Pitt plans for future

Michael Bauer | reporter

Ever wonder what Pittsburg will look like in 20 years?
Imagine more bike trails, more businesses as well as a bigger medical hub and an exciting university community.
These are just some of the visions that Doug Benson and Brad Hodson are imagining in their project, Imagine Pittsburg 2030.
The project has been going on for the last three years and on Wednesday, March 13, a presentation at the Law Enforcement Center gave the public a bigger understanding of what the project committee is looking for.
One of the most crucial points made was for economic development, since Pittsburg’s population has increased with the growing number of students at PSU.
“Economic development is something that impacts everyone,” Benson said. “Without robust economic development, everything will struggle. The more economic development brings in, the more business it will bring.”
Benson stressed that more residents will bring in more revenue. He also says that with more residents, the city can build more parks.
“…It is (easier) to track where students and everyone eat and shop at,” Benson said. “Economic development is the root of our plans.”
The other specific areas of focus include housing, infrastructure and public wellness.
Some of the goals for housing are to improve aesthetic appearance by addressing dilapidated structures. Another was to adopt and implement international property maintenance codes, and to develop a focused property maintenance strategy for the city.
Via Christie hospital has helped turn Pittsburg into a major medical center for southeast Kansas, and Benson says the project looks to build on that.
“Via Christie and the community health are assets that a lot of communities don’t have,” Benson said. “A lot of residents of southeast Kansas are choosing to move here and to be close to the health center. We really need to grow that and expand that and, most importantly, market that.”
Imagine Pittsburg 2030 has grown in membership, as groups from Pittsburg have sought to help out.
Vonnie Corsini, executive director of the Colonial Fox Theatre Foundation, has been working with small-business owners to give their insights to the project. The group includes business owners and many PSU students. It has been working to help reach the goal of creating a vibrant commerce climate.
“It’s people who have an idea of what they want the downtown to be like and what kind of downtown in the district they want,” Corsini said. “Primarily, we’re trying to be a resource for the city and the chamber and for the city to say here’s what’s crucial to the downtown we think.”
Local residents, in conjunction with Pittsburg State University, have made all the donors for the project publicly known.
There have been two online surveys and three town hall meetings, as well as 13 focus groups about the project. There have also been 11 one-on-one interviews.
‘’Everyone has had a chance to give input,” Benson said.
Benson says that PSU is very crucial to the project.
“Pittsburg State gives us our identity,” Benson said. “We have a number of great businesses located here and even those leaders will tell you that they would not be here if it wasn’t for Pittsburg State.”
Benson said that he has never seen a community work more cooperatively with the local university than PSU and the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce.
“The residents of Pittsburg love the students, and we’re glad the students are here and enjoy having them here,” Benson said.
Another goal of Imagine Pittsburg 2030 is to create a retail strategy to leverage the buying power of PSU students. In order to bring in big businesses, retailers look at the population.
With more students at PSU, Benson says the city is trying to capitalize on that by bringing in restaurant chains and stores that most students would have to go out of town for.
“Much of it pertains to entertainment options, (or) dining options like Buffalo Wild Wings or going to the movies,” Benson said. “PSU students gave us great feedback that if we had places like Chipotle, then they would be more likely to stay here than go somewhere else.
“Another feedback was going to the movies. Even though Pittsburg already has a movie theater, Meadowbrook Mall has been investing money into upgrading the mall, as are the movie theater owners.”
The next steps in the Imagine Pittsburg 2030 project include assigning stakeholders to each goal, communicating vision to the public and begin thinking about the next phase.
“We’ve already gotten started on some steps,” Benson said.

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