The Jayhawk Bookstore closed for good in 2016, leaving a prominent corner in Lawrence unoccupied. (Jayhawks everywhere surely remember the bookstore’s jingle: “At the top of the Hill.) With renovations complete, the building just west of the Chi Omega fountain and across the street from the EEEC is now open for business.
Textbooks, paper, and Jayhawk sweatshirts have given way to coffee, pastries, salads, sandwiches, and beers at McLain’s Market. The Kansas City-based small business also has a store in Overland Park, and the original McLain’s Bakery has operated in Kansas City since 1945.
The market opened April 9 and already is a popular hangout for KU students as they prepare for finals. A variety of seating options in different nooks and crannies of the two floors gives a welcoming coffee shop vibe. Plenty of outdoor seating offers views down Naismith Drive. Construction isn’t done yet, with a side room under renovation for Kansas City-based clothing company Charlie Hustle to move in.
Planning is underway for a complete reconstruction of Memorial Drive, to begin in summer 2016 and continuing the following two summers. The project will replicate improvements made the past three summers to Jayhawk Boulevard, including subsurface utilities, new concrete road surface and sidewalks, and improved LED lighting, with crimson and blue banners adorning the lamp posts.
Campus planners also hope to use the project as an opportunity to move “The Victory Eagle” statue now perched in front of Dyche Hall to Memorial Drive, where it would join the parade of other memorials to KU’s 20th-century war casualties.
The bronze statue, a World War I memorial depicting a female bald eagle defending her nesting eaglets, was part of a national campaign to place replicas of the statue at every county line along U.S. Highway 40, then a primary transcontinental highway. The statue placed at the Douglas-Leavenworth county line was dedicated in 1929, but, as interstate highways overtook their two-lane counterparts in primacy, “The Victory Eagle” became overlooked and, in 1980, was vandalized and knocked off its pedestal.
Tom Swearingen, g’60, then director of exhibits for KU’s Natural History Museum, secured the statue for KU, and it was rededicated on Mount Oread in 1982. Now University Architect Jim Modig, a’73, is eager to see the inspiring work of art find its final, permanent home on Memorial Drive, likely between the Campanile and Korean War Memorial.
“It’s a war memorial,” Modig says, “and it would be great to get it down there with the other memorials and treat it with respect that way.”
Memorial Drive reconstruction is budgeted at about $6 million. Like the Jayhawk Boulevard project, public funds will be used for the utilities, road surface, sidewalks and lighting, and private donations will fund landscaping improvements.
The final stretch of Jayhawk Boulevard improvements had originally been scheduled for completion in summer 2016. It is now scheduled for 2017.
A significant change created by this summer’s work was replacement and repositioning of the boulevard’s north traffic booth. Originally situated at 13th Street, in front of the Kansas Union, the booth was first moved one block south, to 14th Street; that change allowed for easier public access to the Natural History Museum in Dyche Hall, but still restricted daytime access to Danforth Chapel and Lilac Lane.
A significantly smaller booth, which no longer dominates the streetscape as did the previous island, has been moved west of Lilac Lane, allowing for public access to Danforth Chapel, Watkins and Miller scholarship halls, the east lot of Fraser Hall, and Blake and Twente halls.
For the third consecutive summer, a significant stretch of Jayhawk Boulevard has been closed as swarms of construction crews begin a frantic three-month sprint to replace and improve storm sewers, underground utilities, the road surface, sidewalks, crosswalks, landscaping and lighting.
Renovation of KU’s ridge-top artery, which began in 2013 at the Chi Omega fountain and in two summers of work reached the four-way stop at Sunflower Road, will now stretch from Sunflower Road to 14th Street. As expected, detour and closure signs now seem to outnumber spring flowers, and wherever it is you might want to go on campus, “good luck on trying to get there,” University architect Jim Modig, a’73, says with a resigned chuckle. “Déjà vu, right?”
Access to Lilac Lane, Danforth Chapel, two scholarship halls, The Outlook, Blake and Twente halls and the small parking lots behind Fraser Hall and Watson Library will be maintained with a temporary paved lane, which for now is accessible from the west; after construction moves from 14th Street to Watson Library, it will be reachable from the east.
The limestone information board that had been adjacent to the sidewalk between Dyche and Lippincott halls has been removed; once road and sidewalk construction is completed, it will be rebuilt and upgraded with an eye toward further high-tech enhancements. Modig does not anticipate any need to move the iconic Jimmy Green statue.
“It will stay right where it’s at,” Modig says. “We’re fortunate. Unless there’s a surprise in there, the sidewalk grades and everything will probably work out just fine. We’ll remove all the sidewalk around it and repour with new sidewalk.”
