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Great Streets: A Plan for Manchester Road’s Future

The East-West Gateway Council is working on a long-term plan to make Manchester Road better for drivers.

Manchester Road—especially the five mile stretch from Hwy 141 to Hwy 109—is often a bumper-to-bumper grind, particularly when shoppers and residents pack this popular main artery of West County. The East-West Council of Governments introduced the Great Streets Initiative as a way to smooth out the traffic snarls on Manchester Road while making it more visually appealing, but there is a lot of work to be done before the project nears reality. Right now, the initiative is nothing more than a proposal that needs cities' support.

The East-West Gateway needs the involvement of all five communities that share Manchester Road west of Hwy 141: Manchester, Winchester, Ballwin, Ellisville and Wildwood. The study is funded by a federal grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Any improvements made will need separate funding sources.

The project’s goal is to present ideas to the community governments on how to improve traffic flow, increase bicycle and pedestrian usage and improve signage and landscaping. The final plan will also make projections of how land use may change over the next few decades and how to keep attracting new businesses. Some of the ideas that have been suggested are creating “town centers," building backstreets that could take traffic pressure off Manchester Road and moving unsightly utility lines.

Wildwood’s Town Center and the redeveloped Kirkwood downtown are examples of how Manchester Road communities could handle improvements and make the road more user-friendly.

“If you had some good consistent signage, lighting that looks the same and coordinated landscaping--that would go a long way in making it a more pleasant experience,” said one of the plan’s supporters, Pace Properties’ Senior Vice President of Development, Richard Randall.

Donna Day and Samuel Seskin cowrote a paper explaining the Great Streets Initiative. They said that “post war” communities, like those in the St. Louis suburbs, developed around heavily traveled main roadways which turned into the town’s main streets. “They lack a physical identity and are not perceived as a destination,” said Day and Seskin. They hope the Great Street Initiative will help communities see their arterial streets as more than just “sewers for cars.”

Randall said that Manchester is one of the communities that has yet to fully embrace the plan. He recently addressed the Manchester Board of Aldermen to encourage its members to endorse the Great Streets Initiative.  

“They’re waiting for the final plan. I can’t blame them for that,” Randall said. “I don’t see it working without all five communities on board.”

He said the Great Streets Initiative will take at least 20 years to fully implement, though some of the ideas could be more quickly put in place, such as coordinated street signs and uniform landscaping. Still, the plan needs the combined efforts of all five community governments, their city planners and the (MoDOT). The East-West Gateway Council is providing the consultants, from engineers to real estate market analysts, who are drawing up the master plan for the road’s improvement.

“MoDOT has a lot to say about it with signal spacing, because it’s their road,” Randall said. Manchester Road is a state highway maintained by MoDOT.

East-West Gateway has conducted similar studies for other major streets in the St. Louis region. The other three projects are on South Grand Boulevard, Natural Bridge Road and in Labadie, a small town in Franklin County. The four projects are being called “demonstration projects” to encourage other communities to incorporate the same principals into their own road projects.

The final plan could be out soon, Randall said.

For more information, visit the Great Streets Initiative website.

On the Horizon:

  • Perficient Inc., a Town and County-based information technology consulting firm, released its fourth-quarter financial results, stating that profits doubled from last year’s $629,000 to $1.3 million this year. “We see confidence returning to the IT spending market, and we’re well-positioned to realize several years of solid revenue and earnings growth. Perficient is poised for great things,” Chief Executive and President Jeff Davis said in an earnings release.
  • The recession is over, according to St. Louis real estate experts. The Society of Industrial and Office Realtors recently had its 27th annual Metro Market Forecast where experts reported the percentage of vacant industrial space declined last year and that better times are ahead. View the expert’s presentations here.

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