Affordable housing a top concern as Prairie Village drafts new 20-year plan

Affordable housing is still at the tops of minds in Prairie Village as Village Vision 2.0 is considered. One resident said affordable housing isn't something the city can achieve, it's determined by the market. File photo.

Prairie Village officials are seeking more feedback on the draft of the city’s comprehensive long-term plan, Village Vision 2.0, that the city council may take up as early as mid-October.

It’s been a nearly two-year process developing Village Vision 2.0, but Mayor Erik Mikkelson said Wednesday night during a public meeting that the process, as well as the guiding document itself, are both valuable. The original Village Vision, created in 2007, brought Prairie Village to the place it is at today, he said, including the addition of two brand new parks.

While long-term planning may not seem to be of great importance with the challenges brought on by COVID-19, Mikkelson said, “It can make the difference between a good city and a great city.”

Near the beginning of the new NFL season, he compared the city’s long-term plan to that of a wide receiver, who runs to where the football is headed — not to where it is or where it used to be.

“Let’s work together to see if we can figure out where that touchdown pass is going to be, and let’s get there in the next five, 10, 20 years with this process,” Mikkelson said.

Representatives from Gould Evans, the design and planning firm working on the city’s 20-year comprehensive plan, briefly presented key points from the drafted document. Themes in the proposed vision statement are found throughout the plan, including resiliency and unique Prairie Village characteristics.

The plan focuses on the five following development principles, as outlined in city documents:

  • Quality public space, which includes investing in multimodal streets and reinforcing walkable development patterns.
  • Strong neighborhoods, which includes diversifying the city’s housing stock and maintaining neighborhood integrity.
  • Sustainability, which includes encouraging development that has a positive environmental impact and mitigating flood hazards.
  • Productivity, which includes strategic infrastructure investments and continuing “to be a model of efficient government.”
  • Viable commercial centers, which include diversifying tenant size and use and adapting surrounding streets to “create a more seamless connection to adjacent neighborhoods.”

Although it is nearing its final stages, Gould Evans and Prairie Village are still seeking feedback on Village Vision 2.0. Those interested in providing feedback can take an online survey found here.

Public concerned with affordable housing

During the question-and-answer session that followed the presentation during Wednesday’s meeting, residents asked about a top issue within the city: how the city can ensure it has affordable housing.

Patrick Lenahan, a planning commissioner who has been heavily involved in drafting Village Vision 2.0, said affordable housing has been at the forefront of the discussions. City councilmember Ian Graves said it’s easier said than done.

“This is unfortunately one of those things where you express, yes, we’re open to it, but you can’t just redevelop the whole town at once,” Graves said. “You have to wait for opportunities to arise in their due course.”

Mikkelson said affordable housing is an issue throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area, and the governing body is open to help and ideas. It’s been identified as “an increasingly troubling trend” in Johnson County overall, he said, and it remains a priority for Prairie Village.

Although the city still has more than 1,000 homes at $250,000 or less, the number is dwindling due to teardown-rebuilds, as well as rising property taxes, Mikkelson said. The city doesn’t want to lose that inventory for many reasons, including diversity, he said.

“[Affordable housing] feeds into what I believe and I know our city council believes in another opportunity for Prairie Village. That is, increasing diversity in residents racially and in other ways,” Mikkelson said. “The more diverse housing options you have, the more you can attract and retain diverse residents.”

Questions about former Macy’s, stalled civic center

The public also inquired about the newly vacant Macy’s at the Prairie Village Shops, as well as the previously halted civic center planning.

Mikkelson said he and Deputy City Administrator Jamie Robichaud met with the Macy’s building’s owners Wednesday, and although no plans are underway, he said the city is willing to work towards potential mixed-use development. Additionally, Councilmember Graves said the civic center planning being put on hold due to COVID-19 does not mean it’s been canceled outright.

The city will incorporate the remaining public input into the Village Vision 2.0, and it will go to the city council on Sept. 28 for a work session. The planning commission will hold a public hearing on Oct. 6 and make a recommendation for the city council to consider at its Oct. 19 meeting.