Marlborough seems ripe for several different levels of development investment. As the Development Committee looked holistically at the neighborhood and then focused in on specific sites and opportunities, it became obvious that there were many more initiatives than this overall Catalyst process could presently address. A handful of projects percolated to the top of the priority list, and although one development node became the primary focal point, three of the remaining other project areas were deemed significant enough for further study as Seed Opportunities. As part of this planning process, all four development areas were photo documented and matched with ownership data. The three Seed Opportunities are:
- a Vision Plan for the Dodson Industrial District,
- a Corridor Plan for 85th Street between Troost and Prospect Avenues, and
- a Master Plan for the commercial node surrounding the intersection of Prospect Avenue and Hickman Mills Drive (often referred to as Arleta during the study process).
The primary Catalyst project that evolved was not surprisingly the site of the original neighborhood catalyst, Marlborough Village. Just as every neighborhood has a place that is iconic, a defined area that represents the potential best of what the community offers, Marlborough Village has historically been that place. This sleepy commercial core centered around The Paseo south of 78th Street was once a bustling node – serving as an important streetcar destination for south Kansas City – and the neighborhood flourished around it. The emphasis of this portion of the overall Catalyst initiative is to begin addressing ways to again make this area both a neighborhood and citywide destination.
Several factors are currently converging that put Marlborough in a renewed spotlight. Mayor James has shown a direct interest in the neighborhood, major green infrastructure investments are being made and very significant new technology and research related office developments have been announced adjacent to Marlborough. As such, neighborhood leaders have recognized the need to change the image and attractiveness of Marlborough Village. With input from the Commercial Development work group, an initial plan to jump start this commercial center has evolved.
The committee delved into a wide range of issues including, the mix of property types (e.g., retail, service, institutional), parking, property maintenance, transit access, historic district designation and enhancing the public realm of sidewalks, streets and greenspaces. An initial concept evolved around focusing efforts at the commercial intersection of 80th and The Paseo. This would be primarily a private sector undertaking to boost currently underperforming properties, but would also require a broader coordinated streetscape improvement to tie it all together.
Initial plans with conceptual renderings have begun to capture the possibilities of this distinct node. What needs to be teased out in conjunction with other neighborhood initiatives is how does this again become the representative heart and soul of the greater Marlborough neighborhood. By becoming a focal point for the other neighborhood priorities, such as branding, healthy foods, mobility, and the arts, a burgeoning new character for Marlborough Village will undoubtedly develop. The Streetscape Plan can serve as the initial unifying blueprint for this core commercial corridor. With strong design and built-in flexibility for an evolving neighborhood, this plan will help to reestablish Marlborough Village as a “don’t miss,” desirable destination.