Archive for Thursday, June 14, 2001

Chamber, city continue quest

June 14, 2001

Lucas expanded its grassroots museum to twice the original size. In Lincoln, residents can catch a movie at a renovated old-time movie house. The line outside Bichelmeyer's restaurant in Tonganoxie sometimes stretches out across the sidewalk on a Saturday night.

What would Eudora do if it received a grant to revitalize downtown?

Marilyn Graham posed that question to the city council Monday when she spoke about programs that could help Eudora revitalize downtown and create a comprehensive plan for the city as a whole.

"It's not a quick-fix," she said. "It's a long planning process."

One program provides $200,000 for downtown improvements. The comprehensive development program, however, has up to $4 million available for developing the whole community. Graham said the average grant is about $1.5 million. The money comes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development through the state.

Cities that match funds or at least contribute some amount to the programs are usually looked upon more favorably, although the process is first-come, first-serve, she said.

Graham told the council that details need to be worked out before applying by the July 1, 2002 deadline. Because the fiscal year is changing, another $4 million will be available Jan. 1.

The issue will be brought up again at the mayor's State of the City address at next Thursday's 8 a.m. chamber meeting. The council and the chamber will formulate grant strategies at their meetings.

The council members' reactions seemed favorable. They shared ideas and bounced them off Graham, who said that restrictions dictate that the funds cannot be used on city hall but can be used on other municipal buildings.

That means that if a new high school is built and Eudora Middle School moves to the current building, the city could use grant money to renovate the middle school building into a community center.

A general concern seemed to be drawing businesses and patrons off K-10 and down Main Street.

"Downtown has always been the heart of Eudora," Dan Simon, who spoke Monday on behalf of the chamber, said.

Chamber President Keith Turnbaugh asked how often Eudorans drove to Lawrence or Kansas City to get what they needed.

"Our population seems to be growing more quickly than our businesses," he said.

Graham encouraged the city to use potential grant money to boost the downtown economy rather than using those resources to plant flowers or put in park benches, although looks play an important part of a downtown's image, she said.

Architects, designers, planners and other supporters are available to cities receiving grants.

"It's a lot of handholding and technical assistance," Graham said.

Several council members shared concerns that downtown was neither noticeable nor advertised.

Council member Tom Pyle expressed frustration that the city couldn't advertise its downtown from K-10.

"We have things unlike anywhere else," Pyle said of Quilting Bits and Pieces, 714 Main Street. "We don't want it to look like Las Vegas, but we want people to know we're here."

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