Archive for Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rehab project could signal new direction for downtown

October 12, 2006

Bob Power is bringing a piece of De Soto history back to serve its future.

The De Soto contractor has started renovating the historic two-story home at 32955 W. 83rd Street into offices. The century-old house, which has been empty for years, was the longtime home of Jim Hiddlestone, lifelong De Soto resident Leon Coker said. The De Soto City Council started taking action two years ago to force attention be paid the house, which led to its sale to Nate Harding and, eventually, Power.

Power said he saw the building as a chance to make the present eyesore part of a reinvigorated downtown.

"With the stained glass and woodwork around the fireplace, we just thought it would work well as professional office space," he said. "The wood doors, baseboard and hinges -- they just don't do that kind of craftsmanship anymore."

An architect is working up plans to subdivide the house's 1,600 square feet into professional office space, Power said. He envisioned two enclosed offices and two studio opportunities in a large space that opened to the roof.

He was considering locating Power Construction Inc. in one of the building, Power said.

The most noticeable work to date is the recently constructed brick bases to the front porch pillars now awaiting limestone caps. The backyard will have a picnic table in a pocket park setting, Power said. It will also have 300 square feet of parking space in the rear.

He would have to secure a special use permit and is on the De Soto Planning Commission agenda for later this month, Power said.

Power said he thought there were other older homes in the downtown area that could be rehabilitated for office use.

The reuse of older homes for office space is one planning consultant Marty Shukert envisions for the 83rd Street corridor from Miller Park to the downtown business district that starts a half block west of the house Power is renovating. That use -- mixed with continuing residential -- would allow the corridor to retain its current scale and fee, the consultant said.

Shukert will return Wednesday to De Soto to share his latest downtown revitalization plans with various city governing bodies and residents with the goal of building a consensus on a final plan.

The revitalization effort started last year when the city and the De Soto Economic Development Council jointly hired Omaha-based planner Marty Shukert to create a redevelopment blueprint. Shukert has since visited De Soto on a number of occasions and sketched out two proposals to revitalize the "peninsula" east of Ottawa Street between the Kansas River and Kill Creek.

Sara Ritter, executive director of De Soto Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council, said Shukert would return to De Soto Tuesday for an evening of meetings. The night will start at 5 p.m. when the consultant will present possible plans to a joint gathering of city council members, planning commissioners and board members of the De Soto parks board, economic development council and USD 232.

When that meeting concludes at 6:30 p.m., Shukert will present the plans at a public forum, Ritter said.

"I would encourage everyone to come," she said. "This is the chance to comment before we move ahead with a plan."

The meeting will wrap up with Shukert meeting with the city commission. Ritter said it was hoped that final meeting would produce a plan for downtown's revitalization. Shukert will then work up the plan and return in November to present it to the council

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