November 25, 1999

City Community Development Department Release Downtown Report

The City of Manhattan Community Development Department released a new
report on what to do with Downtown Manhattan. Here is the report:
The continuing stability and vitality of the Manhattan Downtown as the
regional commercial, office, governmental and cultural center for the City
and surrounding region, has long been an important community goal.  The
importance of the Manhattan Downtown area to the image and long-term
physical, economic and social well-being of the community has resulted in
several planning, redevelopment and rehabilitation initiatives.
Fifteen years have passed since the Central Business District Redevelopment
Plan was adopted.  For a number of years the Manhattan Urban Area Planning
Board and Manhattan Main Street have been interested in updating plans for
the Downtown area, including adjacent neighborhoods.
Plan Purpose
The purpose of the Downtown Tomorrow Plan is to review the goals,
objectives and land use assumptions for the 1983 Redevelopment Project for
downtown Manhattan; as well as to develop and implement programs to address
changing needs and issues, to insure continued vibrancy and economic
stability of the downtown.
Plan Objectives
This section defines the results that are expected to be achieved, and
describes the scope and limits of the plan.
General Objectives
• Establish a public/private partnership for the plan oversight,
development and implementation.
•Formulate planning principles and design guidelines for a sustainable
•Identify and prioritize programs, projects and opportunities for the
downtown area.
•Formulate plans and programs for redevelopment, revitalization,
restoration and preservation projects in the downtown area.
•Gain broad based community support and  endorsement from the Manhattan
Urban Area Planning Board and City Commission for the Plan.
Specific Objectives
•Identify potential redevelopment projects in the Tax Increment Finance
•Coordinate and merge the Tax Increment Finance District project
initiatives with other downtown redevelopment projects.
•Functionally incorporate the historic Union Pacific Depot into the
downtown, and occupy the structure with an appropriate use.
•Identify public use alternatives for the Riley County Jail Site site (600
Colorado Street).
•Improve public facilities in the downtown.
•Create an attractive gateway to the city and the downtown area.
•Functionally link the downtown and surrounding historic, recreational and
open space features.
•Encourage residential growth in and around the downtown area.
•Reassess the boundaries of commercial development.
•Reassess the different zoning districts within the downtown study area.
•Assess the need for development and redevelopment design standards in the
•Analyze and improve traffic and pedestrian access and movement.
•Establish a program to promote and market the downtown and its amenities
and features.
•Encourage commercial and office growth through policies and programs which
offer incentives to invest and locate downtown.
Design, Pedestrian and Transportation Improvements
Gateway and Streetscape
The overall improvement of the visual quality and access will determine the
ultimate character of the environment of Downtown Manhattan.  The
approaches and gateways to the downtown area are extremely important and
improvements to these areas provide an opportunity to announce the arrival
into and a lasting image of an exceptional downtown environment.
The Public Plaza at the east end of Poyntz Avenue serves to anchor the
downtown and accommodate community events (the most notable being the
annual Purple Power Play on Poyntz).  The use of common design elements
helps to successfully unify this area.  Opportunities should be seized to
further strengthen the role of the Plaza as a major link between the
Manhattan Town Center and the Poyntz Avenue businesses.  The Manhattan Town
Center has significant pedestrian traffic which needs to be encouraged to
walk out the west entrance and explore the public plaza and Poyntz Avenue.
This could be achieved through the introduction of design features which
emphasize pedestrian comfort, access and movement, and creates a more
seamless transition from the Manhattan Town Center, out across the plaza
and down Poyntz Avenue.  Covered walkways, outdoor café seating with
parasols, street cart vendors and benches on the public plaza would benefit
both the Poyntz Avenue corridor as well as the Manhattan Town Center.
In addition to Poyntz Avenue, the 4th Street corridor, from Fort Riley
Boulevard to Bluemont Avenue can become a primary identity street in the
downtown area.  The streetscape program should be extended along this
corridor to create a complementary and integrated system.
Creating the pedestrian friendly environment for all ages throughout the
downtown area will not only enhance the downtown experience but will also
encourage people to relax, linger and spend more time in the area, and use
more downtown activities and services.  By adding trees and some
landscaping in these areas would encourage people to spend time in the
downtown.  Improving public property, such as the enhancement of the public
parking areas, could set an example for the private sector.
