It’s nice to see plans to rejuvenate East Ninth Street starting to take shape.
This week, Lawrence city commissioners got their first look at — and their first opportunity to comment on — preliminary concepts for the seven-block area east of Massachusetts Street. The project’s design team plans to add commissioners’ input to other feedback it has gathered on the project, which is intended to integrate public art with a new street design.
One topic of discussion at Tuesday’s commission meeting was the idea of narrowing the two driving lanes on Ninth Street to provide space for bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks, green space and a few gathering areas. Renderings in the preliminary plan show a lot of pedestrian and bicycle traffic in a park-like corridor. It’s an inviting prospect that would seem to be a real asset for Lawrence.
There are, of course, some concerns. Commissioner Leslie Soden said she wasn’t in favor of narrowing the street in any part of the corridor and expressed concern that some of the proposed gathering spots were too close to private property. Keeping the driving lanes at their current width would seriously limit the pedestrian, bicycle and artistic uses envisioned for this area. While it’s important to protect the handful of private residences located in the corridor, there seem to be several spots that could easily accommodate small gathering spaces.
A number of East Lawrence residents are worried about the impact the proposed arts corridor will have on their neighborhood and have suggested measures such as establishing an “urban conservation overlay district” that creates a specific zoning district to protect the area. Pairing zoning and land use actions with creation of the arts corridor might build neighborhood support for the project, but Mayor Mike Amyx said he wanted to keep the two issues separate. Either way, city officials should give serious and timely consideration to zoning and land-use measures that protect the character of the neighborhood.
The people working on the East Ninth Project seem to be working hard to develop a plan that will enhance the corridor east of downtown in ways that will be an asset for both East Lawrence and the rest of the community. Judging by the concepts presented this week, they seem to be on the right track.