Archive for Thursday, December 29, 2005

Commercial expansion city’s top newsmaker

December 29, 2005

Commercial development delivered the biggest accomplishments and biggest disappointments for the city in 2005, Mayor Kenneth Bernard said.

"I'm most happy probably with the breakthrough in starting to get commercial property in the city, helping to diversify the tax base," Bernard said in an end-of-the-year interview.

He pointed to several projects in varying phases of completion that came to light in 2005:

¢ Ground has been broken and work is continuing on the new Carriage Hills Shopping Center, a 33,000-square-foot development at 120 Express Drive, in front of Holiday Inn Express. Two tenants have been identified at the center, which is supposed to open in early summer 2006: Popeye's and Arby's.

¢ A nearly 5,000-square-foot expansion of Main Street Center in the 800 block of North Main Street. Three businesses - Wachovia Securities, Snip-N-Clip and the dental offices of Dr. Gary Courtney - have moved into the new building.

¢ The approval process has begun for Carlson Construction Management Co., of Independence, Mo., to build a 12,000-square-foot retail/office development at First Street and Kansas Avenue.

¢ MidAmerican Bank and Leavenworth National Bank have unveiled plans to build branches at the south and north ends, respectively, of Towne Center, on South Main Street.

What didn't happen in the commercial development arena also was noteworthy, though not pleasant, for Bernard in 2005.

"What I'm most disappointed with is the fact that Towne Center is not developed yet," he said.

The city has sunk $2 million into infrastructure improvements into Towne Center, a 32-acre project that is envisioned to be Lansing's new downtown, stretching from West Mary Street to 4-H Road along the west side of Kansas Highway 7. Yet the property sits idle, stalled as the city and the property owner, David Christie, an Overland Park-based developer, remain at loggerheads. The city, dismayed by the lack of progress on the land, wants Christie to sell and another developer to take over; thus far, Christie has resisted.

The city has cancelled a development of record contract for Towne Center with Kansas City-based Kessinger/Hunter because of its inability to acquire the property and move the development forward.

"The only two pieces of land that are being developed are ones that were previously owned - one by the city and one by the bank," Bernard said. "So as far as the Towne Center property per se, nothing's happening that we know of. It's a big disappointment."

The passing of time, Bernard noted, could limit the list of potential anchors for Towne Center. Negotiations reportedly are under way to bring Kohl's and Target to the Village West development in Western Wyandotte County. Those two department stores have long been mentioned as sought-after anchors for Towne Center.

Nevertheless, Bernard said there was plenty going on in 2005 in Lansing worthy of note.

¢ Leavenworth County voters, by an overwhelming majority, approved extension of a 1 percent countywide sales tax beginning Jan. 1, 2007. Bernard was a tireless promoter of the tax, giving PowerPoint presentations to groups and public gatherings prior to the April vote.

Lansing's share of the tax is expected to be about $630,000 annually, and the city has laid out its list of priorities for projects to be funded by the receipts: City Hall expansion with room for the community library; Gilman Road improvements, from Kansas Highway 7 to DeSoto Road; DeSoto Road improvements, from Ida Street to Eisenhower Road; DeSoto Road improvements, from 4-H Road to Ida Street; a new City Park; economic development initiatives; and other infrastructure needs.

¢ Receipt of a $2 million federal earmark for reconstruction of DeSoto Road. The money, inserted into the federal transportation bill by U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, is expected to pay for improving DeSoto from Ida Street to Eisenhower Road.

"I think the money that we received for DeSoto road was a big plus for the community," Bernard said. "That will allow us to get that (work) done that much quicker."

¢ Purchase by the city of 128 acres of land for what is envisioned to be Lansing City Park. The city completed the $620,000 land purchase in February and in June hired a master planner, Jeffrey L. Bruce & Co. In November, the City Council received a draft master plan but has not taken action on it yet.

Bernard said he the park should help fill the needs of a growing city and growing parks program.

"I think the parks and recreation is growing every year, we're getting more and more kids to participate."

¢ Takeover of the Lansing Historical Museum effective Jan. 1, 2006, from the Lansing Historical Society. The move is a step toward what the city hopes will be construction of a museum complex that includes a Kansas Regional Prisons Museum.

¢ Completion of a $15.8 million expansion to the Wastewater Treatment Plant. The expansion triples the amount of wastewater the city can handle - enough to accommodate a population of 25,000 people, Bernard said.

"I think it's everything we wanted it to be," he said. "It's just unfortunate it took longer than it should have."

¢ Court approval of the 2004 annexation of 1,200 acres of land into the city.

"We got the court ruling, it's official. We're looking at what we need to do out there to improve it. We're putting in streetlights. We'll do the study next year for the wastewater and running a sewer trunk line out there. We're going to work on 147th Street south next year," he said.

As for the coming year, Bernard reminded residents of two major street construction projects slated to begin in 2006: the $11.3 million Main Street System Enhancement project, a two-year, phased widening of the street from Connie Street south to Gilman Road, and widening of East Eisenhower Road. Both projects, he said, will test the patience of residents and business owners.

"My hope is for a smooth and orderly development of Main Street without causing undue disruption to the citizens. I would also like to see a quick and orderly completion of East Eisenhower," Bernard said. "Anytime you work on streets, it causes disruptions to peoples' lives."


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