Property owners hold answer to downtown
Mayor says building owners must take responsibility
Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle said he wasn't surprised when the Kansas Department of Transportation denied the city's grant application.
A grant request was written in 2004 asking KDOT for money that would have helped pay for improvements to the city's downtown sidewalks and parking.
Interim City Administrator Rich Caplan informed the Eudora City Council at its May 23 meeting that the grant had been denied.
Caplan and Brian Kingsley, an engineer with BG Consultants who had been in contact with KDOT representatives, advised Council members that KDOT would have liked to see more of the city's own funds and efforts dedicated to a project.
But Pyle said the City Council might be hesitant to put city money into a downtown project before downtown property owners make improvements to their buildings.
"Look at all the empty buildings that we have," he said. "Until people that own them are willing to spend some money, they're just going to sit there and not be rented."
Pyle said if downtown property owners didn't do something to make the buildings usable, the Council could create an ordinance to allow a building inspector to examine the structures and order them condemned if they are not up to code.
"We would hate to go to that point," Pyle said. "But I would assume these buildings are just deteriorating."
Pyle said in the past, city government leaders had called meetings with downtown building owners to discuss the future of downtown, but that there had been little turnout.
Pyle said the deteriorating state of some of the downtown buildings could be from a lack of pride or a lack of incentive. He suggested the building owners probably didn't have to pay much tax on the buildings, so there might not be much incentive to get them rented.
"I would hope there would be some way that a law could force the hand a little," he said.
Pyle said he would like to see the downtown spruced up and available for new retail businesses, restaurants and professionals.
"A professional needs to be in a fairly nice building," he said. "And there are just a lot of things that we could have here and keep people in town."
Pyle said he believed that even if one building owner decided to make improvements, the effort could catch on.
"Once we get something started I think it will snowball," he said.
Pyle said it was time for the city to start looking at new ways to redevelop Eudora's downtown.
"We're going to start working on it right away," he said.