Archive for Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Downtown streetscape preliminary plan shared

A preliminary plan for a downtown streetscape upgrade would provide sidewalk level building entrances through the use of ramps and stairs. Architects will present a refined plan June 18 to the city council.

A preliminary plan for a downtown streetscape upgrade would provide sidewalk level building entrances through the use of ramps and stairs. Architects will present a refined plan June 18 to the city council.

May 27, 2009

A two-day planning session for proposed street, sidewalk and landscape improvement for downtown De Soto ended with a plan that would make the intersection of 83rd and Wea streets the focal point of downtown.

Marty Shukert of RGD Planning of Omaha, Neb., and his associates Cary Thompson and Dolores Silkworth visited De Soto May 19 and 20 to listen to ideas and concerns about the project, share ideas with interested parties and produce a preliminary design for the improvements.

The improvements are planned for a two blocks of 83rd Street between its intersections with Peoria to Shawnee streets. Also considered in the planning, was Wea Street a half block north and south of 83rd Street.

Getting the biggest makeover in the design Shukert presented May 20 would be the northern half of the intersection of 83rd and Wea streets. The current parking lot east of the De Soto Fire Station would be redesigned, with the northern portion made into a 12-stall parking lot and the southern section a gathering place that included a light shelter.

The northeast corner of the intersection would also have a small shelter that would accommodate outdoor dining or serve as platform for a parade or other civic event.

Shukert said the design he presented to a number of council members, downtown storefront owners and community residents added six parking stalls to the downtown section and improved handicapped accessibility by eliminating street-level curb steps and providing all storefronts with entry thresholds at sidewalk level.

Although the design has so-called bump-outs at intersections and mid-block pedestrian crossing common to contemporary street designs that will eliminate 3 parking stalls on the two-block stretch of 83rd Street, the addition of nine angled parking stalls to the west of bump outs on the west side of the intersection of 83rd and Peoria streets provide a net gain of six stalls.

The proposal would use steps and ramps to deal with elevation changes along the street to achieve sidewalk-level doorway access to all buildings. In places, the plans show the sidewalk split into two levels between storefronts and the curb.

The proposal would use reddish-colored patterned concrete on the lower levels and in crosswalks.

After a presentation city engineer Mike Brungardt gave to the De Soto City Council last Thursday, Councilman Ron McDaniel said he was concerned about maintenance problems associated with the trees in the plan and added he had heard little support for the plan.

Shukert proposed trees be planted in the bump-outs and along some intersections. Trees were controversial, he acknowledged, but did prevent heat buildup in summer months from the reflection of sunlight off streets and storefronts.

Care would be needed to select the right trees, Shukert said. He proposed “willowy” trees such as honey locust for the bump-outs, which would not have heavy foliage that obscures signage and attracts birds.

Shukert will now refine the plan for a June 18 presentation to the De Soto City Council. At that meeting, he will also present cost projections for its construction.

The downtown streetscape improvement is on the city’s capital improvement list with $700,000 . However, no money has been allocated for the project beyond planning and no date set for the project.

That might not change even should the De Soto City Council approve a plan for the project, City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle and city engineer Mike Brungardt told the council last Thursday. It was unlikely the city would be in the position to go forward with the project in 2010 with the recession affecting funding sources earmarked for capital improvements, they said.

The city has twice been turned down for the same Kansas Department of Transportation grant that paid for most of the recent streetscape improvements in the cities of Baldwin City and Eudora, Brungardt said. But those past rejections, didn’t rule out KDOT approving another application, especially if it was presented with plans, he said.

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