Committee agrees on direction of East Ninth project design; 12th meeting planned

Josh Shelton, a principal with architecture firm el dorado inc., presents the latest designs for the East Ninth project to the East Ninth Citizens Advisory Committee on Wednesday, March 2, 2016.

The latest design for a proposed arts corridor on East Ninth Street drew support Wednesday from a citizens advisory committee created to oversee the project.

In what was intended to be the committee’s last meeting before a final design was taken to the Lawrence City Commission, Josh Shelton, of architecture firm el dorado inc., presented committee members with two options: a design that would include dedicated bike lanes but reduce green space, and another that implemented a shared path and added overall green space.

“Very candidly, I’ll say we are recommending the scheme with the shared path,” Shelton said. “It wasn’t where I expected to be tonight, but after meting with you all the last two times, extensive meetings with the city and other boards, this is where we’ve landed. This is our recommended path forward.”

Josh Shelton, a principal with architecture firm el dorado inc., presents the latest designs for the East Ninth project to the East Ninth Citizens Advisory Committee on Wednesday, March 2, 2016.

Some committee members agreed, saying the design was an “awesome solution” and “makes the most sense.”

No one said they’d prefer the option with dedicated bike lanes.

Shelton said he would take the feedback from Wednesday’s meeting, make changes, and come back to the East Ninth Citizens Advisory Committee for the “drumroll moment” on March 30 with the final drafted design and project proposal.

Previous versions of the design for the East Ninth project, the seven blocks from Massachusetts to Delaware streets, had sparked concerns about ADA compliance, street width on the dedicated truck route, parking and the integrity of a historic brick sidewalk, among other issues.

The newest design eliminates some of those controversies, Shelton said. An 8-foot-wide shared path along the south side of the road would be ADA compliant and could be used by bicyclists, he said. It would also allow for space to keep the historic brick sidewalk from New Jersey Street past Pennsylvania Street.

But parking remained a concern among some committee members.

According to data Shelton presented Wednesday, 72 parking spaces exist in that stretch of East Ninth. The bike-lane option would cut that to 41 spaces. The preferred design with the shared path would cut it to 45 spaces.

Most of the lost spaces would be in the four blocks from Connecticut to Pennsylvania streets.

“Parking is such a squeeze, and the losses are mostly in the residential part of the scheme,” said Dave Loewenstein, with the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association. “Those spaces are used a lot, some of them as regular parking spaces for people who live there. I think it’s a significant impact to people who live on East Ninth.”

Shelton said designers had already planned parking spaces in every spot that could accommodate them with the other elements of the design. He said he would go back and try to fit in another few spots.

“I hear, loud and clear, there’s a concern, so we’ll go back through and squeeze it for everything that we can,” Shelton said.

It was also brought up that the street could be dangerous if people aren’t properly educated on its new features. One committee member recommended putting up signs for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Another member proposed limiting the speed limit to 20 mph along the seven blocks, and Shelton said he’d like to put in four-way stops at every intersection.

If the final design gains support from the committee on March 30, Shelton will start the process of taking it through various city boards and the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association. The earliest the City Commission could review it is mid- to late April.

When the process for the project started in December 2014, the citizens advisory committee intended to meet six times. The unveiling March 30 will be its 12th meeting. Shelton said Wednesday he led the extra meetings on a voluntary basis.

“It’s the most looked at project in the whole world,” Mayor Mike Amyx joked.