Lawrence City Commission to review simplified version of East Ninth Street Project

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

The City Commission will review a simplified — and less expensive — version of the East Ninth Street Project at its work session Tuesday.

The original plan for the street reconstruction and public art project was estimated to cost $3.5 million, but after that version of the project failed to get the votes necessary to go forward, city staff were directed to scale it down.

The project that the commission will review Tuesday foregoes the public art element for a traditional street design. For the simplified proposal, the cost estimate for reconstruction of Ninth Street from Delaware Street to New Hampshire Street is $1.8 million.

The project is not currently funded in the 2017-2021 capital improvement plan, and the commission would have to reallocate funding at a future meeting if the project were to proceed.

Commissioner Matthew Herbert said that will need to be done soon.

“Our primary function as a governing body is public infrastructure and public safety,” Herbert said. “And at some point, large chunks of Ninth Street are going to have to be redone, and, based on the condition of a lot of it, that point is going to be very soon.”

The street reconstruction for the simplified project would include new curb and gutter, storm sewer and sidewalks on both sides of the street, including the restoration of brick sidewalks. Installation of decorative streetlights on both sides of Ninth Street would add $200,000, bringing the total to about $ 2 million.

The previously proposed concept design for the project received a mixed response from the public. During the commission’s budget discussions in July, only Commissioners Mike Amyx and Herbert indicated they would have advanced the design without modifications.

In addition to street and sidewalk improvements, the original concept design for the project included a stormwater management system with native grass and integrated seating and public art installations. The 81-page concept design took about a year and half to establish and was due to be funded in part by a $500,000 ArtPlace America grant awarded to the Lawrence Arts Center.

Herbert said that he hoped incorporating public art into the East Ninth Street project is still an option. He said that foregoing the $500,000 grant would be a “missed opportunity,” and that his goal for Tuesday’s work session is to see how much of that opportunity can be salvaged.

“We have a really good opportunity here with this national grant to take an infrastructure project and do something very uniquely Lawrence with it,” Herbert said. “And do so using money that didn’t come from Lawrence taxpayers, and that’s not an opportunity that comes up very often.”

Request for comments from other commissioners on the new proposal were not immediately returned Friday.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.