Shawnee considering new guidelines for mixed-use development downtown

The city has been working on ideas to spark the revitalization of downtown.

As new projects for commercial and residential purposes begin cropping up in downtown Shawnee, city leaders and staff are creating a new land use category in its design guidelines for future downtown development.

The new category, “Townsquare Mixed-Use,” would reflect the city’s goals to build on existing development patterns while maintaining the downtown’s established historic, civic, commercial and residential core. The Shawnee planning commission on Monday discussed the new category with city staff.

“It’s long overdue to look at this downtown area and adjust some of the land uses we’ve called on here,” said Stephanie Malmborg, deputy community development director for Shawnee, citing a number of developments already underway downtown. “The land use guide doesn’t really reflect what the city’s looking for on some of those properties.”

The proposed land use category is bounded by 55th Street, Switzer Road, Shawnee Mission Parkway and Quivira Road.

The city’s comprehensive land use guide informs city leaders on an overall strategy for development in Shawnee. The “Downtown” section of that guide has not been updated since 2005, according to city documents.

City staff noted that the 2005 version of the guide for the downtown area is “not consistent with desired land use patterns.”

“With increased interest in investment and redevelopment in Downtown, there is a need to provide an updated primary resource to establish context and to evaluate land use regulations and development proposals,” staff noted in the city documents.

“We all know that there’s a zoning district called Townsquare, and we all know that we’re looking for a mix of uses — primarily along Johnson and Nieman — and getting to make sure that there’s appropriate transitions between land uses in our downtown area as we go from more of those main street feels on Nieman and Johnson to the neighborhoods where we have single-family homes,” Malmborg said.

Some key components of the “Townsquare Mixed-Use” land use designation include:

  • Increased commercial and residential densities by limiting building setbacks, redevelopment of larger sites (infill encouraged), and accommodating high and medium density residential development.
  • Incorporation of additional residential units to contribute to density needed to support area retail, services, and entertainment uses. Residential infill is appropriate in all areas of Downtown Shawnee by employing housing diversity strategies that is contextual [sic.] sensitive to existing development patterns, including cottage home or small lot single-family residential, townhomes or attached living residences, live/work units, vertical mixed-use, and medium to high-density residential buildings.
  • Allow for a vertical and horizontal mix of medium to high-density residential and commercial uses on a single site, as well as a mixture to adjacent sites.
  • Provide appropriate transitions in land use intensity, especially to single-family residences with buffering and medium density residential development.
  • New development oriented and built to the primary streets.
  • Multi-modal connectivity along the primary corridors, on-site, and to adjacent sites when complementary.
  • Incorporation of City streetscape and landscaping elements, and civic assets into site and building design – examples, multi-use path and roadside amenities linkages, material selection, or corresponding amenities.

The proposed land use guide is part of a series of steps the city has recently taken to renovate the downtown area, integrate pedestrian-friendly features as well as bike lanes, and upgrade infrastructure for future private development of commercial and residential projects downtown.

At one point, the city had plans to realign Ballentine Road between 61st and 62nd streets. However, city staff have recommended leaving the section of street as is.

Malmborg said the new land use category would address the guidelines for projects like the proposed Nieman catalyst site, which would offer a mixed use of residential and retail.

Kathy Peterson and her fellow planning commissioners had concerns about architectural and design for the new land use category.

“It seems to me as if we’re doing this in pieces and it’s going to look very ‘piece-y’,” Peterson said.

City staff said architectural and design details would be addressed in downtown design guidelines, which the planning commission reviewed a couple of months ago.

The planning commission took no action on this item. It will be discussed at a future planning commission meeting.