by Mary Rupert
The City Planning Commission voted unanimously on Monday night to adopt the Armourdale master plan.
Andrew Moddrell, project consultant from PORT Design, whose group led the master plan project, said at the Zoom meeting that there was good response from most of the Armourdale residents that they interacted with, and the residents shared their stories and priorities.
The project hired some Armourdale residents to help gather citizen input, he said. A website, armourdalestrong.com, was created.
In answer to a question from Planning Commission Chairman Jeff Carson, Moddrell said some of the Armourdale residents wondered if the UG planners were going to be here today and gone tomorrow, but after months of work there, they gained the confidence of many.
Moddrell noticed that Armourdale residents shared stories about their everyday lives, such as some young residents letting them know they like to walk in alleys because trucks travel too fast on the streets.
Since last month’s presentation to the Planning Commission and the UG Commission, there has been an open house held Sept.21 for residents, and there have been other meetings, also, according to Moddrell.
The master plan also covered some industrial and labor history, as well as the rich Hispanic heritage, of the Armourdale neighborhood in the southeast part of Kansas City, Kansas, he said. The area received its name from the former Armour meatpacking plant and the stockyards in the bottoms. The area faced a legacy of negative developments, such as flooding, population decline, segregation, redlining and displacement, he said.
It was also isolated, as it was surrounded by rails, the river and industrial uses, he said.
With the master plan, the UG is hoping to turn the area around from disinvested, deteriorated, neglected, isolated, vulnerable and segregated to a safe, inclusive, stimulating and attractive place.
The master plan outlined five areas and different strategies. One with the longest list of strategies was the neighborhood core, where housing solutions are part of the focus, Moddrell said. Also important is to increase the capacity of Armourdale community-based organizations, he added.
Commercial corridors were discussed, including Osage Avenue and Kansas Avenue. The master plan wants to build upon the existing structure, and Osage Avenue would be the heart of the neighborhood, he said.
The plan would encourage the walkability of the area, integrate green and infrastructure upgrades and add bus stops.
The master plan also mentioned access to fresh food, public spaces, bike lanes and cultural amenities for Armourdale.
Industrial plans for the area would expand access, encourage recruitment services, bring service to Armourdale, encourage high performance industrial parcels, capture stormwater, and increase sustainable operation of industry in Armourdale.
Hit hard by the 1951 flood, as well as the 1903 and 1908 floods, Armourdale has undergone changes caused by natural disasters. Unlike a former era, building residential homes in the Armourdale area now is being encouraged. Development in the area is being spurred by a federal levee project that strengthens flood protection.
The Kansas River, formerly considered to be a threat from flooding, is viewed as an asset by the master plan. Currently, efforts are underway to develop areas around the river, such as the Rock Island Bridge, as destination tourist sites.
The master plan recommends that the West Bottoms have its own master plan, Moddrell said.
Among the options for the river development in the West Bottoms would be an extension of projects around HyVee Arena, a route for riverfront destination including more civic-minded development, or a logistics and industry hub.
Planning Commissioner Karen Jones said she saw the whole master plan effort as “better late than never.”
“For decades, Armourdale has languished,” she said. She hopes the area now will be moving forward.
She added community engagement of this project was great.
However, she said that some of the good-paying jobs in Armourdale, jobs paying more than $40,000 a year, are going to people who live outside of Armourdale. The average income in Armourdale is around $34,000, she added.
“For sustainability purposes, education is a big component,” Commissioner Jones said. It will take education for residents to get some of the higher-paying jobs. Currently, 50 percent of the people in the area do not have high school diplomas, she added.
Planning Commissioner Evelyn Hill said she appreciated this report, and noted the intergenerational participation it was able to obtain. She also asked if residents were concerned about air quality.
Moddrell said an appendix to the report by Clean Air Now and Beto Lugo provided an air study of Armourdale. While there were not a lot of complaints from residents, there is pollution from trains, trucks and some industries, according to Moddrell.
For the most part, industries around Armourdale currently are logistics-oriented, not big smokestacks and heavy manufacturing, he said. The Clean Air report recommends possible changes to truck routes in Armourdale, he said.
Osage Avenue doesn’t need to be a truck route, he said. At some point in the future, trucks could be routed through Kansas Avenue or Cheyenne. That would strengthen the neighborhood core and Osage could see more pedestrian traffic, he said.
Planning Commission Chair Carson added his vote of support to bring the tally to 6-0 on the master plan, which is expected to go before the Unified Government Commission for a final vote at a later date.
Planning Director Gunnar Hand said this project included a lot of community engagement. He hoped it signals a change where the community, not the planning department, is at the center of the effort. There was a lot of effort to get all UG departments engaged in it, he added.
Monica Mendez, Armourdale Renewal Association executive director, said at the meeting that it was the first time they had seen a lot of effort to get Armourdale residents involved.
Claudine Sanders, vice president of the Armourdale Renewal Association, also spoke in favor of the master plan.
The master plan also is online at https://www.armourdalestrong.com/master-plan-documents.
See earlier story at http://www.wyandottedaily.com/public-open-house-today-on-armourdale-master-plan/.