In an effort to rekindle downtown Great Bend and make the community more competitive, the City Council Monday night approved a resolution creating a common consumption area in the city’s center to be known as Great Bend Alive Plaza.
The request for the designation came from Great Bend Economic Development Inc. for Forest Avenue from the west side of Main Street to the east side of Williams Street. Great Bend Alive Inc., a non-profit offshoot of GBED, will be licensed to operate the area.
“This is an opportunity to provide another gathering spot and other area for people to come downtown, enjoy the company of their co-workers, their family and friends, and then go out and continue to enjoy Great Bend,” said GBED President Sara Hayden. “So we call it the gather and scatter.”
The designation becomes officials on July 1, but the first open night likely won’t take place until August.
It would be used two Fridays a month from 5-8 p.m. (alcohol can only be served from 5-7 p.m.) and likely stay active through September, weather permitting, and start back up in April 2022.
During these times, Forest Avenue will be closed in the area to motorized traffic.
Although there has been a lot of talk about drinking, “it’s not just about alcohol,” she said “It’ll be about the entertainment factor.”
But, there were some who objected to any use or promotion of alcohol, among them the Rev. Aaron Winthrow of Foundry Methodist Church.
“I’m all about the city growing, but not around alcohol,” he said. He applauded Hayden and her efforts, however the drinking troubled him.
He cited statistics about alcohol abuse in Barton County, the impact of drinking on families and the possible increase in underage consumption. “It concerns me. It burdens me,” he said.
He said it seems all events center around alcohol. He liked the idea “but keep the alcohol out of it,”
“Do we want to be known as a party town?” he said. “I think we want to be known as a better town.”
Amber Smith, a local therapist and business owner said she, too, was a Christian and understood Winthrow’s point. However, she saw this from a “balanced view.” She saw it as an opportunity to reach out, possible minister, and make it the best of both worlds.
Local real estate agents Megan Wells and Kim Vink looked at this as a chance to add a quality of life element the city is missing. It would enhance the city’s nightlife options and help them answer the common question “what is there to do here?”
Tory Arnberger, a Kansas representative serving the 112th District, said she voted on the state statute allowing such zones and supports the idea. “It’s something new and something different going on in Great Bend. I am excited to see where this can go.”
About the plaza
During consumption district nights, there may be food trucks or pop-up caterers. There will also be live music, primarily acoustic sets, to enhance the overall atmosphere, Hayden said.
There will be removable tables, benches, umbrellas, plants, vlighting and other decorative touches so patrons can enjoy relaxing in the zone, she said. Answering the most common question she gets, bathrooms will be available.
There are plans for a metal arch over Forest at Williams, but that won’t be ready for this season. Instead, removable decorative barriers will be utilized to delineate the plaza.
“Our goal is to make Forest downtown Great Bend’s premier street,” she said. They hope to create an atmosphere that is inviting for people to come and participate.
The resolution approved by the council allows the designation to expire as of December 2022. This is to allow the success of the idea to be gauged and,if warranted, revisited and continued.
They will gauge the popularity of the plaza with plans to expand days and hours should there be enough interest. She and the GB Alive members are confident this will be the case.
Establishments located within the district can serve into the district any time it is in use, Hayden said. There will also be the opportunity for other drinking establishments to serve as well.
In the future, Hayden said they hope to use this designated area for other things, such as Saturday morning family gatherings, activities, Third Thursday events, or an extension for downtown events such as June Jaunt.
There will be ample security to monitor the area on event evenings.
City dollars are not being used to fund this project. Instead, economic development and private donations are covering the cost, she said.
Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:
• Approved a resolution designating a Common Consumption Area in downtown Great Bend.
Great Bend Economic Development Inc. has requested the designation on Forest Avenue from the west side of Main Street to the east side of Williams Street, said GBED President Sara Hayden. Great Bend Alive Inc., an offshoot of GBED, will be the licensee to operate the area.
• Held a public hearing for the city’s Kansas Public Water Supply Loan Fund application for the installation of an automated meter reading system. The council gave the go-ahead to proceed with the application process.
On May 3, staff requested permission to apply for a $2.2 million loan from the fund for the installation reading system. The This would be a 20-year loan with a fixed interest rate (1.3% as of March) with no penalty for early payoff, he said.
