Revitalization costs shared
Having shared his final proposal for the revitalization of old town with the De Soto City Council, consultant Marty Shukert started discussion on how to make his conceptual overall plan a reality.
Its realization wouldn't be cheap. Shukert estimated it would take a public investment of $4 to $5 million. But that investment -- which the consultant suggested could come from grants, bonding and tax increment financing -- would leverage $40 to $50 million in public investment.
Shukert of RDG Planning and Design has worked for more than a year on a design of the downtown area from Ottawa Street east to the confluence of Kill Creek and Kansas River. The city of De Soto and the De Soto Economic Development Council contracted for the work.
The final design Shukert shared with the city council last Thursday differed only in minor detail for one he presented last month to a joint meeting of the EDC, De Soto Parks and Recreation Commission and De Soto Planning Commission.
The goal of the design was to preserve the present feel of downtown while providing it and the surrounding blocks that constitute the city's historic center with the "energy" to serve its future as De Soto doubles in size in the next 10 years, Shukert said. The plan would do this by cosmetic enhancements and streetscape upgrades to the two-block main street core of 83rd Street from Peoria to Shawnee, adding new retail, office and apartments at what is now the city shops, a new mixed-use center east of Morse's Market and taking advantage of the basement walkouts behind storefronts in the block of 83rd Street for additional storefronts.
The plan would add about 450 people to the study area (currently the home of about 918 people, or 18 percent of the city's population), 160,000-square-feet in commercial or office space and about $50 million in private development.
But for all the changes, Shukert said the plan would preserve the scale and environment of the downtown core so it could take advantage of the appeal for traditional downtowns.
"Older parts of the city is where people want to be," he said. "That's why new development tries to simulate what De Soto has authentically.
"Invest in that. If not, that energy goes somewhere else."
Shukert said it would probably take about 10 years to realize the plan. As that process occurred, deviations and changes to the plan were inevitable, he said.
While not providing a clear outline of how the concept should be phased in, Shukert did suggest priorities should serve the overall goal.
"You start to create a situation where the bigger projects start to make more sense," he said. "I think what we don't want to have happen is to have two dead blocks on main street. That would be a hard thing to overcome."
With that in mind, improvements to the two blocks of downtown should be the first priority, Shukert said.
"It's where people come now," he said.
It would cost about $700,000 to complete the street and visual enhancements of the two-block downtown and another $277,000 to improve the alley behind storefronts in 83rd Street's block.
Another early priority should be the redevelopment of the mobile homes parks on Osage Street southwest of Miller Park into an "Osage Village" of townhomes and apartments, Shukert said.
The bigger project, most of which require the partnership of developers, would follow on the momentum created by the earlier projects and the community's commitment to the area, Shukert said.
Noting that Shukert had sketched a phase-in of the plan, Mayor Dave Anderson asked the about 30 residents in attendance where they would place the downtown improvements in the five-year capital improvement plan City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle was preparing. The most arms went up for "near the front."
Shukert pointed to the south and the coming development at Sunflower as a precaution of doing nothing. Commercial development there, either of the new urbanism variety or big-box development, would drain the vitality from De Soto's traditional core unless something was done to give people a reason to go there.
The plan developed with the participation of the community in the last year provided commercial, public and recreational means to do just that while adding to its residential population, Shukert said.
"Downtown De Soto can again be central to the history of this community," he said. "It can be the foundation of a new De Soto."