800-900 Massachusetts St.
West Side Walkway
1965 – 2019
The covered walkway between Massachusetts and Vermont streets on the 800 block is scheduled for demolition in February 2019.
Please join us in recognizing the contributions this fine covered walkway has made to our quality of life here in Downtown Lawrence, Kansas.
RSVP to Wonder Fair's Final Friday for the Canopy event on Friday, January 25, 2019. Let's take one last completely dry, non-slippery stroll on the pedestrian expressway between 8th and 9th street. Eat some canopy-inspired canapés. Decorate and hang an umbrella from its corrugated eaves in tribute to the long years of faithful service it has endured. Share your memories of this structure (or any of your other favorite pieces of architectural public infrastructure). Canopy fan art is welcome and encouraged.
If you cannot make it to the event, please share your remembrances below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is happening to the canopy?
A: Beginning in February and continuing for an estimated period of six months, the canopy will be removed and crew will be working on storm water, sewer and other service lines beneath the walkway in a series of 60-foot-long sections. Rather than briefly remove and replace or rehabilitate the canopy, the city has elected to permanently remove it with no definite plan for replacement...yet!
Q: Oh dang. I like the canopy, because I don't particularly like rain/icy sidewalks/the blazing noonday sun. Why wasn’t I asked?
A: The city did not actively seek input from the community or business tenants concerning this removal of public infrastructure. No publicly promoted listening session was conducted before demolition was recommended by city staff and bids were sought to carry out the project with the approval of the city commission. This may be a procedurally correct action for the city to take with a public right-of-way, but we feel given the many benefits of the canopy, and its status as a major public walkway, this choice is short-sighted and makes a poor trade of the comfort and safety of citizens who use it daily for a relatively small cost to better maintain or restore the existing canopy infrastructure.
Q: Are they gonna replace it with anything?
A: Nope, but we hope to eventually find a way to work with the city to replace the canopy in the near future, just like business leaders did when they first helped to build the canopy back in 1965. For now, it will just be a sidewalk.
Q: So will I get wet now?
A: Yes, but hopefully not for long! We'll work on having some shared-use 800 block umbrellas available for you to borrow so your Downtown strolls won't be entirely washed out.
Q: Is there anything I can do to help?
A: We have some ideas. Stay tuned.
Q: We see you're sad about losing the canopy, but can't relate; Why does losing the canopy bother you so much, Wonder Fair?
A: It's complicated! First and foremost, we’re bothered by the fact that this is a piece of public infrastructure that is valued by those who live and work in our downtown and it is being removed without any opportunity for public comment. We’re wary of the fact that the city has essentially neglected to maintain it for years, despite repeated pleas from business owners complaining about leak and drainage issues. We were told that the city spends nearly $70,000 annually to maintain the structure, but were not provided any details about what those expenses entail, nor were efforts to find proof of them in city finance reports fruitful. In our 8 years of owning a business adjacent to the canopy, we have never seen any person doing maintenance to the structure. Other business owners have corroborated this. To us, it appears that updating the storm sewer drain is a convenient excuse to rid the city of an ongoing maintenance concern, at GREAT cost to the city ($90,000 just to demolish the canopy, with another $350,000 budgeted to complete work on the sewers, sidewalks, and adjoining property repairs).
Secondly, we feel that the impact of the removal of the canopy will be felt not just outside our shops, but inside as well. For 55 years, the canopy's continuous western awning has kept the afternoon sun from scorching products and people in the back windows of the 22 adjacent 800 block shops, simultaneously keeping those shops' utility bills and energy use lower in the summer. Its usefulness in this regard is not insignificant: research shows that an awning or canopy on a Western exposure reduces interior heat gain by as much as 77% in the summer months. Bob Vila told us that. In the winter months, we also appreciate that the canopy ensures downtown pedestrians of one sidewalk clear of ice and snow. Exposed to the elements, this walkway will become one more sidewalk that needs more consistent maintenance, both from city crews responsible for maintaining the right-of-way, and downtown tenants who believe in the power of a well-shoveled sidewalk.
Inside and out, the decision to remove the canopy at a cost of $90,000 to save a few thousand dollars in ongoing annual maintenance feels short-sighted, and we haven't seen ample proof to suggest otherwise. So, we're sad because we like the canopy and the comfort it provides, yes, but we're also sad because we want to live in a city where resources used by and funded by the public are also improved or removed with the support of the public. Maybe we can't save this iteration of the canopy. But we can remember the value of good public infrastructure, to fight for it, and to advocate for its continued support.
Other questions? Email paul @ wonderfair.com