City officials celebrated the reopening of the gateway into Aggieville Thursday.
The Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce cut the ribbon under the new Aggieville Archway on North Manhattan Ave., signifying that Aggieville is open for business.
Aggieville Business Association Director Dennis Cook calls it a relief to have all streets leading into the district free of any construction, something that hasn’t happened since 2018.
“We’ve been very fortunate. The businesses have all survived this. I won’t say they’ve thrived, but they have survived. We didn’t lose any businesses over this but they’re anxious,” he said.
Businesses along North Manhattan Ave., from Bluemont to Moro hadn’t had vehicles parked in front of their storefronts in 11 months, while construction crews worked to relocate and upgrade the city’s very old underground infrastructure.
“A big key was not only to upgrade all of that infrastructure on a phased basis, but also while we have everything dug up, put new services into all of the businesses for water and sewer. That’s a big component and it does take a lot longer when you’re doing that kind of digging,” said Manhattan City Manager Ron Fehr.
Fehr says the overall Aggieville reconstruction, which is a multi-year project spelled out in the city’s Aggieville Vision, is about 25 to 30% complete, though will remain paused for at least some time.
“We just hope that folks will come back and re-visit Aggieville. It wasn’t easy to get through and get here, but there’s going to be a lull in construction activity for awhile, so we hope that as we get to graduation at K-State, it’s a popular place to be and folks will re-engage with businesses they had before. If you haven’t been down here, come down and try it out,” he said.
The city recently awarded the Aggieville Business Association $25,000 in funding for a gift card giveaway, many of which were handed out Thursday. Cook says he’s not sure how much of an impact the promotion will have but says reaction from business owners has been positive.
“They’re very thankful. They appreciate the opportunity and they’re already getting from Monday and Tuesday, customers coming in with gift cards they’ve never seen before. That gives them that opportunity to treat them and they know they’re going to get repeat customers,” he said.
The city has more work to complete in other areas of Aggieville, much of which won’t continue until the Midtown Development resumes. It’s been on hold since March when an investor pulled funding from the $54 million project. A timetable for that project to resume hasn’t been determined, but one source says it likely won’t happen until late this year or early 2024.
Another component of Thursday’s public welcome-back into Aggieville was an open house at the parking garage.
City of Manhattan Parking Services Manager Adrienne Tucker says it was a good opportunity to educate the public on how to download and use the free Park Mobile App.
“So when you come to the Aggieville Garage, you need to immediately register your car with your license plate number, either at a pay station or using the Park Mobile App. The Park Mobile App is the more convenient option because you can literally open your phone, click a couple of buttons, register your car and you’re good to go,” she said.
The app sends a reminder when time is about to expire, helping minimize the chance of being issued a parking citation. Tucker explains how the garage uses license plate recognition technology for enforcement.
“We have cameras mounted at the entrance and exit of the garage. When you come in, it snaps a photo of your license plate and it gives you 15 minutes to register your vehicle. After that 15 minutes, if you’ve made a payment, it lets us know that you’ve registered. If not, it lets the enforcement officers know and they investigate to ensure and afterward a warning citation is issued,” she said.
Warnings are issued for first-time violators. Tucker says Park Mobile is used in several municipalities nationwide and internationally.
“Specifically here in Manhattan, it’s used here at the garage, it’s used at K-State and it’s used at the airport. It’s one of the reasons I brought Park Mobile into Manhattan, for that continuity,” she said.
The first two hours in the garage are free and its $2 per hour after that, for a maximum $10 Sunday through Wednesday and up to a maximum $8 Thursday through Saturday.
Additional information on parking services is available on the City of Manhattan website.