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Built Environment

The built environment has a major impact on our quality of life, economy, and natural environment. The kind of structures we live and work in, the proximity of home and work, and whether we have access to parks and trails are all built environment issues that have wider impacts on the health and well-being of ourselves, our children, and the natural environment around us.

manhattanIs housing located in proximity to jobs? Can urban design revitalize traditional downtowns and attract tourists?

These and many other questions will be explored through the Flint Hills Frontiers project. The built environment system includes the patterns of development and structures that make up our cities, towns, and rural areas. When considering built environment issues, it is important to consider land use and building ordinances, real estate markets for housing, office, retail, and industrial space, public services, such as fire, police, and schools, access to parks and recreation areas, and urban design. Connections to infrastructure, transportation, and natural systems also inform the built environment.

The built environment of the Flint Hills region includes larger urban areas such as Manhattan and Junction City, small and medium-sized towns such as Wamego and Emporia, and many much smaller, rural communities interspersed among precious farmland, ranchland, and rolling hills of prairie. It will be crucial to the future of the region that these lands are preserved while, at the same time, economic development is realized. These are not mutually exclusive functions, yet may require more creative approaches than conventional ones.

Goals for the Future

It is important that the amenities and services such as affordable housing, transportation corridors, and government services are efficiently located and adequately meet the needs of the Flint Hills Region population. The urbanized areas of the Flint Hills Region will grow and expand sustainably while making the most of infill redevelopment opportunities. The established goals for the built environment are:

  1. Downtowns: Re-energize existing downtowns by restoring historic buildings and promoting quality infill development and infrastructure improvements.
  2. Community Planning: Plan for mix of uses, accessibility to services, and increased housing options to foster self-sustaining and connected communities.
  3. Beautification: Work together to beautify the built environment.
  4. Land Preservation: Grow in a manner that preserves native grasslands and farming/ranching lands as an economic and cultural asset.


Achieving Our Goals

Our diverse and context sensitive list of strategies developed by our devoted planning staff and committed citizens will help the Flint Hills Region be a sustainable and prosperous place to live, work, play, do business and raise families.

Key Strategies


Downtown Master Planning: Downtown Master Planning organizes a community around a common vision and goals for a downtown and identifies physical investments that can improve a downtown and make it more attractive for tourism, more viable for businesses, and a more vibrant community center.

Community / Business Improvement Districts: Forming Community or Business Improvement Districts provides a mechanism for downtown businesses and property owners to leverage resources and pay for physical improvements and clean and safe initiatives to improve downtown. The state of Kansas approved the Community Improvement Act in 2009 enabling the creation of these districts.

Historic Preservation: Preserving historic building supports the goal of revitalizing existing downtowns in the Flint Hills Region. Both the State and Federal Governments provide resources for redeveloping historic buildings.


Comprehensive Planning: A comprehensive plan outlines a vision and goals for an entire community and provides a framework to base development decisions. Comprehensive plans can promote infrastructure improvements and land use mixes that encourage more connected, vibrant, and green communities.

Streetscape Improvement Projects: Streetscape improvement projects improve the appearance and functionality of the public realm. Streetscape improvement support increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic and benefit businesses, particularly in downtown areas.


Architectural, Site, and Landscaping Development Standards: Including requirements for high quality materials and architectural design, site design that enhances the public realm, and landscaping requirements to a city's development code enhances the quality of new development and renovations and over time leads to a more beautiful city.

County Development Review Process: Creating a formal review process for evaluating new development in the county provides a mechanism to prevent inappropriate development from encroaching on ranch land.



Other Strategies


Main Street Program: A Main Street provides training and resources to enable success for downtown businesses and entrepreneurs. Services could range from business classes  to low interest loans.

Provide Affordable Housing in Mixed Income Communities: Providing affordable housing for working families is a priority, especially where growth and development is raising housing prices. Affordable housing should be integrated with market rate housing and near employment centers to avoid concentration of affordable units.

Financing on Trust Land: Trust land is land that is held in trust for an entity by the federal government. This kind of land is common on many Native American Reservations; land can be held in trust for a tribe or individual Native Americans. It is very difficult to finance development of trust land because the lender is not able to foreclose on the land. Solving the trust land financing issue can result in the ability to construct newer, better quality housing and businesses in Native American Country.

Flexibility in Residential Zoning: Amending zoning ordinances to allow single family, townhomes, and multifamily housing to be built in the same neighborhood can allow families to locate in the same neighborhood as they move through different life stages.

Zoning/ Land Use Planning / Ordinances in City:Encourage use of land use / zoning / ordinances to promote compatible mix of uses in addition to regulating out undesirable uses. Zoning codes should be flexible enough to allow neighborhoods to development with local services to promote the accessibility of services.

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