If Lawrence wants to get serious about creating a more vibrant cultural district in downtown and East Lawrence, a new $100,000 a year position at City Hall is likely going to be required.
A pedestrian bridge across the Kansas River may come in handy too.
Those are among the findings in the final report of the city's Cultural District Task Force, which will be presented to city commissioners on Tuesday. The nine-member task force makes clear its top recommendation: the funding of a new City Hall staff position called a director of arts and culture.
"We have a tremendous amount of assets in the area of arts and culture, but now we really need someone who can coordinate them into a meaningful package," said City Commissioner Bob Schumm, who served as chairman of the task force.
Schumm estimated that the new position— which would coordinate marketing, the Final Fridays events, and have other duties — would require about $100,000 a year in funding in order to cover a salary, benefits and provide a modest operating budget for the position.
Commissioners at their Tuesday meeting will receive the task force's recommendations, but won't take any action on the requests. Instead, a decision on creating a new director position likely will be a topic during the 2015 budget discussion, Schumm said. Budget hearings typically take place during the summer.
The position is expected to face significant competition for city dollars. The idea of a director of arts and culture has been proposed before and hasn't won funding from the city. But this will be the first time the request has come since the city has created a formal cultural district. The city in February designated the area between 15th Street, Kentucky Street, the Kansas River and the Burroughs Creek Trail in East Lawrence as a cultural district. The task force was formed shortly thereafter to study possible amenities and funding options for the district.
The report includes nine recommendations, including one that could provide a new connection between North Lawrence and the rest of the city. The report recommends several infrastructure improvements in the district, including the idea of extending the Burroughs Creek Trail — which currently ends near 11th and Haskell — into downtown and across the Kansas River into North Lawrence.
Schumm said the City Commission may be entering a natural time period to consider the project. In the coming years, the city will be running a new city waterline across the Kansas River from North Lawrence to connect to the business park that is being constructed at the former Farmland Industries site in eastern Lawrence.
Schumm said the city could consider hanging the waterline from a pedestrian bridge rather than burying the line beneath the river.
"I don't know yet what the cost differences may be, but I think it is an idea worth considering," Schumm said.
Other recommendations included:
• Creation of a planning document to guide further development of the cultural district, with a goal of "maintaining the unique culture and socio-economic mix of the area."
• Improved sidewalks, lighting, public art and other pedestrian amenities on Ninth Street to connect the downtown to the Warehouse Arts District near Ninth and Pennsylvania streets in East Lawrence.
• Identifying affordable studio space for working artists to live and work in the district.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.