The team working with business and property owners, local residents and civic leaders on the future of the North Topeka Arts District has crafted a first draft of a District master plan based on input received from the community. On the evening of June 29, the team will conduct a final workshop open to the public that will review how the District can improve, develop and grow based on the draft plan, including expansion of its boundaries. An historic district designation, which was discussed at the last community workshop, will be further reviewed to take advantage of NOTO’s small town Kansas Main Street character. The District has the most significant grouping of historic commercial buildings remaining in Topeka.
The team has also been assisting the North Topeka Arts District Board with a strategy to reposition the group to more effectively manage NOTO’s daily operations and special events as well as the Arts Center and master plan implementation.
The Arts District Board along with Heartland Visioning and Redbud Foundation are sponsoring the master plan process. John Hunter, Heartland Visioning’s executive director, noted that “concepts and strategies for enhancing and developing the District are coming together into one overall vision for the future. Thinking of the bigger picture of NOTO’s position within the North Topeka neighborhood and near the Kansas River as well as considering smaller site opportunities within the District has allowed the process to bring forth a range of exciting ideas”.
The project’s consultants, LaMotte West, an Oregon-based planning and community development firm andThe Lakota Group, a Chicago-based planning and design firm have held several meetings with NOTO stakeholders and conducted State of the District and Community Visioning workshops that have generated numerous concepts and options for addressing District issues as well as its successes and positives. Scott Freres, RLA, a principal with Lakota, noted “that concepts for new land uses and infill buildings along with improved and new open spaces have shown stakeholders how NOTO can develop into a bigger and more dynamic District”.
For example, LaMotte West principal John LaMotte, AICP, said “the draft NOTO master plan shows:
- Expansion of the district north to Morse Street and eventually west to Topeka Boulevard, including existing and new commercial, light industrial/tech and residential uses.
- New residential development on the vacant block on Quincy Street between Fairchild and Gordon Streets, and on vacant lots west of NOTO’s commercial blocks.
- A public plaza/event venue and mixed-use development at the vacant corner east of the NOTO Arts Center.
- Enhancement of the existing park space along Laurent Street at the north end of the NOTO parking lot, including play equipment for children and public art.
- Enhancement of the County-owned pedestrian path leading from the parking lot to Kansas Avenue, including special lighting, seating and wall graphics.
- A new sculpture garden and event venue on the vacant loading area located behind the Arts Center.
- A new public plaza and event venue on the oversized cul-de-sac at the northwest corner of Gordon Street and Kansas Avenue.
- Enhancement of the existing Kansas Avenue streetscape, building facades and alleys with street trees, planting pockets, renovated lighting, overhanging business signs, wall murals, signage and public art.
- New parking lots, corner plazas, event venues, an art walk and food truck staging along Norris Street between NOTO and the Great Overland Station.”
To address NOTO’s organizational structure, Nick Kalogeresis, AICP, a Lakota vice president, presented options last April that were based on the National Main Street Center’s successful Four-Point Approach for managing commercial districts. A preliminary reorganization strategy for the Arts District Association was then distributed to board members in May. The strategy will also be discussed during the June consultant visit. The master plan is targeted for completion later this summer. The Phase 1: State of the District and Phase 2: Community Visioning workshop presentations are available for viewing at Heartland Visioning.com. The June 29, 2016 Master Plan Workshop is open to the public and will be held at Quincy School’s Gymnasium at 6:30pm.