Today we begin running our responses to the questionnaire for the Westwood City Council candidates we developed based on reader input. Here’s item number one:
The 47th Street corridor has seen some recent redevelopment activity, and now there are new proposals to spur residential and possibly commercial investment in the area. What do you believe to be the city’s role in supporting redevelopment and where is it needed most?
The recent redevelopment along 47th Street has brought visitors, shoppers, and diners to the area who might not have been there before. I’ve had out of town friends tell me that when they come from the Plaza to Oklahoma Joe’s or Taco Republic how much they love the neighborhoods they drive through. Volunteers from Westwood’s Planning Commission and the 47th and Mission Road Committee as well as city staff have worked hard to make sure that Westwood and our neighbors have an open dialogue about and a similar vision of our goals for the future of the district.
I believe that Westwood can attract and support redevelopment in two main ways. First, we need to continue to support an environment where developers and residents believe that the city, the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals will objectively consider new projects to ensure that redevelopment adds to our enjoyment without causing a nuisance to neighbors. Second, we need continue to invest in the infrastructure that supports businesses and residents and brings visitors to our city.
From my discussions with local residents, members of the Planning Commission, city staff and our elected officials, I believe that Westwood has an excellent plan in place to promote responsible redevelopment. Mayor John Yé likes to show an aerial map of the city, overlaid with recent, current, and planned projects. Combined, they represented $94 million ($94 million!) of investment in Westwood’s future. We can’t rest after these successes, however. There will always be new opportunities for both commercial and residential redevelopment in various parts of the city. As your representative on the City Council, I will work to promote Westwood and make sure there is proactive planning for potential future development in important areas (like the Entercom property) even before they are on the market.
The city has had and must continue to have a key role in the redevelopment of the 47th Street corridor. Through partnerships and planning with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, County Line Road has come alive in new ways and is thriving like never before. The city must continue to identify new opportunities for growth and bring new business to both sides of the county line, while also preserving the character and charm of the area.
This requires thinking outside of the box and careful planning with the Unified Government and neighboring cities to ensure cohesive, rather than disjointed, planning for the overall vision of the corridor and communities as a whole. The level of interest in the area is already high with new ventures such as Taco Republic, Woodside Village, the upcoming Lulu’s Bistro and the new Walmart Neighborhood Market. It’s imperative that this interest is used to intentionally identify wanted commercial and residential developers. The cities must actively seek out those opportunities that fit best with the planned vision for the 47th Street corridor and provide incentives to encourage their interest in the area rather than waiting for those opportunities to present themselves.
Two additional key components in supporting redevelopment are resident input and the planning for roadways & sidewalks. The city is responsible for communicating regularly with residents about any possible redevelopment, getting resident feedback and using this to make any decisions. Careful planning for updates and improvements to the roadways and sidewalks must also continue to be at the forefront of any redevelopment. Increased traffic requires additional sidewalks, stoplights and landscaping to encourage a walkable, pedestrian friendly community. Westwood has many exciting opportunities with the redevelopment. The city’s role is to ensure future growth through comprehensive planning and clear communication with residents and neighboring communities.
One of Westwood’s challenges is its limited tax base. Smart redevelopment is essential if we are going to have financial stability for years to come. The city has an obligation to seek out the types of businesses that are beneficial for our community, and that will be attractive to customers from neighboring areas.
Redevelopment is most needed along the 47th Street corridor, and it is encouraging to see the beginnings of that taking place. There are locations along Rainbow Boulevard that also need attention, and in the heart of our city, the Entercom facility needs to be addressed.
I believe Westwood needs to be active in promoting development of all kinds. The Woodside project needs to go forward and I will support any reasonable plan. The Entercom facility is an eyesore. Our current city council has been active on removal of the fence around the property. When I was on the Westwood Planning Committee, we were presented with a plan to do a residential development on the property. I think this is highest and best use for the property. I believe that promoting development should be one of our most important goals.
Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item number two:
What are the primary challenges or opportunities in keeping Westwood an attractive place for families and having a strong residential community? How would you address those?