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'Great Streets' Gathering Addresses Cost, Stresses Unity

Representatives of Town and Country, Manchester, Ballwin, Ellisville, Eureka and Winchester met this weekend to shape a 20+ year effort to reinvent West County roads.

City and business representatives met at an open meeting Saturday to discuss the "Great Streets" initiative, pointing to state legislation as one of the next steps toward reinvigorating the roads of West County.

Roughly 50 people met at the Ballwin Golf Club in order to discuss the initiative, including representatives from Town and Country, Manchester, various chamber groups and West County-area city council members.

The Great Streets Initiative, according to its official website, is intended to "trigger economic and social benefits by centering communities around interesting, lively and attractive streets," and make travel friendly for pedestrians, bikers and other forms of alternate transportation.

Presently, the project is in its fourth phase, which includes creating a corridor plan for Manchester Road and developing construction outlines.

Maggie Hales of the East-West Gateway Council said that although detailed estimates aren't yet available, the total cost of the project could be between $20 and $50 million.

"Keep in mind that this is going to be spaced out over 20 to 30 years," Hales added.

Although Town and Country is not officially part of the initiative, Mayor Jon Dalton attended the meeting.

To make the Manchester Road corridor a vibrant business and shopping district several steps need to take place, including the creation of a unique taxing district – a move Dalton said would require state-level legislation.

Frank Karr of the Ballwin Planning and Zoning Commission is heading a committee on the initiative that consists of 45 business leaders and various stake holders, including the .

Given the scope and timeline of the project, Karr said all parties must be completely committed to the initiative, which began in early 2006.

“We want to have everyone on board well in advance," Karr said. "Too often, for example, the plan is put together and [utility companies] are then told what to do. We want them to have a say in what is going to happen.”

The project is scheduled to take up to 30 years to complete, although preliminary steps for the 5-year-old project still have not been completed. This includes onboarding cities through a "Memorandum of Understanding," which has been signed by all participating cities except Manchester and Winchester.

The next step in the process is to push for the passage legislation that would help create a taxing district earmarked for the initiative.

“Given where we are in the legislative session, it would not be too late to start the process,” Dalton said. “But I would think that I would look for it to pass next year rather than this year.”

Pat McDermott, Ballwin Ward 2 Alderman, said the traffic flow on Manchester is critical to making the project viable.

“Right now, with the market suppressed, it would be a great time to upgrade the infrastructure along Manchester. The property could be purchased a lot cheaper,” McDermott explained.

Steven Donaldson February 07, 2011 at 08:15 PM
While a worthwhile initiative, all the cities in West County would benefit more by agreeing not to steal each other's big box stores. Regardless of what developers want, the chaos created and tax revenue problems from these store moving every 10 to 20 years is detrimental to the Great Streets Initiative and other beautification efforts. The money just dries up for the losing city, leaving "ghost" facilities that may never be filled.

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