‘Where do we go from here?’

Belleville council wants to sell empty downtown lots, but not too quickly

By Fred Arnold Telescope publisher

Proceed. But proceed cautiously. That was the message members of the Belleville city council put forth Monday following discussion on what the next step is in developing a viable project for the open block of downtown lots.

City leaders, which had voted to put ‘for sale’ signs along the avenue for the North Central Kansas Free Fair agreed earlier this week that the lots are still for sale. But an affiliation with architecture interns from Kansas State University has them slowing down on any sale… for now.

Senior architecture students from K-State will team with the city, as part of their curriculum, to submit design drawings for a usable structure on the downtown block. The project is slated to begin during the spring semester and will take an estimated 10 weeks.

“So we’re really looking at about a year from now before we can see what the students will submit,” councilman Shawn Herring said.The student designs aren’t slated as an official building design for what will be placed on the vacant block. Rather it is more of a concept project. The site has been mentioned most often as a location for a community/ event center.

But the idea of using prime downtown space, according to some on the council, isn’t the best location for a community building. Both Doane Sells and Tiffany Hansen said, while a center is needed, Belleville shouldn’t automatically give up that space.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me there are other places in Belleville that we should look at putting a community center before putting it downtown,” councilman Sells said. Sells did not elaborate on where those other places might be.

But council representative Tiffany Hansen said one area the city should look at is on ground adjacent to Love’s Travel Center.

“Let’s face it, there isn’t enough parking downtown to host a major event at a downtown community center,” she said. “Love’s sits right on a major highway and parking would not be a problem; it’s worth considering.”

Though council members were hesitant to say that the empty downtown block was being prepped for the site for a community building with K-State architectural students providing ideas, they did agree to slow down the process of the sale….for now and see what K-State has to offer.

“This (the downtown block) would be the best place for a community building,” councilman Dr. Roger McCartney said. “Still, if someone came in and offered us a quarter of a million dollars for that property I think we’d sure have to listen to them.”