As with the western stretch of Jayhawk Boulevard, planting a variety of trees, bushes and other landscaping will be a big part of the project, including the stretch in front of Watson Library that hasn’t had trees for decades. Lighting will be upgraded to LED, sidewalks will be completely replaced and roadside parallel parking will no longer be permitted.
“When we pulled the parallel parking off of the street [from the fountain to Bailey Hall], people have commented about how much wider the street is,” Modig says. “Well, it’s the same width it has always been. And without the parked cars there, it’s so much safer because you don’t have people darting out from behind parked cars.”
Jayhawk Boulevard’s $11 million reconstruction is far from the only campus road construction now underway.
Crews this week removed the traffic control booth at Sunflower Road and Sunnyside Avenue; it will be replaced by card-activated gates that are being installed in the middle of Sunflower Road between Stauffer-Flint Hall and Watson Library. Modig anticipates that the Mississippi Street booth will also be removed and replaced with gates, but that project could be five or 10 years away.
On the west side of the central campus, 15th Street is closed for reconstruction between Green Hall and Naismith Drive.
“The road was in pretty rough shape before we started construction [on new engineering buildings], and the construction didn’t help it,” Modig says. “We had a bad road to start with, and it was past-due time to freshen it up.”
The Irving Hill Road bridge is also closed for the summer, for installation of wider sidewalks and safer handrails. Naismith Drive in front of Allen Field House will be closed for a week or two for installation of utilities to serve the new DeBruce Center.
While Jayhawk Boulevard’s surface, sewers and lighting are paid from public funds, the landscaping is privately financed by KU Endowment donors, and Modig notes that fundraising is not yet complete.
“Endowment has done a very good job of raising the funds, but we’re not quite there yet,” Modig says. “As people see stuff go in, they should know that we’re scrambling to try to figure out how we are going to fund the next package. We could use some more money.”
Despite the traffic headaches, Jayhawk Boulevard’s current reconstruction promises to significantly beautify campus from Watson Library to Dyche Hall, just as two previous construction summers did for the western stretch. It was work long overdue and, once completed, greatly appreciated by all who cherish a charming hilltop environment.
“I hate to overplay this,” Modig says, “but first impressions do play a part in a person’s decision. So when you drive up and things are tired and worn out and beat up, it doesn’t leave a very good impression with prospective students or faculty or staff. It doesn’t give you a good image. This gives us an opportunity to make a big swing to get things back up to par. It will leave you with a very positive image of the University.”
For those weary of weaving through mazes of road closures, a respite awaits: The fourth phase of Jayhawk Boulevard reconstruction, from 14th Street to the north entrance at 13th Street, will be delayed one year for state budget issues. That project is now scheduled for summer 2017.
Jayhawk Boulevard’s street, sidewalk, lighting and sewer renovations wrapped up just in time for the start of classes Aug. 25, and now landscaping crews are hard at work planting dozens of trees, hundreds of bushes and thousands of perennials before alumni and their families return to campus for this weekend’s Homecoming celebrations.
The new landscaping will be nurtured by innovative stormwater drainage that directs overflow rains to the plantings, where specially engineered soil captures the water and keeps it available for trees and shrubs.
The current project includes 60 trees, predominantly a mix of elm and oak species, as well as 751 Compact Pfitzer juniper shrubs and 4,927 big blue turf lily perennials. Although work on the sidewalks and street surface was completed in late August, plantings had to wait until mid-September’s cooler, wetter weather.
“If weather cooperates, a lot more will be planted [Wednesday] evening, overnight, and then we’ll probably continue to have some remaining items to do over the next week or so. The intent, obviously, is to get as much completed as possible before Homecoming weekend. It’s already looking much better, and by the end of the week it will be that much closer to being totally completed.”
Graves says the landscaping is intended to replicated the beloved shade canopy that towered over Jayhawk Boulevard in the 1950s, but this time with a healthy diversity of species to avoid the single-species die-off that doomed the boulevard’s elms.
“We will have several different species of elms, several different species of oak, and a couple of trees of other species, as well,” Graves says. “They are all trees that are native and can thrive in the Kansas climate.”
Total costs for the physical improvements are estimated at $11 million; the four summers of landscaping upgrades are budgeted for $1 million, with that money being raised from private donors by KU Endowment.
This weekend, alumni, friends and KU Info superstars are invited to help celebrate the new KU Info booth on Jayhawk Boulevard. A ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for noon on Saturday, three hours before kickoff of the Homecoming football game. Learn more about the new booth in this post submitted by Curtis Marsh, j’92, director of KU Info.
