Building Community Places feedback session addresses hopes for housing, childcare and entertainment at Emporia | Gas

Dozens of community members gathered at the Little Theater on Thursday evening to share their thoughts on creating places in Emporia.

Emporia was one of two communities recently chosen to participate in the Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge, a program whose goal is to increase economic development and quality of life by creating attractive and needed spaces. The community vision session on Thursday evening was one of many gatherings to gather feedback from community members on the types of spaces they would like to see in Emporia.

Alex Holland and Libby Crimmings of Atlas Community Studios led the discussion, asking attendees questions about Emporia’s strengths, challenges and hopes.

“The purpose of the Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge is to look at several different areas that are important for economic and community development,” Holland said. “Everything from broadband accessibility and housing to arts and culture, tourism and workforce development, and our parks and recreation.”

Participants expressed concern about the lack of affordable housing or rental properties, especially for young families looking for an affordable first home or apartment. Additionally, they added, childcare options and a lack of recreational spaces and youth activities are pushing many young families out of town to find cheaper alternatives and more opportunities. .

Workforce development was also a concern, with some saying many students leave after attending Emporia State University or Flint Hills Technical College because they can’t find jobs in their field of study. studies in the community.

Others expressed a desire for more retail and healthy food options, a greater focus and variety of arts and music, more family-friendly entertainment, for nightlife, cultural inclusion and more.

Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce Director and CEO Jeanine McKenna said the community visioning process developed from conversations with others at the Trusler Business Center, including the Association of regional development and Visit Emporia. So far, organizers have held several listening sessions with local leaders and residents to gather feedback with the help of Atlas Community Studios.

“I was very pleased with the commonalities that came out of the different meetings we had and I think they’re all practical and very doable,” McKenna said. “There’s nothing surprising about what I’ve seen…I think these are things we’ve heard before.”

McKenna said success would be in creating a space that the entire community would support and be excited about. However, to get there, more input is needed. A second public listening session is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. at the Little Theater inside the William Lindsay White Auditorium, located on the second floor. If you cannot attend a session, an online survey is available at www.rpa2023.com. A Spanish version of the survey will soon be available.

“It’s so important because a small group of people don’t know the answers and the more people we hear from, the more communities there are and the more diverse the people who respond to this survey, the better results we will have. will get,” McKenna said.

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