Lawrence Residents Weigh In On Plans For East 9th Street

Nov 14, 2014

East Lawrence, Kan., is a mecca for artists with its affordable housing and studio space.

But an influx of funds for creative placemaking could change all that.

In June 2014, Lawrence Arts Center received a $500,000 ArtPlace America grant. The 9th Street Corridor project calls for a transformation of six blocks between New Hampshire and Delaware streets.  The plan includes "multimodal paths, upgrade amenities, and new models of urban infrastructure" along with art. 

Some residents and artists say they have concerns about what’s ahead. 

"It's like living in a giant folk art exhibit that's ongoing and active every day," says Aaron Peden, a machinist, photographer and the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association president. "To many of us, it doesn't need changing, it doesn't need a big public arts project, it doesn't need to be invested in because it's already invested in by the everyday people that are living there." 

But city officials and some arts leaders say the project will benefit the neighborhood and Lawrence by connecting existing development and bringing art into the process.  

Lawrence Arts Center executive director Susan Tate
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

"We said, 'Let's brand this area, let's call it the Lawrence Cultural District, and begin to do what longtime residents have hoped to happen: develop walkable sidewalks, good lighting, public art, and a way to honor and protect the ability of artists and artisans to live there, and the architecture that's native to this area.'" — Susan Tate, executive director, Lawrence Arts Center

Artist Dave Loewenstein in his studio on E. 9th Street.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

"I think the overwhelming sentiment is slow down, slow down and let's have really meaningful conversations about the challenges and opportunities about these ambitious projects."  Dave Loewenstein, artist and cultural agent for the US Department of Arts and Culture 

Lawrence's new arts and culture director Christina McClelland in a conference room overlooking the Kansas River.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

"I've been in positions like this where I've been coming from somewhere else. And I've found it helpful...I don't really have any preconceived notions, or prejudice about anyone. I'm just taking it in." — Christina McClelland, new director of arts and culture for Lawrence 

Listen to an extended interview with Christina about her new role and the city's cultural planning here

Artist and KU associate professor John Hachmeister in his East Lawrence studio.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

"There really has to be greater input from long-term residents in East Lawrence, what they really want, what they really need...it's not to exclude anyone else, but they really should have a voice." — John Hachmeister, associate professor of visual art, University of Kansas, and Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission member 

HEAR MORE: On Sunday, November 16, the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association and the Lawrence field office of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture will host a "9th Street Imagining Session" at Abe and Jakes on the Riverfront at 8 E. 6th Street, Lawrence, Kan. 10 am - 2 pm. Potluck takes place at noon. 

City officials recommended el dorado architecture of Kansas City, Mo. to lead the design team for the 9th Street Corridor Project. Find out more about their partners in the project here.

The Lawrence City Commission is expected to discuss the project at their meeting on Tuesday, November 18.