It is recommended that:
•An urban design plan be prepared, combined with a gateway element and
streetscape program;
•Design features be introduced to the Public Plaza which emphasize
pedestrian comfort, access and movement, and creates a more seamless
transition from the Manhattan Town Center, out across the plaza and along
Poyntz Avenue; and
•A streetscape plan be developed for improvements along 4th Street and
those sections of Pierre and Leavenworth Streets that function as major
entry points to the downtown area.
Traffic Movement
Replacing the existing traffic signal at the intersection of Poyntz Avenue
and 3rd Street with three way stop signs, with pedestrian crossings that
are clearly marked or with textured paving, should be considered.  This
could help to improve both automobile and pedestrian movement at this
The potential to reduce Poyntz Avenue to three lanes, and to restripe the
angled parking between 3rd Street and Juliette Avenue should be further
studied.  The results could increase the parking supply and make it more
pedestrian friendly, without significantly affecting the traffic flow on
Poyntz Avenue.
To maximize parking opportunities in the downtown and Aggieville, the
Manhattan Area Transportation Strategy: Connecting to 2020, suggests the
implementation of a shuttle service.
It is recommended that:
•The traffic signal at Poyntz and 3rd Street be replaced with stop signs;
•The number of traffic lanes along Poyntz Avenue, from 6th Street to 3rd
Street, be reduced from four to three, and that the center lane serve as a
left turn lane; and
•A shuttle bus service be developed to provide greater access to downtown
Pedestrian and Bicycle Access
Encouraging people to walk between downtown activities and services is an
important objective in improving general pedestrian access.  Bicycle access
to the downtown provides an alternative to automobiles and supports the
goal of establishing a multi-modal transportation system for Manhattan.
It is recommended that:
• A system of downtown walkways and pocket-parks be developed with
landscaping and rest-areas;
• Funds be committed to the development and improvement of pedestrian
walkways, sidewalks, and alleyways which connect rear block parking areas
to the main commercial thoroughfares;
• Sidewalk improvements in downtown be added to the list of projects that
will be funded through the Capital Improvements Program established to fill
in sidewalk gaps in the City;
• All the major pedestrian crossings along Poyntz Avenue emphasize the
pedestrian component of the streetscape through clearly marked or textured
• Pedestrian access to the Manhattan Town Center be improved at 3rd  and
4th Streets at Leavenworth Street, and from the area south of Pierre
• The establishment of rear entrances to commercial and office buildings be
encouraged behind Poyntz Avenue for ease of access from parking lots;
• The City’s Bicycle Master Plan recommendations to develop north-south
bicycle routes along 4th Street and Juliette Avenue be implemented as part
of any future street improvement program; and
• Bicycle racks be provided at common destination points.
The provision of parking in close proximity to the South 4th Street
corridor, the area that is considered to have the highest potential for
redevelopment, needs to be an integral part of the redevelopment mix for
the downtown.  The provision of parking presents an ideal opportunity for
public investment in the redevelopment of the downtown.  Assisting in the
provision of off-street parking through the creation of benefit districts
and the application of Tax Increment Financing can help to offset the cost
of providing adequate parking for downtown redevelopment.
Consideration should be given to the possible provision of strategically
located well landscaped parking lots, or a multi-level parking facility
that incorporates some commercial/office space.  The needs and preferred
location should be determined through the proposed market analysis and
master plan taking into account the development proposals of the Downtown
Tomorrow Plan.  Parking facilities should preferably be provided in
association with downtown redevelopment projects.
It is recommended that:
• The future anticipated parking needs of downtown be determined, taking
into account the development proposals contained in this Plan; and
• A public/private partnership be considered for the provision of parking
Downtown Promotion
Downtown has a very special significance to the people of Manhattan.  The
current growth policies as well as statements in the Comprehensive Land Use
Plan recognize downtown Manhattan as the primary commercial center for the
community.  Ideally one would like to have the downtown to be fully
self-supportive, but like in many other communities, downtown remain an
endangered space that requires special support and measures to keep it
viable and vital.
In view of the economic, cultural, historic, community, and political
importance placed on downtowns, special financial support of the Manhattan
Main Street program is justifiable and necessary.
It is recommended that:
• There be a long-term commitment and allocation of public resources to the
Manhattan Main Street program to ensure its stability and viability;
• Incentives be established to retain and enhance existing businesses, and
attract new businesses; and
• The historic character of Main Street be further enhanced and expanded to
serve as a feature attraction to downtown.
