Public Discusses $8.4 Million Plan to Revamp Kansas Avenue

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The City Council wanted more of the public's input before voting on a downtown improvement proposal, and tonight they got it.

The city staged an informational forum on the $8.4 million plan to revamp downtown Kansas Avenue.

The seats were full, and most of the people who attended seemed in favor of the project that is supposed to foster economic development in Topeka.

City Manager Jim Colson started out the meeting by saying the city will use the funds in the best manner that befenits Topeka and assured attendees his number one goal is to help them make an informed decision. When this plan first came to the table, the city deferred action on it until now, because they felt the public needed more information.

Much of the meeting focused on addressing public comment. Most who spoke vocalized their support.

Julianne Yingling is in favor, saying she thinks it would be nice for young people to have a place to go downtown, and that the sooner work is started, the better.

The few people who didn't show support, said they're concerned with how the city will pay for it.

Sandra Dickison lives near downtown and said she doesn't see much difference from the other Kansas Avenue projects the city has attempted.

"It seems too expensive if we really need to spend all that money on just four blocks," Dickison said.

However, city leaders said economic development in Topeka will not happen without this project.

Mayor Bill Bunten wanted to assure those leary of the proposal that there will be no new taxes and that there are specific companies dedicated to it.

"These companies want to see this downtown fixed up," Bunten said. "They're ready to pony up the money and all we have to do is say 'okay.'"

Specific details, photoes, computer generated graphics and financial numbers were provided, outlining what citizens can expect if the proposal goes through.

The city has already set aside $5.7 million for infrastructure repairs, which will be spent regardless. City leaders say infrastructure is their number one priority.

The private sectore committed to funding $1.8 million for enchancements, which include making downtown a little prettier - widening sidewalks, installing what they call "pocket parks," statues and more, detailing Topeka's history.

Colson said the chase for economic development does not end with this project.

City Council will vote on the proposal December 11th.