Lawrence is about to move from an era of building infrastructure to a period of attracting new jobs and businesses, Lawrence’s outgoing mayor predicted Tuesday as part of the State of the City Address.
Mayor Mike Dever touted a host of infrastructure projects underway — ranging from the Rock Chalk Park sports complex to the $130 million South Lawrence Trafficway — that will spur growth in the future.
“As a commission, we’ve worked to build the infrastructure needed to take Lawrence to the next level in terms of economic development opportunities, and now it is time to deliver,” Dever said.
Dever ended his one-year term as mayor Tuesday but will remain on the board as a commissioner for another year. As expected, commissioners unanimously elected Commissioner Mike Amyx to serve a one-year term as mayor. Amyx, who is a downtown barber shop owner, has served five terms as mayor, dating back to 1985.
Commissioner Jeremy Farmer also was unanimously elected as vice-mayor. If tradition holds, Farmer will be in line to serve as mayor in April 2015.
The transition, however, was not without considerable noise. A young child pulled a fire alarm in City Hall shortly after the meeting began, and it rang for approximately a half hour. But since there was no fire present, the meeting continued.
During the State of the City address, Dever highlighted several projects that have moved forward under his tenure. They included:
• Approval of Rock Chalk Park, which will include a new city recreation center and private track and field, softball and soccer facilities that will be used by Kansas University when completed in September.
“Multiple challenges were solved with the creation of Rock Chalk Park, and our growing partnership with the University of Kansas was further strengthened,” said Dever, who was one of the chief proponents of the project.
• The opening of the Lawrence Community Shelter in a larger location on the eastern edge of the city. The location has removed the homeless shelter from downtown and has given the organization more room to focus on programs to help people out of homelessness, Dever said.
• Approval of a new, citywide curbside recycling program that will begin service in October.
• The opening of a new multilevel parking garage in the 700 block of Vermont Street, which was built as part of the Lawrence Public Library’s expansion project. The library project is still underway and is expected to be completed this summer.
• The beginning of construction work on the eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway, which Dever said will greatly improve east-west traffic flow in the city and will help Lawrence land more economic development prospects.
• Continued infrastructure work on Lawrence Venture Park, which is the more than 200-acre industrial park on the site of the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant in eastern Lawrence. Roadwork is expected to be completed this summer, and community officials have begun marketing the park to potential businesses.
Dever said all of the projects recently undertaken have been designed to make Lawrence more attractive to both residents and businesses.
“Let’s finish the job by growing existing businesses, and bringing companies and jobs to Lawrence,” Dever said. “Building our tax base will result in more jobs, more homes sold in Lawrence and more investment in our community overall.”