Market Analysis
The most cost efficient way of ensuring a successful downtown
revitalization program is through a strong, viable organization, combined
with a clear, dynamic development design plan based on a comprehensive
Market Analysis.
It is recommended that:
• A Market Analysis be undertaken for downtown; and
• Based on the downtown market analysis and this report a Development
Design Plan be developed.
Downtown Housing
The blocks between Pierre and Houston Streets from Juliette Avenue to 5th
Street; the block between Colorado and Pierre from 5th to 6th Streets; and
the block between Yuma and Colorado from Juliette Avenue to 6th Street have
retained their earlier style while only a limited number of housing has
been introduced that is out of character.  Many of the homes in this area
have or are being restored, or present additional opportunity for
restoration.  The Historic Preservation Ordinance provides opportunities
for historic preservation in this area.
It is recommended that:
• Private/public partnerships be considered for the development of new
housing, with the public role centered on improving the infrastructure;
• Zoning changes to the R-M Four-Family Residential District Bulk
Regulations or the introduction of a special overlay district should be
considered to allow for reduced front yard setbacks;
• Funding be committed towards the upgrading of public services and
infrastructure as an incentive to housing restoration and redevelopment;
• A pallet of design options for downtown housing be developed that would
encourage housing restoration and construction that is sensitive to the
architectural and historic context and integrity of these neighborhoods;
• Incentives to encourage the incorporation of quality design into the
construction of new downtown infill housing be established (Neighborhood
Revitalization Act and Historic Preservation Ordinance);
• The neighborhood surrounding the Riley County Jail Site property be
consulted on the potential to designate portions of this area as an
historic district;
• Housing development with increased density (duplexes, townhouses and
courtyard apartments) be encouraged on the south side of Yuma Street,
between 5th Street and Juliette Avenue, and integrated with new commercial
development to the south along Fort Riley Boulevard; and
• A program with incentives be developed to encourage the residential use
of the upper floors of commercial buildings (Neighborhood Revitalization
The 4th Street Corridor
The 4th Street corridor forms a natural link between Fort Riley Boulevard
in the south and Bluemont Avenue in the north providing access to the
downtown and Poyntz Avenue from K-177, Fort Riley Boulevard and Tuttle
Creek Boulevard.
East Side 4th Street
Due to its location and high visibility at the entrance to Manhattan, the
east side of 4th Street is considered a prime future commercial/office
redevelopment area.  Ideally the land to the east of 3rd Street should be
considered for a larger single commercial/office development or a medium
sized convention center and hotel.  To gain optimal use of the confined
land space at this strategic location, an integration of uses on multiple
levels as well as vacating public rights-of-way should be seriously
Along the 4th Street corridor, potential uses that could enhance this area
include an entertainment and theater complex.  The area surrounding the
intersection of 4th and Pierre Streets should be developed as a focal point
to this area.
Establishing a permanent group to enter into discussions with the major
land holders would be an important step towards exploring and realizing
possible options for downtown redevelopment.
A celebration of the community’s river and its physical and historic
association with Manhattan should be an important long term objective.
Establishing a greenway that will connect Fairmont Park, the Kansas River,
Southeast Park and the Linear Park Trail, to Downtown Manhattan would
provide an important recreational link, and access to many of Manhattan’s
natural resources and diverse historic sites.
It is recommended that:
• Appropriate individuals be identified that could effectively initiate
discussions with the major land holders, exploring possible redevelopment
options and opportunities;
• Design standards be formulated for the development and redevelopment of
the 4th Street corridor;
• The area surrounding the 4th and Pierre Street intersection be enhanced
and strengthened to emphasize its importance as the Gateway to downtown;
• A greenway be established connecting Fairmont Park, the Kansas River,
Southeast Park and the Linear Park Trail, to downtown Manhattan.
West Side 4th Street
On the west side of 4th Street a mixed land use pattern has evolved and has
developed a transitional character between the predominantly commercial and
office development on the east side of 4th Street and the residential
neighborhood to the west.  Business redevelopment has naturally started to
extend south from Poyntz Avenue along 4th Street.
Appropriate new development will justify streetscape improvements to
complement those along Poyntz Avenue and the one block section of 4th
Street south of Poyntz Avenue.  Improvements to sidewalks and utilities,
especially water services will also be required.  Park facilities that
would complement the streetscape along 4th Street and provide the open
space needs of the neighborhood would enhance the future development of
this area.
