Archive for Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Residents discuss long-term planning for Nieman Road

June 25, 2013

Plans for Nieman Road between Shawnee Mission Parkway and Johnson Drive took a very small step forward this past week.

In a preliminary meeting Thursday at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Shawnee, about 60 residents gathered to discuss the future of the road.

The discussion was part of a study that the Mid-America Regional Council is funding in coordination with the Kansas Department of Transportation, City of Shawnee and Johnson County Transit.

The discussion should help determine what is best for the future of the main thoroughfare in Shawnee, said Dan Burden, cofounder and director of innovation and inspirations for the nonprofit organization Walkable and Livable Communities Institute in Port Townsend, Wash.

“We know what works best in other places,” Burden said. “But it always comes back to the roots of a place. … “We can’t assume. We can’t presume. That would not be the correct thing to do.”

Burden showed slides of renovations of roads throughout the United States and a few in Canada that reduced speeds and increased walkability.

He also showed slides of parking lots that were turned into a mix of green spaces and businesses. In one city, pianos were installed.

“Every dollar we invest in transportation has to increase land value,” Burden said.

After Burden’s presentation, people in attendance broke off into subgroups to each tackle the same questions: What is working well? What is not working well? What makes the area unique? How do you see the road in the next 20 years?

A general concern presently was the speed along the road.

“The speed limit shouldn’t be a dime over 40,” one man said.

Group members said ample parking, an array of restaurants and low vacancies along the road were positives. Negatives, according to group members, included unattractive parking and the lack of adequate sidewalks. They also said the street needed to be maintained better and that bus stop shelters should be added. Some residents in one group also thought city staff did not work well with new businesses coming in along the street.

People participating in the group discussions agreed that the area’s heritage and history — the Gum Springs area where the Indian Cemetery stands, for instance — made the area unique.

As for how Nieman Road might look in the coming years, some residents said they’d like to see businesses come in that would create a distinct night life, as well as coffee shops and walking opportunities for senior citizens.

Some residents also voiced concern that while the corridor needed attention, the improvements should not encroach on residential neighborhoods in the area.

The study will continue, with additional community forums plans likely to be scheduled later this year.

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