Anticipating growth along the K-18 corridor, planners have put together a document on how and where to develop the area between Manhattan and Ogden. The plan is a joint project among the cities of Manhattan and Ogden, along with Riley County. Eric Cattell, the city’s assistant director for planning and community development, said it is a “sub-set” of the comprehensive plan for Manhattan, which area planners are in the process of updating.
Elements of what is known as the Eureka Valley plan include land use; mobility and connectivity; parks and recreation and environmental assets; public facilities and services; intergovernmental coordination, development standards and implementation; and economic opportunities.
Cattell said that improvements to K-18 between Ogden and Manhattan meant a plan was needed to facilitate direct growth in that area. One of the issues is what types of businesses would be allowed to build in the corridor, and where those businesses would be located. Gary Stith, a member of the Manhattan Area Planning Board, said commercial sites are envisioned in small areas close to the highway. He said those sites were intended to house establishments that would be used by people traveling along K-18 or working in nearby areas.
“We talked about retail being limited with the bulk of (the area) being for economic development,” Stith said. “None of the sites for retail are that large. They are small for the traveling public or to grab something to eat.”
Stith said planners did not want to set aside areas for outlet malls or shopping centers because that would be detrimental to what is already available. At the same time, he said existing and future businesses as well as airport customers need places to eat during lunch, get gas and do other types of small shopping.
The tech park
One site of existing and future businesses is at the Corporate Technology Park just west of the airport. Lyle Butler, president of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has had trouble attracting businesses to the park because of accessibility issues and a lack of places to eat.
“Although it is good for developing prospects, it was not an easy location to get to,” Butler said.
He said since the development of K-18 and Eureka Drive and Wildcat Creek Road, the chamber has received a number of calls from local and out-of-state businesses interested in moving into the park. But, until Riley County improved the roads, something that was funded through the half-cent sales tax, businesses were reluctant to even consider the location.
While the county has improved the current roads, the corridor plan includes future roads to be added to the area. Those, however, have not been clearly defined. Stith said the plan needs to include a “hierarchy of roads.” He said when prospective businesses look at the area, they want to know what kind of access they will be given to their business. Designating which roads have priority or will be future thoroughfares allows developers and businesses to place their businesses in better locations.
Cattell said he would include that in future drafts of the corridor plan, giving future developers and prospective businesses a clearer plan of development.
Food and water
Butler said the other drawback to those businesses moving into the park is the lunch break issue. He said currently, the employees at the park have to travel to either Junction City or Manhattan to eat lunch because there are no restaurants located in the valley, and Ogden does not have much to offer. He said once the small retail businesses move into the area and develop the projected places to eat, shopettes and gas stations, more employers will be willing to move into the area.
As for the types of businesses moving into the area, Butler and others have said they want to attract light manufacturing, and technological businesses. He said light manufacturing businesses are those types of businesses that do not rely heavily on natural resources, such as water. He said Manhattan has never tried to attract food processing or meat packing plants because of the heavy reliance on water. He said designation of the Kansas River as a national water trail makes it attractive as a recreational use, and those kinds of industries would be detrimental to it. Butler was not the only one concerned with preserving the natural beauty of the stream. Board Member Phil Anderson also questioned industrial businesses dumping into the river. Cattell said the designation of the river and other federal laws governing those types of practices would mute that as an issue. But, he said, the steering committee pointed out they did not want any industries that would harm the natural environment or aesthetic of the valley. Butler said industries that are good fits to the region are those associated with NBAF.
Flood plain positives and negatives
Another concern for members of the planning board is the 100-year flood plain that covers a large portion of the valley. Stith said they have designated several areas within the floodway as recreational areas because those don’t require buildings that would be damaged by flooding. As a result, pedestrian and bike trails, parks and a boat dock have been included in the plan. In the areas designated for commercial use, Cattell said the builders will have to either flood-proof the buildings or raise the base of their structures above the plain.
He said while most businesses choose to raise the base of their buildings, in some instances, they flood-proof the structures—which can be more expensive. He cited the Dillon’s gas station in Westloop Plaza, where owners flood-proofed the gas wells. But Stith said it might also deter some businesses from choosing the valley as a place of business.
Cattell said when the Kansas Department of Transportation re-did K-18, it improved the flood conditions along the highway, and FEMA was in the process of updating the flood plain for the valley. He said when that is finished, it will likely diminish the size of the flood plain and flood ways, which should help in attracting more business.
John Ball, a board member and city commission candidate, also raised the issue of blocking the airport from expanding its runways. Ball said he has had experience with using an airport that has only one main runway. He asked whether there was enough land designated for the airport to build a second runway in the future, especially if NBAF attracts more bioscience industries that will use the airport heavily. Cattell said the steering committee included the airport’s long-term plan in the design, but did not know whether that included the addition of a second main runway. Ball did not think there was enough land given to the airport to facilitate the addition of a second runway.