Citizens and stakeholders gather to discuss development ideas for Manhattan’s downtown riverfront.
Nearly 100 Manhattan area citizens gathered at the Union Pacific Train Depot Thursday night for a round table discussion regarding riverfront development along Manhattan’s banks of the Kansas River. Gina Ford of Agency Landscape and Planning introduced the attending community members to similar riverfront projects she completed and revealed the possibilities for Manhattan’s share of the river.
Ford, a landscape architect whose recent riverfront work included the revitalization of the Chicago riverfront and park development along the Missouri River in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, praised the Kansas River as “extraordinary” and said the river width and placement in the city is enviable by other similarly sized communities.
“The Kansas River could be a welcoming gateway to the community. Yet the River is by and large invisible to Manhattan citizens except for those who use and advocate for it,” she observed.
The forum included opportunities for initial community member reactions, which included discussion time for dreaming aspects of riverfront development such as additional parks and trails, connections from the river into the downtown area, multi-use gathering space along the river and a pedestrian bridge. Concerns shared by community members related to the need for flood-resilient design and funding the various aspects of development. A recurring theme expressed by community members was a feeling of disconnection from the river but a resounding desire to see some of the possibilities Ford shared realized.
The evening’s forum, initiated by Phil Anderson, former Kansas State professor and owner of Anderson Bed and Breakfast, was one of several two-day events surrounding the riverfront development discussion. The day’s activities included a private morning meeting and lunch with potential private benefactors of the project and Friday will include a conversation with the mayor and radio air time to further introduce area community members to the possibilities of riverfront development.
Anderson’s passion for the river began during his work designing the bridge pier sign at the entrance to Manhattan along Highway 177.
“When I was working on the bridge pier, we spent a lot of time on the riverfront, and it became clear to me that this is an untapped resource. Once the levee went up, everybody forgot we had a river,” Anderson recalled. “Gina said [the river] is beautiful, and it’s incredible what we could do for the further development of the city of Manhattan.”
Assistant Director of Community Development, Chad Bunger, attended the event and expressed hopefulness about the positive impact of riverfront development for the city. “Once a community is connected to the water and environment, they become more engaged with it and people will care more. It will be cleaner environment as a result.”
Anderson felt hopeful about the outcome of the community conversation and concluded, “We have achieved significant municipal interest in the idea, and we have now to go through the process of planning from all aspects.”