It is recommended that:
• Zoning options for reduced front yard setbacks, that would match more
closely the original setbacks of the neighborhoods, be explored.
• The RDO Redevelopment District Overlay Zoning be extended to include more
of the C-5 Highway Service Commercial District in order to make residential
buildings a permitted use;
• Tax Increment Financing be used to improve streetscapes, sidewalks and
public utilities;
• Opportunities be identified to establish pocket-parks to meet the needs
of the existing and future residents of downtown; and
• Commercial/office uses be limited to those areas on the west side of 4th
Street presently zoned C-4 Central Business District, C-5 Highway Service
Commercial District, RDO Redevelopment District Overlay, and LM-SC Light
Manufacturing - Service Commercial.
Riley County Jail Site
The Riley County Jail Site (600 Colorado Street) and its imminent reversion
back to the City, provides an immediate opportunity to initiate a
redevelopment project that could enhance and stabilize the neighboring
residential community and serve to encourage further development and
redevelopment in this area.
The site should be redeveloped to benefit and enhance the immediate
neighborhood, and land use considerations should be limited to those which
benefit residents and serve the community in general.  Maintaining and
enhancing the open space/park function must be central to any redevelopment
of the site.  The future use of the buildings on the site must be secondary
and complementary to the central function of community green space.  The
following possible alternatives are suggested for consideration:
• The Community Park as a prime function.
• Complementary use alternatives include:
• Youth center.
• Sports Field for the surrounding neighborhood.
• Sports Facility in the office structure.
• Community Center.
• Municipal Court.
• An integrated unit with multiple uses at different times, including a
combination of uses listed above.
To consider more comprehensively the options for the site the City, in
consultation with the surrounding neighborhood and community, should
initiate a public process.
It is recommended that:
• A development plan process be initiated to determine the future use of
the Riley County Jail Site (600 Colorado Street);
• Future planning initiatives take into consideration the suggested land
use alternatives and recommendations of the Downtown Tomorrow Study; and
• The future redevelopment of the Riley County Jail Site (600 Colorado
Street) have a community park as a prime function.
The Union Pacific Depot
Inadequate access to the Union Pacific Depot site is considered a serious
limitation to any future use of a restored depot building.  Linking the
Railroad Depot with the downtown, through a pedestrian underpass at the
K-177 ramp, should be considered if the future use of the Depot requires
improved access.
It is important to insure that the Union Pacific Depot is functionally
linked to the downtown and surrounding area.  The Depot is strategically
located at the gateway to the City, and is among the important historical
and physical landmarks of this area.  The Union Pacific Depot, together
with the historical buildings and sites of downtown; the Linear Park Trail;
Fairmont Park; and the Kansas River, can serve as important attractions of
an historical, architectural and recreational trail in this area.
It is recommended that:
• The Union Pacific Depot be preserved and potential uses explored;
• The Railroad Depot and the downtown be linked through a pedestrian
underpass at the K-177 ramp; and
• A trail be developed that integrates the existing recreational facilities
and highlights and links  these with the downtown historic landmarks and
sites, including the Union Pacific Depot.
Fort Riley Boulevard Corridor
North Side Corridor
This segment of the corridor is presently a mix of commercial and
commercial industrial development, with the bulk of redevelopment having
taken place along the eastern half of the corridor.  The greater part of
the western half of the corridor is vacant with some commercial and single
family residences on the section of the corridor between 6th Street and
Juliette Avenue.  Commercial development should be encouraged between 5th
Streets and Juliette Avenue where most of the vacant land is located.  This
could serve the needs of and be integrated with, the residential
development to the north along Yuma Street.
It is recommended that:
• Commercial development be encouraged that is compatible with and can
serve the residential needs of the adjoining neighborhood to the north.
South Side Corridor
Traffic volume and the absence of sidewalks presently allows little or no
opportunity for pedestrian and bicycle access to the south side of Fort
Riley Boulevard.  Limited access to the south of Fort Riley Boulevard also
restricts access to the City’s Linear Trail, located south of the railroad
In addition to being a major thoroughfare, Fort Riley Boulevard should also
serve to announce the downtown commercial/office district.  It is important
therefore, that improvements to the streetscape design be made along this
primary path for downtown activities and vehicular movement.
