LAWRENCE — The heart of campus was a bit tricky to navigate this summer as construction crews worked on the Jayhawk Boulevard restoration project.
Now, the University of Kansas community is invited to celebrate the completion of the project’s third phase with a ribbon-cutting — and 1,500 cupcakes — in front of Strong Hall at 11:15 a.m. Friday, Sept. 11.
The ribbon-cutting will be hosted by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and will feature remarks from student body president Jessie Pringle. Special guests will include KU officials, students and donors who collectively have supported the restoration of the boulevard.
In addition to the 1,500 cupcakes — designed to celebrate the yearlong KU 150 celebration — guests will be treated to a few fun surprises that will commemorate the boulevard’s history.
The ribbon-cutting falls on Family Weekend and is one of many events throughout the year designed to celebrate KU’s sesquicentennial.
“Jayhawk Boulevard is iconic to our campus and part of every Jayhawk’s experience,” Gray-Little said. “Whether you graduated years ago or just started your freshman year, you know how special the boulevard is and how many great memories and images the boulevard has seen. We’re excited to cut the ribbon on the third phase of the four-part restoration, and to do it during this year’s KU 150 celebration is perfect.”
The completed third phase entailed replacing all deteriorated underground utilities, adding new pavement and sidewalks, relocating the traffic control booth to the west of Lilac Lane and adding new LED lighting. Perhaps most notably, it includes landscaping designed to begin restoring the tree canopy that hung over the boulevard until Dutch elm disease wiped out most of the street trees by the early 1970s.
“As many alumni remember, Jayhawk Boulevard used to be a tunnel of trees,” said Jim Modig, university architect and director of KU’s Office of Design and Construction Management, which is overseeing the restoration. “It’s exciting to know that this project is simultaneously improving the functionality and aesthetic of the boulevard while also restoring a piece of its history.”
The renovations have been praised as environmentally sound, too. Thanks to special considerations for improved bus stops, advanced storm water management, and the resurrection of the historic tree canopies, the project was deemed a sustainable success story by the Mid-America Regional Council. Environmentally friendly renovations also include widened sidewalks, LED lighting and marked crosswalks for safety.
“The restoration project provides us not only the opportunity to increase the usability and beauty of our campus’ iconic main artery, but also a chance to showcase a shift toward more sustainable development on the KU campus,” Modig said. “When you combine the restored Boulevard with our upcoming redevelopment of the Central District of campus, it’s really exciting to think about how our campus will look and feel a few years from now.”
The initial construction phase began in 2013 and reached from the Chi Omega fountain east to Poplar Lane, while phase two reached the intersection of the Boulevard with Mississippi Street.