Archive for Sunday, December 20, 1998

FIRMS URGED TO FUND FACELIFT

December 20, 1998

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— Business owners and the city are moving toward an $860,000 downtown revitalization project in Tonganoxie.

Business owners, the Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce and the city are hoping to give their town a special present for 1999.

Supporters of a downtown revitalization project soon will be asking downtown business owners for support in the effort, which they hope will boost its image in the style of Lawrence or Weston, Mo.

"It's a heritage that you have to maintain," said Chris Donnelly, executive vice president of First State Bank & Trust and a leader of the revitalization effort.

"Our concern was that with all the growth in this area and the new four-lane highway (U.S. 24), things would be built to the highway and the downtown would be forgotten," he said. "The downtown has always been the center, and we're trying to create a niche."

The city council recently approved the concept, in which about $860,000 would be spent on new brick sidewalks, trees, old-fashioned light posts, widening of Fourth Street -- the main downtown street -- and improved drainage for the area.

The improved area will be from Green to Pleasant streets.

In a few weeks, Donnelly will be delivering a benefit-district proposal for downtown business owners to sign.

If a majority of business owners approve the plan, they would pick up about $300,000 of the cost, with the city picking up the rest.

"We're hoping to get 100 percent approval" from about 40 downtown business owners, said Tonganoxie City Administrator Chris Eppley.

"There will not be unanimous support for this project, but almost everyone is in favor of it," he said.

Donnelly said that although business owners will be paying part of the cost, it should be beneficial to them in the long run.

"People understand that there's no way of getting it for free," he said. "The city can't afford to pay for all of it, and so the businesses will have to pick up some of the cost."

Under the proposed benefit district, each business will pay a share of the cost based on the square footage of its downtown storefront.

Financing for the project will be acquired at the city's low interest rates, Donnelly said.

The project will move ahead if more than 50 percent of downtown business owners sign the agreement, Eppley said.

"To me, it's something that needs to be done," said public accountant Richard Smith, whose office is downtown. "Certainly with all the influx of growth, it's bound to bring in more business to the downtown."

Downtown grocery store owner Matt Bichelmeyer agreed.

"At first they were saying, `Let it die, let it die,'" he said. "I'm glad they've decided to do something about downtown.

"There's a lot of old buildings down here that could really be brought up to the way they used to look, with sort of an antique feel.

"I'm looking forward to a more nostalgic-looking downtown."

If approved, construction on the project could begin next year, Donnelly said.

-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is mdekker@ljworld.com.

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