Archive for Thursday, March 9, 2006

Attention needed to preserve city core with western growth

March 9, 2006

Last week in a presentation at a joint De Soto City Council and Planning Commission session on land use planning for the west side, De Soto city engineer Mike Brungardt explained the importance of expanding existing east-west streets and developing others if the city's future growth area isn't to develop into two distinct inward looking communities.

The fact is more than streets will be needed to stitch together the neighborhoods that will develop near Edgerton Road and beyond and those that currently comprise De Soto. The challenge is to give those living in future subdivisions disconnected from what we now call Old Town by the Intervet campus, a Johnson County park and long stretches of flood plain a reason to visit or feel a part of what is now De Soto. It is safe to say that isn't going to be shopping for basic necessities. Those items will be offered in stores much closer to their homes.

Viewed from the future perspective, Lexington Avenue from 83rd Street to at least the railroad overpass could be seen in the same context as the historic downtown. They may seem separated now, but not when considered from two to three miles from the west. Future development in the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant could further choke off the viability of downtown.

Fortunately, the area has one thing going that won't immediately be challenged. What will attract people is a commitment to make the downtown core and surrounding area the civic, cultural and, to some degree, recreational center of the community. What is going on with City Hall, the Community Center, the pool and the jewel that is Miller Park are very good starts in that regard.

Thankfully, city leaders understand the problem and have already started to consider ways to revitalize the area.

Last fall, the city and De Soto Chamber of Commerce invited planner Marty Shukert to do just that. At the end of a quick review of the city, he sketched out a plan for revitalization that tied together a triangle from Ottawa Street to the east Y. He has returned in recent weeks for research tours and is set to return in coming months with a fully developed plan.

Whatever is unveiled will surely require an investment from the city and the implementation of innovative incentives to entice partners. That will be needed to match the enthusiasm of developers with creative ideas about how they can join with the city to develop areas south and west of De Soto.

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