Archive for Wednesday, March 5, 2008

BWR pitches plan for growth

Studies aimed at Fourth Street, U.S. 24-40 and County Road 1

March 5, 2008

Three down, one more to go.

In November the city heard a proposal from Buxton, a Texas-based data-mining firm, that would use data to pair Tonganoxie with retailers, but the development would really focus on the highway. In January, members of the Kansas Main Street Program spoke to the city about what they could offer in terms of development for downtown only.

Monday night the Tonganoxie City Council along with Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce officials, the Tonganoxie Planning and Zoning Commission and members of the public listened to a proposal by Bucher, Willis & Ratliff Corporation, the city's planning firm. The group's proposal was to not only revitalize the downtown area, but to plan for development along U.S. Highway 24-40 and for development along the new County Road 1 interchange.

"We are excited and look forward to meeting this challenge with you," said Scott Michie, principal, senior vice president of community planning.

The $17,600 plan proposed by Michie, Art Chambers, senior developmental specialist, and Kevin Kokes, project manager, is split into two phases.

The first phase would involve BWR staff meeting with a diverse group of 10 key stakeholders in the community. The private one-on-one meetings would be used to obtain information about issues important to the city and to get ideas as to what would help the city improve.

"It's important to go past the simple question of what we should do and start to answer the why and the how," Michie said.

The second phase of the BWR plan is to have meetings between BWR staff, the planning and zoning commission, the city council, vested interest groups such as local business owners and residents to develop a plan and vision for the area. These meetings, called charrettes, will be split in two. The first charrette will be focused on the development of downtown and another would focus on the development outside of Fourth Street and include U.S. Highway 24-40 and County Road 1. The BWR plan is similar to a corridor study for U.S. Highway 24-40 that it produced with the help of Tonganoxie and Basehor, as well as Leavenworth County, the Kansas Department of Transportation and Mid-America Regional Council.

Chambers said that he sees great potential for future growth in Tonganoxie.

"Going through downtown Tonganoxie... you already have a great base. You really have some great bones to build on in the downtown area. And with the highway and the highway interchange you got a really good base."

The idea of having planning sessions for both downtown and beyond and the fact that as the city's planners, BWR already knows the city very well, was something that appealed to the people at the meeting.

"I like the way it's separated simply because they [downtown and U.S. 24-40] are a horse of a different color," Mike Yanez, city administrator said. "There are going to be different commercial retail opportunities and challenges with each of them."

There were extra features proposed by BWR that would cost extra, that also peaked the audience's interest. For an additional $8,875, BWR would be able to perform a communitywide scientific survey that would try to gain information from residents in a specific radius around the city on what they would like to see for future development. There is also an additional economic market study update that would attempt to figure regional and local market absorption rates and find opportunity for commercial growth in Tonganoxie, $7,100. And finally there was an optional $3,400 for an open house that would be held after the charrettes, that would ask the public, "did we get it right?"

Yanez said that there was no single solution to the problems facing Tonganoxie, and that it might take a combination of programs such as BWR and the Kansas Main Street Program..

Council member Jason Ward agreed that part of the problem came from a lack of focus that these two programs might provide.

"We have a lot of folks that mean very well and are active in the community, but to a certain extent these people roll in different directions because they have not been given specific tasks," Ward said. "It's difficult without having that person to establish a unified voice and accomplish things more efficiently."

The council agreed that it would hold off on making any final decisions, until they heard from the last proposal from the Kansas State University's Center for Engagement and Community Development. That proposal is scheduled for March 24.

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