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Examiner
  • Public mulling future of U.S. 40 corridor

  • What can be done to make U.S. 40 on the southern edge of Independence more vibrant, with more development?



     The city of Independence and regional planners are asking that question, and they got some suggestions at an open house Wednesday evening at William Southern Elementary School.

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  • What can be done to make U.S. 40 on the southern edge of Independence more vibrant, with more development?
     The city of Independence and regional planners are asking that question, and they got some suggestions at an open house Wednesday evening at William Southern Elementary School.
     “It’s just (about creating) better places to live, better place to work, better place to visit,” said Britt Palmberg, a consultant for the Mid-America Regional Council, which is studying ways to breathe new life into half a dozen corridors in the metro area such as North Oak Trafficway and Shawnee Mission Parkway. On U.S. 40 in Independence, the main focus is on the intersections with Blue Ridge Cut-off (think of Dixon’s Famous Chili) and Noland Road (think of Hy-Vee).
     No plans are set, and changes would likely be over the long term – perhaps even decades from now – but he said the amount of space along 40 devoted to retailers isn’t sustainable, given the area’s current demographics and retailers’ flight to the Little Blue Parkway area.
     Palmberg walked the 20 or so residents through some basic city planning and the particulars of U.S. 40 and then, via small keypads, had attendees vote for their preferences about what that area should look like and how to get there. The upshot from the small group: Make it greener – more like a parkway – and City Hall shouldn’t be afraid to think big or act boldly.
     Some particulars:
     n Baby boomers are aging, their kids have grown, and they want simpler lives with smaller homes. At the same time, young adults are less likely to want – or afford – large, suburban homes, looking instead to small homes in older areas.
     “How can these older suburbs take advantage of these trends?” Palmberg asked.
     n The highway could handle a dedicated lane, at least for parts of the day, for express buses. Residents generally voted for that idea.
     n Residents also liked the idea of bike lanes. “You could have a bike lane on 40 and still have four lanes of traffic,” Palmberg said.
     n There are a lot of driveways to and from businesses directly from the road. The city might want to reduce those over time, Palmberg suggested.
     n Signs are cluttered and could be more attractive (residents agreed). They could also point you to destination sites (good idea, residents said). It would be easier to find things if street signs told drivers where they were in hundred-block terms. For example, if you’re looking for Steak ’n Shake, you’re looking for the 13600 block of U.S. 40. (Good idea, residents said.)
     n Density – people per square mile, jobs per square mile – is important to attract businesses, and it’s a key factor in winning any federal money for big projects to improve the area. It’s why the Plaza works, Palmberg said: lots of stores and restaurants, plenty of parking, all those surrounding apartment buildings with all those people – and it’s walkable. That might mean 40 and Noland, for example, would need more than the three or so homes per acre common in much of Independence. Residents seemed open to that idea.
    Page 2 of 2 -  Palmberg cautioned patience. Cities such as Independence can make strides if mayors and other leaders over time push for it.
     “If they make this a priority, they can keep pressing it along,” he said.
     Independence officials want to hear more from residents and are encouraging them to take MARC’s online survey at www.creatingsustainableplaces.com. It will be up at least through the end of the year.
     This was the second of three meetings on U.S. 40. The first was in Kansas City. The third is from 5. p.m. to 8 p.m. today at William Bryant Elementary School, 1101 S.E. Sunnyside School Road, Blue Springs. There’s a presentation at 5:30, and it’s repeated at 7 p.m.
     After officials tally everyone’s comments and suggestions, they plan another round of meetings after the first of the year.
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