The process of re-imagining Dardenne Prairie has begun.
Not long ago, city officials in the fast-growing community latched onto an idea of a community with a civic “core” – a mixed-use area or district with a kind of downtown that included small retail stores, apartments and condominiums.
Now, the city’s elected officials are in the process of dismantling that idea.
The city’s “Uptown Zoning District” was adopted in 2007 as part of the comprehensive plan that serves as a guide to future land use and sets policy on issues involving housing, parks and flood prone areas. The uptown district includes areas along Interstate 64, Feise Road and Hwy. 364. But the recession and other issues happened and the district didn’t become a draw for development.
Now, new aldermen and the mayor aren’t as enthusiastic about the district and it may be going away as part of a revision of the overall comprehensive plan.
“It’s not working,” said Mayor David Zucker. “I just want to take the property out of the uptown district [zoning] and let the market come in and make sense of it.”
The city has begun a series of public hearings to gather input that could lead to changes. Hearings were held before the city’s planning and zoning commission on Oct. 12 and are planned before the city’s Board of Aldermen on Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at city hall, 2032 Hanley Road.
Any change has to be adopted by the board to become law. However, Zucker put no timetable for when specific changes may come before the board.
“If I presented a draft bill in advance of public hearing, that just spooks people,” Zucker said “Let’s have the conversation, and then, we’ll take pen in hand and draft something up.”
But the public hearings do ask for comment on a specific proposals to rezone areas of the uptown district to residential or commercial. One hearing is on a proposal to rezone to single family two areas along Feise Road east and west of Hanley Road thought to be sites for higher density residential development. Combined the two areas include about 15 parcels.
Zucker said the idea isn’t to open up more land in this area to commercial development. Traffic may be less along Feise Road since the opening of the last section of Hwy. 364, Zucker said.
“That suggests that the prospect of putting in a strip mall that depends on drive-by traffic isn’t going to happen,” he said.
Residents south of Feise Road may not see any development changes in their “lifetimes,” Zucker added. “We’re not looking to force them [residents] to do a thing.”
Another idea included in the public hearings involves taking largely commercial areas south of Hwy. N and west of Keystone Crossing and along Technology Drive out of the uptown district and rezoning them as commercial.
These areas include the Town Square Shopping Center that houses major retailers, such as a Target store. Some areas north of Feise also are envisioned as commercial; however, Walmart withdrew a proposal recently to build a food market on a tract near the intersection of Feise and Bryan roads.
Zucker said city officials have met with merchants and Towns Square officials to discuss possible changes.
“Basically their position is don’t do anything that makes our lives harder,” Zucker said. “Our intent is to make it easier to build and expand and lease and exactly how we’re going to do that we’re working on. Trust us, our job here is to make to Town Square as successful as possible.”