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Built Environment


Conduct a Downtown Master Plan

A downtown master plan can help revitalize historic downtown in the Flint Hills. Contact the Flint Hills Regional Council to learn more about starting a downtown master plan in your community.

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Tool Information


  1. Tourism
  2. Downtowns
  3. Communities


The historic downtowns of cities and towns throughout the Flint Hills are community treasures and a powerful draw for visitors to the area.  Many downtowns suffer from vacancies, aging infrastructure, and competition from newer areas of town.  Downtown master planning organizes a community around a common vision and goals for their downtown.  By engaging in a planning process, a community identifies physical investments and policy changes that can improve a downtown and make it more attractive for tourism, more viable for locally owned businesses, and a more vibrant center for community life.  Planning requires a robust community engagement process that encourages citizens to identify the existing treasures within their downtown and share their desires for change over time.  A plan includes recommendations that support locally owned businesses, encourage new businesses to locate downtown, and serve the needs of local residents and visitors.  Downtowns are a center of both business and community life.  Creating a master plan can enhance both business and community life because it creates an opportunity for many diverse perspectives to focus on what is best for the whole.

Cotton Wood Falls
Downtown Cottonwood Falls is a great example of historic downtown in the Flint Hills


Improving the downtown area provides many benefits for cities in the Flint Hills.  The historic character and diversity of local businesses in a downtown district creates a unique character that promotes community pride and draws visitors.  Downtown businesses provide employment, wages, and local tax revenue while making efficient use of public resources compared to sprawling development outside of community centers.  Downtowns are the center of community life and promote social relationships that contribute to the overall wellbeing of residents.  Compact downtowns are walkable and promote healthy lifestyles and reduce automobile dependence.  

Photo by Pam Morris, https://www.flickr.com/photos/35528040@N04/6374585063/in/photolist-aQsj6x-6agmPN-9y9zdv-aoM49U-aHiq42-aHtNcr-akxwoe-a7tkyC-aDXuJa-aosGrr-akBq1E-aAM86t-ayPZWV-aumwAi-akv6mu-9PyHKA-9GRL8V-9UARrh-9PvWnB-9ZAHqH-9ZAHgV-9ZDzzw-9ZAHjX-9ZDzys-9ZAHm4-9ZAHhX-9ZAHga-9ZDzFS-9ZDzHJ-9ZDzJJ-9ZDzvy-9ZAHdP-9ZAHcP-9ZAHiv-9ZAHji-a3Ef9Q-a6j4NQ-boZCei-9ZHJYG-aPvoDP-aPvoCX-aPvoFR-aPvoER-aPvoGF-aPvoCr-aPvsst-97sV5i-aK3YCF-aK3YDn-aK3YFr, CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Many historic downtowns suffer from vacancies and aging infrastructure.  Credit: Photo by Pam Morris. Some Rights Reserved.
Recovering historic buildings for new uses can add character and identity to downtown.
Conducting a downtown master plan can revitalize a downtown.  For example, adding street furniture and landscaping and improving lighting can encourage businesses to invest in downtown. Credit:  Photo by StevenErat. Some Rights Reserved.

Additional Information

The following resources provide additional information about planning for historic downtown in small cities:

Implementation Strategy

Champions and Partners

The following organizations may play a role in implementing this tool:
  • Flint Hills Regional Council
  • City Planning and Zoning departments
  • Chambers of Commerce 


Short (1-3 years)



Cost Details

The primary costs for this tool include:
  • Professional planning fees
  • Host public meetings (food, child care, meeting space, staff)

Funding Sources

Potential funding sources could include:
  • City Planning Department Budgets
  • State and Federal Grants
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Main Street Programs

Implementation Details

A brief outline of the first few steps necessary for implementation are provided. The steps outlined here are provided only as a suggested starting point and other approaches are certainly valid.

  • Reach out to Flint Hill Regional Council for support and resources
  • Select a planning advisory group that represents the diversity of the community
  • Budget for planning
  • Engage a planning team
  • Host and facilitate an appropriate public engagement process
  • Develop the plan 
  • Share the plan results with the community

Case Study

Greensburg, KS Downtown Master Plan

Greensburg, KS implemented a downtown master plan after its downtown was destroyed in a tornado in 2007.  Main Street is the social and economic center of Greensburg, and rebuilding the downtown was a priority after the tornado. The Greensburg Downtown Master Plan created a framework to maintain the character and history of Greensburg while fostering a sustainable and vibrant rural economy. In the planning process, three schemes were presented and each had its pros and cons. After the community groups weighed the advantages and disadvantages, they chose a scheme that was appropriate for them. It was Greensburg’s goal to have a built environment that was “durable, healthy and efficient”. Community members also stressed the importance of keeping signage at a rural scale. The plan enhances Greensburg’s unique identity.


Greensburg, Kansas was a small Kansas town like so many other rural towns that was experiencing the slow disaster of dwindling population, loss of youth, vanishing economic stability and diversity, and dwindling economic opportunity.  Then a sudden disaster, a tornado, gave them the opportunity to plan and rebuild their community from scratch.  They have become a model for rural towns about what can work to address the slow disaster even without a natural disaster to force the plan.  

Main Street before the Tornado
Before the storm, Greensburg's Main Street suffered from high vacancy and deterioration. credit:  Photo by J. Stephen Conn. Some Rights Reserved.
Greensburg, KS After the Tornado and reconstruction
After the storm, the rebuilt downtown featured an enhanced public realm that supported the rebuilding businesses. Credit: (C) Assassi