Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2007

Council to debate downtown renewal

Revitalization plan’s adoption on agenda

February 1, 2007

With developers already expressing interest, the De Soto City Council will decide Thursday whether it will adopt a downtown revitalization plan developed last year.

The council heard the details of a final plan in December that attempts to revitalize the area of De Soto east of Ottawa Street between the Kansas River and Kill Creek. Among other things, the plan proposed relocating the city yard at Shawnee and 82nd Street and opening that area to developers, creating a commercial complex surrounded by ball fields on the property east of Morse's Market and streetscape improvements to the two-block 83rd Street downtown core.

Mayor Dave Anderson emphasized the need to adopt the plan last month during a discussion of Bob Power's renovation into an office of an old house on 83rd Street.

Power hasn't advanced a site plan application for that project to the De Soto Planning Commission because the city's regulations would force him to provide parking and fencing that would be at odds with the nature of the neighborhood. Anderson said the parking requirement would essentially have Power converting the entire backyard into a parking lot.

"He's willing to do it, but I don't think that's what we want," the mayor said.

The downtown revitalization plan envisioned the reuse of some residential properties along 83rd Street between the downtown and Miller Park to offices. There was general agreement on the council that city regulations ought to accommodate those reuses without the requirements that would be appropriate for new construction but intrusive for the downtown neighborhood.

The plan's author, Omaha urban planning consultant Marty Shukert, said several times in the yearlong planning process that the goal was to preserve the character of the downtown core while enhancing it.

The council has also yet to discuss possible incentives to encourage development envisioned in the plan, although making tax increment financing available for the study area has been suggested.

Discussions of relaxing standards and TIFs are needed, but first the council has to adopt the plan, Anderson said. Developers have approached him about aspects of the plan, he said.

"I'm holding them at arm's length," he said. "I don't have anything to tell them until we decide if this is something we want to do."

As for relaxing the regulations, Anderson suggested Shukert be asked to provide some \direction or review whatever plan the city develops.

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