The Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday discussed the possibility of several new ways for pedestrians to experience downtown and the Kansas River.
Representatives from RiverFront & CENTER, a group comprising local architects and volunteers, presented commissioners with a design plan for the Kaw River COMMONS project. The transportation project includes improvements to existing infrastructure and several additions, including a downtown skywalk and a new pedestrian bridge over the river with viewing decks.
No action was taken during the work session and specific costs weren’t discussed, but Steve Evans of RiverFront & CENTER said he anticipates the organization would use a mix of public and private funding to eventually complete the project.
Aspects of the project also include the Lawrence Loop and connecting downtown to North Lawrence. Evans said he’s noticed throughout his time as a Lawrence resident that connection is important to the community, and the Kaw River COMMONS project seeks to provide that while implementing infrastructure and cultural goals.
“We certainly want to finish the downtown work, but we want to do that while making sure the trails are placed with respect to the cultural opportunities that the community envisions for this area,” Evans said. “In other words, we really want the culture to be the driver for what’s happening around here.”
Aside from improving downtown and making it easier to cross the river, Kent Williams of RiverFront & CENTER said the project aims to improve access to the river itself.
“The Kaw River heritage is a wealth of tradition and information,” Williams said. “We would like to maximize access to that river heritage through physical access to the river, connecting downtown to it, and ‘looping the Loop,’ as we like to say.”
Commissioners agreed that accessing the river is difficult and somewhat uncommon, and they voiced enthusiasm about the effects that this project would have on the Lawrence community.
Commissioner Jennifer Ananda pointed out the success other communities, such as Wichita, have had from taking advantage of the assets their rivers provide.
“Interest in making our riverfront a place to be has consistently been growing since I’ve been on the commission,” she said. “I think communities that have done that successfully have seen really good outcomes as a result of that, not just for the residents of that community but for folks outside of that community.”
Read more about RiverFront & CENTER’s proposal for the Kaw River COMMONS here.
The presentation started around the 2:17:30 mark of the meeting video: