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Published: Friday, February 10, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Monroe shifts gears, vision for development of the N. Kelsey property

City changes plans for improvement from N. Kelsey to downtown

  • A pedestrian walks past M & M Antiques on Main Street in downtown Monroe.

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    A pedestrian walks past M & M Antiques on Main Street in downtown Monroe.

  • The city of Monroe is looking to make renovations to downtown Monroe, including on Main Street.

    The city of Monroe is looking to make renovations to downtown Monroe, including on Main Street.

MONROE -- It was an ambitious plan: To make the N. Kelsey property a pedestrian friendly outdoor shopping center, a place with plenty of park areas for people to gather.
City officials said this week that the plan has failed.
"Sometimes, you have to confess that you can't accomplish the plan, as good as it was," economic development manager Jeff Sax said.
Instead, the city wants to shift gears.
Wal-Mart is already purchasing 24 of the 47 acres at N. Kelsey, and a medical development company called NexCore Group wants to buy up to another 9 acres.
Now the city is considering eliminating requirements that those businesses create an outdoorsy feel to the development. And the city is also considering taking money from the sale of the property to liven up downtown.
Diane Elliott, founder of Friends of North Kelsey, which fought against Wal-Mart coming to the land, said she's not surprised that the city is considering eliminating design standards at the property.
"I am wondering why they took so long. They didn't want to abide with the initial plan," Elliott said.
On Tuesday night, staff gave a presentation to the Monroe City Council and the planning commission proposing to change the plan.
The first step is to remove the requirement of making the area a public amenity. This is in hopes of making N. Kelsey more appealing to developers and simplifying the buying process. The City Council is set to consider changing the design requirements on Tuesday.
"This a very aggressive strategy," Mayor Robert Zimmerman said during this week's meeting. "Change is not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes is necessary."
If approved, it would then go through the planning commission and public hearings before the change is made official. This could happen as early as July, Sax said.
The goal is to sell all of the N. Kelsey property, which could bring the city between $15 million and $18 million in revenue, Sax said.
The revenue will pay $11.3 million in debt the city has in bonds. The remaining money would then be used for downtown projects.
Among these proposed projects include extending Hill Street from N. Kelsey Street to Blueberry Lane as a way to improve access to downtown. There are also plans to purchase space in downtown for parking lots and to build up to two public plazas.
The location of the plazas is still unknown. They, however, could be used for community events such as a picnic, plays or a farmers market, Sax said.
These projects still need council approval.
The Monroe Chamber of Commerce president Eldon Bartelheimer supports the changes.
"The plan needs to change," Bartelheimer said. "It's a good idea for downtown."
Vickie Mullen, executive director of the nonprofit Downtown Revitalization and Enhancement Association of Monroe, spent hours attending meetings and studying the N. Kelsey plan when it was being drafted about a decade ago. She understands the changes need to be made because of the economic situation.
"I'm a realist and I think that's the best thing they can do at this time," she said.
Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » MonroeLand Use Planning

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