Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Report proposes Lawrence add new director of arts and culture to city staff

December 9, 2013


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.


Clark Coan 4 years, 6 months ago

Why not a City Bike-Ped Coordinator like Boulder has? We need someone to push for an integrated and interconnected multi-use path system.

Salina has a City Arts and Humanities Dept. with 15 employees.

Beator 4 years, 6 months ago

I think a pedestrian bridge is a bridge too far. The current bridge is, as mentioned by Clark Coan, an integrated and interconnected multi-use path system.

A gondola system may be a better solution. It would allow the less fortunate that cannot afford rooms at the motel, to have a beautiful view of the Kaw.

Clark Coan 4 years, 6 months ago

I, too, have been thinking about a gondola for years. I mean Bowersock used to have one to work on the dam.

Beator 4 years, 6 months ago

It could be pulled back and forth by burros. That'd be sweet!

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

An arts and entertainment strategy ( to redevelop the downtown started simply enough with the addition of 200 seats to the historic Colonial Theater, considered the plan's anchor building. A new arts center followed, along with streetscape improvements. Six years and well over $20 million in private investment later, thousands congregate every week for movies, live music, restaurants and galleries in Phoenixville, where most property values have quadrupled.

From Arts to Industry: Reviving Economies Through Investment in the Arts

Phoenixville's Arts and Entertainment Economic Development Strategy

Arts and Economic Prosperity = $135.2 billion = 4.13 million full-time jobs

Information and Support Services

Economic Impact of the Non Profit Arts and Culture Industry

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Maybe if the city hadn't loaned (given) over $600,000 to the homeless shelter that will never be repaid, they could afford this program. So now we are supposed to increase taxes to pay a $100,000 per year salary plus other expenses for someone to schedule Friday music shows? Where is the return on the tax dollars coming from? I seriously doubt by having someone with a title and $100,000 per year salary will substantially increase attendance or tax revenue.

So we are to pay $100,000+ per year for this plus pay for increasing each commissioners salaries to $25,000 to $35,000 per year? What else does the commissioners have on their Christmas list? Should the tax payers of Lawrence just empty their checkbooks into the cities coffers so the commissioners can just go completely wild?

Why do we need to spend more money for a pedestrian bridge across the river when there is a perfectly safe pedestrian/bike section on the current bridge? There is nothing to walk over to north Lawrence for anyway except to go to Johnnies.

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