During a work session with department heads Wednesday, Pittsburg City Commissioners talked, in detail, about downtown revitalization.

During a work session with department heads Wednesday, Pittsburg City Commissioners talked, in detail, about downtown revitalization.
Everything from the Besse Hotel construction to the appearance of downtown was discussed.
It was the overall appearance and what the city could do to improve that appearance that drew the most from Commissioners.
“We’ve spent millions of dollars on the downtown and there should be a little pride,” said Commissioner Marty Beezley. “We’ve talked about it before, but we haven’t done anything about it.”
Beezley talked about the appearance of some downtown businesses and said that she was “embarrassed” by how some of the buildings look. She cited some without glass in their windows as being an eyesore.
“If people won’t do it, there should be something that says ‘you will do it,’” Beezley said.
The group discussed the issue of parking downtown and the need to investigate downtown parking issues.
“We really don’t have a parking issue because we really don’t have the retail,” said Pittsburg Mayor Patrick O’Bryan, who also owns a retail store downtown. “That can change quickly and those spaces are very important.”
In the middle of the discussion, Pittsburg Economic Development Director Mark Turnbull suggested that the city craft a specific downtown strategic plan. As part of the improvement to the downtown area, Beezley asked about creating a tax increment finance district, or TIF for the downtown, similar to the district located on North Broadway.
“We have identified districts throughout the city and the downtown is one,” Turnbull said. “But, you have to have sales.”
The reason being is because it is the sales tax dollars that are used to retire the bonds used to improve the district.
Commissioners also asked about implementing some grant or loan program to help building owners downtown to fix roofs and electrical issues. Beezley suggested that it be similar, or even part of the city’s current façade grant program.
“I don’t know if we can give the same money per foot like with that grant, but we should look at doing something,” Beezley said. “I don’t want to quit on the downtown.”
Discussion also shifted to creating higher-end housing in downtown Pittsburg. Currently, the city does offer programs to help building owners create housing for lower-income residents, but there was some discussion about creating some housing for those that don’t qualify as low- to moderate-income.
“We need to find ways to make our downtown presentable,” O’Bryan said. “We need to put something together that will stick.”
Pittsburg Fire Chief Scott Crain said that the department will present the Commission with new fire codes that will affect the entire city and they are going to start downtown inspections.
That shifted the conversation to the overall appearance of some of the city’s neighborhoods.
“This all ties together ... the downtown and economic development,” O’Bryan said. “We have kids coming down from Kansas City, with their parents, to go to Pitt State and it is difficult when you look at some of the neighborhoods.”

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140