LAWRENCE, Kansas - Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, Kansas is getting national attention.
The American Planning Association (APA) named it one of the 10 Great Streets for 2010. It's part of the Great Places in America program.
"Massachusetts Street is a shining example of a classic downtown that remains both viable and vibrant. Not only is Massachusetts a hub of retail activity in Lawrence, it is also the center of social and entertainment activities," said Mayor Mike Amyx. "I am proud the city's planners and leaders capitalized on the opportunities available for redevelopment in downtown Lawrence and that the resulting area is now home to an eclectic mix of retail shopping, service-oriented businesses, restaurants and drinking establishments, and many residential opportunities for local residents."
"We're very excited today to name Massachusetts Street as one of this year's Great Streets," said APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer, FAICP. "An unsuccessful court challenge in the 1980s by developers wishing to build nearby retail malls confirmed the importance comprehensive plans play in helping protect established downtowns and their businesses," he added.
A Denver based band, the Flashbulb Fires, was performing on the Massachusetts sidewalk. One of the band members said, " This is one of the few we really love to come and perform. It doesn't feel like every place else."
Since APA began Great Places in America in 2007, 40 Neighborhoods, 40 Streets and 30 Public Spaces have been designated in 47 states and the District of Columbia.
Massachusetts Street was an anti-slavery haven during 1860s America. Since the 70s, Massachusetts Street has been recognized for being forward thinking and well planned.
In 1974, the City of Lawrence got a $300,000 grant to transform Massachusetts Street so it would become more picturesque and pedestrian-friendly. In 1977, Massachusetts Street became the community's primary business district.
"You cannot replicate the uniqueness of Massachusetts Street," said Mayor Mike Amyx. "Our community and our planning processes have actively sought to respect and enhance Massachusetts Street's history and prominence as the region's social and business district."
During the "Mall Wars" of the 1980s, Plan '95 and the Comprehensive Downtown Plan prevented mega malls from being built close to Massachusetts Street.
Four buildings on Massachusetts Street are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including the Romanesque Revival Douglas County Courthouse, built in 1904 and designed by famous Kansas architect John G. Haskell and Frederick Gunn. The Lawrence Preservation Alliance, established in 1984, was instrumental in encouraging the City to adopt the Downtown Conservation Overlay District and Guidelines in 2001, National Register District in 2004, and updated guidelines in 2009.
The nine other APA 2010 Great Streets are: 5th Avenue in San Diego, CA; Wydown Boulevard in Clayton, MO; Broadway Street in Red Lodge, MT; Spring Street in Eureka Springs, AR; Washington Street in Hoboken, NJ; Bank Street in Wallace, ID; Middle Street in New Bern, NC; Washington Street in Middleburg, VA; and Liberty Street in Franklin, PA.
On Oct. 29 at 6 p.m., the City of Lawrence will hold a celebration event with local dignitaries and APA President Bruce Knight to recognize this designation. The event will be held in coordination with the scheduled 'Final Fridays' Art event in Downtown Lawrence.
For more information, visit www.planning.org/greatplaces .
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