Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Residents Can Help Shape Future of 150 Hwy

by Seann McAnally
What is the future of the 150 Highway corridor through Grandview?
That's a question elected officials, city staff and consultants are trying to answer, and they are asking for residents' help in shaping the answer.
The City of Grandview has contracted with Parsons Brinckerhoff, a national group of urban planners and designers, to design a 150 Corridor Sustainability plan. With the new CenterPoint intermodal facility and Honeywell campus under construction off 150 Highway and Botts Road, Grandview is poised for a development boom along the corridor. Already, a new medical office for the Hickman Mills Clinic and Carondelet Heart Institute is underway at Byars Road and 150 Highway.
To help establish design principals and guidelines for the corridor, Grandview is developing a blueprint for sustainable development--a guiding document that represents the vision of its residents and stakeholders for the corridor's economic success for years to come.
The plan will be shaped based on input from residents, stakeholders and city officials. Everyone is invited to an informal community workshop on Thursday, July 28 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Grandview City Hall, 1200 Main St.  Representatives from Parsons Brinckerhoff will share new visual concepts that are possible for 150 Highway, and are interested in gathering residents' input on which concepts fit best with residents' vision for their city.
The Grandview Board of Aldermen gave their initial thoughts to Parsons Brinckerhoff at two July work sessions. Community Development Director Chris Chiodini explained that the meetings were "goal-setting" sessions.
Mayor Steve Dennis said the region was Grandview's best chance for new, tax-generating development. Alderman Brent Steeno agreed.
"I think this could be an awesome focal point for the entire south KC area," Steeno said. "There's only an upside to this - it's right in between Leawood and Lee's Summit - if we can get investors and developers interested."
The consultants, Tom Hester and Lisa Koch, presented their initial analysis of conditions along the corridor that can affect future development.
"We think the corridor can attract a regional audience," said Hester, but he cautioned that the area faces stiff competition from shopping districts in north Cass County, Leawood, Kan., and Lee's Summit - and, if redevelopment happens at Truman Corners, that would also be competition for the 150 Highway corridor.
The key to that is to build on what's here, Hester said.
"Gail's Harley Davidson is a huge regional draw and we should build on that," he said. He added that the Gail's location-at the intersection of 150 Highway and 71 Highway-is an excellent spot for a "major gateway" into the city, and recommended developing a "highly visible gateway" at 150 Highway and Kelley Road.
The good news for developers, Hester said, is that only a few major landowners hold most of the land along the corridor. That makes it easier for developers to assemble land to build on.
"There's not a lot of assemblage that needs to happen to get development in this corridor," Hester explained.
Other challenges include a height difference between 150 and 71 highways, a difference that Gail's Harley Davidson has already brought up with the city, hoping for a zoning change that will allow higher signage.
"There are some significant topographic changes that make a visual barrier from the south," Hester said.
Another major challenge is that much of the area just to the east of the interchange is in a floodplain and can't be built upon. But that's not necessarily a barrier to building on nearby parcels - in fact, the floodplain can be turned into a nice feature, Hester said.
"We can use those water elements and work them into amenities," Hester said, noting that parkland or walking trails can be placed in the floodplain that could tie into other Grandview parks.
Koch, a traffic specialist, pointed out partial and one-way frontage roads along 150 Hwy.
"The frontage roads are not continuous on the west side," Koch said. "We recommend a backage road south of the highway between Byars and Kelley. That would create better traffic flow and create higher density."
Hester also recommended that the city work with the owner of River Oaks Golf Course.
"Golf courses make beautiful land banks," Hester said. "I believe there may be a higher and better use for that land than just more residential along a golf course."
Alderman Joe Runions said retail development is important because it helps Grandview's tax base. But retail development tends to follow houses and jobs.
"We need multi-use developments, not necessarily just retail," Runions said. "We need retail and office and residential to make it work."
He said he wanted to see "a neighborhood where you can walk, something that is pedestrian-friendly within the confines of that area."
As for office use, the board wants to see such firms as architects, engineers and consultants in addition to strong retail development.
"Retail doesn't pay much," Runions said. "If you have good-paying office jobs, that will generate nicer hotels, restaurants and retail shops."
Runions pushed for a hotel in the area, saying the nearby NNSA plant would attract lots of business travelers. But other aldermen, notably Leonard Jones, said retail and office development should be the highest priority.
"A hotel is good, but let's get some of this other stuff done first," Jones said.
Steeno said he was pleased with the consultants' initial findings.
"This could be huge for the city of Grandview," he said. "I'd like to see family-friendly, community-friendly businesses and housing."
The consultants are also working with the city of Lee's Summit on that city's plan for 150 Hwy. development.
The general consensus on the board was for mixed-use developments that would feature a combination of retail, office and residential. The consultants returned to a board work session on June 19 with an update based on the board's input in preparation for the community workshop on Thursday, July 28.

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