The future plan of Manhattan is beginning to be laid out on paper.
Earlier this year the city commission approved an agreement with a consulting firm, Planning NEXT, to create a strategic plan for Manhattan. On Friday, commissioners met with Planning NEXT, via Zoom, to discuss the strategic plan process. To begin the meeting, Planning NEXT principal, Jamie Greene, asked the commissioners to share one word about their feelings on the strategic plan. Commissioner Usha Reddi says she is “excited” for the plan.
“This will be one of the first times for a strategic plan where we will have community involvement as well as internal involvement, so I’m looking forward to finding that balance between community needs and staff and internal needs,” Reddi says.
As for Mayor Wynn Butler, he says he is “leery” of the plan.
“I’m just not sure what we’re going to end up with,” Butler adds. “I’m used to my own framework of how this works because I’m tainted by my military experience. I’m just not really sure what we will have as a final product and whether it will be useful or not. That’s what my main concern is.”
Later in the meeting, Planning NEXT senior project manager, Sarah Bongiorno, shared different data sets they have collected for Manhattan such as population numbers, housing types, poverty rates, and education rates. Many of the data sets included Kansas State and Fort Riley in the numbers but did not include Pottawatomie County in Manhattan. Commissioners agreed that the inclusion of Pottawatomie County was important for the data.
“I think that’s important to add to the statistics because otherwise we’re going to lose something vital,” Butler says.
Butler also adds that it’s important to focus strictly on the city of Manhattan when looking at the numbers.
“We always seem to focus on, okay we’ve got the university and we’ve got the army, and really Manhattan’s not even going to influence the university and the army a whole lot,” Butler adds. “The army is going to do what the army is going to do and so is the university. The third piece of that is the other businesses and we don’t really have a lot of those, and that’s what the chamber has always said is the third leg of our economy, and that seems to be the shortest one.”
As the commissioners and Planning NEXT closed their meeting on Friday, the commissioners were asked to share what they saw for the future of Manhattan. Commissioner Usha Reddi says she sees great things in the future.
“A community that is vibrant and innovative and safe and has a good quality of life that is respectful, inclusive, and welcoming to all individuals and families,” Reddi says.
Commissioner Linda Morse adds that the diversity of Manhattan in the future is going to be important.
“We have a population that is different from surrounding Kansas communities and for the sake of our university and our military, our community needs to be attentive to that diversity,” Morse says.
Mayor Wynn Butler says he has one big focus for this strategic plan and the future of the city.
“My focus is more on sustaining Manhattan as a small town community,” Butler says. “I’m not really interested in seeing the city expand to 100,000 and become some megalopolis.”