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Notable Downtown Renewal - $155M Kansas Project

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    Posted: May 18 2018 at 2:10pm
NOTE Jason Gage, City Manager of Salina, Kansas (49,000 population) and one of two finalists for the vacant City
Manager position here in Springfield, Missouri, was/is the driving force behind this $155,000 million downtown project that's now underway.  This success story represents what could and should be happening in Middletown !!

Salina (KS) Downtown Redevelopment Project Approved

KSAL News Radio 1150
January 17, 2017



Following a marathon 4.5 hour Salina City Commission Special Meeting,  a refurbished and revitalized downtown is a step closer to becoming a reality.

By a 5-0 vote city commissioner approved multiple complex funding mechanisms that include adopting a STAR Bond Project Plan for a STAR Bond District, which has already been approved by the Kansas Department of Commerce. Funding will also come from Industrial Revenue Bonds, not to exceed an amount of which will be amended to a little over $30 million, and several Downtown Redevelopment District designations.

An agreement with an organization called “Salina 2020” was also approved.

A key component to the funding is the new downtown area attracting visitors from a wide area, which will generate tax money. The entire project is estimated to cost just over $150 million. About $105 million of the project will be private funding.

Multiple citizens, and downtown business owners spoke. Nearly all were in favor of the project.

The vision includes multiple major projects in a 28 block area of downtown Salina that would redefine and revitalize it. A field house project which is underway, and will be completed by this summer, will help generate other projects, and investors.

Potential projects include, but are not limited to:

  • A Homewood Suites by Hilton five-story hotel on Mulberry between Santa Fe and Fifth streets built by Salina-based Blue Beacon International
  • Hotel Restaurant
  • Old Chicago Restaurant
  • A “restaurant incubator” business
  • An “America’s Crossroads Car Collection” museum
  • “The Alley”, a bowling alley and indoor fun center
  • University of Kansas Medical School
  • Medical Student Housing (Apartments)
  • Lee Buildings (Low-Income Housing)
  • City Public Improvements (Streetscape)
  • Existing Retail Improvements
  • Stiefel Theatre Renovations

Plans also include narrowing Santa Fe from a four-lane street to a three-lane street. Traffic would flow in one lane in each direction, with a center turning lane. The redesign would open up more sidewalk space, thus opening up outdoor seating for downtown businesses.

WHY NOT IN MIDDLETOWN DOUG & CITY COUNCIL??

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote buddhalite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2018 at 3:33pm
There's a lot of reasons why not....a few of which I will note here....and if you think I'm blowing smoke, I've actually BEEN to Salina, Kansas.  They've done a far better job to this point of keeping their city up and going than Middletown and the area they are trying to re-develop only fell out of favor because it looks very 'industrial' with the large grain elevators and such.  Plus, Old US 40, US40, I-135 and I-70 all intersect in this small city - giving it every edge it could possibly ever want.

Additionally - there are jobs! From Schwan's Foods manufacturing, Philips (lighting division), Exide (batteries), Great Plains (commercial vehicle painting) and Asurion (insurer) - Salina isn't desperate for jobs to keep its citizens employed and happy there.

While I am certainly in favor of any reasonable efforts to redevelop the downtown area - let's be honest - if the private sector had any interest in putting its money downtown, it would.  The issue is there's no jobs.  Nothing to sustain the community - no vital traffic lanes - and frankly that last part is the issue.  There's no longer a true main thoroughfare to downtown Middletown.  

This city did in the downtown area when it pushed I-75 out of the city - and over the last 30 years, because of that one decision, this city is a mere shadow of what it could be.

In fact - downtown isn't even central to the city like many cities are.  In deep east Texas where I grew up - at least there the town center was where all the roads intersected - so people HAD to go to downtown and those cities (even though big-box moved out to the limits somewhere) still have their downtown storefronts full of merchants and especially at holidays is still a big-time draw for festivals and such.

I'm not against downtown re-development - I'm just not in favor of government money supporting it.  It was the lack of private money to support it that caused it - if private money can bring it out - so be it.  This town has so many bigger problems to worry about that I'm almost unconcerned about downtown.  

Every deal made either turns out to be a sham, a good-ole-boy network back scratch, littered with city money that gets wasted in the end, a short story turned rescue for a local money family or it just flat out never lives up to its hype.

I am spending more and more time downtown nowadays just so I can be honest about what I see....and if it weren't for the DORA - the place would be a ghost town with the exception of Friday night or a special night.  Why that warrants hundreds of millions in government money to 'revitalize' it - I just don't understand.

Salina is a great case study on how a sub 50k population city can survive in this day and age - but it all comes down to JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!

