Firm hired to rebuild a Kansas town

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 | 2:27 p.m. CDT; updated 10:46 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

KANSAS CITY — A Kansas City company has been chosen to create a master plan for the rebuilding of Greensburg, Kan., which was nearly wiped off the map in May.

BNIM Architects will lead the design of a comprehensive plan that maps out how the city will be developed — including downtown, parks and infrastructure.

The first phase of planning is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

Stephen Hardy, an associate with BNIM, said the firm will spend the next four weeks focusing on the downtown area.

“We’ll know where a lot of things will be, what the strategy for open space will be,” Hardy said. “This will show what downtown will look and feel like.”

The plan won’t show specific architectural designs, he said, but will serve as a blueprint for reconstruction.

A tornado on May 4 destroyed 95 percent of the town of about 1,450 residents.

Some businesses have reopened, but many business and home owners say the process has been too slow. Some were ready to start rebuilding a few weeks after the storm, but zoning issues and the need for building permits slowed progress.

Nearly all of the debris is gone, dozens of homes are being built, and a temporary school campus is up and running.

Daniel Wallach, executive director of the nonprofit group Greensburg Greentown, which is designed to help build a model green community, said having a plan for the entire town could ease some of the residents’ frustration.

“People need to see progress,” Wallach said. “People are anxious to get their lives back to some semblance of normalcy. It’s been five months since the storm, and a lot of them have not felt there’s been enough progress.”

The first phase of the plan will focus on things like infrastructure, preliminary recommendations for energy efficiency, a general plan for parks and open spaces, and preliminary cost information.

Greensburg City Administrator Steve Hewitt said the second phase of planning likely will begin in January and take about 90 days to complete. That will include a detailed plan for parks, economic development, and a new museum that possibly will chronicle life before the tornado.

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