP-Corbin residence hall complex.
Although the plan may include some architectural guidelines, protection for mature trees and other measures to protect the character of the neighborhood, much of the document will focus on building sizes, how buildings are positioned on lots and how to incorporate parking for residents — a perennial bone of contention among Oread residents. The goal is not to downzone or reduce multi-family housing in the neighborhood, but to set standards that will allow the different uses in the neighborhood to exist in harmony.
One of the signs that the city is on the right track with this plan is that both owners who occupy houses in the neighborhood and owners of rental property there seem satisfied with the direction the city is heading. Oread is an important part of the Lawrence and the Kansas University community and both entities should take an active interest in maintaining it as an attractive and active neighborhood.