A project for paving and road improvements to Wheatridge Drive and Paddington Avenue designed to serve a commercial development on S. Kansas Avenue is about to move forward.


At the next city commission meeting, set for Sept. 8, the commission will review agreements for cost sharing of the project with the Kansas Department of Transportation and agreements to purchase right of ways for the project.


"These improvements will not only make the corridor safer for current and future residents, but will serve as a catalyst for new development on the west side of Kansas," wrote Suzanne Loomis, director of public works, in a memo to the commission. "Funding this project would improve safety immediately for thousands of local drivers and help spur local development."


In July, KDOT announced a cost-sharing agreement with the city for the project. The city is responsible for a $743,072 cash match for construction, plus preliminary engineering and design, right-of-way costs, utility costs, and any costs that exceed the state's maximum award of $2,026,801.


According to Loomis’ memo, that leaves a total of $1,762,571.21 of local costs. The City will pay for the local share of the project costs through the bond and interest fund.


The city commission will vote Sept. 8 on exercising an option to purchase three right of ways from Occidental Management a total of 124,172 square feet at a cost of $207,781, according to a copy of a letter to Occidental Management inserted in the city commission packet and agenda. The commission will also review and vote on a contract for the cost sharing agreement with KDOT.


The City entered into a development agreement with NDV Real Estate LLC (Occidental Management Developers) on May 20, 2019, that allows for the purchase of the right-of-way for Wheatridge Drive on the west side of Kansas Avenue.


Occidental Management purchased about 80 acres of property along S. Kansas Avenue located south of Orscheln Farm and Home and Arby’s in 2013. Initial attempts to develop the property were unsuccessful as Occidental and the city of Newton were unable to come to an agreement on tax issues. the proposed development plans for a $70 million complex that may include a shopping areas, apartments and assisted living facilities — constructed in multiple phases.


The first phase proposed is a commercial development off Kansas Avenue. That phase is estimated to cost $15.6 million to construct, paid by Occidental. Later phases by Occidental include a $15.8 million office development. Phase three is a projected $23.6 million senior living area next to phase four, which is a $26.8 million apartment complex.


The street project is a response to a 2012 South Kansas Avenue Traffic Report for S. Kansas Avenue. It will extend Wheatridge Drive from Kansas to the west to Paddington and extend Paddington from Wheatridge to Windward, with roundabouts recommended at each intersection.


The project also moves Wheatridge, east of S. Kansas Avenue, south about 400 feet to line up with the new Wheatridge Drive on the other side of S. Kansas Avenue. That intersection will get a traffic signal.


In 2012, the accident rate along S. Kansas from 14th Street to Quail Creek Drive was higher (4.92 crashes per million vehicle miles) than the national average for facilities of this nature. Since the report, traffic volumes have increased from 6,785 vehicles per day in 2012 to 8,555 vehicles per day south of Quail Creek Drive, according to KDOT Spring 2018 24-hour count data. Traffic volumes north of Quail Creek Drive were above 14,000 vehicles per day in 2012.