New boulevard trees, shrubs welcome Homecoming visitors

Posted on Sep 25, 2014 in Campus News and News

Jayhawk Boulevard landscaping
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.

“Last weekend and this week, they got a lot planted,” says Paul Graves, deputy director of KU’s Office of Design and Construction Management. “They planted some of the trees, and I would say a majority of the shrubs, and they also put in mulch.

“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.”

The first phase of the four-summer overhaul of Jayhawk Boulevard rebuilt the streetscape from the Chi Omega fountain to Poplar Lane, directly west of Strong Hall; this summer’s work, Phase 2, stretched past Wescoe Beach to the four-way stop at Sunflower Drive; next summer’s renovations will run from Watson Library to 14th Street, between Danforth Chapel and Spooner Hall; and in summer 2016 the project terminates at 13th Street, in front of the Adams Alumni Center.

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.

—Chris Lazzarino

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Jayhawk Boulevard construction wraps up in time for fall semester

Posted on Aug 20, 2014 in Campus News and News

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.

—Chris Lazzarino

See photos of the progress in the slideshow below, or click here to view them on Flickr.

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