With the rise of the CivicPlus headquarters building and the Bluemont Hotel, two new shadows have been added to Manhattan’s skyline. In the last five years, new, taller buildings have been built downtown, including the Flint Hills Discovery Center which opened in April 2012.
Eric Cattell, assistant director for planning for the city of Manhattan, said the city zoning is one way the city can control how buildings are built and where.
The city of Manhattan is zoned into different sections, according to both Cattell and a city zoning map provided by him. In each section, different rules can apply, such as the limit of how tall a building can be. For instance, the zoning in the downtown area may not have a limit on how tall a building can be, but zoning districts on the outside parts of the city may have limits on a structure being 30 feet tall.
Cattell said most zoning has structure height limits. A number of factors can influence where a building is located in a city, including land cost and purpose of the proposed building.
However, John Pagen, vice president for economic development of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, said one reason Manhattan has grown outward rather than upward, is the availability of land, which Manhattan, has plenty of compared to somewhere such as New York City.
“(The reason Manhattan grows out is) a simple reason,” Pagen said. “We have developable land, whereas New York doesn’t.”
Greg McHenry, Riley County appraiser, said people called “data miners” analyze data provided by city planners to determine what could happen in a city and where more effective places for business could be.
“They’re looking at what city planners have planned out for future traffic corridors, and future higher-traffic areas,” McHenry said. “They try to locate and build near those areas because they want to be in a very visible place where there are lots of potential customers driving by.”
Cattell said the city does not buy land or zone land near it arbitrarily. Property developers decide where they want to build. Then, the property developer usually hires an outside engineering company to develop a plan for how utilities to the new area would work. After that, the proposal is sent to the city, where it gets reviewed by the city and most of the departments within the city, including the city commission, and the fire department. Once an area is accepted by the city, it gains protection from the city emergency services, such as the Manhattan Fire Department.
But regardless of when an area becomes part of the city, the decision to build in an area first falls on the property developers.
“It’s the private sector that does the development,” Cattell said. “They have to go through the city.”