Archive for Thursday, November 11, 2004

The lifeblood of the city

November 11, 2004

Morning traffic moves along K-7 Highway, a road Lansing Mayor Kenneth Bernard says is the busiest north-south highway in Kansas.

Morning traffic moves along K-7 Highway, a road Lansing Mayor Kenneth Bernard says is the busiest north-south highway in Kansas.

— To get an idea of the importance of Kansas Highway 7 to Lansing, go no farther than the council chambers at City Hall.

There, on the back wall, are panels of oversized aerial photographs of the north-south highway that bisects the city. The photos show the Kansas Department of Transportation's plans for reconfiguring K-7 as part of the $11.5 million Main Street System Enhancement project.

It's a not-so-subtle reminder that the stretch of road known by such names as "K-7," "7-73" or "Main Street" is a key element in the future of Lansing.

"Call it whatever you like, people will know what you're talking about," Mayor Kenneth Bernard said of the road.

Roads and highways are often referred to as "major arteries" and "lifebloods" of communities. In Lansing, it's not an exaggeration.

"That's the busiest north-south highway in Kansas," Bernard noted. "On average, there's between 20,000 and 30,000 cars a day going through town on that road."

Many of those cars stop in Lansing, perhaps so their drivers can fill up the tank with gasoline, grab a sandwich or drink, or shop at one of the many stores along the strip. And when they do stop and spend, it's more money in the pocket of business owners and the city treasury.

Of the 127 businesses the city lists in its business directory, 46 have addresses on Main Street - including most of the biggest tax revenue producers for the city: car lots, grocery stores, restaurants and the like.

Mike Smith, Lansing's city administrator, said business development on Main Street would only grow in the years to come.

Already the city has planned for the Towne Center development on Main Street between West Mary Street and 4-H Road. The City Council sees Towne Center as becoming Lansing's central business district.

Up the road about a mile, Danny Asher is planning a project that will bring new retail and office development to Main Street.

"I think you'll continue to see more," Smith said.

The city administrator since 2000 and the Lansing police chief before then, Smith has sat in on his share of meetings that involved people with ideas about building their business on Main Street in Lansing.

"But the last two years, I've been in on more meetings on commercial (development) than I ever have before."

The city has taken steps to insure the development will be quality. Two years ago, the council approved what's known as the Main Street Overlay District. In essence, any new building that goes up on Main Street will have to adhere to strict requirements regarding building materials, signage and landscaping. The same goes for any existing Main Street businesses that plan major renovations on site.

"It's to make sure we're in charge of the kind of structures that go in on Main Street," Smith notes.

He said new businesses wanted the regulations because they wanted to know that their neighbor was going to be held to the same quality standards.

Controlling the quality of growth on K-7 was one of the reasons the city sought to annex about 1,200 acres south of the city to the Leavenworth-Wyandotte County line, Smith said.

The city, he said, would like for that area of K-7 be lined with businesses served by frontage roads that afford minimal access points so that traffic flows smoothly along K-7.

New businesses aren't all that's expected along K-7 through Lansing.

The Transportation Department estimates traffic on K-7 through the city will rise to as many as 44,000 vehicles a day within 20 years. Such projections helped land Main Street on the to-do list when KDOT announced its selections for the highly competitive "System Enhancments" projects statewide.

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