Heartland Visioning, NOTO Arts District Partners, and Redbud Foundation are starting a major new planning initiative that will address the future of the NOTO Arts District and surrounding North Topeka community. The Redbud Foundation, which has been a long-time supporter of NOTO, will fund the effort. Heartland Visioning will be the overall coordinator. Representatives of the NOTO and Redbud boards noted since the district has become widely recognized as a special arts-oriented business area at the north end of downtown Topeka, it needs to take the next steps in regards to its overall development.
“NOTO is a symbol of what Topeka wanted and proof that a community’s dream can be realized,” said NOTO Artist Barbara Waterman - Peters. “It is now time to examine all of these factors and to find how they and some new ideas can and will lead to SUSTAINABILITY.”
With committed business and property owners and the new Arts Center, along with the infrastructure and riverfront projects planned for downtown, the two boards and Heartland Visioning staff felt that the timing was right to craft a detailed blueprint for NOTO’s future.
The need for a NOTO master development plan as well as new District management strategy was confirmed last October when consultant John LaMotte, AICP, conducted 25 meetings with area stakeholders. He is a principal with LaMotte West, an Oregon-based city planning and community development firm. His leadership experience includes serving on the boards of professional and civic groups, including the Chicago Public Art Group.
LaMotte observed, "The North Topeka Arts District has come a long way in a short time and still has so much potential. It is a diamond in the rough.”
To assist in crafting the new plan, The Lakota Group, a Chicago-based planning and design firm will join the LaMotte West team. Both firms have extensive professional experience involving downtowns, special districts, main streets, commercial corridors, neighborhoods and community planning processes. Scott Freres, RLA and Nick Kalogeresis, AICP, senior members of The Lakota Group, will also be involved in the plan. Kalogeresis is a former program officer for the National Main Street Center and will assist the team in assessing NOTO’s organizational/management structure.
The process is projected to take 6 to 8 months starting this January, with a community workshop scheduled for January 28th at 6:30pm at the Garfield Community Center. Business and property owners, artists, civic leaders, developers, builders and residents are invited to participate.
The process will include three phases: a State of the District assessment; Community Visioning of alternative development and management scenarios; and the Master Plan. It will focus on the current challenges facing NOTO as well as positive elements such as its active businesses and strong arts theme.
The master plan will address: land use and physical conditions; infill and new development potential; access and parking; streetscape and signage design; outdoor public art; and historic preservation. The plan will also incorporate linkages to the Kansas River and Oregon Trail riverfront concept plan, the Rescue Mission and its campus plan, Great Overland Station and its park/campus plan and surrounding residential neighborhood.
The area under consideration will address the larger North Topeka area bounded by: Garfield Park/Quincy School Campus on the north; the Kansas River on the south and east and Topeka Boulevard on the west.
The assessment of the business district’s management is considered a logical next step in NOTO’s growth. Different organizational models will be considered to determine the most effective way for business and property owners, artists, civic leaders and the city to work together to improve and develop the area as well as manage NOTO’s Art Center, special events, local activities, marketing/promotions and community relations. Jim Ogle, NOTO Arts District Board past chair states, ““NOTO –It’s not just First Fridays anymore.”
Photo courtesy of City of Topeka Planning Department