KU students today are used to a continuous stream of crimson and blue buses that transport them to all reaches of Lawrence. In the 1950’s, just three decades after the electric trolley stopped running between campus and Massachusetts Street, there were buses on Jayhawk Blvd, but very few.
There was a bus stop on Jayhawk Boulevard, just south of Bailey Hall, built with funds from a gift of the class of 1950. Students could take shelter from the elements and wait for the occasional public transport. It included a small building that was rarely used. Research has only uncovered one example of its regular use, and that was in the volatile early 70’s when campus law enforcement committed to staffing the booth in the early evenings.
This small shelter fell into disrepair after decades of non-use. In the mid 2000’s, a group proposed refurbishing the booth to provide walk-up service for KU Info. The booth got a facelift, and from 2010 to spring 2014, students could get all their questions answered from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday.
(The photo above right is from the 1960’s. The photo below was taken during the summer of 2014.)
But last summer, the booth had to be taken down in preparation for the second phase of the Jayhawk Boulevard reconstruction project. Because the structure was a class gift, and because it had been rejuvenated as a campus information desk, the decision was made to rebuild it just a few yards to the southwest of its original location.
The campus master plan dictated that the booth be further away from the street to increase safety for pedestrians. The structure was also moved closer to Wescoe Hall to better position it as a bus stop.
It represents a contemporary version of a classic campus structure and will still host KU Info staff during regular class times. KU Info itself is a contemporary version of a classic campus service, so it is a perfect marriage of the two.
—Curtis Marsh, j’92, director of KU Info
The photos below were taken on Tuesday, Sept. 23, and show the current state of construction on the booth.
As Phase 2 of Jayhawk Boulevard reconstruction nears its conclusion, final details will be completed and fencing removed before Monday’s start of fall classes.
It had been hoped that this summer’s massive project—stretching from Poplar Lane west of Strong Hall to the four-way stop at the intersection of Jayhawk Boulevard and Sunflower Drive—would be completed by early August. But uncooperative weather and unexpected subsurface conditions pushed progress back, as did some quality control issues that forced re-pouring of some concrete.
Even with concrete trucks, assorted work vehicles and laborers toiling under an intense summer sun dotting the scene, the boulevard opened to a careful flow of bus traffic for the first time Tuesday and will be fully open to vehicle and pedestrian traffic by the weekend.
Last summer’s first phase, which stretched from the Chi Omega fountain to Poplar Lane, greatly enhanced lighting, pedestrian safety and the overall look of the aging streetscape at the heart of KU’s scenic campus; it is expected that this summer’s work, which includes the high-traffic area in front of Wescoe Beach, will do the same.
“The pavement was in pretty bad condition. It was never intended for 700 bus trips a day, and it was old, so it was badly rutted and cracked in many areas,” Paul Graves, deputy director of the Office of Design and Construction Management, told the KU Alumni Association in an interview Wednesday. “It’s been replaced with concrete pavement that is much more durable, has a longer useful life to it, and is a little bit more environmentally friendly; for one thing, it’s lighter colored so it absorbs less heat.”
Metal halide street lights have been replaced by LED, which provides a better quality light and is more energy efficient. Sidewalks on both sides of the boulevard have been replaced, crosswalks have been improved, curb cuts were widened to meet current ADA standards, unruly vegetation was removed and curbside parking eliminated, all of which improve pedestrian safety on the busy campus artery.
Graves also noted that the old sidewalks, which were cracked, settled and lifted, created trip hazards that are now eliminated.
“If you stand at the interface between the old and new [sidewalks],” he said, “it’s a really stark difference.”
Next summer’s work will extend the improvements from Sunflower Drive to 14th Street, and summer 2016 will take the improvements to the north entrance at 13th Street.
Despite the unexpected challenges that pushed the project against a tight deadline, Graves emphasized that he and his KU construction colleagues are pleased with the final product.
“And we hope the entire campus community is as well,” he said.
See photos of the progress in the slideshow below, or click here to view them on Flickr.
The central-campus streetscape remains cleaved from stem to stern, yet University Architect Jim Modig assures the KU Alumni Association that Phase II of the four-summer reconstruction of Jayhawk Boulevard is still on target for completion by the Aug. 25 start of fall classes. Modig, a’73, says that while this summer’s work is approximately a week behind schedule, plans also included a “buffer” to account for weather delays.
“The project will be done for the fall semester,” Modig says.
Completion of “landscaping and less critical items” will continue into early fall.
