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Lawrence downtown could become 'cultural district'

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Representatives of about two dozen organizations are promoting a plan to have downtown Lawrence designated as a cultural district, which they said would spread the city's reputation for supporting culture and improve the organizations' chances to receive grants.

The groups met Sunday with the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission, which agreed to forward the proposal to the City Commission, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/WoAjXt ).

The designation would not require rezoning or major changes to the landscape. But supporters hope it would prompt the city to improve lighting and sidewalks in the district and create foot and bicycle traffic pathways to link historic, arts, natural and cultural heritage sites such as the Arts Center, New York School, the river and art galleries downtown and in the Warehouse Arts District.

"We firmly believe that this will put Lawrence, Kansas, in the running for national recognition in the areas of public health for walkability and biking, historic preservation, support for the arts, creative place making, and neighborhood revitalization," the groups said in a letter to the Cultural Arts Commission. "A nonrestrictive and broadly defined 'Cultural District' designation will strengthen grant applications from the city of Lawrence and all arts, historical and cultural entities within this framework."

The supporters include Arts Center director Susan Tate, Downtown Lawrence director Cathy Hamilton, Lawrence Public Library director Brad Allen, a number of artists and the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association.

Cultural Arts Commission member Richard Renner said commission members and the supporters agreed the designation would formalize something that already exists.

"I do like the idea of it being recognized by other cities that we have a cultural arts area," Renner said. "Lawrence has that rep already ... we want to encourage this."

The details and potential costs have not been outlined. But requests from the Arts Center and others include repairs to brick streets and alleys, public art, solar-powered lighting, free Internet access and the hiring of a city arts and culture administrator.