The only jobs we've had created in this city recently have been part-time payroll and we've SUBSIDIZED THOSE!

We've got a long way to go, Nelson.  I'm just not sure that it's apples to apples here.  I mean - hey we just took a MMF $400K loan to build a driveway at the airport for what reason, well, I have no idea.  It's like taking a second mortgage on your home to build it a driveway.  You wouldn't do that - and neither should have the city.

And from the voting records of council-members - the one that I thought was on our side is getting awfully fast to make the motion that makes these things law.

Folks, forget everything but Jobs.  until we get JOBS in this city it won't turn around.  Once we have jobs - then certain parts of the city can revive....but then they'll do it without YOUR tax dollars.
"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it."—Henry David Thoreau
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Analytical Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 23 2018 at 3:03pm
Is there any visual evidence that reconstruction has begun at the Goetz Tower or proposed BMW Motorcyclc Shop "redevelopment" sites?  Wasn't it last December when Doug Adkins recommended and city council approved another one-year extension for Steve Coon to finally move the languishing Goetz Tower deal along?  And, when the former Senior Citizens Center was practically gifted to the new Columbus-based owner, weren't there contract performance provisions stipulating the project would be completed at the end of this year?

As for Mike Robinette and Liberty Spirits Phase II Plan for formerly city-owned land and building at Central and Vail Avenues, aren't there similar "re-developer" performance provisions in contract conveyance documents?  Word has it that one brave city council member raised questions about this little matter and was summarily shot down.

And, what if anything is new with re-development activity involving the former Manchester Inn, former Snider Building and former Rose Furniture Building?  Does the city have any recourse in recouping subsidies already doled out?  Lastly, what about the staggering delinquent Butler County property tax account of Store Master Funding LLC Vi (owner and C-State College landlord) and the former CG&E Building?

It's reassuring to learn of other mid-sized cities nationwide that are successfully restoring their respective downtown areas.  What about Middletown?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote buddhalite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 23 2018 at 4:25pm
The entirety of the problem with downtown Middletown (specifically) is jobs.  The only people who will want to live downtown are either artsy-fartsy types who will commute a thousand miles a day just to support a failed initiative and those who can work close by and/or reach said employment from the city buses.

The sum total of those people in this city?

I'd say less than a thousand.  In fact - anyone I know who works downtown lives anywhere but downtown.

I'm not so much for the 'redevelopment' or the 'revitalization' or the 're' anything of downtown.  Not because I don't believe it can be accomplished - but we've taken the wrong tact.

Get Jobs first - then redevelop as those jobs flourish and the jobs turn into people who want to live down there.

Hsieh (the CEO of Zappos.com - a forward-thinking urbanite millionaire) invested $350M into the Las Vegas downtown revitalization effort.  Were there some positives?  Yes - but the entire project is widely regarded as a failure.

Why is that?  Here's his own words.....he..."would have put "collisions" — serendipitous encounters between individuals who can drive innovation — ahead of co-learning, connectedness and even return on investment."

In other words, he would have grown it organically - not throw $350M wasted dollars at a project that will never see the first dollar of ROI....but invest individually in people who can create jobs (to implement that innovation) far ahead of education, infastructure and money.

Nelson, you know I love ya - but I'm on the bandwagon of who cares at this point.  Without jobs - that entire side of the city is doomed.  Without jobs - there's no American dream for anyone on that side of town.  It used to be you could get a job at Armco, work a few years - make a decent salary - get a starter home (those homes that Adkins despises along the AK fences) and then move to the box board plant and then the hospital or wherever - the whole while buying better house after better house until you ended up on the east side (insert Jefferson's theme song here) and life was grand.

About the best thing people in our city can hope for now is a fast-food flinger job at a smidge over minimum wage and that's why we have a cycle of poverty in that area.  Not only is it job-starved, but you can't get out of that side of town and get elsewhere where there are jobs until and unless you have reliable transportation.  Sure - there are city buses - but does that get you where you need to go?

We need manufacturing jobs (and LOTS of them) if this city is going to survive.  I don't see it any other way.  The unions will have to stay out, the plants will have to re-open and get back to work and the people just have to show up and make it happen.  

Any attempt to beautify, glorify, revitalize or otherwise will be unfruitful.  Those with property on that side of town need to be aware of this impending eventual doom (unless it changes) and do what they have to do to get out.  

After doing a bit of research - all these cities that boast of their economic redevelopment....very few ever realize a nickel of ROI - sure the buildings look nice and the area was fixed up nicely - but the real issue is that unless JOBS come out of it - there's not ever enough made out of the projects to pay for them.

