Lawrence officials hear from business leaders in Chamber roundtable


City of Lawrence officials met with community business leaders April 26 for the second of four planned Mayor’s Roundtable breakfasts, designed to provide an opportunity for dialogue and input between the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and the city’s government.

In his opening remarks, Mayor Steve Collier said although he’s on his way out, he’s busier than ever. Collier is not seeking reelection. His term expires at the end of the year.

Collier noted that Lawrence received a $1 million matching grant from the state for repaving projects.

“The big project that will start in August will be repaving Franklin Road, which is going to make me real popular for a while,” he said. “That road is sorely in need of repaving.”

Collier said he hopes the project will be done by the Fourth of July, but it probably won’t.

Other big projects in the works are the Keystone project, a $70 million mixed-use development combining retail and residential space within Fort Benjamin Harrison; and a new library branch building, which has been in the works for decades. Collier said there also are plans for a parking garage at the fort.

Ongoing development and roadwork were a common theme during the meeting. Chamber President Brad Klopfenstein asked about Indiana Department of Transportation road work, and the communication — or lack thereof — between INDOT and city officials.

“Because if you’re in the City of Lawrence, it’s almost impossible to get out of Lawrence,” he said. “Is there anyone coordinating with you, or are we just victims?”

Collier agreed that construction-related closures are making travel challenging. He said INDOT is good at communicating planned big projects, but not so much on the actual closures. However, he said, it is good at responding when the city points out a problem, especially if certain closures create a public safety concern. Collier added that it will be a big improvement when the work is done.

Chamber member David Hume asked about previously announced improvement plans at Lee Road Park. Chief of Staff Cori Korn said the plans are still in place, but it’s a funding issue. She suggested that the business community could help make those plans — bocce ball, corn hole, more pickle ball courts — a reality.

“We continue to look for people to partner with to be able to build these things,” she said. “We have a great plan (but) our park funding has been pretty flat. We can take care of what’s happening there, but we need additional funding sources (to expand).”

Other suggested ways the business community could help the city in general is sponsoring events, sharing social media posts about what’s happening in Lawrence, and simply attending community get-togethers, such as the Thursday farmers markets, starting June 1; and the May 13 Fiesta Lawrence.

They also talked about what the city can do for businesses. Collier said if a business owner or developer needs information or assistance, they should contact the city. If city officials can’t help them directly, they probably know someone else who can.

Collier said the city does offer grants to improve a business’ facade, and the city works hard to keep the roads and public spaces maintained.

“We provide the live, work and play aspect of it, and make sure other businesses know what’s happening here in the city, and (we) spread the word,” he said.

Two more roundtable discussions are planned, but not yet scheduled.