Topeka City Council Defers Kansas Ave Decision

By: Suzie Gilbert Email
By: Suzie Gilbert Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Topeka City Council members decided to defer the budget plan for redesigning South Kansas Avenue Tuesday night (5/15), the majority of council members saying they need more information on the plan before they vote.

The Council was asked to approve a $4-million budget for downtown redevelopment. The plan drew supporters and critics, who must now wait another two months for a decision.

Deputy Mayor Larry Wolgast led the effort to defer the multimillion dollar Kansas Avenue budget proposal. Wolgast said he wants to take advantage of an extra two months, using the time to reengage the private sector, and spur enthusiasm in the community.

"We need to take another look at this project to make sure it is what the community wants it to be, so the community can be strongly in support of it," Wolgast said.

"There is no mass support for this project. It doesn't exist," Councilman Chad Manspeaker said.

Manspeaker says the whole project was a bad idea. He said the Council should instead make choices that benefit the whole city, not just one area.

Councilwoman Karen Hiller, and Mayor Bill Bunten said the support was huge.

"I care about this city. It's the Capital City of Kansas. We should be making every possible effort to make it a very special place for all the people of this state," Bunten said.

Manspeaker, and Councilman Andrew Gray were the only votes against the deferral.

The redesign plan includes reducing Kansas Avenue from five to three lanes. The plan would cost nearly $6-million in debt service over 20 years.

-- From Tuesday, May 8, 2012 --

Topeka City Council members heard a plan Tuesday night (5/8) that supporters say will bring Kansas Avenue to life. The conceptual design plan would dramatically change the look and feel of several blocks of the avenue.

The new theme for Kansas Avenue comes from the state motto, ad astra per aspera, meaning to the stars through difficulty. Money for the project was allocated in the city's Capital Improvement Plan.

Designers say they'll bring more people downtown by reducing Kansas Avenue from five to three lanes. They'll divide sidewalks into three zones, an 11-foot commerce zone for outdoor sales and dining, an 8-foot walking zone, and five feet of landscaped area to separate the sidewalk from the street.

The $5.6 million plan features lots of light, crosswalk medians with natural light, and a ceiling of lights to keep the avenue alive at night.

Designers say the street scape will reflect the state motto of reaching for the stars.

Plans are also in the works to move art from Washburn University to downtown; to create a public plaza at 8th Street, and a city center plaza at 6th street, with a performance stage, an interactive fountain, and a larger green space for kids and families.

Opponents worry about the cost, and say the construction will displace businesses.

You can see the plan online at www.activatetheavenue.com.


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