Healthy campus and district sidewalks equals healthy residents

Revitalizing downtown Kansas City Kansas has been on residents’ wish list for years. They enjoy the development in the western pocket of the county, but they want retail and grocery stores closer to their neighborhoods.

Mayor Mark Holland and the Unified Government Commission have set their sights on developing a vibrant community in the downtown area.

“Our downtown has been struggling for generations. My two urban priorities is to bring life back into Indian Springs and our downtown,” said Holland.

A public community meeting was held in the Commissioners Chambers at City Hall to show the crowd of about 175 people the Gould Evans Architects’ proposed plan for a Healthy Campus site.

The proposed site plan for the intersection of 10th Street and Minnesota Avenue would have a grocery store, community center, expanded green space, a farmer’s market pavilion, recreational fields, housing options, urban agriculture, sidewalks and space for retail shopping.

“Our people deserve world class amenities and we are going to provide world class amenities in our downtown,” said Holland.

Gould Evans Architects solicited feedback from residents during a series of public meetings.

“The issue that was heard often was concern about the affordability of the community center that will be managed by the YMCA. We have formed an Access Team that will work on the details of the development agreement with the YMCA. Our team will work to make sure that the community center we have is accessed by all people,” said Holland.

Access to exercise is not the only focus of the proposed project. Residents would eventually have access to fresh fruit and produce with an orchard, urban agriculture and greenhouses on the campus site.

“The redevelopment of Kansas City, Kansas is happening. We all know that the time has come to rebuild downtown,” said Holland.

The adoption of the Downtown Central Parkway Implementation Plan by the Unified Government will include public hearings in November by the Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners on Thursday, December 4 at City Hall.

In addition to the proposed new development each district in Wyandotte County is beginning to see improvements in their neighborhoods. Funding from the Wyandotte County Commissioner’s Neighborhood Infrastructure Project (CNIP) has been divided between the eight districts where commissioners surveyed their constituents asking where the money should be spent. $4,400,000 has been committed by CNIP to improve and update aging streets, curbs and sidewalks in the eight districts.

CNIP is funded through the Public Safety and Community Infrastructure Sales Tax, which was passed by voters in April of 2010.

“Sidewalks are consistently a priority for our residents. They are a sign of healthy, family-friendly neighborhoods. But traditionally, there has not been a funding mechanism for new sidewalks projects,” said Commissioner Angela Markley, 6th District.

New sidewalks were recently completed from the Junction Elementary School entrance along Shawnee Drive connecting with the walking trail that ends at Matney Park.

At a recent ribbon cutting ceremony, Markley said, “We had a long sidewalk drought in the Turner area. This community did not have sidewalks and this is an incredible accomplishment.”

The school children and their families can now walk safely to the school building rather than having to walk in the ditches that lined the road or walk in the road itself.

“It brings us comfort to know our students can walk safely to school on the new sidewalks,” said Kristen Shipp, Junction Elementary principal.

The cost of the new sidewalks came in at $100 a square foot. Besides the sidewalks, Markley’s district also used funds to put in sidewalks and curbs from 55th Street from Hagemann to Oak Grove Road and added new lights in the Turner Community Walking Park.

The total cost for sidewalks, curbs and lighting was $210,000. The Kansas City, Kansas school district has taken advantage of a national program, Safe Routes to School, which is funded by the federal government and administered by the state transportation department.

Markley is excited that the Turner school district will also be applying for the grant money to help the district put in sidewalks around the school buildings.

“We are currently in the design stages and will schedule public meetings towards the end of the year to discuss this project. It will be the first Safe Route projects in Turner and will probably be completed in 2016,” she said.

Updating the infrastructure in Kansas City, Kansas will be a large undertaking. Commissioner Brian McKiernan, District 2, took a look at the miles of curbs and sidewalks that roughly exist in his district.

On his District 2 blog, he wrote, “Assume that 66 percent of streets have sidewalks on both sides—that is 110 miles of sidewalks. If 50 percent need to be replaced that equals 55 miles of replacement. Looking at cost, it would be about $20,000 per 800 ft. assuming there are no complications. A one time total replacement cost would be $7,392,000 or if we set up a ten-year replacement project it would figure out to about $739,200 per year for ten years.”

Looking at those numbers can be a little disheartening and can leave people in the district wondering if improvements will be made.
“The top priority for our citizens, regardless of commission district, was improving the condition and maintenance of city streets. I believe we can confront this challenge and I believe we can succeed,” said McKiernan.