Green spaces bus tour inspires Gardner Destination Downtown plan

On a sunny day in late May, 18 people piled on a RideKC bus in Gardner to embark on an all-day tour of green spaces, streetscape treatments and farmer’s markets across the Kansas City region. The group was gathering information and ideas to inform the Gardner Destination Downtown plan, a project funded by MARC’s Planning Sustainable Places (PSP) program.

The group boards the RideKC bus for the tour.

Participants included Gardner city staff, members of planning, zoning and ADA committees, residents of Gardner and consultants. Stops included Linden Square in Gladstone, the Uptown Market in Independence, Park Place in Leawood, downtown Lee’s Summit, historic downtown Liberty and the Overland Park Farmers’ Market.

Along the tour, there were opportunities for participants to speak to local officials about the challenges and opportunities encountered in the process of creating these spaces. After the tour, attendees reviewed their observations and discussed the potential for future ideas and projects.

In particular, participants looked at access points to public spaces and how different elements of green spaces and streetscapes were accessible by people who use a wheelchair or walker, and others who may have difficulty with balance. They considered questions such as: were their multiple access points? Were their ramps? If so, were they easily accessed and comfortable to use? How did sidewalk treatments in the streetscape affect the ability to get around? Were there safe routes from transit and mobility hubs to places of interest?

“This tour was invaluable in our planning process,” said Kelly Drake Woodward, chief planner with the city of Gardner. “There are beautiful and inviting examples of green public spaces and streetscapes throughout the region that each accommodate a variety of activities. Bringing the team together to fully experience them generated good conversation and provided great ideas to incorporate into our vision for downtown Gardner.”

The Gardner Destination Downtown plan builds on previous planning work that aims to bring infrastructure and streetscape improvements to the Main Street corridor. While the corridor serves as a major thoroughfare for established highway traffic, the hope is that through this project, it will become a vibrant, connected corridor that creates a welcoming experience to downtown. The aim is to increase multimodal activity and create an area attractive for redevelopment and revitalization efforts.

When completed, the plan will include a streetscape master plan that offers concept plans and visualizations for a planted median, bike boulevard, streetscape amenities and street improvements such as crosswalks, bump-outs, ADA infrastructure, sidewalks and traffic signal modifications. There will be recommendations for improving public and private parking areas, and a potential mobility hub where users can switch between modes of public transportation. There will also be concept plans and renderings for two new civic green spaces, including suggestions for activities.

MARC’s Planning Sustainable Places program provides funding for detailed local planning and project development activities that further the creation of vibrant places that offer a mix of options for housing, jobs, services and recreation; connected places with a variety of transportation options; and green places that support healthy living and a healthy natural environment. The program was created in 2013 as part of the region’s Creating Sustainable Places initiative. Funding comes from the Missouri and Kansas Surface Transportation Programs, and project sponsors are required to provide a local match of at least 20 percent.