Lawrence City Commission approves site selection boundary for potential downtown bus station

photo by: City of Lawrence screenshot

This map shows a recommended boundary area for the potential site of a new downtown bus station.

The Lawrence City Commission has approved a boundary for the area of downtown Lawrence where a steering committee will recommend potential sites for a new bus station later this year.

At Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, commissioners voted 4-0, with Vice Mayor Mike Dever absent, to approve the boundary.

Generally, it encompasses the area of downtown from the intersection of Sixth and Massachusetts streets to just past the Douglas County Courthouse at the intersection of 11th and Massachusetts streets, plus surrounding streets in a wider area at different points within the boundary. A strip also covers the Amtrak station along New Jersey Street.

As the Journal-World has reported, a steering committee is currently working to find a suitable location for a downtown bus hub; the city’s transit office has been working from a temporary bus hub across the street from the Lawrence Public Library for about a decade.

Director of Transit Adam Weigel told commissioners that the proposed map combines elements of three other boundary options developed by the steering committee based on public feedback: one in an area condensed closer to the Lawrence Public Library, one that extended far enough to include South Park and one that branched out across the bridge into North Lawrence near the Union Pacific Depot.

Commissioner Lisa Larsen said she had some reservations about the boundary extending too far away from downtown to areas like the Amtrak station or the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center parking lot near the Douglas County Courthouse, but after some discussion with other commissioners said she would be comfortable with including them as long as the two areas are given a “hard” look when proposed sites return for further review.

Commissioner Amber Sellers, meanwhile, was one commissioner who supported the merits of including Amtrak in the boundary.

“I think what you have is what it is, and I trust and put faith into the steering committee for what they came up with and I look forward to hearing from community members on where they think this should land,” Sellers said.

The steering committee guiding the process is tasked with making a recommendation to the City Commission by the end of the year regarding which sites in downtown Lawrence should be considered for a new bus station. But first, the group will be working between now and August to determine its site selection criteria.

In other business, commissioners:

• Hosted a public hearing for the nomination of First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway, to the Lawrence Register of Historic Places.

Commissioners were asked to approve the nomination, but they instead voted 4-0 to return the nomination to the city’s Historic Resources Commission so it could be considered just for the church building, rather than the entire property it sits on.

At least two commissioners — Brad Finkeldei and Sellers — voiced concern about the city’s code for historic properties being “weaponized” to halt development in the immediate area. That’s because the church is currently involved in litigation against the City of Lawrence to halt a housing project planned for property across the street from the church at 2300 Crestline Drive.

Members of the public, including attorneys representing that property and other surrounding businesses, flagged that concern earlier during Tuesday’s meeting. Specifically, a property nominated to the local historic register also gains an accompanying 250-foot “context area” requiring a certificate of approval before actions like demolitions or exterior construction visible from the right of way can occur.

• As part of a work session, received feedback on the $6.1 million renovation planned for the city’s Outdoor Aquatic Center at 727 Kentucky St.

As the Journal-World has reported, the city has been gathering public feedback about the project since April. The city has said the renovation is intended to address maintenance concerns, provide new amenities and result in an expanded pool season.

• As part of a work session, heard an update on the Lawrence Police Department’s progress toward accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.


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