City cancels Black and Gold District; civic leaders call venture a big success

The Black and Gold District in downtown Emporia is officially no more.
Emporia city commissioners ended the policy during their action meeting Wednesday night -- essentially because policy goals have been met over the past two years.
The district covered Commercial from 10th north to 12th -- just south of Emporia State University. Goals included adding or renovating 100 apartments, holding to longstanding city ordinances of ground-floor retail with new developments, new parking areas and infrastructure improvements. Emporia Main Street Director Casey Woods says it took about a decade to develop policy -- and less than three years to reach everybody's goals.
The Chelsea Lofts mixed-use development at 10th and Commercial helped to set the tone for the Black and Gold District, with construction also set to begin soon on the Roosevelt Plaza and Legacy Lofts on 11th between Commercial and Mechanic. Planning for Black and Gold lasted around a decade, and City Commissioner Bobbi Mlynar says north downtown has been transformed as a result of Black and Gold.
Mlynar likened the process to other major projects.
Besides improving housing, business and infrastructure downtown, one of the big goals was strengthening the link between Emporia State University and the city of Emporia. ESU Assistant Director for Media Relations Gwen Larson tells KVOE News the Black and Gold District has been a great benefit for both Emporia and ESU. As a result, downtown has become a big recruiting tool for Emporia State.
Larson says ESU has also taken steps on campus to to show students ESU is part of Emporia and vice versa, including outdoor lights along Kellogg Circle that match those along Commercial Street.
Chamber President Jeanine McKenna says that has been done through campus-community events like Stinger Shutdown.
McKenna says the revitalization of housing has improved the viability of the district.
Woods, meanwhile, says the overall development has breathed new life into the area.
Mlynar says the city's next major development focus is to renovate water lines -- an increasing concern with the number of water main breaks across town in recent years. Woods says he would like the city and Lyon County to identify additional areas where concepts like Black and Gold can help Emporia and the county prosper.