Archive for Thursday, February 12, 2004

Downtown should remain centralized, committee finds

February 12, 2004

A three-member committee, commissioned by the Basehor City Council, has concluded the city should focus its attention for a downtown district along areas near 155th Street.

For the past four months, City Council member John Bonee and Basehor Planning Commission members Steve Cole and George Smith have met to discuss the future of the city's downtown district.

Specifically, the committee targeted a goal of choosing between the two areas most often discussed for a downtown district. Those two locations are: a growing commercial and residential area in southern Basehor near the U.S. Highway 24/40 corridor or what's historically been referred to as downtown Basehor, on 155th Street.

In an interview this week, committee members laid out their reasons and future vision, for a developed and revitalized downtown district, which ideally, would be located between Crestwood Drive and Hickory Street.

"It would be unfair to long-time residents to have their roots pulled," Bonee said, referring to the benefit of developing and revitalizing downtown instead of moving it south near the highway.

A developed, revitalized and geographically friendly downtown also would help give Basehor an identity, committee members said.

Some of the principal reasons for the committee's selection of 155th Street as its desired downtown district are the area's location and convenience to long-time and future residents and the availability of undeveloped land.

A critical portion of the committee's downtown outlook is the creation of a "showpiece parkway," throughout Basehor. The envisioned parkway would begin at Falcon Lakes Drive and move south eventually connecting with 155th Street.

The parkway would tie together all segments of the city and afford motorists easy access throughout Basehor, the committee contends.

Availability and access were key elements for the committee when forming their vision of downtown. Committee members said they would like to see a mixed blend of uses for downtown including residential, commercial and retail.

And making the downtown area accomodating to pedestrians is a must, they added.

Cole said he and other committee members have carefully deliberated points of the plan. Perhaps the most important aspect of seeing the plan become reality will be "politically selling this to the residents of Basehor," he said.

If the city is to proceed, it's imperative that planning begin soon, and for that to happen, the plan must have support from residents, developers and city officials, Cole added.

Bonee said the plan, if it becomes more than just points on a spreadsheet, would help enable the city to "put the right kind of development in the right place."

Committee members emphasized that continued development along Kansas Highway 7 and U.S. Highway 24/40 is necessary for the city's future but that keeping downtown in its current location would benefit the whole city.

Downtown committee members are scheduled to discuss the proposal with City Council and Planning Commission members next week during a work session.

Downtown migration

At least one stalwart of the city's current downtown area could be leaving soon.

Land on 158th Street has been set aside for a new Basehor Community Library.

On April 6, a public vote on the library's bond issue will determine whether the library will relocate. (See related story, Page 1A.)

A Basehor Historical Society Museum and Conference Center is also slated to build on 158th Street and relocating Basehor City Hall and the Basehor Post Office to 158th Street has been discussed in city circles in past years.

There are several residential, commercial and retail projects in various phases of construction on or near 158th Street. According to the city's comprehensive plan, 158th Street is a logical choice to become the city's downtown district.

Based on the city's expected growth area, 158th street would anchor the center of an expanded Basehor. The comprehensive plan lists the following as its possible future boundaries: Fairmount Road to the north, K-7 to the east, Interstate 70 to the south and Stranger Creek to the west.

A study completed in 2003 does not share the same views as the city's comprehensive plan for downtown.

The Community Assessment, an analysis and goal-setting initiative completed by local business owners, developers and residents, reached a consensus that downtown should remain in its current location.

City Council support

At least two City Council members, Julian Espinoza and Iris Dysart, said they support keeping the downtown district in its current location. Both said they were not completely abreast of the downtown committee's recommendations but were encouraged that the plan included developing and revitalizing the current area.

"In my opinion, I'd prefer the downtown remain the 155th Street area," said Espinoza, who cited Tonganoxie's downtown district as a model Basehor should strive to achieve for its area.

Dysart said downtown remaining where it is now would allow residents to access services easier than traveling south to 158th Street. It would also be fair to long-time residents, she said.

"I like the idea," Dysart said. "This is historically where downtown's always been. I think it would make a lot of people who have lived here all their lives and helped pay for and build this town happier if we didn't just say bye-bye and move south."

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