• Approved a change to the Military Leave Policy to allow military reservists to use accrued sick time when called to duty.
• Approved the bid from Concrete Services for the 2021 storm box rehabilitations for $66,430. The addresses of the storm boxes ar 4200 Broadway, 23rd and McKinley, 12th and McKinley, and 28th and Jefferson.
This project is not only for the storm boxes, but for the repair of the curb, gutter, and some streets in select cases, Public Works Director Jason Cauley said. Construction on the projects would begin in four to six weeks.
• Adopted an ordinance rezoning property at 3706 Railroad Ave. from light manufacturing-service commercial to residential at request of Sharon Bautista-Mulligan and Ray Mulligan who purchased the land and want to build a home there.
A notice was printed in the Great Bend Tribune and mailed to all landowners 1,000 feet. A public hearing was held before the Planning Commission on May 24 and the commission recommended approval. There were no objections voiced at the meeting to the rezoning.
• Adopted an ordinance rezoning property at 1723 Stone from commercial to two-family residential at request of Lila Hoch who purchased the land and want to construct a residence at the site.
Hoch is the owner of the real estate across Stone east of the property. She has previously rezoned that but has decided to purchase this real estate and construct a home on it.
A notice was printed in the Great Bend Tribune and mailed to all landowners 200 feet. A public hearing was held before the Planning Commission on May 24 and the commission recommended approval. There were no objections voiced at the meeting to the rezoning.
• Granted permission for Biking Across Kansas participants to camp overnight in Brit Spaugh Park from Sept. 2-6. The cyclists will also have permission to use the Wetlands Waterpark showers.
“Bike Across Kansas has passed over Great Bend for at least the past 1 0-15 years,” said Christina Hayes, community coordinator and Convention and Visitors Bureau director. This year with a renewed partnership between Hayes and a small “Great
Bend loving committee,” they have created a strong relationship where BAK wants Great Bend to be the Hub of a special event Labor Day weekend.
“BAK cancelled the regular event this year due to COVID-9, however a smaller more central-focused event is the only event this year,” she said. “Great Bend will be the hub with several routes each day that will take riders to the Santa Fe Trail, through Cheyenne Bottoms and to explore the surrounding communities as they ride through the county and beyond; each time they will return back to Great Bend.”
Public Lands Director Scott Keeler has approved the use of the showers.
• Authorized blocking off parking stalls on Lakin Avenue between Kansas Avenue and Main (behind the bandshell) for
motorcycle parking on Saturdays June 26 and July 24 for bike nights.
• Authorized permissions for the annual Blessed Bike Rally Aug. 20-22. These included blocking off parking stalls on the north side of Lakin Avenue between Kansas Avenue and Main on Aug. 20-22 for vendors to set up and tear down, closing Lakin Avenue between Main and Kansas from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Aug. 21, and allowing individuals to stay overnight in Jack Kilby Square for security of the event on Aug. 20-21.
• Approved changing the date of the next regular council meeting. The next meeting falls on July which is the Independence Day holiday observed by the city. It will now take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 6.
• Approved the annual business licences.
• Heard a report from City Administrator Kendal Francis.
• Heard a report from Christina Hayes, community coordinator and Convention and Visitors Bureau director. She focused on the success of June Jaunt and upcoming July activities.
• Held a work session to discuss sales taxes for quality of life improvements and for the servicing of bonds for a new police station and city hall.
It was the consensus of the council to seek a .25% sales tax for quality of life and .15% for bond services. The matter will be on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
• Approved abatements for accumulation of trash and refuse at: 1514 11th, McCord Property Management LLC.; l509 Hubbard, Manuel and Sara Taveres; 432 locust, Mario Terrazas and Myriam Silva; 1720 Harrison, Deby and Kimberly Wagner; 1111 Morphy, Ricardo Rodriguez 2410 Jackson, Hammond Inc.; 218 Pine, Lawrence Rowe; 2207 26th, Elvida Grover; 1101 Heizer, Barbara and Robert Esfeld; and 2525 12th, Eduardo Torres.
• Approved an abatement for a motor vehicle nuisance at 1916 Hubbard, Mario Espino-Cruz.