A more vibrant street life the goal for an OP corridor that’s not pedestrian-friendly

·8 min read

After reducing the number of traffic lanes on a mile-long section of College Boulevard — while adding 100 on-street parking spaces — Overland Park is preparing to take the next step toward making the College business corridor more inviting to visitors and the people who live and work in the area.

Although highly regarded when developed, the College Boulevard corridor turned out to be rather sterile.

Companies got a prestigious, high-visibility address, and employees could drive to the office doorsteps at 45 miles an hour and be assured of free parking. But the layout proved unwelcoming to pedestrians and discouraged the development of the restaurants and other venues that foster a vibrant street life.

That’s why Overland Park, after completing a study of the Metcalf Avenue/College Boulevard area, put College on a “road diet” last year between Metcalf and Nall avenues by replacing two traffic lanes with street parking and buffer spaces. The city also added bike lanes on nearby 110th Street, 112th Street and Lamar Avenue, plus shared-use paths along Nall and part of Metcalf.

This year, the city has embarked on a study aimed at solving mobility challenges in the area, especially for those who get around on foot, bicycle, wheelchair or some other means besides the automobile.

Possibilities include increasing the number of restaurants and attractions that people can walk to, enhancing the trail system, creating walkable spaces for new residential areas and offering better connections between offices and retail centers.

“This study will develop a detailed, action-oriented program for a connected bicycle and pedestrian-friendly OP Central district,” the city said in a news release.

The public will have several opportunities to weigh in before the final report is produced early next year. A public design workshop is scheduled for Aug. 24-26, most likely in the early evenings at the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce office. Those interested also can check for updates and a public survey by searching for OPCentral at opkansas.org.

Lenexa begins justice center design

Lenexa is moving ahead with plans to build a new justice center on city-owned land at Prairie Star Parkway and Britton Street. Construction could begin as early as next year.

A year ago, amid financial uncertainties created by the coronavirus pandemic, the city had put the project on hold. But on July 20, the City Council approved a contract with Lenexa-based Finkle-Williams to design the justice center, which will include facilities for police, court and police training.

The city police department and municipal court now operate out of the Lenexa Public Safety Complex at 87th Street Parkway and Monrovia Street. Construction on the complex began in 1980 and continued through 1994, and officials say the complex lacks the space and efficiencies required for modern operations in a growing city.

Last year, the city accepted a consultant’s report on facility needs for public safety. The study said it made more sense to build a new facility on undeveloped land rather than redevelop the current site. Not only would it be 8% to 10% cheaper, but current operations would not be disrupted by construction. A new site also would allow quicker construction and room for expansion later.

Officials note that Prairie Star and Britton is more centrally located in Lenexa.

Once the justice center is completed, the city may build a new fire station on the 87th Street property. The fire department is already using the nearby former City Hall for some administrative work and houses a crew and fire truck there as conditions permit.

Testing has shown that putting a crew on the 87th Street property improves response times in northeast Lenexa, the city said.

“The final projected cost of the facility will depend heavily on the size and programming of the initial building program,” the city said on its website. “The city is currently projecting a $70 million dollar cost for the project, but is subject to change based on City Council direction and market conditions.“

K-State will require freshmen to live on campus

Kansas State University, which enrolls many graduating seniors from Johnson County each year, will soon require first-year students to live on campus for their first two semesters.

Officials said the requirement, which takes effect in the fall of 2022, is designed to help students be more successful.

Among full-time first-year students at K-State, those who live on campus “average higher GPAs, stay in school in higher numbers and graduate faster,” Thomas Lane, vice president for student life and dean of students, said in a news release.

The release said that all other Kansas Regents institutions, except the University of Kansas, require freshmen to live on campus. K-State will be the seventh of 10 schools in the Big 12 Conference to institute the requirement.

Exceptions may be granted to students who plan to commute from the home of a parent or close relative within 40 miles of the university’s Manhattan campus or if the student plans to live in a fraternity, sorority, scholarship hall or other approved organized housing.

New Westwood police chief

Westwood has chosen Curt Mansell, a commander in the Lee’s Summit Police Department, to replace Police Chief Greg O’Halloran, who retired recently.

Mansell’s expected start date was set for Aug. 2, after formal approval by the Westwood City Council.

According to the Lee’s Summit city website, Mansell had worked in Lee’s Summit since 1991 after being a police officer in Liberty. Attaining the rank of major, he most recently commanded the uniform patrol division in Lee’s Summit.

Mansell earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from what’s now the University of Central Missouri, the website said. He is a 2007 graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command and graduated in 2012 from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.

Gardner expands water plant

On Aug. 5, Gardner will mark a milestone in its effort to accommodate the city’s growing population.

That’s when the city will cut the ribbon on an expansion to its Hillsdale Water Treatment plant at 22705 S. Moonlight Road in Miami County.

The expansion allows the plant to treat up to 7 million gallons of water per day, compared to 4 million previously.

“The cost of the entire project from design to construction is $25.4 million, funded by issuing general obligation bonds that will be paid by water revenues,” city spokeswoman Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo said by email.

The ceremony begins at 8:30 a.m. and will be hosted by the city, the Burns & McDonnell engineering firm and CAS Constructors.

Interchange work may delay drivers

Drivers can expect lane and ramp closures for the next six months as crews upgrade the interchange at Prairie Star Parkway and Kansas 7 in Lenexa.

The work includes widening of the K-7 exit ramps in both directions, replacing the bridge approaches on Prairie Star Parkway over K-7, some repaving and a new median on Prairie Star Parkway at Hedge Lane.

Lenexa officials said the improvements will allow the interchange to function better until money is available to reconstruct the entire interchange.

The project was set to start July 26, with the Prairie Star Parkway bridge over K-7 reduced to one lane in each direction for several weeks. Starting in late August or September, the northbound and southbound exit ramps from K-7 will each be closed for about a month, but not at the same time.

Intermittent lane closures will take place throughout construction.

Learn about development trends

Overland Park has enlisted several speakers to discuss planning issues — such as transportation, housing trends and financially responsible land use — in virtual sessions that residents can view at their leisure before offering feedback.

The city said that those who participate in the “Planning the Plan” series will be better equipped to participate in Overland Park’s upcoming comprehensive plan update.

Links to each video are being posted in the planning/development area at opkansas.org as they are published. The topics and dates:

Community revitalization and shifting suburbs, with Ed McMahon of the Urban Land Institute, July 28.

The economics of land use, with AJ Fawver of Verdunity, a firm that assists cities with sustainable planning, August.

Transportation, with Jason Scrieber of the Stantec engineering firm, September.

Small-scale development and the role of density, with Matthew Petty of the Incremental Development Alliance, October.

A free night of bluegrass

A free outdoor bluegrass concert, followed by the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” will be presented Aug. 8 at Theatre in the Park in the Shawnee/Lenexa area.

This “Evening in the Park” is the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District’s annual “thank you” to the community.

Activities start at 6 p.m. with a two-hour concert by the Short Round Stringband and The Matchsellers. Theatre in the Park lies within Shawnee Mission Park with a separate entrance at 7710 Renner Road in Shawnee.

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