North Topeka view 1
NOTO Arts District Future Concept Drawing

Phase 1 State of the District PowerPoint, January 2016

Phase 2 Community Visioning PowerPoint , April 2016

Phase 3 Master Plan PowerPoint, June 2016

Heartland Visioning, NOTO Arts District Partners, and Redbud Foundation are starting a major new planning initiative that will address the future of the NOTO Arts District and surrounding North Topeka community. The Redbud Foundation, which has been a long-time supporter of NOTO, will fund the effort. Heartland Visioning will be the overall coordinator.

Representatives of the NOTO and Redbud boards noted since the district has become widely recognized as a special arts-oriented business area at the north end of downtown Topeka, it needs to take the next steps in regards to its overall development. “NOTO is a symbol of what Topeka wanted and proof that a community’s dream can be realized,” said NOTO Artist Barbara Waterman – Peters. “It is now time to examine all of these factors and to find how they and some new ideas can and will lead to SUSTAINABILITY.” With committed business and property owners and new Arts Center, along with the infrastructure and riverfront projects planned for downtown, the two boards and Heartland Visioning staff felt that the timing was right to craft a detailed blueprint for NOTO’s future.

The need for a NOTO master development plan as well as new District management strategy was confirmed last October when consultant John LaMotte, AICP, conducted 25 meetings with area stakeholders. LaMotte observed, “The North Topeka Arts District has come a long way in a short time and still has so much potential. It is a diamond in the rough.” He is a principal with LaMotte West, an Oregon-based city planning and community development firm. His leadership experience includes serving on the boards of professional and civic groups, including the Chicago Public Art Group.

To assist in crafting the new plan, The Lakota Group, a Chicago-based planning and design firm will join the LaMotte West team. Both firms have extensive professional experience involving downtowns, special districts, main streets, commercial corridors, neighborhoods and community planning processes. Scott Freres, RLA and Nick Kalogeresis, AICP, senior members of The Lakota Group, will also be involved in the plan. Kalogeresis is a former program officer for the National Main Street Center and will assist the team in assessing NOTO’s organizational/management structure.

The process includes three phases: a State of the District assessment, January 2016; Community Visioning of alternative development and management scenarios, April 2016; and the Master Plan, June 2016. It will focus on the current challenges facing NOTO as well as positive elements such as its active businesses and strong arts theme.

  • Area-wide plans affecting NOTO
  • Potential future boundaries of the district
  • Concepts for new and infill development
  • Design ideas for enhancing public spaces, streetscape, storefronts, gateways and public art
  • Concepts for reorganizing NOTO’s management structure
  • Potential of a historic district designation

Alley before Alley

The district, which is a prime example of a small town Kansas Main Street, has the most significant grouping of historic commercial buildings remaining in Topeka. The potential of a National Register historic district designation will also be explored as well as concepts for reorganizing NOTO’s management structure.

A key component of the planning process is to assist the NOTO Arts District Board, local business and property owners and artists in crafting a new organizational model for how to manage the District on a daily basis. As it has become more active and recognized, the District is experiencing what LaMotte notes are “growing pains involving special events planning, business retention and attraction, stakeholder communication, marketing and fundraising”.

The master plan is targeted for completion this summer.