City focuses on historic site

Published Wednesday, February 11, 2004

By Alicia Henrikson
The Capital-Journal

City officials will be focused on the Monroe neighborhood for the next few months as Topeka prepares for the May 17 dedication of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site at 1515 S.E. Monroe.

Mayor James McClinton said during his weekly news conference Tuesday that the city will implement improvement projects costing more than $1.8 million in the neighborhood during the next few months. About $1.4 million of the funding will come from the city, he said.

"This kind of an investment yields positive, long-term results that have a ripple effect through the entire city," he said, noting his state of the city address in which he said the city needed to focus on entire neighborhoods, not just blocks. "We definitely want to showcase Topeka when the opening occurs. We want to make sure that when everyone leaves and they go back around the world, they remember what kind of experience they had in Topeka."

The projects aren't related to proposed zoning changes for the East Monroe neighborhood the Topeka City Council voted down later Tuesday night.

The improvement plan has been put together by the city's public works, parks and recreation and housing and neighborhood development departments. Department leaders and staff members spoke about their individual portions of the project.

Public works director Neil Dobler said there would be increased efforts by the code compliance division to help clean up the area and make sure people are complying with city codes.

"We want to give people something nice to look at," he said.

Efforts also are under way by the Housing and Neighborhood Development department to help people clean up residential properties by assisting homeowners in painting their homes and completing minor repairs, such as fixing driveway approaches, porches, steps and mailboxes.

"I don't think that Topekans, right now, appreciate what this is all about," McClinton said of the Brown v. Board of Education site. "This is a huge event. Topekans just don't feel it yet."

McClinton said he has heard that dignitaries from Ireland and Africa, as well as members from President Bush's cabinet will attend the opening of the historic site. It also is possible that President Bush will attend the opening, McClinton said.