Downtown Hays Development Corporation is in the early planning to develop a four-block walking corridor on 10th Street from Main to Elm.

The nonprofit DHDC has contracted with the Management Development Center at Fort Hays State University to develop a five-year strategic plan that includes the walking corridor, said DHDC Board President Alaina Cunningham.

“DHDC has collaborated with design students from Fort Hays and with the city’s parks department to start building a basic plan,” Cunningham told the Hays City Commissioners at their regular work session Thursday evening.

The proposed project would start at the Downtown Pavilion on Main Street and run along 10th Street alongside the railroad tracks to Elm Street.

Cunningham said it will include a 10-foot wide paved path with lighting along the entire path, seating, art displays, archways for viewing on the path, a metal safety fence near the one that is currently behind the pavilion, an outdoor classroom area, additional parking and no removal of any existing parking.

The estimated cost is $300,000.

“This is another large project, but as we’ve shown in the past with the Pavilion, we can carry through with success,” Cunningham said.

The pavilion was completed in 2018, also in partnership with students and faculty from FHSU.

DHDC received a $3,000 grant from the Heartland Foundation to cover 50 percent of the cost of developing the strategic plan.

The five-year plan will identify wants, needs, goals, projects and more for DHDC and the downtown, and will include input from downtown businesses, DHDC board members and donors, and each of the city commissioners, she said.

City Commissioner Shaun Musil, who owns the Paisley Pear Wine Bar, Bistro and Market downtown, said “kudos” to Cunningham and DHDC executive director Sara Bloom, who was also at the meeting, and thanked them for what the organization provides.

“Before I owned a business downtown, I’ve always supported downtown. I’m a firm believer, like you guys were saying, that it’s the heart of our city,” Musil said. “One thing I’ve learned as a business owner ... you guys are always there to help.”

City Commissioner Eber Phelps said he’s curious about the corridor.

“Where are you in that project?” Phelps asked.

“We are in the very early phase of that project,” Cunningham said. “It’s very basic right now.”

Mayor Henry Schwaller IV asked the group to be aware that any planned changes involving railroad property may be challenging as they require permission from Union Pacific Railroad.

DHDC is asking the city commissioners for $50,973 in funding for 2020 for the nonprofit organization that also relies on private funding and events to serve the nearly 400 businesses in downtown Hays and their 4,000 employees.

Cunningham said DHDC is asking for 5 percent less funding this year than in the past.

“We want to be good stewards of the city and the taxpayers' dollars,” Cunningham said. “Our success with our events and our partnerships goals is allowing us to request less money than in past years.”

She said DHDC holds 12 major events downtown, along with the market, in a 22-week season. “We are utilizing and spending our funds wisely as we are fiscally responsible and giving back to the community,” she said.