That's why I'm against using taxpayer dollars to fund such futile efforts.  I was against the BMW dealership deal from the start.  Good thing we did that 'ready-to-roll' project that hasn't even begun to start anything, isn't it.  Maybe that guy ran the numbers and just decided to take a handout from the city on a decent plot of land....

In short, Nelson, it's a shame - but without Jobs - we're sunk.  I'm working on some things to respond to your earlier query - but would rather wait until campaign season to let them loose.... :-)

Bob
"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it."—Henry David Thoreau
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 02 2018 at 8:43am
Observation from the Journal story on the old Studio Theater being torn down now...

Couldn't help but notice the aerial photo along with the story.

Just exudes a "bombed out" desolate look to the downtown area doesn't it?

Many empty, vacant parcels of land is noticed right away.

The city is good at demolishing what is no longer viable as decent real estate in this city but they are sorely lacking at replacing new structures to avoid the "holes" left by their demolishing tactics.

IMO, the "emptiness" of the city as a result of the tear downs is not necessarily a better remedy to the blight they are trying to eliminate.

City leaders really need to follow up on a program to replace the land vacancies as well.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Analytical Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 05 2018 at 1:27pm
Much can be gleaned from sources like Wikipedia about Salina, KS plus its' major employers, access to state/federal highways and the visual impact of central city grain elevators in this notable wheat heartland.of the U.S.  However, it's immaterial whether anyone has spent time in or driven on I-70 through this community of similar size to Middletown.  What does matter is how city government and the residents of Salina are now jointly/creatively addressing their high-priority objective in rejuvenating the urban core.

Yes, for the most part, "downtown" Middletown isn't an opportunity zone for 100% privately-financed redevelopment and has been that way for years.  But, to suggest that public capital shouldn't be invested in cost-effective/strategical measures is to doom the traditional heart of the city.  And, not publicly-assisting in the revitalization of older neighborhoods and good-paying local job creation expansion or new employer procurement is the same.

Market conditions in some phases of Middletown's economy are suspect and in need of sound public-sector stimulus.  To expand jobs, jobs, jobs, Middletown must improve older neighborhoods, the downtown commercial/entertainment district and partner with institutions of higher learning/vocational educators in enhancing the availability/quality of the local workforce.  The above (and more) factors play a huge role in private-sector investors/businesses decisions to choose/not choose  Middletown.

Regarding the final determination of the Federal Highway Administration's right-of-way determination for I-75, not the city's, the rationale was predicated mostly upon whether to acquire/demolish hundreds and hundreds of homes and businesses at great expense to the taxpayer or not.  Also taken into consideration was how a westerly-located alternative route would impact the local transportation system.and the geographic fabric/stability of a then resulting bisected community.

Yes, the city's downtown of 2018 is different than was the case before.  Outlying businesses and offices now provide goods/services that were once the province of "downtown".  However, like successful mid-sized municipalities, Middletown has entertainment events like the Broad Street Bash to draw residents back "downtown".  But, as discussed often on this blog, city involvement with several key redevelopment endeavors have generated few positive results despite generous tax abatements, land/building gifts, direct cash contributions, etc.  For these reasons alone, it makes economic sense to learn from other noteworthy communities.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote buddhalite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 05 2018 at 4:37pm
Look,

I'm no fan of Adkins and his ilk - however - one must do something.

One cannot just let these buildings continue to attract vagrants, deteriorate and fall over of their own accord due to neglect.  The city has an obligation to push the landowners to do it - or by law seize the properties and the demolish.

The issue here is that no one wants these properties in the first place.  The Finkleman's should be kissing the fleshy posteriors of every council member for taking that half-million dollar albatross off their hands for a measly sum.

Why did the city have to step in?  Finkleman was gonna let it continue to rot until it fell over hoping for a last-minute real estate deal that would never occur.  The city took it on the chin and is now cleaning it up.  

Yes - it looks from aerial shots that downtown is just a bucktoothed representation of its former self - but it is what it is.  Pictures don't lie....

Nelson - the issue is that even once these properties are cleaned up, scraped and greened - still no one wants them.  These properties are only valuable in the minds of certain individuals who think Downtown is still an investible place.

But it's not.  It's simply not a place where businesses want to invest.  It's not a place that I want to live.  It's not even a place I want to go to the post office!  

I don't mind learning from other communities - but the comparisons aren't apples to apples.  Every place that you want to compare/learn from has a distinct advantage over Middletown....they've got jobs.  Without jobs - no amount of investment is enough.  You can compare all you want - the city is stuck - private industry is snubbing the city and piling cash on the problem won't solve the issue.  
"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it."—Henry David Thoreau
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