Shawnee commission, residents talk downtown land use guidelines

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

As part of Shawnee’s effort to spur downtown growth and revitalization, city leaders and staff are making changes to the city’s comprehensive plan in order to guide redevelopment efforts.

City leaders and staff have been reviewing years of visioning studies and action plans and combining all of the research into a comprehensive document. If approved by the city council, that document will amend land use designations for the newly created zoning district, “Townsquare Mixed-Use,” in the city’s comprehensive plan.

The changes ultimately expand the downtown area with adjoining parcels to create a larger, more cohesive downtown district, according to city documents. The Townsquare district is from 55th Street to Shawnee Mission Parkway and Quivira to Switzer. City staff indicated the Townsquare Mixed-Use district is intended to be flexible in nature to allow a variety of new commercial and residential developments of medium to high density.

“The priority is for more renovation and restoration on the Johnson corridor with some more opportunities for larger scale redevelopment along Nieman,” said Lauren Grashoff, neighborhood planner for Shawnee. “The Townsquare Mixed-Use really truly is mixed use. We didn’t define it as just commercial, just office. There’s a lot of flexibility for either vertical or horizontal mixed-use options.”

At the same time, any developments are to be “sensitive to existing development patterns,” such as single-family homes abutting the downtown area at Johnson Drive and Nieman Road.

A few neighboring residents raised concerns about the changes to the land use guidelines. They wanted to make sure the character of their neighborhood would not drastically change, or that new developments downtown would not impact their quality of life.

“Money Magazine, as you guys are all very well aware, I’m sure, voted Shawnee, Kansas 25th best city in America to live in economically out of the top 1,000,” said resident Bill McMurtrey. “We got that way because it’s a great place to be. I don’t want to change it just for the almight dollar, and I’m not being accusatory of anybody by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not interested in seeing apartments and apartments and apartments, my goodness.”

Chairman Dennis Busby said the land use designations are part of the city’s long-term plan for development; he doesn’t expect major changes downtown for at least the next decade.

Other neighbors had questions about increasing residential density downtown.

“I have a real problem with trying to jam seven or 10 families in an acre,” said Carol Mundy, a neighboring resident, adding that she’s worried about the environmental impact to the area caused by cutting down shade trees and adding parking lots.

In general, some of the key components and goals of the Townsquare Mixed-Use district are:

  • Increased commercial and residential densities
  • Redevelopment of larger sites for high and medium density residential development
  • Streetscape, landscaping and multi-modal connectivity (including walkability and bikeability)
  • Enhance the identity of the corridor as a gateway to downtown, celebrating historical and cultural significance of the area

The planning commission will review the new land use guidelines for the townsquare zoning district on Jan. 6, 2020, at which time it may make a final recommendation to the city council for final approval.