The Manhattan City Commission meeting started off with a bang Tuesday night as two local businessmen passionately voiced their concerns with what they called a “suffocating situation” on the North End 3rd Street.
Local Businessman, Russ Weisbender has seen multiple businesses on the South End of 3rd Street receive tax-breaks and other incentives, and feels as though he and 3 other owners on the North End have just plain been forgotten about.
“We’ve been slowly strangled out of business, because our access has been limited and taken away,” said Weisbender.
Redevelopment of the North 3rd Street Corridor has been in the making for over a decade; and one of the major aspects of the project, is the connection of McCall Road to North 3rd Street.
Weisbender understood that the South End of 3rd Street would come first when the Downtown Redevelopment Project was announced, but was dismayed to learn from a City Staff member that there aren’t any plans at this point to move forward with redevelopment of the North End, including the McCall Road connection.
“I hate to be a cry-baby, but those of us that have businesses on that end of the street have waited very patiently and now this is kind of a slap in the face,” Weisbender said, “It reminds me a little bit of some of our sports programs. They run a good game right up to the finish and then drop the ball. I’d hate that to be Manhattan’s legacy.”
The Dairy Queen on 3rd Street has been open for 60 years and has operated out of the same building for the entire time. Owner, Mike Hufnagel said Corporate has been hounding him for years to build a new retail building, but he just can’t do anything about it without the increase in traffic that the McCall connection would create.
“I’ve put them on hold for the last seven or eight years, and there’s going to become a time when they say ‘you either relocate, or close up’. Is that what you want?” Hufnagel said, “Is that what you want me to do after that business has contributed to Manhattan for the last 60 years? Please reconsider 3rs Street.”
At a total estimated cost of over $9 Million, Deputy City Manager, Jason Hilgers said the McCall Connection is just flat-out too expensive for the City to handle alone. KDOT will help with the project, but won’t spend a penny until the intersection of Bluemont Avenue and Tuttle Creek Boulevard is considered “failing”.
“Kansas Department of Transportation recognizes that intersection and that improvement as a necessity. So do we. It hasn’t reached a point in time on Bluemont and Tuttle Creek Boulevard and McCall, where those intersections are failing. That has been the trigger that KDOT and City Staff has talked about in terms of when that improvement will take place,” Hilgers said.
According to Hilgers, City Staff is continuing to monitor the situation; but until then, it appears that the business owners on the north end of Third Street will have to keep waiting.
After a somewhat tumultuous start to Tuesday’s proceedings, The Commission dove into the general agenda and wasted no time approving the Economic Development Application submitted by Tallgrass Brewing Company.
As KMAN previously reported, Tallgrass is in the process of expanding and has agreed with Verizon to purchase the old Western Wireless Call Center in Research Park. The $430,000 in various economic incentives will help Tallgrass renovate the 60,000 square foot building and re-purpose it as the company’s main brewery.
City Staff identified three different road projects which qualify for KDOT’s Geometric Improvement Program. The Commission could only choose one to send an application for and decided to go with a project that would allow drivers travelling on U.S. 24 to turn left onto Retail Drive. Should KDOT approve the grant application, the City’s commitment is roughly $43,000.
City Staff also identified three intersections which qualify for the Federal Aid Safety Program including: College avenue and Clafflin Road, 11st Street and Poyntz Avenue, and Farm Bureau Road and K-113 Highway. The Commission will send grant applications for all three.
Director, Karen Hibbard presented the Convention and Visitors Bureau quarterly report. The report covered the first 12 weeks of the year and broke down activity and dollar amounts. The CVB has already booked 26 future events with an estimated economic impact of roughly $3.2 million.
Hibbard said hotel occupancy was down last year and is down so far this year, and attributes the issue to the frigid winter Manhattan experienced year.
The CVB staff is working to not only increase hotel occupancy, but is also working to increase the number of professional, social and philanthropic events held in Manhattan this year.