The Atchison Placemaking Action Plan process includes a holistic analysis of key trends, opportunities, and challenges the community faces to achieve a prosperous economic and social future. Quantitative research is combined with comprehensive stakeholder outreach to ensure that Atchison’s strategic priorities reflect the community’s vision and goals.

Atchison’s placemaking action plan focuses on three key priorities:

  • Housing
  • Workforce Development
  • Downtown Revitalization

This webpage is a condensed version of the entire plan. Here, you’ll get a high-level overview of the project and its key takeaways from the Community Assessment, which ultimately informed the strategies and recommendations for the Final Plan. However, if you’re like us and want to dig into the details, we’ve got you covered!

The complete Community Assessment, Downtown Design Guidelines and Final Plan PDFs are available for you to read at the links below.

planning & technical assistance process

  • The City of Atchison assembled a project steering committee comprised of 13 individuals with backgrounds ranging from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
  • The steering committee has convened or been updated quarterly for to assist with oversight of the placemaking process and to ensure the development of the action plan is community-centered and in alignment with countywide priorities.
  • The Atlas/McClure team convened the steering committee for its first official meeting in February 2021 to provide an overview of the RPIC initiative and the scope of work for the placemaking process before facilitating a visioning session to solicit input about the region’s assets, challenges, and opportunities related to housing and economic development.
  • During the Atlas/McClure team’s first site visit in July 2021, the Core Group met to discuss emerging themes stemming from the public visioning sessions, public input meeting, and focus groups.

  • The Atlas/McClure team facilitated two open-invitation public visioning sessions via Zoom in April 2021.
  • In July 2021, the Atlas/McClure team visited Atchison for the first site visit to tour the community, attend meetings with key stakeholders, facilitate focus groups, and meet with the Steering Committee Core Group.
  • An online community survey was released in July 2021 and generated 309 responses.

  • In July 2021, the Atlas/McClure team facilitated three in person focus groups with an emphasis on topics such as housing, economic development, workforce training and education, cultural amenities, entrepreneurship, and downtown revitalization.
    • Focus Group 1: Downtown Main Street Board
    • Focus Group 2: Major Employers
    • Focus Group 3: Housing - Builders and Developers
  • Overall, more than 30 individuals participated in the focus group meetings.

  • The community assessment report features high-level quantitative trends for Atchison compared to three peer communities (Ottawa, Parsons and Winfield, KS), Atchison County, the State of Kansas, and the United States.
  • The report also incorporates key themes from the stakeholder input conducted to date to determine assets and challenges related to housing, workforce development, downtown development, and overall quality of life amenities.
  • In addition to the quantitative data and stakeholder input analysis, the Atlas/McClure team conducted topical research to contextualize the key trends and issues affecting Atchison which ultimately informs the strategic opportunities and priority project concepts in the placemaking action plan.

  • Based on the community assessment report, the placemaking action plan presents a new vision statement to guide Atchison's future economic trajectory and strategic priorities.
  • The placemaking action plan also makes strategic recommendations for priority projects and provides a resource roadmap to help advance them from ideation to reality.

key trends & challenges


The cost to build new housing continues to outpace the wages for a majority of residents.


Low housing valuations of the aging housing stock are negatively impacting outside investors from developing in Atchison.


Proximity to larger metropolitan areas is both a benefit and a challenge for employers. Job opportunities are available, but lack of housing options creates significant barriers to recruitment and retention.


Downtown has seen significant growth and redevelopment but requires continued strategic focus, and collective action, to unlock full potential.


Higher education, history and paranormal activity are unique draws to Atchison. Leverage existing strengths for continued growth.

future vision

Atchison is a strong and growing, people focused community collaboratively leading for all to thrive and prosper.

strategic opportunity areas

Several potential strategic opportunity areas emerged from quantitative research and stakeholder feedback. Underlying these opportunity areas and potential projects/initiatives should be a commitment to a progressive, innovative, and sustainable future Atchison residents desire.

  • Experiment with existing local resources to help renovate existing homes (i.e. NRP property tax rebate tied to renovation loan repayment plan)
  • Promote and educate property owners on the expanded RHID capabilities to renovate and build out upper story housing downtown
  • Promote programs like CASH Kansas to help low-to-moderate income households gain access to down payment assistance programs and further access to homeownership
  • Expand the municipal land bank scope to renovate blighted properties as both rental units and owner-occupied options
  • Work with local business leaders to help provide gap financing to larger housing projects of four or more units to build out workforce housing on infill lots
  • Continue to market Atchison to large development firms with the capacity to buildout larger projects and utilize the available vacant lots via the municipal land bank
  • Establish and promote a preferred rental housing program for properties that have passed an inspection by a third-party entity
  • Hire additional code enforcement officer and continue to clean up programs in targeted neighborhoods with the greatest need
  • Establish resources to support renters who report poor property maintenance and are displaced as a result
  • Consider a rental registry to keep better track of these properties and inspect the interior every other year to assure each unit meets basic living standards
  • Be open to new technologies or construction methodologies, such as 3D printing

  • Gap training, development and apprenticeship programs (esp. manufacturing)
  • Wrap around services especially to support those pursuing careers in gap industries to obtain employment post-graduation
  • Target marketing to recruit Benedictine Alumni and remote workers
  • Co-working space for remote employees / families/parents (boomerangs) that are moving back to send their kids to Catholic school
  • Continued strategic focus on housing to attract population of local workforce who currently live outside the community
  • Build Young Professionals Network for further engagement opportunities

  • Update the Downtown/Riverfront Design Guidelines (2000) to maintain and preserve aesthetic quality and unique characteristics in the district
  • Increase the cohesive feel of downtown
  • Encourage and foster collaboration between local businesses, especially in the downtown district, community organizations for events, marketing and expanded businesses hours
  • Pursue National Register designation for a historic district
  • Beautification and public art to increase sense of place
  • Leverage existing tourism for increased downtown visitors
  • Improve connection between downtown and Benedictine College and its visitors (Chamber is currently building a Downtown passport program for students)
  • Student engagement/leadership opportunities with businesses and chamber
  • Chamber/EDAG - formalizing entrepreneurial ecosystem with Kauffman FastTrac program
  • Brewery, MPG tasting room, or Partner program with Benedictine Brewers.
  • Family friendly indoor spaces such as an arcade
  • Continued incentives for development / revitalization • Local business marketing training