City to begin roadwork for temporary downtown layout to respond to coronavirus

photo by: Gould Evans

A new temporary layout proposed for downtown Lawrence would reconfigure parking on Massachusetts Street to create more space for pedestrians and outdoor dining and retail.

Roadwork will soon begin to temporarily reconfigure the layout of downtown Lawrence to allow more space for outdoor commerce due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, city staff will begin work on Massachusetts Street for the recently approved reconfiguration plan, which will cause some traffic closures while the work is in progress, according to a city news release. The work, which will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday, includes adding signs, street patching, pavement marking and rubber curb installation.

On June 17, the Lawrence City Commission voted to approve the code changes that allow downtown businesses to expand their operations into what are currently angled parking spots, but exactly how much parking will be retained is not yet decided. The city has gotten a mixed response from downtown business owners, with some concerned about taking away any parking downtown, and commissioners said at the time they were interested in potentially maintaining more parking stalls along Massachusetts Street than the plan currently calls for.

Under the plan, developed by the architecture and design firm Gould Evans and Downtown Lawrence Inc., almost all the angled parking spots that currently line the roadway from Sixth Street to 11th Street would be converted into either parallel parking spots or open space that could be used for pedestrians, outside dining or retail sales. The newly created parallel parking spots will be designated for 15-minute curbside pickup, and 10 angled spaces will be maintained as accessible parking spots.

Currently, there are 346 angled parking spaces along Massachusetts Street. The plan as initially proposed allowed for 126 parking spaces to be maintained, but revisions have been made to the plan to increase that number to 163, according to the news release.

One of the considerations commissioners said they would like to further discuss is whether open areas created at the end of each block by removing parking spaces should instead retain some of that parking, especially if businesses do not end up using all those areas for outdoor commerce. The commission will review how the new layout is working at its meeting Aug. 4. The code changes that allow for the new layout are temporary and will expire on Oct. 31 unless the commission votes to extend them.

Downtown visitors will begin seeing changes Sunday to prepare for the work. “No parking” signs will be hung in various locations on Massachusetts Street, and “no parking” bags will be placed on parking meters a day ahead of each change, according to the news release. Specifics about the closures are as follows:

• Monday: The 900 block of Massachusetts Street will be closed to traffic beginning at 7 a.m. When completed, staff will reopen the 900 block and close the 1000 block for reconfiguration work.

• Tuesday: The 700 block of Massachusetts Street will be closed to traffic beginning at 7 a.m. When completed, staff will reopen the 700 block and close the 800 block for reconfiguration work.

• Wednesday: The 600 block of Massachusetts Street will be closed to traffic beginning at 7 a.m.



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