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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: Kansas

Downtown 2000
Community Effort Revamps Downtown
Oz Theme Park
Theme Park Sprawl is No Fantasy

Downtown 2000
Community Effort Revamps Downtown

Is a parking garage smart growth? Yes -- if it's part of an innovative downtown redevelopment plan. Lawrence is building a multi-level garage as the first piece of Downtown 2000, a project that will include an art center, housing and shops.

For better or worse, cars are a part of the American lifestyle, and communities can hardly ignore the needs of drivers. But what planners can do is balance these needs with those of pedestrians and cyclists to create areas that encourage residents to park and walk -- or even leave their cars at home. In the case of Lawrence, they are integrating the new parking garage with adjacent development that will include loft-style apartments, room for dozens of retailers and new office space.

This city has involved hundreds of residents, developers and local leaders in planning the redevelopment. By its expected completion date of summer 2001, the project will turn an underused area in the heart of downtown Lawrence into a place to shop, work, live and walk.

That is what makes this project -- including the parking garage -- smart growth. Poorly used but central space in a community's downtown is being redeveloped to create jobs, shopping and housing in a pedestrian-friendly design. When communities have a thriving downtown, the urge to sprawl is checked. And this project will help do just that.

Oz Theme Park
Theme Park Sprawl is No Fantasy

The most serious sprawl threat in Kansas comes from the takeover of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant near DeSoto by the Oz Development Company -- a group of investors who want to develop a theme park based on the Wizard of Oz story.

In 1941, the Army acquired over 9,000 acres near DeSoto by buying half a dozen farms and building the Sunflower Plant. Though the plant helped contribute supplies to World War II and the Korean War, it has been idle since 1992 and the Army has been trying to sell it.

But the Oz theme park is not right for this property. It will jump over existing development in the county and lead to more suburban sprawl. The increased traffic from the project is also a major concern. An extra estimated 36,000 cars per day on the K-10 highway will harm air quality in the greater Kansas City area, which is already close to violating Clean Air Act standards.

Pressure is building to reroute -- at taxpayer expense -- the K-10 highway between Lawrence and Johnson County in order to handle the traffic the project will likely generate. The highway improvements, if carried out, will damage wetlands and pave over more open space.

Another major concern is the possible toxicity of the site itself. The environmental impact statement raised serious questions about how much pollution is still on the premises, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is critical of the cleanup work conducted by the Army.

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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