Open house discusses proposals

Josh Coffman

Western and Bowling Green are changing, and university students and city residents were given an opportunity to learn more about two major components of that change this week.

City planning officials held an open house on Monday night to hear comments regarding redevelopment of land north of campus – land that includes the proposed sites for the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center and the Greek Village.

The meeting was held at the Community Church of Christ on 12th Avenue, a building that sits on the edge of the redevelopment area.

City planners discussed their visions for a new look for the land, and business and property owners in the area spoke of concerns about where the village will lie and revamped roads may run.

More than 50 people attended the open house.

SKyPAC and the Greek Village will be the first two projects looked at to start the redevelopment project, said Will Linder, head of the consulting firm hired by the city to study the area.

Linder said he expects properties next to the Center Street lot to be acquired by the city within the next year.

“It’s our belief that this anchor needs to be established as quickly as possible,” he said.

Alice Burks, assistant to the director of Housing and Community Development for special projects, said her office is looking at how other universities have funded land use for their own villages.

In some cases, the university owns and leases the land, she said. In others, the Greek organizations own the land but the university has stipulations set in place.

Linder said one of Western’s non-profits may end up owning the land for a Greek Village.

President Gary Ransdell has previously said that the university is discussing possibilities for funding the village with the Student Life Foundation, but it is too early to publicly disclose what those include.

Brian Shirley, landscape architect for the City-County Planning Commission, said the Greek Village would free up space on campus.

“There are some organizations that take up entire floors in dorms,” he said. “The new Greek housing would free up dorm space.”

Nobody at the open house spoke out against the village. But one attendee who lives near the proposed Center Street site had questions about its appearance.

The current draft calls for houses in the village to be built of brick, Linder said. And a large opening in the center of the village would prevent cars from piling up in front of Center Street.

Linder said the city’s plan for the area north of campus is flexible and can be changed every couple of years as the needs change for the university and city.

He said property owners in the area would be notified before a final version of the plan goes before the City-County Planning Commission.

No date has been set for that hearing.

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