Today we run the responses to the third of our reader questions for the two candidates running for mayor of Mission. A new question will run each day this week.
Redevelopment and retail projects at both the east and west ends of the city have been a focus in recent years with some city financial support. Now Johnson Drive will be rebuilt. What else can or should the city do to help rejuvenate the Johnson Drive downtown district once the street project is complete?
Elimination of the form based code would make building in Mission once again desirable without public assistance. Time and time again developers have shied away from projects in Mission due to the costs and restrictions of the form base code that the current administration implemented a few years ago. It is an experimental design that drives businesses away. A couple examples of these are: Commerce Bank who wanted to move into the former Taco Bell location. Their future home now will be in Roeland Park because of the expense of the form base code. And the former Taco Bell still sits vacant on Johnson Drive. Natural Grocers wants to build on the former Keystone lot, but with the form base code, I was informed by the builder that it would cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars more. Another detriment to businesses staying or moving to Mission is the infamous Driveway Tax.
This tax can be raised as often and as much as the City desires without voter knowledge or approval. So not only do citizens and businesses face the burden of additional taxation, they also face the uncertainty that the rate can be raised at the City’s whim. Finally, obtaining permits in Mission has become both a lengthy and costly process for anyone wanting to make improvements.
If elected Mayor, I would work towards eliminating all of these business-killing strategies. The Business Improvement Grant is a great program that needs to be utilized to its fullest in improving the exterior of our aging, but unique buildings in Mission. I do believe in the private sector, but I also know the businesses – especially on Johnson Drive have suffered because of all the road construction for years. We need to do what we can to help them recover.
The Johnson Drive project between Nall and Lamar, which will be completed in November 2014, will feature four lanes, angled on-street parking, wider sidewalks, intersections that are easier to cross and additional amenities like seat walls and planters.
These significant improvements will cause property owners on Johnson Drive to make investments in their buildings. It is understandable that a property owner would hesitate to invest money in their building(s) if the City did not have a vision or the funding to improve Johnson Drive.
The City commissioned a study by Real Estate Research Consultants as part of our due diligence during the Gateway development agreement. One of their unsolicited observations was that Johnson Drive will become a powerful corridor once the IKEA opens in Merriam and the Gateway opens for business in Mission. Both of these developments will attract a significant number of shoppers who will inevitably patronize the businesses on Johnson Drive.
The City must continue to promote the Johnson Drive downtown district through frequent features and articles in the Mission Magazine, which is widely distributed in Northeast Johnson County and draws hundreds to our community.
In addition, Springboard Creative, based in Mission, is donating creative services for two years to help in branding during the Johnson Drive project and beyond. The campaign is called Mission: Forward. This branding will broadcast that businesses on Johnson Drive are open for business during construction and will assist in attracting new businesses to Johnson Drive.
The City must continue to work in partnership with the Northeast Johnson County Chamber to promote the Johnson Drive downtown district and to continue funding the City’s small business grant program that has provided over $322,000 to small businesses since 2004 for exterior improvements.
You can learn more about my campaign at www.DavidShepard.org
Tomorrow we will publish the candidates’ responses to our fourth question:
Are you comfortable with where the city stands today on its capital improvement needs? What are the primary challenges over the next 20-year cycle and how should they be addressed?