This summer’s boulevard enhancement extends from Poplar Lane, between Strong and Snow halls, to the four-way intersection where Sunflower Road crosses Jayhawk Boulevard. Because the intersection at the heart of campus is impassable—even pedestrians and bicyclists are routed on wide detours behind Bailey Hall to the north of the four-way stop and between Watson Library and Stauffer-Flint Hall to the south—the entire boulevard between the Chi Omega fountain and 14th Street traffic booths has been closed to vehicle traffic since Commencement.
Next summer’s work will extend the improvements to Lilac Lane, adjacent to Danforth Chapel, and the project will be completed in summer 2016 with upgrades north to 13th Street—and possibly a bit beyond, depending on the remaining financial resources.
On its surface, the $11 million project is a sorely needed boulevard beautification—with an entirely new street surface, overdue landscape replacement, enhanced lighting, and improved crosswalks and other pedestrian safety features. Below ground, storm sewer and utility upgrades will help manage stormwater runoff, with new underground collection pools designed to filter the overflow water and feed it back toward the thirsty roots of new trees and other plantings.
Staff photographer Dan Storey took photos of the progress on the boulevard this week. Watch the slideshow below or click here to see the pictures on Flickr.
Phase 2 of the reconstruction of Jayhawk Boulevard is moving right along—although that’s not a phrase one would associate with trying to travel through campus (or anywhere in Lawrence for that matter) these days.
Dan Storey, our staff photographer, made his way through the detours last week to snap some photos of the work in progress. One of our favorites: this shot of the popular Jayhawk in front of Strong Hall, rising above the rubble.
Recent rainstorms have dumped a considerable amount of rain on the Hill, as evidenced by this photo of a pond on Jayhawk Boulevard, posted last week on Twitter by Jack Martin:
If you’re planning to visit the KU campus this summer, be sure to read about the construction project and learn where to go—or in many cases, where not to go. For complete information, click on the “Construction” label at maps.ku.edu.
Watch the slideshow below to see photos of the Jayhawk Boulevard reconstruction, or click here to view the photos on Flickr.
North, south, east or west, your approach will matter not: Beginning shortly after Commencement, May 18, the four-way stop at the heart of campus—Jayhawk Boulevard and Sunflower Road—will be completely closed for construction that is expected to last the entire summer.
Phase 2 of the four-summer reconstruction of Jayhawk Boulevard will close Mount Oread’s main drag from Poplar Lane, between Snow and Strong halls, to the four-way stop at Jayhawk and Sunflower. Through-access will be blocked at all four campus traffic booths, and pedestrians will be detoured to crossing ramps between Watson Library and Stauffer-Flint Hall and behind Bailey Hall.
The dramatic results of Phase 1, completed last summer, can be seen in the beautified boulevard from the Chi Omega Fountain to Poplar Lane. Summer 2015 will extend the work to 14th Street, between Danforth Chapel and Spooner Hall, and in 2016 the project will conclude at the 13th Street campus entrance adjacent to the Adams Alumni Center.
The $11 million project will replace the surface of the heavily used boulevard and also add significant stormwater management features that will funnel excess water through engineered soil filters and into a water supply to feed new tree plantings.
Also this summer, Naismith Drive will be closed for reconstruction from 15th Street to Crescent Road, in front of Jayhawk Bookstore. Detours will direct traffic to Engel Road (north of 15th) and University Drive.
Irving Hill Road will be closed intermittently during the summer while a new Engel Road (south of 15th) is constructed atop Daisy Hill. The new road will loop west of two residence halls that are under construction across from Lewis and Hashinger Halls.
Numerous parking lots and both garages will also undergo renovations and construction, though most should remain open throughout the work.
In short: If you’re visiting after Commencement and before the start of the fall semester, leave plenty of time, and then some, to find parking and navigate your way across campus.
For complete information, click on the “Construction” label at maps.ku.edu.
If you’ve been in Lawrence this summer, you’re probably very familiar with the construction that seems to impact our fair city every year. This summer, massive road construction has also tangled traffic on campus: Jayhawk Blvd. has been closed for most of the last few months, and other projects have taken place at the campus entrance from 15th St. as well as the intersection of 15th and Naismith.
There’s good news for students returning to the Hill in the fall, though– the construction is almost over, at least for now.
According to the Office of the Provost, Jayhawk Blvd. is scheduled to be open by Monday, Aug. 12 with new features that include LED lighting, wider pedestrian crossings and wider sidewalks. The work is part of a larger project to rebuild the boulevard and restore the tree canopy that once lined the street.
Click here to see pictures from this week of the construction, or watch the slideshow below:
The other construction projects are nearing their end, also. The intersections of Iowa and 15th St./Bob Billings Parkway and 15th and Naismith are scheduled to be open by Aug. 19.