East Ninth Project committee receives updated design plans

A westward view shows Ninth Street as it stretches toward downtown Lawrence.

The architecture firm el dorado inc. presented the East Ninth Citizen Advisory Committee with two updated, preliminary design plans at its meeting Wednesday.

Josh Shelton, a principal with el dorado inc., presented both plans to the committee in detail.

The first plan offers a complete street option with a wider road with equal right-of-way space to the north and south. The street is wide enough to include bike lanes on either side. Shelton said the first plan was closer to what currently exists in the corridor than the second plan, which justifies the street to the south curb edge and makes room to the north for an 8- to 10-foot-wide sidewalk for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Shelton said both plans would allow the street to remain a designated truck delivery route, and both would maintain much of the historic brick sidewalk that lines the street, as well as most of the nearby trees.

He noted neither plan includes medians nor a curve in the street, which had been a concern at previous meetings.

In the first plan, Shelton said, an artisan brick layer could widen the existing brick sidewalks to 5 feet in order to be ADA accessible. However, for some areas where that would be impossible, the plan would add a secondary sidewalk, or a “recreation trail.”

Phil Collison, an East Lawrence Neighborhood Association representative, raised concerns about the addition of a second sidewalk.

“Which sidewalk would need to be shoveled in the wintertime, and who’s responsible for shoveling it, if there’s two sidewalks like that?” Collison asked. “If one sidewalk is shoveled and the other is not, is that a problem?”

Mayor Mike Amyx said the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department would shovel the recreation trail sidewalk.

Collison also raised the issue of a smoking ban the Parks and Recreation Department is considering putting in place: If East Ninth Street were to become a “linear park,” would smoking be banned for the seven-block stretch?

Amyx said sometimes Massachusetts Street is referred to as a linear park. Shelton noted both issues will be discussed with the city.

One issue of concern Shelton brought up was maintaining the landscaping around the St. Luke AME Church at 900 New York St. Working with the steep changes in grade is a challenge to making the sidewalks ADA accessible, but one possibility will likely include removing the parking spaces to the north of the church.

“We were hoping to solve the problem elegantly (in a way) that allows a lot of this interesting, historic infrastructure to be this layered archive system,” Shelton said.

St. Luke Rev. Verdell Taylor said everyone who lives in the neighborhood is aware of the tight parking situation, but the steep grade is an issue that needs to be resolved for accessibility.

Amyx said the public comment portion would be important to how the plan progresses, and nothing would be decided before that could happen.

In an informal poll at the end of the meeting, about five members of the committee said they preferred the first option; the rest said they were undecided; and no one favored the second plan with the wide path on one side of the street.

The committee will tentatively meet again on Jan. 27 and March 3, with details and locations to be announced.