|The Lawrence Campus Scene|
The decision to integrate the atmospheric science program into geography has meant several changes to the internal arrangement of Lindley Hall. The two small offices in suite 404 where Professor Kuchler long held forth have been combined into quarters for Professor Tucker, while Mr. Hall will move into Room 413A (Tom Smith's old office) and Professor Bratten will reside next door in 413C. In addition, the classroom across from the big lecture hall (405) is being subdivided to provide space for a forecasting laboratory. For many geographers, the most exciting aspect of the process has been our acquisition of the long-coveted fifth floor. This space-two offices and a laboratory classroom that formerly belonged to astronomy-is being remodeled as quarters for graduate students. Although the stairs to this aerie are steep, the views are magnificent.
The biggest alteration to campus this year was the seemingly simple switch of an office nameplate from Roy Williams to Bill Self. This move produced a deeply visceral, but two-part reaction statewide. The resignation immediately brought old feelings of cultural inferiority to the surface, but the quick new hiring nipped these before they could fester. In fact, Mr. Self's eagerness to forsake the big state of Illinois for our smaller plains environment has raised regional self-esteem to new heights. It's been an amazing process to watch.
Other, and comparatively run-of-the-mill changes near Lindley include the relocation of the KANU radio station from behind Marvin Hall to the Audio-Reader Center on the hill above Sunflower Apartments and an ell addition to the engineering building that extends south nearly to the corner of Fifteenth and Naismith. Two blocks to the west, at Fifteenth and Engel, the St. Lawrence Catholic Center has completed a large, multilevel parking garage blasted deep into the Oread Limestone. In contrast to the blandness of the engineering complex, this facility is about as elegant as a garage could be, with copper-roofed tower and limestone facing. The center is recouping some of its construction money by offering basketball parking for five dollars per car.
People who chart Lawrence's continuous march toward metropolitan status usually concentrate on the city's connections to Kansas City. Two developments this year reveal a more complex story. The Kansas Turnpike people, citing an increase in traffic west to Topeka from 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles per day since 2000, will add a new lane in each direction over this twenty-five-mile stretch. Nearly simultaneously, authorities are beginning construction on a new four-lane version of US 59 south to Ottawa. After considering and rejecting relocation a mile east of the existing road, the new pavement will be only 300 feet from the old. Soon the only direction available to escape the urban clatter will be north into the hills of Jefferson County.
The older parts of Lawrence this year have continued their recent pattern of balancing gains with losses. For many people an announcement to close three elementary schools there was depressing. One of the victims, Riverside, was inevitable given its small size and location next to a northside manufacturing district. The other two, Centennial and East Heights, are more controversial. Some Centennial boosters, for example, contend that their land on south Louisiana Street is coveted for use by nearby Lawrence High School. Another distressing development is word that the landmark Eldridge Hotel at Seventh and Mass is in financial trouble. Owner Rob Phillips owes over $300,000 in back taxes and in September missed payment on a loan for $1.3 million taken out in 2000. Mr. Phillips blames the economy, in part, but also the opening in 2001 of Marriott's SpringHill Suites nearby at the former riverfront mall. Marriott has 138 parking spaces, he says, while he can't convince the city to give him exclusive use even for the 24 spaces adjacent to the hotel on the west.
On the positive side of downtown life, Johnny's Tavern on North Second Street celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in October. Rick Renfro, the owner since 1978, prides himself on maintaining an old-fashioned, gimmick-free establishment. (Barkeeper Edith Wilson, by the way, retired in 2001 after twenty-eight years of service.) Another piece of good news concerns the long-time vacant block south of Border's Bookstore at Eighth Street between New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Developer Bo Harris is constructing a five-floor, 80,000 square-foot building there. The top three levels will accommodate 24-30 condominiums, with the two lower floors slated for retail outlets.
Finally, for better or worse, I report that the Lawrence city council banned firecrackers last summer. I still heard some booms, of course, but found many fewer carcasses of buzz bombs littering my yard and street.
- Pete Shortridge
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