Lower property values along the railroad corridor provide opportunities for
the establishment of small artisan and craft industries.  Such development
can provide studio space and opportunities for the local art community to
develop new business ventures.
It is recommended that:
• Design guidelines be developed that meet both the highway and downtown
needs and softens the streetscape of the Fort Riley Boulevard corridor; and
• Small artisan and craft industries be encouraged to establish along the
Union Pacific Rail corridor.
Leavenworth/Osage Street Corridor
Pedestrian access to the central business district to the south should be
enhanced from the higher density residential area along the
Leavenworth/Osage Street Corridor, as well as from the area further north
and northwest where a large segment of the student population resides.  The
landscaping barrier created at the closure of 3rd and Leavenworth Streets
needs to be redesigned to improve and enhance downtown access from the
north for both pedestrian and bicycle traffic.  This intersection should
not however, be reopened to automobile traffic, as this would not only
negatively impact traffic movements at 3rd Street, Leavenworth Street and
Tuttle Creek Boulevard, but would also hinder the efforts to make the
downtown more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
It is recommended that:
• Pedestrian and bicycle access from adjacent neighborhoods to the north
and northwest should be improved into the Central Business District.
North 3rd Street Corridor
The North 3rd Street Corridor, which is the area north of Leavenworth
Street, between 4th Street and Tuttle Creek Boulevard, is also a prime
downtown redevelopment area.  The single ownership of the majority of the
land in the North 3rd Street corridor provides an opportunity for a
public/private redevelopment partnership with the potential for assembling
a large tract of land for commercial uses close to the Manhattan Town
Center and downtown.
Shifting the collector function from North 3rd Street to North 4th Street,
between Leavenworth Street and Bluemont Avenue, would improve traffic
movement through the downtown and provide an opportunity to create a larger
more viable redevelopment area along the North 3rd Street corridor. The
potential impact on the residential neighborhood to the west of the North
3rd Street corridor must be take into account when considering
redevelopment options and the possible relocation of the traffic collector
function to North 4th Street.  Appropriate land use patterns must be
ensured, with effective transitional buffers and sensitive use of urban
design along the east side of North 4th Street, between the existing
residential uses to the west and any future commercial redevelopment.
Any redevelopment project suitable for this area should be supported
through the creation of a new TIF district or through redevelopment
incentives provided for by the Neighborhood Revitalization Act.
It is recommended that:
• The traffic collector function of 4th Street, between Fort Riley
Boulevard and Leavenworth Street, be extended to Bluemont Avenue;
• Incentives provided through Tax Increment Financing and the Neighborhood
Revitalization Act be made available to redevelopment projects intending to
establish in the North 3rd Street Corridor;
• A negotiating team, made up of appropriate individuals, enter into
discussions with major land holders within the North 3rd Street Corridor to
explore possible redevelopment options and opportunities; and
• Effective land use and urban design measures be introduced to protect the
residential neighborhoods along and to the west of North 4th Street.
Both public and private investment by the community in the downtown must
continue.  The Downtown Tomorrow Land Use Plan contains many specific
proposed actions affecting different elements of the downtown.
Individually and collectively they have as an objective the continued
growth and revitalization of the economic, cultural and governmental core
of the community.  However, in order to implement these a number of key
actions are required.  It is not intended that there be strict adherence to
these stated priorities; should opportunities present themselves which make
lower priority projects feasible and desirable, they should be pursued.
The order is intended as a general guide for directing efforts and to help
focus the use of limited resources, the sequencing of the high priority
projects is important as they are a logical progression and will establish
a firm basis upon which the successful implementation of the rest of the
proposals of this Plan will depend.
Priority Actions
• The City approve long term funding support of the Manhattan Main Street
• The City authorize the preparation of a Market Analysis to identify
specific actions necessary to revitalize the downtown.
• Prepare Development Design Plans for the downtown area based on the
Market Analysis and the proposals of this Plan.
• Design and implement a Gateway and Streetscape Improvement program which
includes pedestrian and bicycle facilities.
• Implement a housing program for the downtown, based on the consolidated
recommendations of the Downtown Tomorrow Plan and the Housing Manhattan
• Develop financing programs and incentives through the use of economic
development tools, such as Tax Increment Financing and the Neighborhood
Revitalization Act, to stimulate private development.