Lawrence City Commission to consider increasing community input for downtown master plan

photo by: Nick Krug

Massachusetts Street is illuminated by holiday lights and vehicles on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017.

After Lawrence city commissioners criticized the process, commissioners will soon consider increasing the amount of community input gathered for the development of the Downtown Master Plan.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the commission will consider revising and expanding the community engagement component of the development of the plan. The proposed changes would add $37,070 to the $110,000 contract for Houseal Lavigne Associates, the consultant helping the city to draft the plan, according to city staff memo to the commission.

Related stories

Feb. 6, 2019 — City issues apology after city commissioners express concern about ‘secretive’ focus groups for downtown master plan

Feb. 4, 2019 — Downtown area residents identify dozens of issues facing downtown as part of master plan workshop

Nov. 1, 2018 — New Downtown Master Plan must balance preservation and progress, steering committee says

Feb. 9, 2018 — New downtown master plan to consider future of local businesses

Dec. 17, 2017 — How tall is too tall? City contemplating downtown skyline, other big issues

The proposed expansion to the community input component calls for adding outreach activities for youth and college-aged community members and a mechanism for community groups to host their own workshops to gather input, according to the memo. The memo states that the consultant would create, facilitate and analyze Do-It-Yourself Kits, which could be used by community groups to host their own workshops. Other additions include a Downtown Visioning Workshop, a visual preference survey, a community open house on the draft plan, and two City Commission level discussions before a plan is brought forth for consideration.

“This revised scope presents a more robust community engagement plan to facilitate the development of the plan and ensure that there are opportunities for all voices to be heard,” the memo states.

The proposed changes come after commissioners objected to what they said were secretive focus groups for the development of the plan, and the city subsequently issued an apology. In February, Commissioner Leslie Soden said that the secretiveness tainted the whole process and that she could not in good faith tell the public that the city had an open and transparent downtown master planning process until changes were made. Mayor Lisa Larsen also said at the time that she was concerned the focus group meetings were not included in the list of meetings publicized about the plan.

The city subsequently issued an apology regarding how the focus groups were handled and later posted a list of the focus group topics, invitees and brief summaries of what was discussed on the Downtown Master Plan website.

The city hired Houseal Lavigne Associates in August to help complete the Downtown Master Plan, which will shape the future of downtown Lawrence for the next 15 to 20 years. The plan will replace guidelines that have not been updated in 20 years and will cover topics such as land use, development, building heights, parking, transportation, infrastructure and streetscapes. In February, Houseal Lavigne hosted a series of community workshops conducted the focus groups.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the commission will consider authorizing the city manager to sign the revised contract for professional consulting services with Houseal Lavigne Associates. City staff are proposing using funds from the city’s guest tax fund balance to pay for the additional expenses.

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


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.