by Alan McArthur
Outdoor seating at restaurants, increased parking, and expanded sidewalk systems are just a few of the ideas proposed for the future of downtown Parkville.
Ideas that came about as a result of the city's Concepts for Livability study in the downtown area were presented to a sometimes unreceptive crowd at a forum on Thursday at the American Legion in Parkville.
None of the ideas presented have been approved by the board of aldermen and there is no funding currently in place to be able to implement any of the proposed projects.
One of the proposals included expanding the sidewalks in the downtown area along Main Street to remove some parking spaces and allow for more visibility, and also allow for outdoor seating at some restaurants.
Tom Hutsler, local business owner, told the consultants that Parkville is not comparable to North Kansas City or Zona Rosa, which have wider streets.
“You can't compare us to Zona Rosa,” Hutsler said. “How is traffic going to get through downtown Parkville?”
Some people expressed that Parkville has a charm and appeal the way it is without being updated.
“The perfect thing about Parkville is how imperfect it is,” said Kevin Heaton, owner of Stone Canyon Pizza. “It has worked for a long time. My customers like Parkville because it is a step back in time.”
Another proposal was to redesign the parking lot south of the railroad tracks to allow for more parking spots. This could also include creating new “gateway” links between the downtown and the planned Platte Landing Park to be constructed by the county.
The gateways could be roundabouts constructed at the intersections of Main and East Streets with McAfee.
Ken Boone, director with Ochsner Hare & Hare, said the city could have a net gain of 12-15 stalls just by restriping the parking area. The city could also allow parking along one side of McAfee to increase the number of stalls.
Platte Landing Park is proposed to include a new boat launch ramp, community stage, moving Grigsby and the smaller baseball fields, and an off-leash dog park.
The plan could also move the farmer's market area to where the current baseball field is, allowing for a larger space and allowing more parking spots to be created.
Connecting sidewalk segments to connect the downtown, Parkville Commons, English Landing Park and Park University was another proposal.
“There are gaps in the sidewalks system,” said Sara Clark, project manager with TranSystems.
The city recently received a grant to construct a trail from the Parkville Commons to Honor Lane, but Clark pointed out there are numerous segments missing along East Street and leading to Park University. Part of the sidewalk proposal was the suggestion of a possible pedestrian bridge from Park University over the highway and railroad tracks, and into English Landing Park.
Mark Kenneally, senior professional and assistant vice president with TranSystems, said the bridge could cost $1.8 million without an elevator or $2.5 million with an elevator. The bridge could be similar to the Town of Kansas Bridge along the Missouri River in downtown Kansas City.
“This is your worst idea yet,” said John Kuhns, owner of the H.M.S. Beagle. Kuhns said the bridge would divert pedestrians away from having to go through downtown--perhaps keeping those pedestrians from patronizing businesses downtown.
Another proposed connection would be a three lane bridge over the railroad tracks to connect to FF Highway at Crooked Road. Kenneally estimated the connection could cost between $4.5 million to $5 million for three lanes and a trail or sidewalk to connect to McAfee Street behind the English Landing Center.
Hutsler said officials had previously studied a similar option, and the elevation of Crooked Road would have to be raised, which would increase the cost.
Hutsler later suggested an older proposal from about eight years ago to move the railroad tracks to the south of English Landing Center. This would avoid having to construct bridges to connect to the parking.
Jim Brooks, mayor, said the city would also pursue redevelopment along the east side of East Street from the Post Office to Sixth Street. Brooks said the city would not be doing the redeveloping, but would support property owners reinvesting to create more retail and living spaces in the downtown area.
The area could include more parking if the property owners choose to build the spaces.
Deborah Butcher, former alderman, said the city needed more living spaces in the downtown so there would be more nearby residents to support the businesses.
Brooks said the city will be using the results of the livability study as it begins the process of creating a Downtown Master Plan. The city has received a grant to pay for the consulting work for the master plan.
The study does not commit the city to any of the proposed changes, but provides them as options for future planning purposes.
“We are under no obligation to do any of this,” said Brooks. “We can pick and choose from it or we can put it on a shelf and not do anything.”
More information about all of the proposals is available at letstalkparkville.com