There's 40 percent more retail space than the market will support along Manchester Road within a declining economy, former Ellisville mayor Matt Pirrello told approximately 100 luncheon attendees at last week's monthly meeting of the West St. Louis County Chamber of Commerce at The Wildwood Hotel.
"There are too many other (shopping and service) alternatives, and we need to improve the access, management and safety of the entire Manchester corridor," he said.
He cited a pattern of businesses choosing or relocating to alternative shopping districts, such as the Chesterfield Valley, Manchester Highlands or Fenton's GravoisBluffs.
The improvement plan was deemed the "Great Streets Initiative." Authorities have worked on the Manchester Road plan since 2009, but a website that reveals detailed schematics and timelines is about to be unveiled, said Pirrello, who nowserves as Ellisville councilmember of Ward 1.
As previously reported by Town and Country Patch, the Great Streets Initiative is a 30-year plan to improve the appearance and traffic flow on Manchester Road from Wildwood to Manchester.
Pirrello, and other representatives of the cities of Ellisville, Wildwood and Ballwin, are working with the chamber, Missouri Department of Transportation and East-West Gateway Council of Governments to execute the plan to revamp the overall setup and management of the area's major thoroughfare: Manchester Road.
However, the City of Manchester and Winchester are not yet on board with the project aimed at developing economic sustainability for the West St. Louis County-Manchester Road area while creating safe, interesting and memorable places for consumers. Pirrello on Wednesday said he was glad to communicate what all the plan "will bring to the area."
From speaking with business owners, city leaders and consumers, the Great Streets group feels the the main problems are as follows:
- Manchester roadway is not configured for multi-use options.
- There aren't really "people places," or spots at which it is easy to stay, relax, enjoy and people watch.
- There are an increasing number of accidents along this corridor.
- The roadway lacks character.
- It needs aesthetic upgrades.
- The Manchester corridor has no identity and no revitalization plan driving its future.
Specifically, Pirrello told chamber meeting attendees there were too many vacant and underutilized buildings along the Manchester corridor. "It lacks biking access and we need business retention and recruitment plans."
Although this is a sentiment also shared by Manchester city leaders, as previously reported by Patch, they did not sign off on Memorandum of Understanding with the other cities involved. At this point there is no immediate plan by Manchester city leaders to discuss the project any further.
"Part of our hesitation to sign off on the Great Streets plan is that it calls for this 'super authority' that would have jurisdiction over the five cities," said Franz Kraintz, Manchester's director of planning and zoning and economic development. "We weren't ready to adopt their plan as an amendment to our comprehensive city plan which lays out future land uses and things like that."
Kraintz tells Patch city leaders are reluctant to give up authority over their own city. He said another key issue holding the city back is that an additional tax would likely be implemented in the participating cities in order to pay for some of the Great Streets project improvements.
"We are reluctant to add another sales tax, another one to the already pretty high taxes we have here," Kraintz explained. "It was never really clear on how those tax dollars would be spent."